Three Shouts On A Hill

A comedy by Jo Walton, based on the Irish myth of the sons of Tuirean. First performed at Fourth Street Fantasy Convention in Minneapolis in 2010. This was written to maximize speaking parts, but can easily be rationalised to 9 parts .

By STEPHEN REID [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Manannan’s boat, by Stephen Reid

Dramatis Personae
(in order of appearance)

Tureen, an Irish lord
Brian, his son
Kevin, his son
Aideen, his daughter

Lugh, the king of Ireland
Danu, his wife and advisor

A dragon

An African Gatekeeper
The King of the Africans

The Master of the Walls
The King of the Incas
The Queen of the Incas

An American Grandmother

A Japanese Gatekeeper
A Japanese cat
The Emperor of Japan

The Queen of the Cats

The Pope

Oliver Cromwell
King Arthur

Act 1

Danu: A blessing on all those who hear this story, and a blessing on all those who tell it.

Scene 1: Tureen’s hall. Tureen is sitting cleaning a gun. Enter Brian, Kevin and Aidan

Tureen: Call yourself children of mine! The way you three come slinking into the house shame-faced under cover of darkness you’d think you’d committed murder.

Brian: Sorry, father…

Tureen: You have? Well, I hope it was nobody important!

Kevin: Actually…

Tureen: Well then I hope at least you’ve managed to hide the body!

Aideen: Oh yes, father, we have hidden the body! We’ve hidden it so well it’ll never be found.

Tureen: Where have you hidden it?

Kevin: It was like this father, we were walking along the road coming back from Tara and this stranger challenged —

Tureen: I didn’t ask for justifications, I asked where you hid the body.

Aideen: We buried it at the crossroads where the road from Tara crosses the road from Galway and we planted some fast-growing willow above it. In a few days nobody will know the earth’s been disturbed.

Tureen: There are better things you might have contrived, but that’s not bad.

Kevin: It was Aideen’s idea.

Brian: He was so astonishingly rude —

Tureen: By the fact you admitted to murder and by the fact there are three of you and only one of him, there’s nothing you can say that will justify yourselves to me. If you weren’t my own children, I’d want nothing to do with any of you.

Brian: Sorry, father.

Kevin: But — sorry, father. It was thoughtless of us.

Tureen: Thoughtless!

Aideen: You haven’t yet asked us who he was.

Tureen: Who was he, then? I’m not sure I want to know.

Aideen: We didn’t know until too late. We thought he was just some incredibly rude old man. But after he was dead, we found out. He was Kian.

Tureen: Kian? Kian, the son of Danka? Kian the father of the new king?

Brian: Sorry, father.

Tureen [shocked]: Well.

Well, that’s a bad business.

That’s about as bad as it can be.

If Lugh finds out your lives won’t be worth an apple core.

Brian: Sorry, father.

Tureen: It’s not me you should apologise to.

Aideen: Nobody will find the body. King Lugh will never know.

Tureen [cheering up a little]: On the other hand, you know, he just might take compensation.

Aideen: He’s Lugh of the Cunning Hand, the greatest of all heroes. He’s the greatest warrior and the greatest wizard and the greatest craftsman in all Ireland. He’s newly appointed king, to lead us against Cromwell when he comes back. Why would he take compensation from us when we’ve killed his father?

Tureen: Kian was a cantankarous old cuss.

Kevin: He came up and asked us to give way. Demanded it. We’d have given way at once if —

Tureen: On the other hand, there were three of you, and you’re all well armed young folk in the prime of life. Kian was an old man, alone.

Kevin: He drew his sword first.

Tureen: But then again, Lugh was brought up by his mother.

Brian: That’s old news.

Tureen: What I mean is he didn’t know his father well.

Aideen: That could be good or bad.

Kevin: It’s bad. If he’d known him well he’d understand why anybody might just naturally kill him after he picked a fight with them as they were coming home along the road peacefully. It’s a notable wonder that man lived to be old.

Tureen: All considered, I think you should offer compensation. Lugh will set it high, since Kian was his father, but not higher than we can pay, since Kian started it. He knew him well enough to know that was likely. And he needs us. Cromwell is coming back. Last time, Cromwell killed everybody in Ireland except seven pregnant women who hid in a cave, my mother among them. Lugh can’t afford to waste his best warriors and wizards at a time like this.

Aideen: We hid the body.

Tureen: Well, I admit that does look bad.

Aideen: Only if he finds it. And he’ll never find it. And if he did find it, who’s to say who killed him? Nobody was there. If none of the four of us speaks of it, nobody will ever know.

Brian: If we went to him, Lugh could ask our lives. Kian was his father, after all.

Tureen: Lugh is a proud man, but a fair one. He’ll be a good king. He’s just the man we need to lead us against Cromwell. I think you should throw yourselves on his mercy. But —

Aideen: Nobody will find the body. Willow grows fast.

Scene 2: Lugh’s Hall, 3 months later. Lugh and Danu are sitting on the seat of judgement, Aideen, Brian and Kevin are standing before them

Lugh: You know why I have called you here.

Aideen: No, lord. Is Cromwell coming early?

Lugh: My grandfather has not changed the date appointed for our meeting.

Danu: Can’t you guess any reason why the king might have summoned the three of you?

Aideen: No, Lady, tell us.

Danu: There was a minstrel here last night.

Sea horn at the English language Wikipedia [GFDL (www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)], via Wikimedia Commons

What a tedious harp…

Kevin: A minstrel?

Lugh: A minstrel with a harp of willow, willow that she found growing at the crossroads. Ever since the minstrel made the harp, that harp would only play one tune, and the words of that tune were this: The children of Tureen have killed the father of the king.

Kevin: What a tedious harp.

Lugh: You killed my father and now you’re joking about it? I should nail your guts to a tree and have you lashed around the tree until your guts are all pulled out and tripping you. I should have you flayed and wear your skin for my cloak. I should —

Brian: I’m sorry, lord! I’m so sorry.

Aideen: Will you take compensation?

Lugh: Compensation? For the murder of my father? From the people who killed my father and concealed his body so that the willow wands of the harp had to call out to me for vengeance?

Kevin: I told you he wouldn’t take it.

Aideen: We did kill him. And we were three against one, and he was an old man. But Kian provoked us. He was a provoking man. He demanded we fight him, or we’d never have drawn our weapons. We’re loyal to you and our father is loyal to you, and we shouldn’t be fighting among ourselves when Cromwell is coming.

Danu: Perhaps you should have thought of that before you fought with Kian. Nevertheless, my lord, I think you should set compensation.

Lugh: What? [Danu whispers in his ear]

Aideen [to her brothers]: I think we’re saved!

Lugh: I will take compensation. And the compensation will be this. Three apples, and a gun, and a chariot with two horses, and a black cloak, and a gold cup, and a clockwork toy, and a feather, and three shouts on a hill. If you think that is too much, tell me now, and I will remit part of it, because I will never remit a hair of it once we have agreed. Give me your pledge before what you hold holy that you will pay it, and I will give you my pledge that I will ask no more.

Kevin: A feather?

Aideen: We will pay it, by all the gods, we would pay it a hundred times over.

Kevin: We will gladly pay what you ask, by the beard of my father.

Brian: Oh yes, by father, son and holy ghost, and so, so, sorry.

Lugh: Well…

The three apples are three golden apples from the Garden of the Hesperides at the bottom of the sea. They are guarded by a dragon. They are the size of the head of a child, they do not diminish when they are eaten, they come back to the hand when they are thrown, and they heal wounds and cure ailments. I will accept no other apples but these three apples.

And the gun that you have agreed to give me is the cannon that belongs to the pope of Rome, that’s mounted on the walls of his city and that protects it from all enemies. That gun can slay a thousand armed men with one shot. It’s defended by all the guards of Switzerland.

Danu: It’ll be very useful to us in our fight against Cromwell.

Aideen: I can see that. Go on, let us know what else it is we have to bring.

Kevin: I’m very curious about that feather.

Lugh: You’re not cowards at least.

Brian: Oh no, lord!

Lugh: Well, the chariot with two horses belongs to the king of the Africans. The horses can run on land or water, and they’re the fastest horses that were ever seen, they can go in an eyeblink from one end of Ireland to the other.

The black cloak belongs to the king of the cats. Anyone who wears it can go unseen and unheard, and the only way you would know they were there was by smelling them.

Aideen: I understand, go on please.

Lugh: The gold cup belongs to the king of the Incas. If water is poured from it onto any dead person they will return to life the next morning. They have all their strength, and are as they were in life, except that they cannot speak.

Danu: You see how helpful that could be in battle.

Kevin: Only if it’s a long battle.

Lugh: The last battle against Cromwell lasted seven days and nights.

Kevin: Yes, it would certainly be useful in that situation.

Lugh: The clockwork toy belongs to the Emperor of Japan. It’s thirty feet tall and ten men can ride on it. The sound of its voice sends enemies running, and its feet can crush a man in full armour.

Brian: Cromwell will flee from Ireland like a whipped cur!

Kevin: Hush, now we’re getting to the feather.

Lugh: Ah yes, the feather. The feather belongs to the king of the Americans. It is the greatest treasure in their land. When it is stroked one way, it summons the thunder, and when it is stroked the other it summons the lightning.

Kevin: That’s a feather worth questing for.

Aideen: And the three shouts on the hill?

Lugh: You think you will achieve the other things with no trouble?

Aideen: I just want to know the full measure of what we have already promised.

Lugh: Those three shouts you shall give on the hill of Glastonbury, where King Arthur lies sleeping, and where all of the armies of the English have sworn no sound shall be made that might disturb his sleep. Besides that, my father Kian was fostered among them, and learned arms there, so even if I forgive you, his English friends will not.

Danu: Do this last. And before you do it, bring the other things you have gathered to us, so that they will not be lost when — if you fall.

Aideen: Well, it’s a hard task you set us, but we shall do our best.

Scene 3: Tureen’s hall, present are Tureen, Aideen, Brian, and Kevin

Kevin: And if you stroke it the other way it brings the lightning. Then we have to return with all of that and give three shouts on the hill of Glastonbury.

Tureen: Well, that’s bad, that is.

Aideen: I’m trying to decide the best order of doing it. Some of the things would help us a great deal in getting some of the others.

Brian: The apples would be useful if we were hurt. Or the cup if we happened to be killed.

Tureen: You might be killed ten times over before bringing all these treasures back to Ireland.

Brian: The cloak might let us sneak in and take things. Or the cannon would be useful in killing the owners of some of the other treasures.

Kevin: Don’t worry, brother, we’ll have our swords and spears if it comes to that.

Aideen: The chariot would make it much more convenient for going about the place — it’s a long way to Rome, never mind Japan, the kingdom of the Incas and the kingdom of the Americans. But how would we get to Africa?

Tureen: You should borrow Mananan’s boat. That boat can find its own way if you ask it where to go. It can go above the sea or under the sea.

Kevin: But why would he lend it to us?

Tureen: Mananan has a gesa that he can never refuse the second thing asked of him on any day. So you should go and ask to borrow his horse, and when he refuses, ask to borrow his boat. He’ll let you have it for a day, which should be long enough to go to the bottom of the sea and get the apples and then go to Africa and get the chariot. Once you have the chariot you can give back the boat and go about freely.

Aideen: Thank you father, that’s good advice.

Tureen: But make sure you have the boat back on time, or Mananan will be after you, and he’s a very bad man to anger, besides being a neighbour of mine.

Act 2

Scene 1: In Mananan’s boat, directly above the Garden of Hesperides, in the sea near the island of Skye

Aideen: I’ve made three magic sticks that will let us breathe under water. The only problem is that they’ll only last for an hour, so we want to be in and out as quickly as possible.

Kevin: Do you think we can fight a dragon in an hour?

via Wikimedia Commons

Irish, are you? Not Greek? (Late Roman plate)

Aideen: Maybe we won’t have to fight.

Kevin: Oh, so he’ll just give us the apples?

Aideen: Maybe we can trick the dragon.

Brian: How would we trick a dragon?

Aideen: I’ll think of something. Just follow my lead.

Brian: All right then.

Kevin: Should we break the sticks?

Aideen: Yes, just like any magic sticks, crack them down hard on any part of your body.

Brian: Ow.

Kevin: Let’s get down then. [The boat descends]

Aideen: It’s very pretty underwater.

Kevin: I see apple trees, that must be the garden.

Aideen: Let’s go down inside — the walls are only at the sides. Maybe we can —

Dragon: Greetings, mortals from the world of air.

Aideen: Greetings, sir dragon, the most magnificent, the most splendid, the most terrifying, the supreme. So wonderful a dragon are you that as you curled around these underwater apple trees we thought you were a great wall.

Dragon: Enough politeness. Introduce yourselves properly.

Aideen: I am Aideen, the daughter of Tureen, and these are my brothers Kevin and Brian.

Dragon: Irish, are you?

Aideen: Yes, honoured dragon.

Dragon: Not Greek?

Aideen: Not at all Greek.

Dragon: Good, because I don’t like Greeks. There was a Greek fellow once who came here and stole my apples.

Kevin: Then we’re too late?

Dragon: What do you mean, too late?

Aideen: My brothers and I came hoping to see the famous golden apples of the Hesperides. It would be very sad if some had Greek come and stolen them.

Dragon: Well, he stole some. Apples grow on trees, you know. They’ve grown back.

Kevin: Well, that’s good news. I see them now. Amazing. More the size of grapefruit than apples.

Dragon: You haven’t come to steal them yourselves?

Aideen: No, oh no. We came to see them, and of course to see the famous dragon.

Dragon: Famous, am I?

Aideen: Famous guardian of the famous apples. There’s a poem about you.

Dragon: A poem? Interesting. But you needn’t think I’ll go to sleep while you recite it to me. That Greek fellow got away with that, but I’m wary now.

Aideen: Shall I recite it, while you listen alertly?

Dragon: I suppose you might as well. One likes to know what people are saying about one, after all.

Aideen: King of apples, king of the sea
Pearl, light green filtered,
Under.
Floating, sinking, stretching,
Drawing down.
There will be bone,
There will be twisted shell,
And they will be the same.
There will be eyes and arms,
Opening, reaching,
There, under,
In the lacy light
In the afternoon,
Settling slow to the sea-bed
With fishes swimming in and out
And the apple trees
Impossible, undersea, blossoming slow
Without breath,
Drifting, opening
Settling
Under
Drawing down
Under
Reaching, reaching,
Opening,
Golden scales falling,
Arms embracing
That will be pale coral, spiralled shell
Old bones to new rock…

Dragon: I’m not asleep! I see you two sneaking around behind me while your sister lulls me. Tries to lull me. That was the worst poem I ever heard. Oh, draw your sword will you?

Kevin: I knew it wouldn’t work, but take this!

Dragon: Did nobody tell you it’s cheating to go in under the arm that way?

Aideen: Brian, quick, get the apples!

Brian: I’ve got them.

Kevin: He’s dead, I think. Fortunately, fire doesn’t work too well under water.

Aideen: Well struck, brother.

Brian: Boat, take us back up, quickly.

Kevin: That was a very stange poem. I thought our air was going to run out while you were going on and on. Under. What did you mean, repeating under over and over like that?

Brian: She was trying to bore him to sleep.

Aideen: It’s a pity. If I’d known what the blood would look like billowing out red in the green water I’d have put that in too.

Scene 2: On the coast of Africa

Kevin: I hope you have a better plan for getting the chariot from the king of the Africans.

Aideen: Why? That worked pretty well.

Kevin: Only because I was ready.

Brian: Only because you saw the soft spot when the dragon turned around listening to the poem.

Aideen: We don’t have to worry about being wounded. The apples will cure us. And if we throw them, they’ll come back to us, and they’re huge, so they seem as if they’d do some damage. We should take one each and bear that in mind.

Kevin: How are we going to get in? We’re going to be really conspicuous. I haven’t seen a single other white person since we got here.

Aideen: We’ll tell them we’re poets come all the way from Ireland.

Brian: Not everyone is as vain or as stupid as that dragon.

Kevin: Not everybody is as slow and stupid as you.

Brian: I got the apples, didn’t I?

Kevin: Eventually.

Aideen: Come on. Manannan will be angry with father if we don’t get the boat back soon.

Gatekeeper: Who goes there?

Aideen: I am Aideen, a poet from Ireland come to perform before the King of the Africans. These are my brothers Kevin and Brian.

Gatekeeper: I’m afraid you’ve been misinformed.

Aideen: In what respect?

Gatekeeper: Africa is a continent containing an empire, several kingdoms and an oligarchy, divided by diverse deserts, jungles, and mountainous regions, inhabited by various populations who arrange their own political affairs. It is much bigger than Europe. It does not have a single king, any more than there’s a single king of the Europeans.

Brian: There isn’t?

Aidan: My magic boat (I have a magic boat you see, like most well-known Irish poets) brought me here when I asked for the king of the Africans. So the king of this place must be the best known king of Africa, or the greatest king.

Gatekeeper: The best known to Irish magic boats in any case. Did you come all this way alone, just the three of you?

Brian: We’re heroes. Who else would we need?

Gatekeeper: I don’t suppose you’d like to leave your weapons here?

Kevin: No, we like to keep them with us.

Gatekeeper: I thought as much. Well, I’m sure the king will welcome you. Irish poets are certainly a novelty at court. Come in.

Kevin: This isn’t going to work.

Gatekeeper: Your majesty, allow me to present the Irish poet Aideen, and her brothers Kevin and Brian.

Aideen: We heard of the fame of your court and wanted to recite before you.

Gatekeeper: They also have a magic boat.

King of the Africans: A magic boat, eh? Perhaps you should check that out, Gatekeeper, while they recite for me.

Gatekeeper: I’m ahead of you.

Aideen: Brian…

Brian: What?

Aideen: Kevin?

Kevin: I’ll go with you, sir Gatekeeper, and show you our boat.

Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2

The thing is, I have a magic chariot… (Yerevan, Armenia)

Gatekeeper: Maybe later.

King of the Africans: The thing is, I have a magic chariot.

Aideen: Good heavens. What can it do?

King of the Africans: It can run on either the land or the water, and it can get you from one end of Africa to the other in an hour and a half.

Brian: I heard —

Kevin: Africa is a lot bigger than Ireland.

Aideen: Our boat can only go on the sea, but it can take you anywhere you ask to go, and it’s also very fast. Perhaps we could have a race?

Gatekeeper: An excellent idea, don’t you think, your Majesty?

King of the Africans: An excellent idea. Let’s go down to the shore. Gatekeeper, saddle the horses.

Aideen: Perhaps, to make it more interesting, you should take the boat and I should take the chariot.

King of the Africans: I’m not sure my magic horses would perform as well for anyone else.

Aideen: You have magic horses too?

King of the Africans: They’re a set.

Aideen: How many can your chariot hold?

King of the Africans: Three… maybe four.

Aideen: Then how about if I ride with you, and your Gatekeeper rides with my brothers? My boat can also hold four.

King of the Africans: It sounds like an excellent boat.

Aideen: It is. And your chariot sounds excellent too.

King of the Africans: Can your boat go up waterfalls? We have a number of notable waterfalls in our country that I often take my chariot up.

Aideen: I’ve never tried. It can go down to the bottom of the sea.

King of the Africans: And how do you breathe there?

Kevin: That takes separate magic.

Brian: It’s a stick, you break it on yourself.

Kevin: After that you can breathe underwater.

Brian: But it only lasts an hour.

King of the Africans: A very useful sort of magic. I don’t suppose you would consider relocating? We could use another wizard, and another two warriors would also be sure to come in handy. I’m considering conquering Egypt soon.

Aideen: It’s very tempting, but there’s to be a war in Ireland and we’ll be needed to defend our home and our old father. Besides, I’m not a wizard, I’m just a poet who happens to know a little magic. And the magic I know isn’t very useful in battle. But if you’d like to breathe underwater, I can give you this stick. Let’s race out to that island out there in the distance, and when we get there, break it on yourself and dive into the water.

King of the Africans: Yes! Wonderful! I’ve always wanted to breathe underwater.

Gatekeeper: Wait. No. That would leave her alone in your chariot.

Kevin: Well, it was worth a try.

Aideen: Let’s race.

Gatekeeper: And they’re off. The boat pulls ahead at first, but as Madagascar gets closer the chariot is coming up fast on the inside. Can they do it? Can they do it? Kevin’s getting the last ounce of speed out of the boat, he clearly knows just how to handle it, but the chariot is pulling into the lead. But wait! What’s this? We agreed that Aideen wouldn’t use her magic water-breathing stick, but she’s getting a stick out and breaking it over the king. She’s grabbing the reins. Watch out, your Majesty! Watch — (glub)

Brian: You didn’t need to throw him overboard.

Kevin: I was getting sick of him rattling on that way. You’d think we couldn’t see what was happening.

Brian: I hope he can swim.

Kevin: Hey, Aideen, good work getting the chariot!

Aideen: I feel a bit bad about it.

Kevin: Why?

Aideen: He wanted to breathe underwater, and I didn’t have any of those sticks left. So I turned him into a dolphin.

Brian: But don’t dolphins have to come up to breathe?

Aideen: Yes. That’s why I feel a bit bad. Where’s the gatekeeper?

Kevin: Swimming to Madagascar.

Scene 3: Tureen’s Hall

Tureen: Have you returned Mananan’s boat?

Kevin: Yes, back where it belongs.

Tureen: In good condition, I hope? I like to be on good terms with my neighbours — when my children aren’t murdering them that is.

Aideen: He’s not pleased that we tricked him into borrowing it, but we didn’t do it any harm. It was very useful. Father — do you think we should give Lugh the apples now?

Brian: We should keep them. That way if we get hurt we can heal quickly.

Kevin: We haven’t got hurt yet.

Brian: All the more reason to hold on to them.

Aideen: Also, I need to borrow a map. We didn’t need one before, because Mananan’s boat knows the way, but you have to guide the chariot.

Tureen: Have you murdered anybody else while you were away?

Kevin: No! Well, I killed a dragon.

Tureen: Dragons don’t count. You didn’t kill the African king?

Aideen: I turned him into a dolphin.

Brian: There was his gatekeeper.

Kevin: It wasn’t all that far to shore.

Tureen: The last time you tried to keep something from Lugh it went very badly. He’s bound to find out from Mananan that you were here. I’d take him the apples if I were you.

Aideen: That’s what I thought.

Kevin: What if he wants the chariot too?

Aideen: He must know that we need it to have any chance of getting him the things before Cromwell arrives.

Kevin: He might not worry about that. He’s destined to kill Cromwell.

Brian: Destiny isn’t so simple.

Aideen: Brian’s right. And besides, killing Cromwell isn’t winning the battle. If he kills Cromwell and everybody’s dead except seven pregnant women in a cave —

Tureen: Like last time…

Aideen: — Like last time, you can’t exactly call that winning.

Tureen: Don’t forget the map.

Scene 4: Lugh’s Hall

Aideen: We have the apples, and we’re delivering them to you now.

Lugh: Good. Though three apples isn’t much for the life of my own father.

Aideen: We’ll get the other things. We just wanted you to have the apples now in case.

Lugh: Haven’t you got anything else?

Aideen: We have the chariot. But we need it to get to all the places we need to go.

Danu: She has a point there, beloved. If they’re going to go to South America, and North America, and Japan —

Lugh: All right, keep the chariot for now. But don’t think I’ve forgotten what you’ve done! At the end of all this, you’ll still have to give three shouts on a hill.

Kevin: What will we shout, I wonder?

Act 3

Scene 1: In the Kingdom of the Incas, the Children of Tureen are walking through a city marked on their map as El Dorado

Brian: Is this city really made of solid gold?

Aideen: I expect it’s just gold plated. It certainly is flashy when the sun strikes it.

Kevin: With all this gold, I expect they wouldn’t miss one golden cup. We could just ask for it and go.

Aideen: I doubt golden cups that can bring people back to life are any more common here than they would be most places. It’s probably just made of gold because they have lots of gold. If we made a magic cup we’d make it out of something we have plenty of in Ireland. Wood, like my magic sticks.

Brian: Rain, maybe.

Kevin: The problem will be telling it from all the others. In most king’s halls, a golden cup would stand out. Here, they could hide it in plain sight.

Brian: What are we going to say?

Aideen: The poet trick seems to be working.

Kevin: I wouldn’t call that working!

Brian: What are those weird animals?

Aideen: Leave them alone, they’re not important.

Brian: That one spat at me!

Kevin: She told you to leave them alone.

Master of the Walls: I am the Master of the Walls. What brings you to the hidden city of Machu Pichu?

Brian: I thought it was called El Dorado.

Master: That is what the Spaniards call it.

Aideen: I am Aideen the daughter of Tureen, a poet from Ireland. These are my brothers, Kevin and Brian.

Brian: Why do you always mention Kevin first?

Kevin: Because I’m older. Or maybe because you’re covered in spit from that disgusting goat-thing.

Master: That’s a llama.

Kevin: Thank you, that disgusting llama.

Master: I’m pleased to meet you all, but what brings you here?

Aideen: I wanted to perform poetry before the King of the Incas.

Master: Interesting. And how did you find us?

Aideen: The city is marked on my father’s map.

Master: And where did your father get that map?

Aideen: I don’t know. Ireland?

Master: Will you leave your weapons here?

Kevin: We’d rather keep them, thank you.

Master: Well, you’d better come and perform your poetry. The king isn’t very fond of poetry, as he’s only six years old, but the queen might like it.

Aideen: I could manage a nursery rhyme.

Master: Queen of the Incas, young king of the Incas, I have here the children of Tureen, come from Ireland to perform poetry for you.

King of the Incas: Go on then.

Queen of the Incas: Yes, relieve our boredom with some verse.

By Jonathan Cardy (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Every cup in this room is gold…

Kevin: Every cup in this room is gold. I knew it.

Aideen: The sun rises on the golden splendor,
The sun sets in the evening,
Greatest treasure of the Incas is gold,
Where is the magical cup of renewal?
Who can say where it is?

Brian: That’s even worse than last time.

Queen of the Incas: Is that it?

King of the Incas: That was really boring. Can we kill them now?

Queen of the Incas: And it had a certain thematic issue that worries me.

Master: Yes, it seemed worryingly concerned with our greatest treasure.

Aideen: My father doesn’t believe there’s any such cup.

Brian: What?

Aideen: My father, who makes maps with your secret cities marked on them, doesn’t believe you have a magic cup. We came here because we wanted to see it. If it even exists.

Queen of the Incas: It certainly exists.

King of the Incas: Can we put them to death yet, mother? They have come to the secret city uninvited. And they have a forbidden map!

Aideen: If the cup exists, let me see it.

Queen of the Incas: The Master of the Walls keeps it.

King of the Incas: Kill them, kill them already! Guards!

Master: Should I show them the cup first, my king?

King of the Incas: All right. I’d like to see it anyway.

Master: Here it is.

Aideen: Thank you. I doubted myself. What a lot of guards you have.

Master: Yes, it’s useful when thieves come wanting our treasure.

Kevin: Six each, I make it!

Aideen: Meet you back at the chariot!

Brian: Father isn’t going to like this. And I do wish we’d kept those magic apples.

Scene 2: America. The children of Tureen are sitting disspirited at the bank of the Mississippi. An American grandmother is walking past

Kevin: We’ve been here longer than anywhere else, but so far, all we’ve learned about the Americans is that they don’t even have a king. What kind of people don’t have a king? Or a queen. Why don’t they just elect one of the royal kin like we do when we don’t have a king? Why, there’s not a field in Ireland that doesn’t have its own king.

Aideen: They don’t think much of my poetry either.

Brian: That would be because it’s awful.

Aideen: However it is, I’ve been going around dropping hints about feathers here and there and nobody bites.

Grandmother: Young lady, you’ve been talking to the men.

Aideen: Yes, grandmother, because it’s the men who always have the power in the lands where I come from.

Kevin: Well —

Brian: That’s not exactly true.

Grandmother: Here among the people of the plains the men have one kind of power and the women have another. If you want to know about magic feathers, you shouldn’t be asking the men.

Aideen: I do want to know about magic feathers. Go away, brothers.

Kevin: Go where?

Aideen: Go back to the chariot.

Kevin: But I particularly wanted —

Aideen: Kevin, go back to the chariot!

Brian: Men in charge, I don’t think.

Aideen: Now tell me about magic feathers, Grandmother.

Grandmother: You already know about one kind.

Aideen: I do? Oh, I do. Lark’s feathers bound to a stick for turning into a bird.

Grandmother: I noticed the sticks you carry.

Aideen: I’d happily trade you any magic stick you like for a magic thunder feather.

Grandmother: What do you have?

Aideen: I’m out of sticks for breathing underwater, but I have two for turning into a dolphins or pigs, and three each of eagle and hound.

Grandmother: A pig? Why would you want to turn into a pig?

Aideen: You might want to turn somebody else into a pig. My brothers, for instance.

Grandmother: I understand why you Europeans like horses, but your other animals are very strange.

Aideen: We’re not Europeans, we’re Irish.

Grandmother: It all looks the same from here. I’ll trade you a thunder feather for two hounds and an eagle.

Aideen: Done!

Grandmother: But you have to choose it for yourself, out of this bag full of feathers, and you have to do it without touching them.By User:Wiml (US Army) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Aideen: What feather would call the thunder? The sky here is so high up and far away, the plains are so wide, the mountains so high. It’s not like Ireland, where the sky comes down to touch the ground, all grey and misty and damp. They call my home the emerald isle because it rains every day and makes the grass green. Here everything is dry and you can see thunder coming days away. This is thunder country, while my home is a land of soft rains. At home the bird that calls the thunder is the black crow, flying on the edge of the storm, waiting for the clouds to tear open and show what lies beyond, waiting for the leven to strike and the blood to flow. But here the skies are wider, the lightning strikes fiercer, the people have no kings and the grandmothers do the magic. I don’t know what bird dropped that great red and black feather. It might be some kind of eagle. But that’s the feather that speaks to me of your prairie storms, that’s the feather of the thunder bird. I’ll take that feather, grandmother.

Grandmother: Here. Your poetry isn’t as bad as everybody said.

Aideen: Thank you.

Scene 3: The children of Tureen are standing outside the walls of Kyoto

Aideen: Kevin, you take the feather. Brian, you take the cup.

Brian: You’re not going to pretend to be a poet again here, are you?

Aideen: It’s a good disguise, because poets have a reason to be wandering about the world looking for patrons.

Brian: Well how about if I’m the poet for a change?

Aideen: Can you make up poems?

Brian: I’m as good as you are, anyway.

Kevin: You know, Japan is a really strange country, so far away and different. What if they don’t have poets?

Aideen: Everybody has poets, Kevin.

Brian: What if they don’t speak Irish?

Aideen: Don’t be silly.

Gatekeeper: Welcome to Kyoto, ancestral home of the Emperor of Japan.

Kevin: Oh good, you speak Irish.

Gatekeeper: Everybody speaks Irish, young man, that goes without saying.

Aideen: Brian!

Brian: Oh — yes. I am Brian, the son of Tureen, a poet from Ireland, and this is my brother Kevin and my sister Aideen.

Gatekeeper: Please come in, and do enjoy your time in Kyoto.

Brian: I wonder if you’d mind telling me what kind of poetry is in fashion here.

Gatekeeper: Oh, certainly. We’re very fond of haikus, which are short poems containing seventeen syllables. The first line has five, the second seven, and the third line five syllables.

Aideen: Brian, stop counting on your fingers.

Gatekeeper: They are also supposed to contain a reference to the season.

Brian: Thank you.

Gatekeeper: Come in, enjoy your stay.

Kevin: You don’t seem very worried about letting three heavily armed people walk into your city.

Gatekeeper: No, should I be? Are you planning to attack us?

Kevin: We’d hardly say if we were.

Aideen: Of course we’re not. My brother was just remarking on how friendly you are, compared to some places we’ve been, where they ask us to leave our weapons outside.

Gatekeeper: You see, we don’t have to worry about that kind of thing, because we have mechs.

By danny_warfield from surabaya, indonesia (mecha samurai  Uploaded by PDTi

We have mechs…

Kevin: Mechs?

Gatekeeper: Mechs. We’ve always had mechs in Japan. They keep us safe from attack, so we don’t have to worry about it.

Aideen: Are they by any chance clockwork mechanisms thirty feet tall that allow ten men to ride on them, that terrify enemies with the sound of their voice and that can crush an armed enemy beneath their feet?

Gatekeeper: I see their fame has spread even to the barbarian Irish.

Brian: Haiku are easy
With winter come many mechs,
Miscalculation.

Gatekeeper: You’ll get the hang of it.

Aideen: We had heard of your mechs, but nobody told us how many you had.

Gatekeeper: Oh, we have lots and lots.

Aideen: I think my own king would really like one, back in Ireland.

Gatekeeper: He’d better learn how to make one then. Have a nice day.

Aideen [walking away]: I don’t think they’ll trade us one, and I don’t know how we could steal one.

Kevin: Maybe we should go to Rome and get the gun and come back. A gun that kills a thousand people would make short work of this place.

Aideen: Either it would kill the mechs or it wouldn’t. Either way, we wouldn’t have one to take home. We need to trick them.

Kevin: Maybe we could take a hostage and make them give us one.

Aideen: That might work.

Brian: Summer has hot days
Japan is far from Ireland
Disinclination.

Kevin: Stop it!

Aideen: Who would make a good hostage?

Kevin: That gatekeeper?

Aideen: It would be good if we could get to the emperor.

Kevin: With Brian’s poetry?

Aideen: It’s just counting syllables, how hard can it be?

Brian: Cat on the doorstep
I wonder where their king lives
Constantinople?

Kevin: You didn’t mention the seasons.

Aideen: I wonder where their king does live?

Kevin: Father will know.

Aideen: I don’t want to go home and leave the things we’ve got already when they could turn out to be useful. Cat, where does your king live?

Cat: Why should I tell you?

Get one, then we’ll talk.

Kevin: Typical cat.

Aideen: We could —

Kevin: What, bring it back to life? Call the thunder for it?

Cat: Cats have nine lives, we don’t need more. And why would we want thunder?

Aideen: Why would anyone? I was going to say we could give you a fish.

Cat: Have you got a fish?

Aideen: We could get one.

Cat: Get one, then we’ll talk.

Kevin: Cats are just so smug.

Aideen: Are these houses made of paper?

Kevin: No, surely not, paper would burn too easily.

Aideen: It is paper. How unusual.

Brian: I saw a cat but
I haven’t seen any mechs
Winterization.

Kevin: I don’t think the last line has to be all one word.

Aideen: He’s right.

Kevin: Winterization?

Aideen: I haven’t seen any mechs either. I wonder where they are?

Kevin: They’d probably come running if we drew our swords.

Aideen: I wonder.

Kevin: That looks like a palace over there.

Brian: Spring —

Kevin: Shut up. I’ve had about enough of that. We’re going to die when we give the three shouts on the hill, and I can’t be any more dead for fratricide.

Aideen: We could bring you back to life with the cup and kill you again.

Kevin: We could do that with Brian. Then he wouldn’t be able to talk, which would be a big improvement.

Brian: Sorry, sorry! I was just trying to practice.

[Enter the Emperor of Japan and some members of his court]

Aideen: Excuse me, are you the Emperor of Japan?

Emperor: I am. Kindly remove your sword from my neck.

Aideen: I shall do so as soon as you give me a mech, which I promise I shall take home to Ireland and never return to Japan.

Emperor: Have you not heard of the power of my mighty mechs? They will slay you.

Aideen: Not before I cut your throat. And you will observe that my brothers have also drawn their swords and are threatening the lives of two of your companions.

Emperor: Give you a mech?

Aideen: Yes, it should be quite simple.

Emperor: Give a mech to a barbarian?

Aideen: Also, I can summon lightning to burn down your paper town. I should have mentioned that before.

Emperor: But mechs have always been exclusively Japanese!

Brian: Hippopotamus,
As the leaves fall to the ground
Mechs now leave Japan.

Kevin: I’m not warning you again!

Emperor: I don’t quite understand the bit about the hippotomus.

Aideen: Are you summoning a mech?

Emperor: I’ve already summoned them. And they’re coming up behind you!

Aideen: If you think I’m falling for that one —

Kevin: No, they’re there all right.

Brian: I think that’s thirty warriors each, not counting the mechs. And the warriors have two very sharp swords each.

Aideen: Look, it’s very simple. I just want one mech. Give it to me, or I cut your throat.

Emperor: Kill me, and die. My son will ascend the Chrysanthemum throne, and my honour will go with me to the grave unsmirched.

Kevin: This isn’t working.

Aideen: All right, will you sell me a mech? It’s for the defence of my home against a terrible enemy. I can offer you a magic stick that can turn you into an eagle.

Emperor: Never!

Brian: Maybe we should leave and come back when we’ve got the gun.

Emperor: There are no guns allowed in Japan, by law.

Kevin: How do you enforce that law?

Emperor: Mechs.

Aideen: So you’d really rather die than give us a mech?

Emperor: Much rather.

Aideen: All right then, thirty each it is, brothers.

Brian: I don’t know what father’s going to say about this.

Act 4

Scene 1: At sea, in the chariot

Kevin: Brian, it’s just a little cut, that’s all. Don’t be such a baby.

Brian: You’re never fair to me. We should have held onto those apples.

Aideen: The Kingdom of the Cats is definitely not on this map.

Brian: I don’t think going back into Kyoto with a fish would be a good idea at this point.

Kevin: We’d never find that cat in the ashes anyway.

Aideen: I hope she got away.

Brian: Probably. Cats are quick.

Aideen: We don’t want to go half way around the world only to come back, if the Kingdom of the Cats happens to be near Japan.

Kevin: Why would it be?

Brian: Why wouldn’t it be?

Aideen: Let’s go to Egypt. They worship cats there. That should be a good place to start.

Kevin: Are you going to tell the king of the cats you’re a poet come to visit his court?

Aideen: No, I think that trick’s worn out. I think we’ll either have to fight for it or persuade them to sell it to us.

Kevin: Sell it? What do cats want? Fish?

Brian: Catnip?

Aideen: Respect?

Queen of the Cats: I couldn’t help overhearing your conversation.

Kevin: What? Where did you come from?

Queen of the Cats: What’s the one thing you think you know about the King of the Cats?

Kevin: He has a black cloak of invisib — oh.

Queen of the Cats: I am the Queen of the Cats, and I’ve been watching you for some time. You’ll be glad to know the cat in Kyoto did escape the fire and general destruction.

Aideen: I am glad. If you’ve been watching us, then you know what we want.

Queen of the Cats: You want my cloak, and you’re prepared to go to any lengths at all to get it. You’d kill me, you’d kill every cat in the world if you had to.

Kevin: It’s true.

Brian: But I don’t know what father would say!

Queen of the Cats: You told the Emperor that you needed the mech to defend your homeland, but the truth is that you need it to pay a fine for murder.

Aideen: It’s true. Both are true. We need it to pay the fine, but Lugh needs it to defend Ireland against Cromwell.

Queen of the Cats: Who’s Cromwell?

Brian: He’s the king of the English.

Kevin: He’s not. He’s not their king. He killed their king, and he refuses to replace him. He’s the Lord Protector. And he’s terrible. He’s covered in terrible warts, and he’s always sure he’s right, and he praises God and passes the ammunition. The last time he came to Ireland he won such a great victory against us that we’ve only just recovered from it. He’s coming back because our new king is his grandson, and there’s a prophecy that his grandson will kill him.

Queen of the Cats: Why is his grandson your king?

Aideen: We elected him. He’s eligible, he’s one of the royal kin.

Queen of the Cats: I still don’t understand. Why does he want to kill his own grandfather?

Aideen: Cromwell knew about the prophecy so he locked his daughter up in a tower and didn’t let her marry.

Queen of the Cats: That trick never works.

Aideen: Kian, who was in England learning about guns, climbed in through a tower window, and the result was Lugh. Cromwell was off fighting battles, and when he came back Lugh had grown up in the tower — he climbed down and came to Ireland, just one step ahead of his grandfather’s army, the famous Ironsides. Then we made him king after he proved that he was better than everyone else at everything important. So you can see he hates his grandfather, and his grandfather’s men.

Queen of the Cats: Do you think Lugh would let me have my cloak back after Cromwell was defeated?

Brian: Oh yes, sure to.

Aideen: I think you’d have to ask him. You’re welcome to come with us. We just have one more stop, if we can count on the cloak.

Queen of the Cats: Where’s that?

Kevin: Rome.

By Wknight94 (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)], via Wikimedia Commons

Rome is a great cat city

Queen of the Cats: Ah, Rome. Rome is a great cat city, I know it well. We stalk among the ruins of the empire. Kittens play among fallen pillars, and we drink water from ancient aqueducts.

Brian: You’re coming with us?

Queen of the Cats: I wouldn’t miss it.

Scene 2: Rome

Aideen: They’ve closed the gates, they must be expecting a siege. Ho, gatekeeper?

Pope: Who’s there?

Aideen: Is that you up on top of the wall, holy father?

Pope: Yes it is. I’m the Pope of Rome. Who are you?

Aideen: It’s Aideen, and Kevin, and Brian, with the Queen of the Cats.

Pope: The Children of Tureen?

Aideen: Yes, the children of Tureen, from Ireland.

Pope: Go away.

Kevin: He doesn’t seem very pleased to see us.

Pope: I heard what you did to Machu Pichu, and to Kyoto, and I don’t want you doing it here!

Aideen: Are you all alone up there?

Pope: No! But even if I was all alone up here, if all my Swiss guards and Cardinals had run away at the rumour that you were coming, I’d still have my alchemic gun, that can kill a thousand armoured fighters with one shot. And there are only three of you.

By kb (Created by kb.) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html), CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/) or CC-BY-SA-2.5-2.0-1.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.5-2.0-1.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

My alchemic gun…

Queen of the Cats: Four, but who’s counting?

Aideen: Holy father, if you give us the gun, we’ll go away and never bother you again. Furthermore, we’ll use it to fight against Cromwell, and he’s your enemy too.

Pope: But what shall I do if the antipope comes?

Brian: You’re armoured in the Holy Spirit.

Pope: Oh all right then, come up and take it, just so long as you go away and leave me in peace.

Kevin: Did the Swiss Guards really run away just at the news that we were coming?

Brian: We’re heroes. They knew they couldn’t stand against us.

Kevin: I’d have thought better of them.

Queen of the Cats: I can’t think why. From the evidence of their knives, they spend most of their time drinking wine, filing their nails, and picking their teeth.

Scene 3: Lugh’s Hall. Present are Lugh and Danu, Tureen, Aideen, Brian, Kevin, and the Queen of the Cats

Aideen: We have the chariot, gun, the cup, the clockwork toy and the feather. We brought you the apples already.

Lugh: Good, good. So it’s just the three shouts on a hill left, is it?

Tureen: You forgot the black cloak.

Kevin: This is the Queen of the Cats. She’s come here with us. She has the cloak, but she wants to talk to you before giving it to us.

Lugh: Go on then, what do you have to say for yourself?

Queen of the Cats: If I give the children of Tureen my cloak of darkness, and they give it to you, I’d like you to promise to give it back to me after Cromwell is defeated.

Lugh: What? Why?

Queen of the Cats: It is my people’s protection, to be able to move unseen in the darkness, a shadow in shadow. I am willing to lend that to you, but not to give it up forever.

Lugh: Then the fine is not paid, and even after his children have given their three shouts there will be feud between me and Tureen for the death of my father.

Tureen: If it has to be, it has to be.

Danu: Be reasonable, Lugh. They’ve brought you everything else. And you’d have the use of the cloak when you need it.

Queen of the Cats: This is not to do with Tureen and his children. This is between you and me, King Lugh, between you and the cats.

Danu: Be kind, dearest.

Lugh: I don’t see why I should be kind. What have the cats ever done for me, that I should consider them? The children of Tureen killed my father, and they promised to make restitution. Did I say the loan of a black cloak? No, I said a black cloak, and they all swore.

Queen of the Cats: You would strip my people of their protection, I can strip you of yours.

By Katharine Moriarty (You scared me!) [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

I can strip you of yours…

Danu: Have pity on the cats, Lugh, say you will give back the cloak.

Lugh: I need the cloak, and I deserve the cloak, and they said they would give me the cloak, and I see no need to make any new bargains concerning the cloak.

Queen of the Cats: What year is this?

Danu: Oh don’t tell them!

Aideen: Tell us what?

Queen of the Cats: Your lord leaves me no choice.

Brian: It’s the first year of the reign of King Lugh.

Queen of the Cats: And what year is it in the rest of the world?

Kevin [bravely]: It’s the year a new emperor ascends the Chrysanthemum Throne.

Queen of the Cats: The pope has an alchemical gun, the Japanese have mechs, the Incas are hiding in Machu Pichu, what time is this? What age?

Lugh: It is the age of heroes.

Queen of the Cats: The age of heroes, the age of myth, the day everything happens all muddled together, the day mechs can walk and heroes can kill thirty men each and burn down a city, and Irish is spoken everywhere in the world.

Kevin: It’s a good time.

Queen of the Cats: A good time if you’re a hero, a time that never was.

Lugh: Madam, stop now. I will give back your cloak as soon as I have defeated Cromwell.

Queen of the Cats: It’s too late. You can never defeat Cromwell. If you lived at all you lived and died before he was ever born.

Lugh: He is my grandfather.

Queen of the Cats: How paradoxical!

Brian: I don’t understand.

Queen of the Cats: You are all legends, you’re half-remembered stories, mixed together, changed on the tongue. You can do nothing, affect nothing, change nothing. You come from different times and different myths, drawn together now by nothing more than the force of story.

Tureen: I can see through the walls.

Danu: I could always see through the walls. Now I can see through the floor.

Queen of the Cats: You’re nothing but a —

Aideen: I could change you into a pig.

Queen of the Cats: And what will that achieve? You know now that you are no more than fragments. You can’t forget that. You’re not real, your battles are not real, the world you live in is made of fragments and tatters. None of it matters. I am a cat, and were I a pig it would be the same, I would be real under the sunlight and you would be only dreams, insignificant, turning to dust and smoke when examined closely.

Danu: You make us shabby and unsubstantial, but we were glorious.

Lugh: We were glorious, once.

Kevin: We have to give three shouts on a hill.

Queen of the Cats: And what will you shout? That you are myths, unravelling on the wind?

Aideen: Three shouts, on a hill. That’s real. That’s necessary.

Lugh: Three shouts on a hill. The force of story requires it. And you may keep your cloak, I don’t need even to borrow it.

Danu: You are in this story too, Queen of the Cats. Cats may be real under the sunlight, but are they sarcastic? Can they even talk?

Queen of the Cats: Call it a story. It’s barely more than a pantomime, patched together out of scraps, cultural appropriation on a grand scale, an old story of collecting plot-tokens suddenly set on a whole planet. If you’re not heroes, you’re nothing, and you’re not —

Brian: We are heroes, and we have to give three shouts on a hill.

Queen of the Cats: And where is your hill?

Act 5

Glastonbury Tor

By Poliphilo (Own work) [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons

Glastonbury Tor

Danu: It’s Glastonbury Tor. Look, here we are, standing on its bare green top. Ireland lies off to the west, and all around us are the green hills and dales of England.

Aideen: Buried under our feet lies King Arthur, the greatest legend of them all, sleeping until his country needs him.

Lugh: I remember Arthur. He had a dog called horse.

Queen of the Cats: No cat though. We walk through your stories with our tails high.

Tureen: This is the hill. This is the time and the place.

Kevin: THE CHILDREN OF TUREEN HAVE COME TO GLASTONBURY.

Queen of the Cats: That’s your first shout. The cloud-capped towers…

Cromwell: Who dares disturb this mound where we have sworn perpetual silence?

Tureen: Tureen of Ireland, his children, King Lugh, and Queen Danu, with the Queen of the Cats. We got tired of waiting for you to come back to Ireland to fight us, and came here to fight you.

Cromwell: I beat you once, and I’ll beat you again. Ironsides, advance!

Lugh: Tureen, take the cup. Prepare the mech, Brian. Get the gun ready, Kevin. Aideen, stand ready with the feather.

Queen of the Cats: Cromwell was dead himself generations before they had mechs.

Cromwell: Consider in the bowels of Christ that ye may be mistaken, Cat.

Tureen: It will be a good fight.

Lugh: We’ll stand side by side one last time.

Cromwell: Is that you, grandson? Back to plague me?

Lugh: It’s prophecied that I’ll kill you.

Queen of the Cats: Cromwell died in his bed on the night of a great storm. Isaac Newton, as a schoolboy, measured the force of that storm. Ow! Stop pelting me with apples!

Cromwell: Old in my bed? What kind of death is that for a hero? We will defend our island —

Queen of the Cats: Whatever the cost may be?

Cromwell: FORWARD, IRONSIDES!

King Arthur: Who shouts on this mound and wakes me from my sleep? Does my country need me? Is the hour at hand?

Cromwell: No, everything’s under control, go back to sleep. I can defend England, I have no need of you.

Arthur: That’s what I thought when I dug up the head of Bran. Are you the king of England?

Cromwell: England is mine.

Lugh: But he is not the king, he refuses kingship. He melted down the crown and minted it for money.

Arthur: Then you are no friend of mine. Who are these others?

Lugh: I am Lugh of the Cunning Hand, king of Ireland.

Arthur: I think I’ve heard of you.

Lugh: This is my wife, Danu.

Arthur [trying to remember]: The Children of Danu?

Lugh [uneasily]: We have no children.

Tureen: I am Tureen, and this is my daughter Aideen, and my sons, Kevin and Brian.

Arthur: Oh, you have the holy grail! I’m so glad it’s been found. What year is this?

Queen of the Cats: You’re not real either. You probably never existed.

Cromwell: Who gave so much power to a talking animal?

Kevin: Are we going to fight or not?

Arthur: It seems to me that the question is, who is going to fight whom.

Tureen: It seems to me that the question is, why are we fighting?

Danu: Or to put that another way, what are we fighting for?

Queen of the Cats: You’re fighting to exist.

Kevin: We’re fighting for heroes to exist.

Aideen: And magic.

Queen of the Cats: You’re fighting for the world of fantasy?

Arthur: That seems like a good cause.

Cromwell: But what a world it is! Ungodly, lacking in religious feeling, decadent, implausible, full of kings and gimmicks — it’s hardly worth fighting for.

Kevin: Full of heroes and honour.

Aideen: Full of dragons and poets.

Kevin: Full of magic and promise.

Brian: Full of horses and stewpots.

Queen of the Cats: But what a patchwork world, full of half-understood feudalism, kings and conquests and magic items you quest for and don’t even use.

Cromwell: Talking animals… and kings are petty tyrants. Why do you imagine the world full of kings?

Arthur: Kings don’t have to be tyrants.

Aideen: There was no king of the Americans.

Danu: It is what we know, written large, remembered, reflected on a bigger screen. It’s what we care to remember. The world of heroes is a world where honour matters. They could have stayed in those far countries. Nobody doubted that they would come back to give three shouts on a hill. It’s a world where good and evil are clear and defined.

Brian: Except that we did murder Kian, though I hate to mention it.

Arthur: Exactly what happened?

Brian: We were walking along, and this old man came walking the other way. He demanded that we get out of the way, in the rudest possible way. He drew his sword. So Aideen turned him into a pig.

Aideen: It would have worn off in an hour.

Brian: But he didn’t wait, he came running up to us and knocked Kevin off his feet. Kevin drew his sword, and the pig ran at me and knocked me down in the mud. He was running at Aideen, and Kevin —

Kevin: I insisted that she turn him back into a man, so that we could kill him, because it was beneath our dignity to kill a pig. She turned him back, and he went straight for her, sword out — and we killed him.

Lugh: I wouldn’t have believed you could make me laugh telling the story of the death of my father.

Tureen: When we talk about kings and queens, often it’s a way of talking about a family.

Queen of the Cats: You’re none of you real.

Aideen: Magic is real.

Brian: Honour is real.

Arthur: Somebody must rule.

Queen of the Cats: You can’t go on existing now you know you’re not real and your world isn’t real.

Kevin: I have an alchemical gun here, it was mentioned in Act 1 and it hasn’t been fired. I could use it to break the fourth wall.

Tureen: Where would we be then, Fourth Street?

Brian: We don’t need to break it. We haven’t given our third shout.

Danu: What should we shout?

Kevin: We exist?

Tureen: But once we shouted, we wouldn’t exist any more. It’s only the force of story that’s keeping us here now we know what we are.

Aideen: Fantasy matters?

Arthur: It’s not a creed to shout from the rooftops. It either matters or it doesn’t.

Queen of the Cats: Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are —

Cromwell: Talking animals are anathema.

Danu: Come on everybody, let’s all give it together.

All: THREE SHOUTS ON A HILL!