More Bujold Filk - Vordarian - an Opera

These pages contain various filk songs relating to the work of Lois McMaster Bujold.


Princess-Dowager Kareen Vorbarra (later Countess Vordarian) - Soprano
Ludmilla Droushnakovi - Soprano (not so high)

Lady Alys Vorpatril - Mezzo-Soprano
Cordelia, Lady Vorkosigan - Alto (Formerly Capt. Cordelia Naismith, ret'd)

Commodore Count Vidal Vordarian - Tenor
Captain Lord Padma Vorpatril - Tenor (slightly lower-pitched)

Admiral Lord Aral Vorkosigan - Baritone

Count Vortala - Bass/Baritone
Captain Negri - Bass/Baritone

Count Vorhalas - Bass
Emperor Ezar Vorbarra - Bass

Non-speaking/non-singing roles:
Captain Lord Evon Vorhalas
Lord Carl Vorhalas
Crown Prince (later Emperor) Gregor Vorbarra

CHORUS: of Vor Lords, Vor Ladies, soldiers, armsmen, servants, 
allegedly innocent civilians and others.

ACT 1: The Imperial Residence, the anniversary of Emperor Ezar's accession. A grand ball is being held, at which among the important guests, Admiral Aral Vorkosigan will be bringing his new wife Cordelia into Vor society for the first time. The ballroom is dominated by a large portrait of the Emperor. Ezar is shown standing, wearing full Parade red-and-blues, with one hand on the hilt of his sword and the other on top of a globe of Barrayar which is on a desk behind him. The symbolism is not meant to be subtle. A CHORUS of Vor Lords and Ladies is toasting the Emperor, as the curtain rises. Vordarian has proposed the toast. CHORUS: Hail to the Emperor - Thirty five years of peace and prosperity counted today. This is the way things should go on for ever: Long live the Emperor - Long live the Vor! The dancing begins: Kareen Vorbarra and Vidal Vordarian lead off a walz, followed by Alys and Padma Vorpatril. QUARTET: Vordarian: If you will follow my lead, dear, I'll give you all that you need, dear, I will protect you and hold and direct you, I won't let the bad times affect you. I'll take your son as my own, dear. I will look after the throne, dear. I'll keep you safe from the things that you fear, If you will just keep me near. Kareen: Such a temptation to say, dear, I'll let you show me the way, Yet my position, my widowed condition, My son, now so tender in years, They all make me feel, though I know that it's real When you whisper sweet words in my ear, I would rather not be quite so near. Alys: We should be showing the way, dear; People need something to say, dear, We are society's leading attraction; All that we give them in word and in action Will be what they think is the style; Please, let's make it something worth while. Padma: Plenty of time for a lead, dear, Now let's enjoy a good feed, dear, Dancing and wine, I'm feeling fine, There's time to be serious tomorrow again; I'll worry about these things then . He lifts a glass, and toasts again: Hail to the Emperor! CHORUS: Hail to the Emperor - Thirty five years of peace and prosperity counted today. This is the way things should go on for ever: Long live the Emperor - Long live the Vor! Meantime ARAL and CORDELIA are entering, Stage LEFT. DROUSHNAVOKI takes their coats. The Lights dim in the ballroom: backlit, Ezar's portrait is revealed as a front for a secret room, from which Ezar and Negri are spying on the guests. This is the same room in which the portrait was painted. The desk and the globe are still there; but Ezar is now seated in a wheelchair, old and frail, dressed in what might be pyjamas although there is a parade red-and-blue jacket hung over his shoulders. The contrast with the portrait is cruel. Stage direction: As each verse of Ezar's comes up we should see Negri press a switch on a comconsole; light (possibly UV?) illuminates the person talked about but fades after Ezar's verse. EZAR: Thirty five years I have held things together, Not long enough to keep chaos at bay. Things can't go on this way very much longer; Who will hold power when I'm dead in my grave? NEGRI: Give me the order - I'll see it carried out. Thirty five years I have served, blood and bone, Choose who you want as your Regent successor, I'll keep your grandson in line for the throne. EZAR: Vidal Vordarian, strong and ambitious He'd wed my daughter-in-law in an hour, Keep my young grandson as Emperor-in-waiting, Somehow "forget" to hand back any power. NEGRI: Give me the order etc. EZAR: Padma Vorpatril is well-liked and popular, Married, and not too ambitious a man; Could he hold off all the would-be usurpers? He'd surely try, but I don't think he can. NEGRI: Give me the order etc. EZAR: Aral Vorkosigan, closest in bloodline, Cunning in battle and vicious at need, Married, and says that he'd hate to be Emperor, If I could trust him, he's just what I need. This is my order, see that it's carried out; Until my grandson can rule on his own, Aral Vorkosigan serves him as Regent - You will make sure that he hands back the throne. EZAR and NEGRI: This is my order, Give me the order See that it's carried out; I'll see it carried out. Until my grandson Thirty five years Can rule on his own I have served, blood and bone, Aral Vorkosigan Choose who you want Serves him as Regent As your Regent successor, You will make sure I'll see your grandson That he hands back the throne. inherit the throne Lights up on the ballroom: The next dance is a military two-step, danced in rows rather than circles. Vordarian is in the front row. Padma, Alys and Kareen are not dancing; Padma because he is getting a drink, Alys and Kareen because they are watching the Vorkosigans. CHORUS: whispered, to Aral's back rather than his face. Come for a hero's welcome, Come with a foreign wife, Come from a war that took from us Our heroic Prince's life. Now you've arrived, Vorkosigan, Have you come home to stay? What do you want, Vorkosigan? Why are you here today? Aral is introducing Cordelia to COUNT VORHALAS and his two sons. ARAL: (to Vorhalas) This is the day of the Emperor's accession, I was invited, as you were, to come, And to present to him my dearest lady, Is both my duty and pleasure in one. ENTER NEGRI, Stage Right. RECIT: (NEGRI) Lord Vorkosigan. Your presence is requested. ARAL: May I bring - NEGRI: Alone. Padma moves forward, a little unsteadily, cutting off Alys and Kareen who had started to move forwards. Droushnakovi removes his glass before he tries to shake hands while holding it. ARAL (TO CORDELIA): I'm sorry - I have to go. This is my cousin, Padma Vorpatril - Look after her, won't you? (Exit Negri and Aral.) DUET: Padma/Cordelia: Behind them, the dance is a Sarabande. Vordarian, not dancing, is trying to attract Padma's attention, which keeps wandering. Meantime, Alys and Kareen have put their heads together. PADMA: It's nice to meet a different face, CORDELIA: I'm sor- PADMA: Sorry, I didn't catch your name. CORDELIA: It's Cor- PADMA: But never mind, my wife is just CORDELIA: You're mar - PADMA: The person that you need to speak to. CORDELIA: I'd like - PADMA: Alys, this is Aral's new wife, Sorry I didn't catch her name, Never mind, I'm sure you'll just Have lots and lots to speak about. I'll be back in a minute (he crosses to Vordarian and they both exit.) The dancing stops; the orchestra plays an interlude. ALYS: (recit. stromentato): And there he goes. And there your husband also goes, Along with Captain Negri. You and I, Will we be allies? Or will we be enemies? CORDELIA: (air) I thought I left the war behind When I resigned from the military; What sort of thing do you have in mind, When you say, enemy or ally? ALYS: (aria) While the Emperor - long may he reign - Centres the balance of power, We can let the time pass; But this cannot last His grandson is barely three. If anything happens to him, Then the question occuring to me Is who's next in line? Is it your son - or mine ? Now do you begin to see? CORDELIA: I thought I had left the war behind, When I got married and left my home, Now there's a new home front, I find, Same old mindset, enemy or ally. (recit. strom): Let me present you to someone you should meet: (leading her to KAREEN) Highness, may I present Lady Vorkosigan? Lady Vorkosigan, CORDELIA: Cordelia, please! ALYS: Cordelia, Lady Vorkosigan. My I present the Princess-Dowager Kareen, Mother of the heir. CORDELIA: You have a little boy, then? KAREEN: Yes. Gregor. And you? CORDELIA: Well, not yet, but soon (hand cupping over her womb) in the spring, perhaps. KAREEN: Then our sons may grow up together. Lady Vorpatril expects her son this autumn. The orchestra plays a Mirror Dance (triple time, men and women in opposing lines. Vordarian is keeping a close eye on the three women. VORDARIAN and CHORUS: Power and grace and beauty, Wisdom and love and thought, What an intoxicating Mixture this night has brought. Who will be first among them? Who do I think will win? What an intriguing question, Kissing or killing kin? EXIT CHORUS (that was the supper dance). TRIO: Kareen/Alys/Cordelia KAREEN: My son will have power, if he survives. I don't want power for myself, but I have no voice; I would rather that both of us Were loved, but I was not given that choice. So I will settle for keeping my son alive. Whatever it takes, I will do. I will keep my son alive Till the day I have to let go. ALYS: My son will have money enough to enjoy My influence will help my boy; I would rather that no-one wished him ill, But I cannot bend the future to my will, So I will settle for keeping my son alive. Whatever it takes, I will do. I will keep my son alive Till the day I have to let go CORDELIA: I don't want power, I don't need wealth, I want my son to have happiness I want him safe, I want him healthy, But in the last resort, I guess That I will settle for keeping my son alive. Whatever it takes, I will do. I will keep my son alive Till the day I have to let go Trio: I will settle etc. End of supper (it was a quick buffet!) - the CHORUS enters. A bell chimes, several times. The chorus re-enters, obviously anticipating something. Vorkosigan reappears, crosses to Cordelia and draws her away, talking urgently. Vordarian crosses quickly to Kareen. Alys looks around for Padma, who is helping himself from the hors d'oeuvres tray. She moves towards him... CHORUS: (Processional) Water flows and fire burns; Time passes, the wheel turns, The balance shifts, the prize moves on, Who is the winner, who the clown? VORDARIAN: I only want to help, to keep you safe (to Kareen) Protect you from the plotters and the pain I love you for yourself, why won't you say That I need never leave your side again? CHORUS: Water flows and fire burns; Time passes, the wheel turns, The balance shifts, the prize moves on, Who is the winner, who the clown? The Portrait now becomes a screen for live transmission, controlled from Negri's console. Ezar, his red-and-blue jacket buttoned to the neck, is behind the desk; we can't see below mid-chest. EZAR: This is my order, See that it's carried out; Until my grandson can rule on his own Aral Vorkosigan serves him as Regent. Negri will see that he hands back the throne. FREEZE Ezri and Negri: CHORUS: Water flows and fire burns; Time passes, the wheel turns, The balance shifts, the prize moves on, Who is the winner, who the clown? FREEZE the chorus: spots on Vordarian, Vorpatril and Vorkosigan. TRIO: VORDARIAN: I would maintain, I would sustain The princess and the Prince and the system that they mean to me, But why couldn't I be the man to be running things? Doesn't my love count at all? VORPATRIL: I will maintain, I will sustain The emperor to be and all the system I'm a part of that supports them Though I really don't quite understand the ins and outs of all of it, I'm glad to be a part of it all. VORKOSIGAN: I will maintain, I will sustain The empire and the emperor and all the lives that rest upon them, Even at the cost of my own. Even at the cost of my own. Lights up on Ezar and Negri, then the rest of the cast as they enter: OCTET: EZAR/NEGRI You give the order/ This is my order etc KAREEN/ALYS/CORDELIA: I will settle for keeping my son alive etc. VORDARIAN/VORPATRIL/ VORKOSIGAN: I would maintain/I will maintain/etc. CHORUS: Water flows and fire burns; Time passes, the wheel turns, The balance shifts, the prize moves on, Who is the winner, who the clown? TUTTI: Hail to the Empire, Hail to the Emperor Hail to the Regent appointed today. Now that we see that the dance will continue, Long live the Emperor - Long live the Vor! Through the last chorus, the main characters exit, one by one, none of them particularly happy.

ACT 2: The main Square in Vorbarr Sultana. The State Funeral of Emperor Ezar. It is late autumn, and dawn is just breaking. The coffin lies on top of a large stone bier or cenotaph. It dominates the scene. In front of the cenotaph is a fairly large, metallic tripod (for offerings). To the right (looking from the audience) is a small dais with two chairs. One has high, solid armrests and a footstool in front of it. ENTR'ACTE: Brass and woodwind play a slow march. Slowly, a few at a time, the common people file past. ENTER DROUSHNAKOVI, who begins to pile cushions on the chair with the footstool in front of it, to make it secure enough for Gregor to sit in without falling off. NEGRI moves towards her: RECIT: NEGRI: Droushnakovi. DROU: Captain Negri. NEGRI: Is all well? DROU: My lady is well, and the young Emperor. NEGRI: The young Emperor is well, and also your lady. Remember that - the Emperor comes first. DROU: Am I not bodyguard to them both? NEGRI: You are the last defence they have. You were your lady's closest defender, as I was to my emperor (gestures to the bier). But until a new bodyguard is appointed, you must protect the young Emperor first. Then - and only then - comes your lady. She herself would tell you so. DROU: She would; she is true Vor. (turning away) But it is my lady who is under siege. NEGRI goes to answer: but Music off announces the arrival of the Imperial party and the Vor. Negri returns to his place at the foot of the bier: Droushnavoki quickly finishes arranging the cushions and steps back, to stand at the rear of the dais, almost against the cenotaph. The crowd are moved off by the soldiers (thus allowing the Chorus to do a quick costume change and join the Vor lords) CHORUS: Time has passed. The seasons turn. (Processional) One man dies. A son is born. Each grows old, who once was young. Time has passed. The seasons turn. (hum repeat if required) As they sing, Gregor and Kareen enter. Each places an offering in the tripod then takes their seat. Kareen helps Gregor get comfortable on his cushions. Gregor looks around, a little uncertainly. CHORUS: Time has passed, and time goes on. Now the young prince takes the throne. Keep the faith with him alone; Time has passed, and time goes on. (hum repeat) The Vor follow: each placing an offering on the pile then moving to kneel before Gregor. The initial order is: Aral and Cordelia Vorkosigan; then Padma and Alys Vorpatril; then Vidal Vordarian; then Count and Evon Vorhalas; the rest in any order. ARAL: In this place, I give my vow; Faith and truth I'll bear to you; As your regent serving now: Duty bound then to obey you. (he stands, and waits by Kareen as Cordelia kneels. She is noticeably, but not extremely, pregnant.) CORDELIA: Hear me as I make my vow, Faith and truth I'll always bear you; Truth to speak and faith to keep, Always try to help and hear you. (Aral helps her up: They remain standing behind Kareen and Gregor. PADMA: In this place, I give my vow; Faith and truth I'll bear to you; Serve your regent in your place, Then your self in time appointed. (he stands, and moves behind Gregor. Alys kneels with difficulty, being now extremely pregnant). ALYS: Hear me as I make my vow, Faith and truth I'll always bear you; Faith for faith and truth for truth; Freely given, and duly taken. (she attempts to stand, but cannot: Padma tries clumsily to pull her up, but overbalances her.) VORDARIAN: (to Droushnakovi:) Recit: Don't just stand there, girl, help her. (to Kareen) I don't know what servants are coming to these days. Droushnakovi looks at Kareen, who gestures her to comply; she looks at Negri who eases forward; then Drou takes one of Alys' arms: Cordelia moves to take the other, and the three move off, leaving Kareen between Vorkosigan and Gregor; Padma follows them. CHORUS: Hums the tune of previous chorus. Negri tries to reach Gregor; but is stopped by Vordarian (who joins in the Chorus tune, adding his own words: VORDARIAN: Time has passed, and time goes on. Mine has come, and yours is gone. You served your master to the last; Now your time is clearly past. (he kneels to Gregor) Hear me as make my vow, Faith and truth I'll always bear you, In your father's place I'd stand, Teach you how to rule and reign. CHORUS 1: Time has passed. The wheel will turn. Quietly watch and quickly learn. See the man who wants to own All the power behind the throne. (hum repeat) VORHALAS kneels before Gregor: we do not hear what he says over the chorus. As soon as he is finished, he moves to Vorkosigan and the two move to the far side of the stage, with Evon trailing him. Other Vor continue with the fealty ceremony. Vordarian is now standing with one hand on Kareen's shoulder, behind her and between her and Gregor. Negri is behind, and slightly to one side, blocked by Vordarian from reaching Gregor. As some of the Vor stand, Vordarian speaks to them. Some stalk away; some nod, a few shake his hand. The ones who nodded or shook hands sing: SEMI-CHORUS: What a picture they make, what a family affair, A fitting solution to an awkward dilemma; A boy needs a man's hand to show him the way; The state needs a regent, but the boy needs a father! On the front of the stage, Vorhalas and Vorkosigan appear to have been arguing. Suddenly Vorhalas kneels. VORHALAS: I beg you. He is my son, A foolish boy, I grant you, A childish trick gone wrong, no more; A tragic accident, there was no malice - VORKOSIGAN: The law is clear, my duty also. You know that I am sworn to keep the law. A man is dead, your son the killer, The circumstances admit no doubt. VORHALAS: They played at fighting, two teenage boys; The knives a joke, a drunken boast, a plaything; The boy who died would be the first to say, This was an accident, there was no malice. VORKOSIGAN: I do believe you, there is no doubt of it, But still the law is as clear as day: "Life for life" - I dare not flout it And still keep order, and hold the state. In this place we gave a vow, Faithfully to serve the Emperor, If I move to help you now - Tell me, what will follow .........? [there is a moment of silence; Vorhalas slowly bows his head; then stands: EVON turns abruptly and moves towards Vordarian, who gestures him to kneel before Gregor: He does, but briefly: He and Vordarian move to the far side of the front stage from Vorkosigan, talking. VORHALAS: The law is the law. One law for every man. One equal, just and royal law, And I am sworn to keep the law. And I will keep my word. VORKOSIGAN: The years roll on ahead of me; A burden I can hardly bear, A duty I must keep before me, Guided by the law And bound by my word. NEGRI: My power is almost gone. What time I have I'll use to do my master's will, And seek for no reward, I gave him my word. (reprise as ensemble) While thy are singing, Cordelia and Drou return: Negri moves over towards Vorkosigan as Drou takes up her position behind Gregor. Cordelia is unable to reach Aral, and waits rather uncertainly beside Kareen. Vordarian returns: hands the ceremonial taper to Kareen, who lights it and guides Gregor's hand as they move towards a prepared place to light the the offering pile. [NOTE TO ASM: I know there is technology to allow smokeless flame on stage; if offerings are non-flammable then a flame around the rim of the tripod should be sufficient to be effective from the front.] CHORUS: Ceremonial succession Transfers power in due progression. Fealty will bind in balance Emperor and Vor together. (reprise of the march which opened this Act) CHORUS: Solemnly the show must go on. Now the public act is completed, All of the real life problems appear, New enemies to be defeated. The Vor gradually exit, a few at a time. Cordelia, still alone, moves forward. CORDELIA: I see my husband disappear Behind the work that he is called to do. I see my marriage turning into just "Goodbye" and "see you later", in the morning, and then "sorry I'm so late", at night, with "I love you" on rare occasions, Time and politics permitting - Why am I here? I'm the foreigner, the unknown wife, How can I have a separate life? My husband is the only friend I know. Somehow I have a child to raise, And here is where that child must find a place. KAREEN: I see my life disappear; My son turns into Emperor; The little boy I care for is an icon, And the man who says he loves me Seems to find so many other things To occupy his time, Though he says the fault is mine, I should be more supportive, I should argue his case, and take his side; I used to look to him for support. I thought he was my ally in the fight; But now I'm wondering if I was right - DUET: Cordelia and Kareen (now singing to each other) I need to find a friend. I need someone who understands The job I have to do; Someone who'll help me see it through. To keep my child alive and help him grow. In this place it's not easy I know. CORDELIA: I don't think I can do this alone: KAREEN: But how can I survive on my own? Vordarian and Vorpatril return, talking together: Vordarian puts his hand out, but Vorpatril turns away. Recit. secco PADMA: Sorry, I couldn't do that. I'd need to speak to my cousin the Regent first. (crosses to Vorkosigan) VORDARIAN: (to himself) Your cousin, the Regent. How nice that sounds. Your cousin, the Regent. My lord, the Regent. Why not me, the Regent? Aria: I was the obvious choice; I'd use the power wisely; I was the man at the centre, Well placed to go on, I was close to the throne. And now it's "Yes, my lord the Regent" And "No, my lord the Regent", And why are you the Regent? I deserve to be the Regent. I should have been the Regent. ARAL: The Regency was given me; A burden I can hardly bear, A duty I must keep before me, Guided by the law And bound by my word. I was the Emperor's choice. I did not want the power, But I can use that power And I will carry on, To keep a boy on the throne; And I hear "Yes, my lord the Regent" Meaning "No, my lord the Regent" and "Well, he's only Regen! Some will plot to be the Regent, But I was made the Regent - A burden I can hardly bear, A duty I must keep before me, Guided by the law And bound by my word PADMA: But you were made the Regent, And we swore to serve the Regent, So we'll help you be the Regent, Guided by the law And bound by our word. VORHALAS and NEGRI: But others would be Regent -How they want to be the Regent! Can you hold the power of Regent, and uphold the law, On your bare word? ENSEMBLE: Vorkosigan: "But I was made the Regent" etc Padma: "But you were made" etc. Vorhalas/Negri: "But others would be Regent" Vordarian: "I should have been the Regent" KAREEN/CORDELIA: I need to find a friend. Someone who'll help me see it through. To do the job I must do. KAREEN: But how can I survive on my own? CORDELIA: I don't think I can do this alone....... Offstage, we hear the chorus: CHORUS: Ceremonial succession Transfers power in due progression. Fealty should bind in balance Emperor and Vor together. And now the show must go on. Now that the public act is completed, All of the real life problems appear, New enemies must be defeated. The curtain falls to the sound, pp, of the orchestra playing the funeral march.

ACT 3: WINTER in Vorbarr Sultana/The Imperial Residence/The Control Centre for the Regency. Across the stage we see the low (one to three feet high) ruins of buildings. This might be Vorbarr Sultana, or any other city where the fighting has been fierce. Quite a complex set is built on several levels, around two spiral staircases Left and Right. To the left, looking from the audience, is Vordarian's side. At the top, we see the same room Ezar previously used; the table is now pushed back but the globe is still on it. In front of Vordarian is a comconsole. He is dressed in his best uniform, wearing a set of dual swords. Next down, reaching towards centre stage, is a larger platform. On its back wall is a selection of posters, all supporting himself. A few have (small) inset pictures of the Princess and/or Gregor. Covering part of some of the posters, someone has pinned a smallish map, on which are various scribbles in marker pen. A table is jammed against that wall, and Evon Vorhalas is among the men sitting round it. One of them has an audio feed from the front line. Further down, cut off by a wall with a door in it from being able to see what is going on above, is a room, facing to the front, occupied by Kareen. It contains a chair, a large cupboard, and a small marquetry table. Kareen is sitting on the chair, turning a child's shoe over and over in her hands. On the right of the stage (looking from the audience) is Vorkosigan's side. The whole stairway can be seen, apart from the bottom. The three levels are open-plan. On the top one, the smallest, Aral Vorkosigan is standing before a comconsole. He is wearing undress greens. Next down is Vorkosigan's staff HQ. On its back wall is a meticulously drawn map, with notes and coloured pins etc. marking what is happening. In the middle of the floor is a round table, with containers holding more papers, pens, pins etc. Count Vorhalas is among the men seated around this table. Another of them has an audio feed from the front. Down again and towards the front, Cordelia is on a two-seater sofa, with a coffee table in front. A child's shoe is sitting on the coffee table. Cordelia can both see and hear what is going on and alternates between sitting, biting her knuckles, staring up the stairwell, and pacing. Below and between both sets of platforms is a space, up to 3 foot high, occupied by the remnants of shattered buildings and whatever ground troops and civilians are still alive. Because of the "ruins" we can't see but presumably the access to both sets is behind the lower level, facing towards the middle of the stage. THE WAR CURTAIN UP: Lghts on Kareen and Cordelia Kareen is turning a child's shoe over and over in her hands, stopping every few minutes to listen. Cordelia alternates gnawing on her knuckles, going over to look up the staircase, and pacing. RECIT and Aria/duet: CORDELIA: When I got married, I thought by now I'd be expecting to give birth to my son. And then the fighting started. A gas attack, and now My son is in the hospital, Not born yet, but in hospital, Hooked up to a replicator Keeping him alive behind the lines. The other lines. KAREEN: And so I married him, Because I thought That he'd be satisfied, being father to my son. And then the fighting started, One quick attack, and now My son is with his bodyguard, I hope he's with his bodyguard, Somewhere staying safely hidden, Even if it is behind the lines. The other lines. DUET: My son, where is my son? [Lights down on Kareen and Cordelia: Up on Vorkosigan] VORKOSIGAN: (broadcasting) The Emperor continues safe and well. While the usurper still pretends he's in command, The rest of us stay loyal to our lord. And once again we give this guarantee, To all who will renounce this madness, Amnesty to all who submit to the Emperor. Simply report to our bases, or call the number Now on your screen. Long live the Emperor! [lights down on Vorkosigan: up on the two Staffs] RESPONSES: (The members of each general staff, in turn, report: Vordarian's have the even lines, Vorkosigan's the odd.) ENSEMBLE: The troops have taken one more town Our troops have fallen back some more It seems the war is quietening down We are regrouping, they are spread quite thin But our supply lines are quite stretched, New intelligence is coming in, Reinforcements are quite difficult to fetch, If nothing changes, we will win. [fade lights on the Staffs, spot on Kareen} KAREEN: My son, where is my son? The fighting split us apart. I don't know what is going on; I know he was alive three days ago: But this is all I know. There were reports of a plane going down, But no bodies found, I know that if there was a way, Negri would keep him safe; [fade spot: fade up lights on Staffs] RESPONSE (this time, Vorkosigan's side have the odd lines, Vordarian's the even. There are now fewer on Vordarian's side, more on Vorkosigan's.) STAFFS: The fighting's going street to street We made a tactical retreat Civilian casualties are high; Some people seem to want to die The numbers coming to our side And there are rumours of deserters Are growing every day but still And each new victory's getting harder [fade up lights of Vordarian and Vorkosigan} VORDARIAN: But if we play the hostage card, VORKOSIGAN: If they should try to play the hostage game, I must not negotiate. VORDARIAN: They have no hostages I need [fade down lights on staffs] VORDARIAN: (broadcasting): We understand the former Regent must be desparate. We sympathise with those who chose his side. To all whose families are split by this dispute, We make this offer to end your worry, Come over to us now, We have your relatives safe. Your wives and childern will be glad to see you. Let's end the conflict while we can. And to the Regent himself, I say Remember families are important. I don't forget my own stepson is apparently with him; And now his own son is a guest of mine. Come over to us now,(etc.) [spot on Cordelia] CORDELIA: My son, where is my son? He was all right at the hospital, Still on the critical list, but fighting; And now it's way behind the lines; And all the news I hear is propaganda, What can I believe? [fade spot] VORKOSIGAN: The Emperor remains quite safe in our hands, Although still hidden for his own protection. I cannot say so much for others, husbands, wives and children, Hostages we know have now been taken. To my opponent I say this is not war! An open conflict could be honourable, But even though my own son's safety is at risk, I say we cannot negotiate like this. Again we give the offer, Amnesty to all who submit to the Emperor. Simply report to our bases, or call the number Now on your screen. Long live the Emperor! RESPONSE (this time, there are only a few left on Vordarian's side; two leave during this - Vordarian's side have even lines) So do we still sustain this fight? Let's not forget we're in the right! Or can we find some other way But we don't want to kill them all; That gives a better chance to win? We want them just to give in! VORDARIAN: (broadcasting) As no reliable word has come of the Emperor, I fear that he must now be deemed a casualty of war. And so I must myself take up the burden of Empire, In order to avenge the death of my stepson; I say the murderer Vorkosigan must pay. I dedicate myself to this; We shall not stop, we shall not rest; We shall remember him! [as this broadcast has gone on, everyone except Evon has left Vordarian's Staff platform] [gradually fade all lights except on Kareen's platform: fade up lights on this] KAREEN: My son, where is my son? My husband says I should not grieve; But then he says that I should learn to leave go; So what does he know? (she stands): Droushnakovi! DROU: My lady? KAREEN: You heard my husband? DROU: Yes, madam. KAREEN: Clearly, an Imperial bodyguard, Should not be here With a mere Countess. DROU: Madam? KAREEN: Where is my son? Find him for me, Find if he lives or dies, If he lives, then is he safe? And if not, then find out why and how he - DROU: Yes, my lady. (she curtsies, and slips out of the door as Vordarian enters) VORD: Are you all right, my dear? KAREEN: Yes, yes. I was just thinking aloud, about my boy. VORDARIAN: So sad. They must have crashed Into the lake. We found the bodyguard at last, -at least, his body. Your son's will doubtless follow soon. You mustn't dwell too much upon these things. (she turns away) You still have me.... (fade lights at Vordarian side of stage: all of the lower stage must now be dimly lit as we see Drou move cautiously across the stage, moving towards the back. Lights fade DOWN on Vordarian side and stage "ground" level; we lose sight of her behind the scenery near Vorkosigan's side. Meanwhile: After Vordarian's last broadcast, Aral has moved down to Cordelia. CORDELIA: So now our son's a hostage. ARAL: He's not the only one. If we can just hang on, we'll win; (he starts to pace) This war is not about The territory, but about ideas; CORDELIA gets in front of him, stops him with one hand on his chest. Focus, Aral! Our son is a hostage. ARAL: How can I act? (begins to pace) If I send any force to rescue One hostage before another, I lose whatever purchase I had -I can't say any more, "I'm in the same boat, I share the same risk," CORDELIA: (stopping him again) Think, Aral! Hooked up to a replicator - Not a comparable position! You may have time to save the other hostages, But do you think Vordarian will have a hospital team standing by, If anything goes wrong with our boy? ARAL: How can we even be sure that he's there? I do not have any spies in his camp - Suppose this tale is just another story? And where exactly is he held? I can't release an assault team, When there's so much in the balance; And even if we had accurate intelligence, CORDELIA: You could let me go. ARAL: I can't risk losing you. CORDELIA: And holding me here When I could be helping our son - That isn't losing me? (from above, one of the Staff calls) Recit: Sir, I'm sorry but The last two general staff have now Come over, can you come and debrief? Oh, and some women have arrived To see the lady.... Aral gestures to Cordelia - I have to deal with this - and goes back up the stairs. Enter Drou and Alys, holding Ivan. CORDELIA: Alys! You managed to get out then, And have your baby! (breaking down) But where is my son? ALYS: Can you tell me, where is my husband? You don't know, do you? I'll tell you, always taking care of me! He said, don't worry, Alys, He said, stay down, stay safe, He said that things will be all right. And then he goes to find a midwife in a battle zone! Just walks away and leaves me on my own! Of course he's spotted, of course he's caught. They asked some questions, then they shot - And if it hadn't been for (grabs Drou's hand) her, The two of us would never have got out! DROU: My lady, I've come from the Palace. The Princess-Dowager sent me - Countess Vordarian, I should say. CORDELIA: So it's true she married him? DROU: She didn't have much choice in the end. I think he wore her down, And now he says her son is dead And so she sent me to you, to find out If she should look for hope, or only revenge. CORDELIA: But he's fine, the Emperor. I got him out myself, And I know. Captain Negri Brought him straight to my husband. DROU: Captain Negri? Can I see him? CORDELIA: I'm sorry. His wounds were too severe. We left his body for distraction, To confuse Count Vordarian. But where is my son? I heard he was a hostage in the Palace, But we can't get confirmation And my husband will not let me go; [to herself] (And anyway, without exact intelligence, What good would a raid do? - I have no right to fail in this.) DROU: My lady, can you prove to me The Emperor is well, and alive? CORDELIA: How can I prove it? I know that he was fine The day before yesterday. I helped get him away to a safe place. But I don't know where he is now - Safer that way. DROU: When you helped get him away, Madam, what was he wearing? CORDELIA: The usual sort of thing, a playsuit, I think you call it, blue, - but he only had one shoe. He said his mother had the other one". (she lifts the shoe from the table and holds it out: Drou examines the shoe; tries to decide whether to trust Cordelia] CORDELIA: When we had to change his clothes, for a disguise, I kept this. Don't know why, for luck I guess.... [from upstairs there is a bellow from Aral] ARAL: No you may not change your uniform! This war is not Vordarian versus Vorkosigan! I serve the Emperor, Never forget that! Let the other side Take off their imperial colours, And show themselves traitors! [a luckless type slinks down and out; the ladies look at one another] DROU: I serve the Emperor too, my lady. [she hands back the shoe]. If I could get you into the palace, You could tell my mistress How her son was. CORDELIA: If you could get me into the palace, Would you help me Get my son out? DROU: If we could get into the palace, And you could help my mistress You'd have an ally in the Palace. Who could find out where your son is. But would you help my mistress Also escape? (sotto voce) ALYS and CORDELIA: Her presence would be proof to all concerned The Regent has legitimate authority, And then the traitor Count would be quite alone. CORDELIA: We'd need to get out and in With the minimum of fuss; And could we get past the guards? DROU: I was her bodyguard, The last line of defence. I know all the ways out and in. Including the secret routes. I bet we could get in. Getting out could be more difficult, Even with my lady, We mustn't attract Unwanted attention. CORDELIA: My son is hooked up to a replicator; One of us could carry it, the other keep watch. One of us at least has to make it back here - Alys, if it isn't me, Could you tell my husband that I'm sorry? I had to try. ALYS (recit): Yes, I'll tell him, and if you don't Come back alive, I'll raise your son with my own. (arioso) And tell your mistress too, from me, girl, That Alys Vorpatril gives her word, Her name's word, her solemn word, Her own word for her own actions, The Emperor shall not lack a mother's care While I am still in life, whatever happens. (exit Cordelia and Drou) Aria: Each to their own: a servant to lead the way, A soldier to preserve a life, And I have my own part to play. When all the fighting is over, There will be children still growing, Otherwise what are we fighting for? While she is singing, DROU and CORDELIA have moved away down the staircase and across the stage. Just as the aria finishes, ARAL comes down from the platform sees that Cordelia is gone: the music continues as Alys and he look at each other for a moment, then he goes back upstairs; but we see him standing there, just looking across at the other side as the lights fade. LIGHTS UP on the Vordarian side of the stage: Vordarian, Evon and Kareen are the only three people we see, one on each platform. Drou and Cordelia come through the door into Kareen's level. DROU: Madam, he's safe. I do believe it. CORDELIA: I brought this for you - Kareen grabs the shoe: holds it: KAREEN: He told me, My son had drowned; But this was never in water! CORDELIA: My son, where is my son? Kareen moves to the cupboard and opens it: the replicator is sitting there on a shelf, above a heap of plastic bags, as though someone had just gone shopping. Cordelia zooms straight at it and grabs it with both arms. At that point the door opens and Vordarian enters: VORDARIAN: What are you doing? Kareen? KAREEN: You said my son was drowned, But this was never in water! VORDARIAN: My dear, your're imagining - [Kareen throws the shoe at him: he ducks and draws his sword, heads for Cordelia: Drou kicks the table at him, and he trips; his sword hits Kareen instead, in the throat; she dies] DROU: My lady! VORDARIAN: No! [Drou grabs the shorter sword from Vordarian and stabs him with it; he dies] DROU: This could end the whole war! CORDELIA: We're going to need proof ...... (she reaches for the sword) - CUT LIGHTS. Start slow bass figure on bassoon or double bass and cello; dim lighting on low stage: Cordelia and Drou are moving slowly, stopping every few paces, hindered by their burdens: Lights come up slightly on Vordarian side: EVON is standing in the open doorway to Kareen's room, looking on in horror. He turns and pounds down the stair and races out on to the stage, heedlessly. He is shot almost immediately by a sniper and falls not far behind the women. They freeze. After a beat the bass theme restarts; the lights dim on Vordarian's side, and gradually small red lights illuminate illuminate the "ground" of the stage - campfires? The women cautiously move off. As they cross the stage, they hear: SOLDIERS: I heard my brother's on the other side I heard my father didn't make it out I saw my best friend's face last night I'm fighting cause the Captain said We had to keep together But now the Captain's dead, A soldier expects to die in war, In battle against the enemy forces. But who are the enemy here? Solo: Tell me again, why are we fighting? Lights up on Vorkosigan side of stage; music speeds up as Cordelia and Drou enter the room where Alys is still sitting. She goes to meet them but is waved back. They put the replicator on the table. Alys apparently asks about the bag, but cannot hear anything they may say because of the noise from immediately above: THE PEACE TALKS: (one line per side, choose lots for who gets what) These demands are unreasonable! We cannot concede! You haven't considered - If you think we'll give up our rights - The long-term objectives Our short-term agenda- You're simply deluded Is stopping the fighting The full implications But my situation - (two of them) it's a point of principle.... Cordelia stalks up the stairs and tosses the bag - and the head - on to the table. Separately. CORDELIA: Gentlemen, I'm tired of your war. I want to talk to my husband. dead silence as Aral holds up the head and looks at it, trying to decide whether to laugh, cry or crack up. The "delegates" (the former two staffs) sidle swiftly out, either bowing or saluting but - very obviously - keeping at least arm's length from Cordelia. Aral carefully puts the head down, and the last man out gingerly wraps it in the bag and takes it with him. Aral and Cordelia move slowly towards each other, and lean against one another. Very slowly, Aral puts his arms around Cordelia. To a pizzicato accompaniment, there is a muffled brief conference below: THE TREATY: Perhaps we could concede - Just leave for future consideration - After all the immediate objective - Cease-fire now and then Sort the rest later - All agreed? (some very quick writing, everybody signs; Vorhalas is deputed to go up and get a signature from Aral) VORHALA: My lord Regent, Your signature is required For the Peace Treaty. [Aral looks at the -very small - piece of paper; reaches over Cordelia, takes it; she takes the pen from Vorhalas and hands it to him; he leans on her shoulder to sign it and hands it back] Vorhalas gently goes away.] DUET: Aral and Cordelia And so, All of our fighting leads To a moment of truce, A moment of silence When I can look around and see That you are here along with me, And I remember In a moment of peace, A moment of sanity, That when the craziness of life Is at its height, And all the noise seems endless, We will still have this place, We will still have this time, This moment of truce. [Below, the armistice notices are being posted; and bodies are being looked for, lifted and carried away] WOMEN: My son, where is my son, My husband, my brother, My father may be gone. My son, where is my son? SOLDIERS: Too many casualties of war; The numbers hide the faces: CHORUS: Someone's father, someone's son, Someone's brother, someone's friend; [Aral and Cordelia have come down to where Alys is with Drou, and are looking at the replicator, sitting on the table while Alys holds baby Ivan] ALYS: My husband is gone, but my son lives. DROU: The princess is gone, but the Emperor lives. ARAL and CORDELIA: In all of this madness, our son still lives. Quartet: When all of the bodies are carried away, And all of the fighting has passed into memory, How will we build a place for our children to grow, How will they live? Now is the time, while we still remember All of the loss and the pain we have, We must find ways so that all our sons can live. Repeat from Now is the time; VORHALAS has now found Evon's body and is taking it off; all those still on stage are exiting slowly, leaning on sombody or limping or carrying a body ; last line repeats again, then on instruments only, fading down to bass still playing the theme "my son, where is my son?".

ACT 4: Some 3 months later; It is Spring in Vorbarr Sultana. Dawn is breaking over a city now being rebuilt - much scaffolding, I think, but perhaps some trees starting to leaf. We can see the sky through the large balcony windows to the rear right of the stage. FADE UP lights: instrumental music plays, reminiscent of Ezar's ceremony but major rather than minor; strings and woodwind rather than low brass. The set is split-level; a large staircase leads up to the balcony (right) and a small withdrawing room and corridor (left). At the the head of the stair is a large portrait of Kareen. She is shown standing, her son beside her. One arm is curled protectively fround Gregor's shoulders, the other in similar fashion around the globe of Barrayar. Behind her, the sky shows a gathering storm. As ever, the symbolism is not subtle. Droushnakovi sets a tripod up in front of it, and carefully places her offering (a lock of hair?) in it, then goes out. She comes back with Gregor, and they carefully light the tiny flame; once the fire is out, Drou takes the tripod and puts it back in a cupboard beside the portrait. They go into the left-hand room: ALYS is already there, sitting, with Ivan on her knee. Gregor goes over to say hello, Drou following. From the corridor to the left come ARAL and CORDELIA. Cordelia is holding Miles: Aral has his arm round her shoulder, holding both of them. Recit: CORDELIA: Look, at last, Our boychick is out of the egg! (Gregor runs over to see). He's very tiny, I know. And not very strong. (to Aral) But he will grow. (she moves to sit beside Alys). ALYS: My son is already growing, So much! DROU: (to Gregor, who is trying to touch Miles) Careful now! He's, breakable? CORDELIA: It's all right, I know You will be very gentle. And help us look after him, While he's so tiny. Just like we all help Look after you While you are small. ARAL: Then when you grow up, You will take care of The whole of the planet, That's how it works. QUARTET: When we choose to help each other, When we all work well together, Then we make a space for all of us, Place for all of us to grow. [a bell rings, off-stage]. Recit: CORDELIA: Is that your meeting? ARAL: The first of the new Cabinet. Wish me luck! The Regent now rules, With the help of the Council, and the advice of the Ministers, All as administered by the various branches of the Imperial Service. Civil and Military. Getting them all to work together, Is.... going to be a challenge! CORDELIA/DROU/ALYS: But that's the sort of change that gives us hope, for better days. TRIO: Somehow you must build a world One impossible step at a time, Where the small and the sick And the weak can grow, To become all they can be. Somehow you must make it happen, A small miracle each day, We'll support you with all the help we can, We'll hope and we'll pray, [Aral heads off down the stairs through the second verse above; he pauses about halfway down] ARAL: Another sixteen years to go, Until I hand the power over; And until then, how to build a world? I will remember the example of our ladies here, And of the one who's gone before (turning to the portrait). Each in their separate ways, they acted. And very different gifts they brought. But all their differences did not distract them From from the allegiance which they held together. [he comes down to the "ground", where the Vor lords, the Ministers, the civil servants and the soldiers are all standing in their own little groups]. ARAL: My lords, gentlemen, enough of this! It's time to set the old ways aside. And so I would commend to you The following proposals: (he nods to Vortala) VORTALA: To every man it will now be open, From any district, planet-wide To enter any branch branch of the Imperial Service Based on merit alone. CHORUS : (interest groups, one after another) Ridiculous! It'll never work! Is he serious! It's never been tried before! VORHALAS: And we confirm the prior amnesty; And no official records will be kept To prejudice anyone's future service. All of our different gifts will be needed In the difficult days ahead. CHORUS: Is he serious? It can't be so! It's wishful thinking, Why should we agree? ARAL: The Princess-Dowager, whose memory we honour today, was well loved by all. Both sides in the recent conflict Held her in high esteem; An yet that conflict killed her. Her death, noble and self-sacrificing, Ensured her son's secure succession. In her memory, let us dedicate ourselves To serve both her son and his imperium With loyalty, to our utmost ability. [there is a brief, ashamed pause] CHORUS: We have tried to run things for ourselves; We have kept the power in our hands; We have fought each other time after time, This time we nearly destroyed ourselves; It's time to change things at last. ARAL: In memory of the Princess-Dowager, Within the Emperor's household Lady Vorkosigan will serve To oversee his education: - does anyone object? [Cordelia (still holding Miles) comes up to the banister and smiles brightly down. There is a dead silence]. Lady Vorpatril will supply The social graces he will surely soon require; And as his bodyguard, I would confirm The present incumbant is Entirely satisfactory. - unless anyone objects? [Alys moves to stand beside Cordelia. The dead silence continues] ARAL: Good. We have a meeting of minds. And so for sixteen years We work together Setting aside our personal lives. Our aim will be to set the Emperor On his throne, Competent to rule us all. CHORUS: And so for sixteen years etc. CORDELIA: and ALYS: The Emperor will not grow up alone, Our sons will grow here at his side, To learn to serve him with their utmost loyalty; ARAL: Now I present to you your Emperor, Safe and well, as I promised. [he gestures: Drou makes to bring Gregor out, but he's not sure of all these new faces. Cordelia and Alys each reach out a hand, and he comes to take them; Drou brings up the rear. They look at each other, a little ruefully, as the crowd below cheers. CHORUS: Hail to the Emperor! Three cheers, hooray! Hooray, hooray! CORDELIA: So tell me, how did we Get into this again? ALYS: A solemn vow, as I recall. CORDELIA: And all I wanted was a private life; ALYS: My dear, we cannot have it all, and anyway, DUET: It's just another sixteen years of our lives. Our sons will be nearly grown, The work will take all our time and our energy, But what a worthwhile seed to have sown! CORDELIA: I may see my husband only occasionally ALYS: I may not have time to mourn; ARAL: I may miss my wife's companionship VORHALAS: I'll never stop missing my boys; [from the antechambers come the guards, housemaids, ladies, servants etc to join in] CHORUS: But my job is too important To leave to someone else to do And this work is far too urgent To leave to a convenient time. It's just another sixteen years of our lives! FINAL CHORUS: May all of the sacrifices made Be not be in vain; May the Emperor rule us well, In the days to come. May we all be faithful in service, And loyal to our word.


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© 2002 Catherine Muir

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Last updated: September 14th 2002
Originally Uploaded: July 28th 2002