INTERIOR– A shadow of Tsarskoye Selo Ballroom.
Hagan – sits on a rude bench. A strange juxtaposition to the opulence of the room.
Sioned – stares around her. Loose pants, leather halter, no shoes

SIONED
“Inside” training? I can see why you said no shoes.
Scratch the hells out of this floor

HAGAN
Toyama-ryū Kata to start please.

Sioned – Moves in to position for first form. Her hands drop into drawing position and she summons Lesson. A curling mist of silver shadows pour down her arm and into her hand, coalescing into the blade. Water beads along its length runnelling to the tip and falling, but disappears before hitting the floor.
Hagen – Rises and steps forward with another sword in his hand

HAGAN
No, not Lesson.

SIONED
Why not Lesson? I always use Lesson.

HAGAN
Today you will use this.
I don’t want you to become reliant on Lesson.

Hagen – Throws Sioned the katana blade.
Sioned – Lesson fades as Sioned lets go the hilt and catches the solid blade.

SIONED
I don’t understand.

HAGAN
You can become too reliant on your use of Lesson
and you leave yourself open to attack where
conventional weapons will not save you.

Sioned – Frowning, about to say something

HAGAN
Toyama-ryū Kata.
Start now.

First Form – Ippon me (Mae no teki). Enemy to the front
ipponme

  • Right step while drawing
  • Left step with Migi katate kiriage
  • Right step with Hidari kesa giri
  • Zanshin, adjust into Chudan, Chiburi, Noto
  • Sagaru (step back)

SIONED
Hagan….

HAGAN
Concentrate please. Your left step is out of alignment.

Sioned – purses her lips and adjusts her left foot

SIONED
Can I ask you a question?

HAGAN
You just did.

SIONED
Aren’t you, well…..don’t you think..
I thought you wanted, um, Boxhead back?
Why aren’t we doing that?

Hagen – sits still. His tone is as calm as moonlight.

HAGEN
By ‘Boxhead’ I assume you refer to His Awful And
Imperial Majesty Oberon of Amber,
Honoured Champion of the Unicorn,
Noble Defender of the Golden Circle,
First Among Kings?
The question is complex.
Give me two hypotheses while repeating Ippon Me

Sioned – rolls her eyes. Noto. Sagaru.

SIONED
Well I wasn’t aware we were saying his
name all out loud and everything,
since no one seems to actually want him.
So yes, Oberon Lord of the Everything.

Sioned – Right step, Left step while drawing

SIONED
Hypothesis one. He’s useless in
his current state…

Sioned – Right step with Migi Shohatto

HAGEN
STOP!

Sioned – Freezes

HAGEN
I said Toyama-ryū Kata, not
Nakamura Ryu Seitei To-Ho.
DON’T let your mind wander.
Again.

Sioned – Moves back in to position for Ippon Me. Right Step while drawing

SIONED
He’s useless in his current state
And you have to be pragmatic

Left step with Migi katate kiriage

SIONED
about the future, and now
Erica is your best bet.

Right step with Hidari kesa giri

SIONED
So we’ll put him away somewhere

Zanshin, adjust into Chudan, Chiburi, Noto

SIONED
So everyone can just forget about him

Sagaru

HAGAN
Your Chiburi is sloppy,
do it again.

Sioned – grimaces and starts again. Right Step while drawing

SIONED
Hypothesis two. You actually
do want him..

Left step with Migi katate kiriage

SIONED
But are pretending that you don’t

Right step with Hidari kesa giri

SIONED
So Erica believe you are on her side

Zanshin, adjust into Chudan,

SIONED
And making sure we have time to figure it out

Deliberate Chiburi, Noto

SIONED
Without someone else trying to get hold of him.

Sagaru

HAGEN
…The King in Amber is to us as we are to the dwellers of Shadow.
You are right to use caution in speaking his name.
However, Li suggests we are respectful even in allusion.
Our words shape our thoughts: if The King can read our thoughts,
he will sense any disrespect. That can be disadvantageous.

Sioned – eye twitches.

HAGEN
Practice Ippon Me both with no-mind,and while composing haiku.

Sioned – winces at the word haiku.

HAGEN

Now show me Argadenn a sorser ha’stragon

Argadenn a sorser ha’stragon – Attack on a wizard and war-familiar
First Form Zen-men no teki. Enemies moving fast all around

5

  • Right step while drawing
  • Left step to Migi Hasso No Kamae
  • Right step to Katate Jodan No Kamae
  • Left step to Morote Jodan
  • Right step with Hidari Kesagiri
  • Left step with Migi Kesagiri
  • Right step with Hidari Kesagiri
  • Zanshin, Right step to Chudan,
  • Hidari Gyaku, Chiburi, Noto
  • Sagaru (step back)

HAGEN
Assume my first loyalty is to Amber.
Assume my second loyalty is to my liege.
Assume my third loyalty is to my family.
If you were me, how would you reconcile these contradictions?

SIONED
(muttering) No one told me he could read thoughts.

Hagan – bangs a hither to non-existent staff on the floor that echoes through the room.

HAGEN
Concentrate.

Right step while drawing

SIONED
If I were you? I’d be older. And likely wiser.
And definitely balder.

Left step to Migi Hasso No Kamae

SIONED
I’m not sure I could reconcile them

Right step to Katate Jodan No Kamae

SIONED
If your loyalty is to something that is
wrong, or destructive, is that still loyalty?

Left step to Morote Jodan

SIONED
If those loyalties are unchallenged
and do not mutually exclude each other,
then there is no reconciliation to be made

Right step with Hidari Kesagiri

SIONED
But if your loyalty to your liege is now in
contradiction to your loyalty to your family

Left step with Migi Kesagiri

SIONED
Unless of course you decide to change
who you acknowledge as liege.

Sioned – makes an incorrect movement. Returns to Hidari Kesagiri and begins her left step again.
Left step with Migi Kesagiri

SIONED
But that would betray your loyalty to your former liege,
and thereby render you disloyal, surely?

Right step with Hidari Kesagiri

SIONED
Over all this is your loyalty to Amber.
If in concord with your loyalty to your family…

Zanshin, Right step to Chudan

SIONED
Does this then negate your disloyalty to your liege?
Or if the alternative, the disloyalty to family?

Hidari Gyaku,

SIONED
And if what is right for Amber does not
reconcile with either liege or family?

Chiburi, Noto

SIONED
What then?

Sagaru

SIONED
It appears I am unable to reconcile them,
All I have are further questions.
Was that the intent?

HAGEN
Beats me. I was hoping for wisdom from
the mouths of babes.

Hagen—now standing without apparently having risen from sitting.

HAGEN
More seriously, I believe I am screwed when
the box opens. I may yet need to do so,
to see Amber safe. I also believe the time when
I have to choose is not upon me. I hope I may discern right
action when the time comes. Or act without acting
and trust in my alignment with the Li.

Hagen—turns to regard a tapestry, his back now to Sioned.

HAGEN
I may even need to choose between
those who are dear to me.
It depends on how they choose.

Hagen—is facing into the ballroom again. His true face is revealed: feral, predatory, monstrous. Behind him shadows roil up the walls like flames.

HAGEN
How say you of choices, dear one?
How would you choose?
Would you resist me?
Could you?

Sioned – eyes narrow, and grip slightly shifts upon the tsuka and saya. The muscles in her jaw bunch, and her toes curl to grip the floor more firmly in anticipation of the first move.

Hagan – bows ever so slightly

The following occurs in fast succession

HAGAN SIONED
1.Two and a half steps forward. 2. Steps back with left foot, draws sword
3. Step with Migi Shohatto (horiz) 4. Step in, Hidari Kesagiri
5. Blade twist sword to left 6. Kissaki to throat
7. Step back, Chudan 8. Five small steps back to Chudan

 

SIONED HAGAN
1. Three steps forward, Step with Furikaburi (Jodan) 2. Three steps forward, Steps in, Morote Tsuki
3. Step back with disengage, Step forward, Chudan 4. Step in Hidari Jodan No Kamae
5. Lower blade, twist sword to right, Step in to Chudan 6. Step in to Chudan
7. Three steps forward 8. Three steps forward
9. Step with Morote Tsuki 10. Step right, Hidari Kesagiri
11. Lower sword, step back to Chudan 12. Kissaki to throat
13. Blade twist sword to right, Hidari Jodan No kamae 14. Flat “Seigan” No Kamae
15. left foot, four steps forward, step in, Shinchokugiri 16. Step right, Migi Suiheigiri (horiz) Turn back, Kissaki at throat
17. blade twist sword to right, Step in to Chudan, Flat “Seigan” No Kamae 18. Migi Hasso No Kamae
19. three steps forward 20. left foot, four steps forward, Step with Hidari Ko-Gesagiri
21. Step back, Step in Migi Kesagiri, Kissaki at throat 22. blade twist sword to right, Step in to Chudan
23. Step into Hidari Jodan No Kamae 24. Lower blade, twist sword to right, five steps back, step in to Chudan
25. Return to center line, Chudan

BOTH – Chiburi, noto

Sioned – slightly elevated breathing.

SIONED
Hagan, as in sparring, the choice I make will
always depend on your first move.
I will not move without reason against those I trust.
I trust you. I have no reason not to.

Hagan – draws extremely fast into hidari ichimonji giri.
Sioned – blocks with a materialising Lesson in a left handed two parry with the heavier weapon.

SIONED
If I choose to resist you, it will be
because you no longer have my trust.
And I imagine that will be the day you kill me.
But I will sell myself dearly.
I would not shame you by doing less.

Hagen—steps back and bows. His face is the polite mask again.
Sioned—steps back and bows.

HAGEN
I am honoured by your choice. I will not dishonour it by choice.
I regret that I cannot be Benedict to you.
I am proud that that is not necessary:
you will always try to save yourself
before you look to another to be saved.

I would have been proud to call you ‘daughter’ or ‘granddaughter’
as I am honoured to call you ‘cousin’.

Our dialogue has made circumstances clearer in my mind, and I thank you.
I fear there is a storm coming in our house.

Now, how is your chess coming along?

Sioned- a pained look crosses Sioned’s face

SIONED
(sarcasm)…Ace

Hagen – motions to the back of the huge room, where a table is set with a large chess set.
Sioned – Looks at it despairingly. Places the katana on the ground, rises and walks towards it with an air of dejected fatalism.

END SCENE.

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