"Three Golden Epics"
- "The Triumvirate is arguably the most famous of all wizarding plays, and the most demanding to produce."
- —Danforth Pennyscrib’s “Condensed Wizarding Classics: A Student’s Literature Companion Guide”, chapter six, “The Tale of the Triumvirate”.
The Triumvirate is a classic wizarding play, with its origin dating back to the seventh century A.D. Appearing for the first time in the scrolls of Didimus the Sage, it is the earliest of the Wizarding world's Three Golden Epics.
The author of the play is currently unknown.
Main Characters Edit
- The King of Seventide
- Donovan, his chief advisor
- Treus, captain of the Royal Guard
- Astra, the princess
- The Page Boy
- The Marsh Hag
- Sternwither, the trade ship captain
The Story Edit
Act I Edit
The king of Seventide is inspecting his troops with the benefit of his royal entourage. His daughter, the princess Astra, has been compelled to accompany the troupe, in the hopes that she will gain some appreciation for the rigours and glories of imperial rule. The king comments to his chief advisor, Donovan, that the princess has been far too swayed by her recently deceased mother, the queen, whose romantic and egalitarian ideas had been a constant bane to their marriage.
Astra follows her father reluctantly to the courtyard, which is a hive of peasant activity, and becomes distracted by the busy lives of the people as they go about their daily lives. Shortly, she is called away from her distraction by the king, who insists that she join him in his inspection of the royal guard. There, for the first time, Astra spies the young captain of the guard, Treus. He bows deeply to her, showing her even more deference than the king. The king accepts this as a sign of chivalry, but Astra sees that Treus is smitten by her, and admits to herself (via soliloquy) that she is similarly charmed by the dashing young army captain, despite (or perhaps because of) his ignoble birth.
The king sees this, and does not approve. Young love, he confides to Donovan, is the snare of fools. Donovan agrees. In truth, he has desired the princess Astra for himself ever since she grew to womanhood. This desire has grown to an irrational obsession, fuelled partly by his lust to possess her beauty, and partly by his hunger for power, since by marrying the princess he would place himself in direct line for the post of Imperial Viceroy when the king dies and the princess becomes queen.
Donovan, being aged and long accustomed to deceit, is no small practitioner in the dark arts. He concocts a plan to capture Astra as his own by compelling the king to decree their marriage. Using a combination of persuasive speech and enchantments, Donovan convinces the king of his love for the princess, and the wisdom of saving the girl from the foolishness of her own heart. All will best be served, he argues, by a kingly decree that Astra should wed him, Donovan, so that he may continue his role as chief royal advisor even when she becomes queen of Seventide.
The king grudgingly agrees to this, and Donovan suggests that the decree be declared no later than a week hence, before the princess’ heart can be any further spoiled by her “flighty notions” and “blind infatuation”.
The princess Astra learns of this plan via the king’s page boy, who has been her friend since they were both children, and who harbors no love for the vile Donovan. She is both enraged and frightened, and attempts to leave the castle by night to escape her impending forced marriage. This plan is thwarted by Donovan himself, who has been spying on the castle via his magical arts (a cursed mirror). He witnesses Astra’s attempted flight through the castle kitchens, and sends a contingent of the royal guard to arrest her, ostensibly for her protection. As captain of the guard, Treus hears of the princess’ attempted flight from the castle. Curious and worried, he flies to her balcony via broom. She is thrilled to meet him there, although she is shy and conflicted about expressing her feelings for him. Treus feels no such reticence however, and admits his undying love for the princess, describing her beauty as that of a rose, not confined to the outside, but “increasing with each velvet petal toward this flower’s perfum’d heart”. Astra, having never experienced such bold declaration and guileless sincerity, is overcome. She admits her own love (“newly forged but sunrise bright”), claiming that in her heart she has always loved him, even before she knew him. Finally, she tells Treus of Donovan’s plan to force her to marry him.
Treus assures her that he will never allow such a thing to occur, even if it means confronting the king’s advisor and dueling him to the death.
Donovan, of course, witnesses all of this via his arts. He covers his divining mirror, and via soliloquy, vows that the “brave Treus” will never have the opportunity to confront him. Indeed, Donovan declares, his rival will not witness the dawning of a new week.
Act II Edit
Treus arrives at his post the following morning to discover a new mission has been assigned to him. He is ordered to lead the kingdom’s fastest clipper on a mission to the distant shores of Murcielaneum, where an armada of war is rumoured to be assembling. He is not to engage the enemy, but merely to observe and report, should the rumours be true. He is to depart by that very noon, taking his twelve best sailing men.
Before leaving, Treus visits Astra once more on her balcony. She immediately suspects a ruse, insisting that the sudden trip is, in reality, a means of removing Treus from the kingdom so that Donovan’s wicked plan may proceed unimpeded. Treus vows to Astra that, by his magic and his skill, he will accomplish the voyage in half the normal time, thus returning well before the day of her scheduled marriage and rescuing her from Donovan’s plot. She reluctantly agrees to this, but when Treus attempts to kiss her farewell, she stops him with these words: “Let our first kiss remain undone until the dawn of your return, lest cruel fate allow us taste the wine of love before it spills.” With this, Treus renews his vow to return to her, and takes his leave.
The next night, Astra dreams an enchanted dream in which armies of demonic creatures are unleashed upon Treus’ vessel, devastating it with their breath of fire and ice, sending it to the bottom of the ocean. She herself flies over this vision, doomed to observe but not to influence events, and thereby witnesses the prophetic death of her beloved.
Elsewhere, Donovan steals away from the castle by night, delighted that he has sent the young Treus on a fool’s errand, but knowing he is only half finished with his evil plan. He travels to the deepest wilds of Seventide, to the swamps of Havendire, where lives the fabled Marsh Hag. She greets him in all of her ugliness, her hair the tangled green of swamp moss, her nose and chin protruding and warty, her back stooped nearly double. Cackling and vile, she welcomes Donovan into her abode. They sit by the fire, where a cauldron bubbles and hisses.
Donovan explains that his own magic is not sufficient to the task at hand, and inquires about hiring the Hag’s services. She already knows what he is seeking, being a diviner of futures. She warns him that his plan may command a higher price than he is willing to pay. “The snake ye conjure hungers great, its appetite is hard to sate, feed it well and bid it sleep, lest its gaze to you retreat”. Donovan dismisses this warning, choosing to interpret it as a demand for more money. Donovan pays the Hag handsomely, and she happily goes about her work. Feeding the cauldron unspeakable ingredients, the Hag conjures a magical storm, so vicious and deadly that its lightning will be strong enough to split stone and its winds will blow both furnace heat and arctic chill. She releases this upon Treus, commanding it to seek him before unleashing all of its unearthly force.
Aboard his clipper, the Ballywynde, Treus and his crew are halfway between Seventide and Murcielaneum when they encounter a friendly trading ship returning from their destination. Inviting the captain, an old sailor named Sternwither, to drink aboard the Ballywynde, Treus learns that his mission is indeed a farce. Sternwither declares that there is no armada gathering at Murcielaneum, and that their navy is, in fact, engaged with pirates off their western shores.
Treus is overcome with anger, for he realizes that Astra was right in her suspicions. He immediately turns the Ballywynde toward home, only to spy a dense storm approaching from that direction, bearing swiftly down on them.
Treus conducts council with Sternwither, asking him if there is a way to circumvent the storm. Sternwither admits that there is, although the voyage will present its own grave dangers. If Treus steers the Ballywynde hard north, they will encounter the great dagger peninsula, which they would normally steer wide around on their way back to Seventide. There, Sternwither declares, they will find the mouth of the Wraith River, which cuts straight across the peninsula, forming a natural water highway. It will cut a day off of their return trip, and allow them to bypass the worst of the oncoming storm. But they must be constantly wary, Sternwither warns, because the Wraith River is notoriously capricious, filled with monstrous beasts, vicious roaring rapids, and boulder- strewn shallows.
With this, Treus bids Sternwither farewell, then steers the Ballywynde north, directly toward the dagger peninsula and the Wraith River. The storm veers to meet them, magnifying the dangers of their perilous voyage, but Treus is undaunted. As the magical storm’s edge reaches out toward them and the rocky shores of the dagger peninsula heave into view, Treus calls forth his men and offers them his now famous rallying speech:
“Foul Donovan! Thou trait’rous malcontent! Had been there room amongst my thoughts for more than Eros’ spell and vanity, I might have seen thy wicked plot afoot. My sinister and foolish pride did make me bade thy oily tongue, and dreams of fame to take this quest of doom; and now I lie so far removed an obstacle to vile and vicious victory. O Astra, wife of mine at heart, reverse my sails and send a wind to turn us north; we still may beat that villain’s storm! To arms, we’ll take, O men, to bear the force of righteous truth: the spear to pierce his lying heart! But spy, his clouds hath blocked the sun, and time hath turned to foe! Wizards and men, forth draw ye wands and wits to fight the violent seas this night, that by the morn we’ll hold our win, or lie in beds of ocean sand: our beaten glory’s shrine!”
Encouraged by their captain’s words, the crew of the Ballywynde battle the edge of the Marsh Hag’s magical storm, cutting swiftly around it via the perilous rapids of the Wraith River. The storm continues to follow them, but as they emerge victorious on the opposite side of the dagger peninsula, they have cut around it. They are now only half a day’s journey from Seventide, and bear straight on through the night.
Act III Edit
It is the day before the decreed wedding, and Donovan is smugly pleased that his plan has succeeded. Treus is surely dead, his ship sunk by the Hag’s storm, and Astra will soon be his. The princess is miserable with mourning, believing that her dream of Treus’ death has come true, further convinced by Donovan’s vicious confidence. She confronts him with her suspicions, and he admits to everything. He professes his love for her, claiming that his actions were on her behalf and for her good. No princess, he declares, should degrade herself to the passions of a mere common soldier. She attempts to flee from his presence, but he grapples with her, pulling her bodily away from the door and hurling her to the floor. He shows no remorse for this, and vows that he will do what he must to protect her from her “youthful fancies”. Getting to her feet, Astra grasps a letter opener from Donovan’s desk and attempts to stab him with it, but he captures her wrist, wrestles the small blade from her grip, and threatens to scar her with it as a lesson.
Treus enters, having just returned from his seafaring adventure. He draws his sword and commands Donovan to release the princess. Donovan is shocked to see his nemesis, but recovers quickly. He draws his own sword and a magical fight ensues. Donovan uses his dark magic to defy gravity, flying at Treus, and even lifting Treus from the ground, disorienting him. Despite this, Treus bests the older man, battling him ultimately to the death. Defeated and dying, Donovan spies dark clouds advancing outside the open balcony of his quarters. He laughs bitterly at Treus and Astra. The Marsh Hag’s magical storm, he declares, still seeks its mark. It has followed Treus even here, and will destroy the castle and all within it.
At this proclamation, the storm finally strikes with all of its force, hammering the castle turrets with supernatural lightning and blowing down its walls with alternately fiery and icy blasts.
Treus and Astra attempt to escape the castle’s destruction, but the wrath of the storm is too great, cutting them off at every turn. Finally, with the courtyard and their freedom in sight, an arch collapses and mortally injures Treus. Astra succeeds in freeing him from the burning rubble, but he is too weak and hurt to go on. She attempts to support him, but he insists she leave him in order to save herself. Astra implores him not to give up:
ASTRA: Advance! We’re nearly free! The castle’s doomed, but hope prevails! O Treus, curse it not!
TREUS: I curse not hope. I’ve braved the tempest’s watery wrath and fell that sorc’rer’s might. I’ve cursed them all to gaze upon your loving face, but hope? What life I’ve left, I live in barricades of hope. Though God Himself may shake this world to fall upon itself, my love and hope remain. Depart my dear and leave me now: I walk to death in peace!
ASTRA: Pray no, beloved! For months and years I’ve longed for thee alone: my dreams, the home of thy desperate love! I’ll not depart my place at body’s side, lest unrequited dreams shall crush my soul!
TREUS: Then give me now a testament to love, a kiss to cure the pains of death, this one to stand for all.
With this, the lovers finally partake of their first and only kiss. The castle finally begins to collapse entirely, falling around the doomed pair and burying them even as their lips still touch. The stage goes dark amidst a thunder of destruction.