The Wilted Flower

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The Wilted Flower was the fourth performance by Dame Cirri Strut's Magical Mayhem Troupe at the Ebon Gate festival in 2008.

Accompanied by a faint hissing sound, a puff of bright blue smoke rises from the ground and from out of its depths a jester marionette tumbles into view. Its spindly legs wobble as it teeters about waving a scroll in the air. A vibrant voice issues from around the stumbling doll, "Madam Cirri Strut is pleased to announce that a performance is starting now!" Tumbling and cartwheeling, the marionette disappears from sight.


Cirri says, "Our first performance of the day will be "The Wilted Flower"."


Cirri says, "Once again, I humbly request that you keep your movements to a minimum so that the stage can be properly seen."


Cirri turns a crank on the side of the wagon and you hear the mechanical whir of gears turning. The wall of the wagon slowly begins to lower, sturdy legs extending from its side, and a thick crimson curtain follows behind it. As the wall settles into place it becomes the floor of a sprawling stage that is ringed by tiny globes illuminated by flickering lights. The curtain slowly closes to obscure the back half of the stage, and a frill extends over the top.


Cirri says, "And with that, I present, the Wilted Flower."


Cirri gestures at the stage and moves to the side.


A blue-eyed jaunty knight marionette just arrived.


>look marionette
Sturdily constructed of whittled and sanded golden oak, the narrator marionette appears to have been exposed to nature's elements for a period of time. The resistant wooden body looks faded and streaked in places, yet the integrity of the expertly articulated construction endures. A ruff of short, light brown hair and slightly protruding and pointed ears frame a parti-colored porcelain theater mask, which completely obscures the marionette's features and facial expressions.

A white birch dainty maiden marionette just arrived.


>look at marionette
Pale white birch forms the segmented body and limbs of the delicate marionette that is joined together with thin copper wire and opaque twine. Golden corn silk is bound in place by a simple circlet and then woven into twin braids that frame a dainty face that is lightly painted with soft hues to create an innocent expression. A gown of lavender silk with belled sleeves lined in rose adorns the slender form, its voluminous skirts nearly hiding the rose-hued slippers that adorn her feet.


A grinning modwir priest marionette just arrived.


>look at marionette
Several strings stretch outward from the priest's joints, particularly around the head and shoulders, while others disappear under his hooded white robes. Taut wires pull his face into a wide smile that bares his large, white teeth. Beady dark eyes shift slowly as they glance about; their depths filled with a sadness that betrays the priest's forced grin. In his right hand he grasps a small wooden staff, in his left a small prayerbook.


Several strings stretch outward from the priest's joints, particularly around the head and shoulders, while others disappear under his hooded white robes. Taut wires pull his face into a wide smile that bares his large, white teeth. Beady dark eyes shift slowly as they glance about; their depths filled with a sadness that betrays the priest's forced grin. In his right hand he grasps a small wooden staff, in his left a small prayerbook.


Shrouded in darkness, the stage is consumed in shadows.


Faint light begins to stream down, its source a yellow orb that floats down over the audience. Moving toward the stage, the orb stops and shifts slightly, its shape taking on the form of a half-moon hung in a night sky. Rather than fully illuminating the stage, the glow instead creates even more shadow, where darkness shouts out from behind the twiggy tree props.


A loud grunt pierces the air.


Narrow light suddenly brightens up the far corner of the stage, where the Maiden marionette lays, curled up. Her limbs shudder and shiver, the strings connected to her joints jerking in rapid succession.


Loud snuffing noises emanate from the far left side of the stage, and a pounding shakes the entire stage.


>look at marionette
Sturdily constructed of whittled and sanded golden oak, the narrator marionette appears to have been exposed to nature's elements for a period of time. The resistant wooden body looks faded and streaked in places, yet the integrity of the expertly articulated construction endures. A ruff of short, light brown hair and slightly protruding and pointed ears frame a parti-colored porcelain theater mask, which completely obscures the marionette's features and facial expressions.


The Maiden marionette moves, jerking up into sitting position, her knees pressed against her chest, her hands curled around her knees. She tilts her head slightly as a disembodied voice rises:


A white birch dainty maiden marionette says, "It it is not the darkness that I fear."


A white birch dainty maiden marionette says, "Nor the cold and icy night."


A white birch dainty maiden marionette exclaims, "What I fear is far more terrible than both put together. I shudder to think, a terrible creature who will chomp me to bits with its deadly sharp teeth!"


Loud pounding again shakes the stage, and a ferocious grunt comes from the midst of the audience. The shadows on the stage move slightly before stilling once more.


A white birch dainty maiden marionette asks, "What, you don't believe me?"


The voice drops to a whisper,


A white birch dainty maiden marionette says, "Well, you should believe me."


A white birch dainty maiden marionette exclaims, "I saw him there. At my window!"


The strings of the Maiden marionette suddenly, swiftly, jerk her up off of the stage and out of sight. A bright light fills the middle of the stage, and the trees have been moved off to the side. A small prop table sits next to a glassy window, and a bucket is placed on the floor next to a prop door.


The Maiden marionette is suddenly plunked right down at the table. Another set of strings suddenly jostles downward, and the Priest marionette sits at the table with the Maiden.


A disembodied voice:


A grinning modwir priest marionette exclaims, "Marriage is a beautiful thing!"


A grinning modwir priest marionette exclaims, "Much like life itself, it is a wonderful string of experiences worth having!"


A grinning modwir priest marionette says, "Marriage is also a terrible thing."


A grinning modwir priest marionette exclaims, "But that's life, too!"


Just on the other side of the window, the Troll marionette suddenly becomes visible. He is somewhat still in motion, though his presence is quite obvious.


A white birch dainty maiden marionette says, "I know that one day my prince will find me. I don't want to hear your silly words."


A white birch dainty maiden marionette says, "Even if he must travel great distances and overcome difficult obstacles to find me, he will! And we will be happy together forever."


A white birch dainty maiden marionette says, "I have faith in true love, no matter what you say of marriage."


While the Priest and the Maiden marionettes continue to motion toward one another, the Troll marionette's face moves closer to the window. His body is slanted in such a way as to press his face up against the frame. The Maiden makes a wide gesture.


A white birch dainty maiden marionette exclaims, "My prince will come for me and he'll sweep me off of my feet!"


A white birch dainty maiden marionette says, "Or maybe into his arms, either way! But when he does..."


A white birch dainty maiden marionette says, "He'll present me with a flower. And if our love is true the flower will thrive and grow."


A white birch dainty maiden marionette says, "But if, if it is not then... it will wilt and die."


Just on the other side of the window, a comical grin breaks out on the face of the Troll marionette. Simultaneously, the Maiden marionette turns toward the window, and her entire form freezes. Her mouth opens into a wide, "O", and the sound of a piercing shriek comes from the stage area just as the Troll marionette disappears from sight.


A slight chant, made up of a chorus of disembodied voices, churns over the stage:


A white birch dainty maiden marionette recites:
  "Father, look, oh no! A Troll at the window!
  Father, look, oh no! Whatever shall we do?
  Father, look, oh no! He'll grind us to bits!
  Father, look, oh no! Whatever shall we do?"


Hoarse, merry laughter fills the stage, and the Priest marionette lifts his hand, pointing at the empty window.


A grinning modwir priest marionette exclaims, "Silly, silly girl!"


A grinning modwir priest marionette exclaims, "If you keep up with these antics of yours, you may kill me yet!"


A grinning modwir priest marionette exclaims, "My sides have yet to experience such numbing pain from laughter!"


A grinning modwir priest marionette says, "You need to grow up, I'm afraid."


A grinning modwir priest marionette says, "That's enough of with the games, dear."


A grinning modwir priest marionette asks, "Now don't you think there's something you should be doing?"


A grinning modwir priest marionette asks, "Chores perhaps?"


A grinning modwir priest marionette says, "And bring back some water from the well."


The Priest marionette points toward a small door that has appeared at the back of the stage. The Maiden marionette starts to walk toward the door. She picks up a bucket, then turns, and waves her hands through the air, her strings jangling against each other.


The disembodied voice states,


A white birch dainty maiden marionette says, "But Father."


The Priest marionette shakes its head and points toward the door, his gesture steady and true. The Maiden marionette turns, slowly, and then takes lingering steps. As she nears the door, she turns once more, and a shiver perceptibly runs through her limbs, the result of strings being pulled in an intricate fashion. The Maiden marionette then moves through the doorway and the stage suddenly goes dark.


Within seconds, the Maiden marionette appears again, a round light encasing her in brilliance. The trees on the stage have been moved back into place, and the marionette stands next to a small cutout of a house on left side of the stage.


The Maiden marionette walks, quickly, from one side of the stage to the other, her movements quick and fierce, and the bucket in her hand dangles from side to side. The light follows her movements. As she reaches the right side of the stage, the shape of a grey well cutout becomes clear.


The Maiden marionette stops and leans over the well. Her strings move her hands up, and she makes motions to indicate that she is tying her bucket to a non-existent rope. As she finishes, the Maiden marionette then drops her bucket into the well.


A light sound of splashing washes over you, and several drops of water sprinkle the crowd.


A white birch dainty maiden marionette says, "I am out here in the darkness! Oh, how I do not wish to be."


A white birch dainty maiden marionette exclaims, "Curse that priest! I really do not like being alone in this way!"


A white birch dainty maiden marionette says, "But here I can dream of my wonderful prince in peace."


A white birch dainty maiden marionette says, "Fetching water isn't nearly so bad, I suppose, when I have him in my thoughts to keep me company."


The Maiden marionette begins to make motions as if pulling the rope back up, but she is suddenly frozen into place when a loud grunt fills the stage.


The grunt sounds again, this time louder. In the dim light, near the cutout of the house, the Troll marionette appears. A grunting sound emanates once more, and the Troll marionette begins to move across the stage, toward the Maiden marionette. As he moves, thumping sounds go along with his footsteps, which cause the stage to quake slightly.


A piercing shriek cuts through the air, and the Maiden marionette suddenly rises up, putting her hands to her face.


A white birch dainty maiden marionette exclaims, "Oh no! Oh NO!"


A white birch dainty maiden marionette exclaims, "I can taste the fear on my lips as I speak! I knew it all along!"


A white birch dainty maiden marionette exclaims, "The monster will crunch up my bones and grind me into tiny little bits!"


Another scream pelts out over the audience. The Maiden marionette's strings yank her to-and-fro, and although she remains at the very right of the stage, her motions indicate that she is running. The house moves out of sight, and the well slides across the stage, all of the way to the left, before disappearing. The movement of the props gives the impression of distance crossed, their presence replaced by twiggy tree props.


The Troll marionette has disappeared from sight, but the thumping and grunting continue.

>look at troll marionette
Though the marionette's cherry wood form is rough, it seems purposeful and intended to enhance its grizzled visage. A square-jawed face is topped with bristly brown hair shorn close to the wooden scalp, and sturdy string connects limbs that appear as if corded with muscle. Simple garb of moss-hue adorns the troll, though its feet are capped with tiny sienna boots. Despite the severe line of the doll's mouth, its deep-set eyes are a grey-washed blue and betray a hint of softness behind the savagery.


Finally, as if she is unable to continue any further, the Maiden marionette crumples up in a ball, freezing. The Maiden marionette moves, jerking up into sitting position, her knees pressed against her chest, her hands curled around her knees. She tilts her head slightly, then lets it fall to rest upon her knees.


A white birch dainty maiden marionette exclaims, "He'll crunch me up! He'll grind me into tiny little pieces!"


The thumping and grunting suddenly cease. Small little lights, like fireflies, begin to appear across the stage, depleting the darkness. As the light grows ever brighter, the Troll marionette becomes visible, his form hovering over that of the Maiden marionette. He is poised over her, his teeth bared, with one hand reaching out, the other held behind his back. The Maiden marionette does not move.


The Maiden marionette raises her head, slowly, her face coming up into the face of the Troll marionette. The Troll marionette grins wide, and moving his other hand from behind his back, he presents a large, red flower to the Maiden marionette. Simultaneously, just as the flower comes into view, a scream pierces the air, and the Maiden marionette falls over, fainting to the ground.


The Troll marionette frowns.


The Troll marionette pokes a finger at the Maiden marionette, but she does not move. He grunts quietly.


Then, the Troll marionette gently lays the flower on the Maiden marionette's still form, and within moments, the flower wilts. The Troll marionette raises his head and arms to the sky. A loud, moaning sound fills the air, filled with despair.


Scowling, the Troll marionette then kicks at the ground and tromps away, the sound of his footsteps creating a pounding noise until he is removed from the stage.


The Maiden marionette continues to lay still, her limbs and strings slack. The sound of a disembodied voice, however, rises through the air.


A blue-eyed jaunty knight marionette says, "I wander, without aim any longer, through these ghastly woods, these dark woods, filled with terrors..."


A blue-eyed jaunty knight marionette exclaims, "Filled with terrors, and... with heartache!"


A blue-eyed jaunty knight marionette exclaims, "For I have searched the world over, looking for a prize worthy of my love!"


A blue-eyed jaunty knight marionette says, "But it is not to be.... so I will remain here, in the darkness."


The stage lighting comes up slightly, candlelight that has grown more intense, and the form of the Knight marionette comes into view. His strings lower him down to kneel next to the Maiden marionette.


With a slow gesture, he touches the Maiden marionette's cheek, but she does not stir.


A blue-eyed jaunty knight marionette asks, "What... is this?"


A blue-eyed jaunty knight marionette asks, "A maiden fair, a true maiden... but has she left this life?"


A blue-eyed jaunty knight marionette exclaims, "My heart nearly stops at the thought, for here is one worth saving, one worthy of me!"


A blue-eyed jaunty knight marionette exclaims, "I cannot stand the thought that she has left me before I even arrived!"


A blue-eyed jaunty knight marionette asks, "Oh, look, how pretty, what is this that lays upon her?"


He plucks the wilted flower from the Maiden marionette's form, and a dazzling flash of lights spark across the stage, creating a momentary smoke. As it clears away, the Knight marionette holds in his hand a brilliant red flower, large and bursting with life.


The Knight marionette looks down at the flower, then looks at the Maiden marionette, and once more brings his hand to her cheek. As his hand touches her, the Maiden marionette suddenly rises, sitting up. The Knight marionette hands the flower to the Maiden marionette, and as he does so, they grasp hands.


A white birch dainty maiden marionette says, "I've had the worst of all dreams! A nightmare to be sure. How terrible it was."


You hear someone sniffle nearby.


A white birch dainty maiden marionette says, "But now everything will be okay because you are here beside me."


A white birch dainty maiden marionette says, "Just as I've known always in my heart of hearts this would be the outcome."


A white birch dainty maiden marionette exclaims, "Now we will be together forever and ever. For all of eternity, my true love!"


The Knight marionette picks the Maiden marionette up in his arms and marches across the stage, while a disembodied voice sings,


A blue-eyed jaunty knight marionette exclaims, "You have nothing to fear now, not the darkness or nightmares!"


A blue-eyed jaunty knight marionette exclaims, "We will go now, together, the two of us, and live happily!"


A blue-eyed jaunty knight marionette says, "For I have found my prize, and you have found your prince."


They disappear from sight. The fireflies upon the stage gradually blink out of existence, and the trees are slowly pulled off to the side of the stage. A set of strings suddenly plop down over the center of the stage, and the form of the Troll marionette sits, in a heap. He is huddled up, his shoulders shaking, and the distinct sound of weeping accompanies his movements. The light is bright upon him as he bears his misery.


Moments later, the stage grows dim, and the Troll Marionette stands as this occurs. A wide grin crosses his face, and just as the lights go out, the sound of a brief shriek, followed by loud crunching sounds fills the darkness.