by Colorado Tolston
"Twinkle, twinkle, star above,
Dost thou herald hate or love?
All the future in the sky,
Who is born and who shall die?"
(THREE MAGI are present studying the stars. Bold type indicates when all three MAGI speak together. Underlined type indicates that one other MAGI, as noted in parentheses, speaks with the speaker. The three MAGI, although they function as a group, each have their own distinct identity that should be reflected in the vocal quality of each character. MAGI A has a deep and serious voice that carries with it despair and foreboding. He is the voice of cold, hard logic. MAGI B speaks with common sense and reason, a calm and declarative voice of practicality. He is the voice of wisdom. MAGI C is the most uplifting speaker of the three and speaks with the sense of joy and hope to come, even when his words sound dire. He is the voice of the heart.)
MAGI A: Rejoice, all ye people who sit in darkness... (Isaiah 9:2)
MAGI C: ...and see a great light! (Isaiah 9:2)
MAGI A: Upon you who dwell in the land of the shadow of death... (Isaiah 9:2)
MAGI C: ....light shall shine. (Isaiah 9:2)
MAGI B: For unto you shall a child be born, unto you shall a son be given. (Isaiah 9:6)
MAGI A: Of the increase of his government and peace (C) there shall be no end. (Isaiah 9:7)
MAGI B: He shall establish his kingdom with judgment (A) and justice (C)... (Isaiah 9:7)
MAGI A: ...from henceforth and forever. The zeal of the Lord of Hosts will perform this. (Isaiah 9:7)
MAGI B: From thou, O Bethlehem (A), though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, shall come forth he who is to be the ruler in all Israel (C)... (Micah 5:2)
MAGI A: ...whose goings forth have been of old, from everlasting. (Micah 5:2)
MAGI C: This man shall be the peace. (Micah 5:5) The Promised One.
MAGI A: Mighty God.
MAGI B: Everlasting Father.
MAGI C: Prince of Peace. (B)
MAGI A: Wonderful Counselor. (C)
MAGI B: Son of God. (A)
MAGI: King of Kings.
MAGI B: For he shall give a child (C) to be their prince and a babe shall rule over them. (Isaiah 3:4)
MAGI A: Yea, indeed, a little child shall lead them. (Isaiah 11:6)
MAGI C: Who hath declared these things from the beginning that we may know them? Before time that we may say "He is righteous"? (Isaiah 41:26)
MAGI B: Lift up your eyes on high and behold (A) he who hath created the stars that bringeth out their hosts by number. (Isaiah 40:26)
MAGI A: Arise and shine, for his light is come and the glory of the Lord has risen upon us. (Isaiah 60:1)
MAGI B: We kings shall come to his light and the brightness of his rising. (C) (Isaiah 60:3)
MAGI C: Lift up thine eyes round about and see. Let us gather ourselves together and go to him. (Isaiah 60:4)
MAGI B: Then shall we see Zion redeemed with judgment (A) and righteousness (C). (Isaiah 1:27)
MAGI C: We shall see the Lord's house established in the top of the mountains (B) and all nations shall flow unto it. (Isaiah 2:3)
MAGI A: This is the word the Lord hath spoken. (Isaiah 16:13)
MAGI B: And it shall be said in this day: (Isaiah 25:9)
MAGI A: "Lo, this is our God, we have waited for him and he shall save us. (C)" (Isaiah 25:9)
MAGI B: "This is the Lord, we will be glad (C) and rejoice (C) in his salvation. (C)" (Isaiah 25:9)
MAGI C: A star. This shall be the sign unto us from the Lord, that the Lord will do this thing he hath spoken. (Isaiah 38:7) Let now the astrologers, the stargazers (B), stand up! (Isaiah 47:13) Our ears shall hear a word saying, "This is the way, walk ye in it." (Isaiah 30:21)
MAGI A: For the hosts of heaven are unrolled as a scroll before us. (Isaiah 34:4) We who he calls from the chief men thereof, and says unto us: (Isaiah 41:9)
MAGI B: "Thou art my servants. I have chosen thee." (Isaiah 41:9) He sends us, his ambassadors, by way of the sea, saying: (Isaiah 18:2)
MAGI A: "Go ye swift messengers to a nation trodden down." (Isaiah 18:2)
MAGI C: Then come, let us walk in the light of the Lord. (Isaiah 2:5)
MAGI B: He hath lifted up a sign to the nations from afar, from the ends of the earth, and behold: (A) (Isaiah 5:26)
MAGI C: We come with speed swiftly. (Isaiah 5:26)
MAGI B: From the time that it goeth forth it shall take us. Morning by morning shall it pass over (A), by day (C) and by night (A). (Isaiah 28:19)
MAGI A: Our eyes shall see the king in his beauty... (Isaiah 33:17)
MAGI B: ...they shall behold the land that is very far off. (Isaiah 33:17)
MAGI C: Come near, ye nations, to hear: Immanuel is born. (Isaiah 34:1)
(The focus shifts from the Magi to a ROMAN GUARD who sits on a block, bored. He carries a spear. A SECOND GUARD enters, also with a spear, and salutes.)
GUARD 2: Hail Caesar. (GUARD 1 salutes.)
GUARD 1: Hail Caesar.
GUARD 2: Anything to report?
GUARD 1: Is there ever anything to report?
GUARD 2: I'll assume that's a negative.
GUARD 1: Good call. By the way, you're late.
GUARD 2: I was talking to the Centurion.
GUARD 1: Lucky you.
GUARD 2: Tell me about it. You'd think getting stationed here would be punishment enough.
GUARD 1: So what did you do to deserve that?
GUARD 2: Nothing. He had orders for us.
GUARD 1: Please tell me we're being reassigned
GUARD 2: Don't I wish. No, we're just supposed to keep an eye out for some out-of-towners. Important ones, apparently. We'll receive official instructions later.
GUARD 1: Where are they from, Rome?
GUARD 2: No, from the east, somewhere beyond the Empire.
GUARD 1: Sometimes I think they'd have us believe the Empire goes on forever.
GUARD 2: If Caesar had his way, it would. But look at us, stationed here in this dinky town in some backwater province. We can't be all that far from the eastern borders.
GUARD 1: Why can't we get stationed to the frontier? It's got to be more exciting than this dump.
GUARD 2: What makes you say that?
GUARD 1: Well, they must have invasions to repel and things like that.
GUARD 2: Not very often.
GUARD 1: How would you know? You've never been there.
GUARD 2: No, but our friend the Messenger has. They sent him way off to the northwest, onto an island, and stuck him on some wall.
GUARD 1: What do you need a wall for on an island? Isn't it already protected by water?
GUARD 2: The Empire doesn't rule the whole island, so they built a wall to keep out the northern barbarians.
GUARD 2: Barbarians, huh? Sounds exciting! I'll bet that wall is under constant siege.
GUARD 2: It's not considered a siege unless you're surrounded.
GUARD 1: Thank you, Mr. Literal. Under constant attack then.
GUARD 2: I don't think so. From what the Messenger said, it sounds like life there is pretty dull, just like here.
GUARD 1: I'll say it's dull. All we do is sit around. Nothing ever happens! What I wouldn't give for a little excitement around here, maybe even a small invasion. They should send me to that island. I'd show those barbarians what for! (He starts jabbing at imaginary barbarians with his spear.)
GUARD 2: Nobody's going to invade here, who'd want to? Now sit down before you stab someone with that thing.
GUARD 1: Who? There's no one else around! (The MESSENGER enters and is almost stabbed by GUARD 1.)
MESSENGER: Hold your hand! Friend of Rome! (He salutes.) Hail Caesar. (The GUARDS salute.)
GUARDS: Hail Caesar.
GUARD 2: (To GUARD 1) I told you to stop fooling around.
GUARD 1: Sorry! (To MESSENGER) So what brings you to this forgotten part of town?
MESSENGER: Message for you from the Centurion. (He hands the message to GUARD 1. GUARD 2 takes it from him.)
GUARD 2: Give me that. And put down that spear, please. (He reads the message.)
MESSENGER: So what's the word? These have been going out all over town.
GUARD 2: Have you heard about the foreigners coming?
MESSENGER: A little. Is that about them?
GUARD 2: Yes. "Guests of the Empire soon to arrive."
GUARD 1: We knew that much. (GUARD 2 gives him a look.) Go on.
GUARD 2: "If seen, obtain details on results of search, where found in particular. Make report on such immediately. Engage in no further conversation."
GUARD 1: That's it?
GUARD 2: That's it. (To MESSENGER) Have they told you what exactly is going on?
MESSENGER: I'm just a Messenger. I deliver what I'm told to who I'm told when I'm told. I don't ask questions, I know better. You can ask the Centurion for more details if you want, but I wouldn't.
GUARD 2: I won't. I've talked to him enough for one night.
MESSENGER: He's in one of his moods, that's for sure.
GUARD 1: When is he not? What's got him so worked up?
MESSENGER: These foreigners, what do you think? The local king sent them our way.
GUARD 1: Mr. High-and-Mighty-King-of-Nowheresville?
MESSENGER: The very same. He has too big of an ego for the king of a backwater nation, in my opinion. He pays all due homage to Caesar, but around here he acts like he's lord of the earth. The Centurion hates him.
GUARD 2: So I've heard. No wonder he's upset.
MESSENGER: He was furious when these orders came tonight, should have heard him rave.
GUARD 2: I did. "What am I, his butler that he sends me his guests? I'm a Centurion of the mighty Roman Empire! I bow to none but Caesar!"
MESSENGER: That sums it up. The Centurion wants nothing more than to be done with this whole affair. Here's some advice: Be careful tonight. There's a foul wind blowing and something foul is coming with it. Something serious is afoot.
GUARD 2: Maybe it means we'll finally get some excitement around here.
MESSENGER: Careful what you wish for, friend. (He exits.)
GUARD 1: Well that told us exactly nothing.
GUARD 2: We know these out-of-towners are looking for something, it's a start.
GUARD 1: Hey, do you think these foreigners could be barbarians?
GUARD 2: What?
GUARD 1: They say they're looking for something, but they could be in disguise. You know, spying the place out, getting ready for an invasion.
GUARD 2: You have a one-track mind, you know that? They're not spies, okay? They're important visitors, VIPs.
GUARD 1: How do you know? What do they look like? How are they dressed?
GUARD 2: They're astrologers, I think, something like that.
GUARD 1: Astrologers? What kind of crazy disguise is that?
GUARD 2: It's not a disguise! They're not spies!
GUARD 1: That's exactly what they want you to think.
GUARD 2: Look, good spies blend in. From what the Centurion said, these guys stand out.
GUARD 1: That just shows how brilliant they are. Nobody would ever think they were spies!
GUARD 2: Nobody but you, that's for sure.
GUARD 1: They've got everybody fooled, from Caesar to the Centurion. But they better watch out for me. I'll see right through their shabby disguise.
GUARD 2: Look, you'd better not start poking at them with that stick of yours. You start hassling guests of the Empire and you'll get both of us hanged.
GUARD 1: Don't worry, I'll be subtle. They'll never know I'm on to them.
GUARD 2: That wasn't exactly what I meant. Listen to me, if we see the astrologers keep your mouth shut. I'll do the talking. You stand straight, hold your spear, and don't say anything. We're supposed to treat them with respect.
GUARD 1: I can't believe the Centurion is letting them wander around loose. They'll spy out the whole country!
GUARD 2: Will you give the spy thing a rest, please? How did I ever get stuck with you for guard duty anyway?
GUARD 1: Hey, I'm a great guard.
GUARD 2: Yeah, right, you're the epitome of Roman guardhood. That's why they stuck you here in a forgotten corner of the Empire.
GUARD 1: You know why no one ever invades here? Because I'm always alert. No spies have ever gotten by me.
GUARD 2: Do me a favor and shut up about the spy thing right now.
GUARD 1: Okay, no need to be so touchy about it. And when they give me a medal for thwarting an invasion, see if I share any of the credit with you.
GUARD 2: Please don't. The last thing I need is to be permanently associated with you and your delusions. And if you ever decide to run for Caesar, keep me out of it.
GUARD 1: Can you do that?
GUARD 2: What?
GUARD 1: Run for Caesar.
GUARD 2: I don't think you're qualified. Stick to guard duty. We're supposed to be keeping watch, remember?
GUARD 1: A lot of fun that is. We're supposed to just sit here and wait for a bunch of...
GUARD 2: Don't even say it.
GUARD 1: ...astrologers, thank you very much.
GUARD 2: Just watch the road.
GUARD 1: Fine. (He looks one direction, then the other.) Well, would you look at that! (GUARD 2 quickly stands, his spear at the ready.)
GUARD 2: (Alert) What?
GUARD 1: No one's coming, what a surprise!
GUARD 2: If I didn't know I get in trouble for it, I'd sock you.
GUARD 1: What do these astrologers think they're going to find around here? (Mockingly, as a tour guide) Over here we have some run-down old buildings. And over here, a pasture full of sheep. Why look! We ever have some genuine shepherds watching over their flocks by night. And here we have the cream of the Roman Empire: Two guards standing watch, bored out of their minds.
GUARD 2: You've got that much right.
GUARD 1: What do astrologers do anyway?
GUARD 2: Predict the future by watching the stars and planets, that sort of thing.
GUARD 1: Really? How do they do that? (He looks up.) All I see is a bunch of lights up there.
GUARD 2: That's because you don't know what to look for.
GUARD 1: Neither do you.
GUARD 2: No, but the astrologers do. That's their job. It's what they do. I think they look for patterns and things.
GUARD 1: You mean like constellations and conjunctions of planets?
GUARD 2: Something like that.
GUARD 1: Wow, wish I knew how to do that. I bet they know all sorts of things even Caesar doesn't know. Hey, I just had a great idea!
GUARD 2: Why does that frighten me?
GUARD 1: We could ask the astrologers where the next invasion will be, and then we can be there when it happens. Even better, we could set up an ambush and smash the enemy's army as they're about to attack. We'd be heroes! (Pause as GUARD 2 stares at GUARD 1.)
GUARD 2: (Slowly) You... are... in... sane! You know that, don't you?
GUARD 1: You're just jealous that I thought of it first. And you know what? I'm going to ask the astrologers. They're sure to know something like that.
GUARD 2: You are not going to ask them anything! Do you understand me? If you do, you're sure to get us hanged, flogged, or thrown to the lions. If you say one word to them, I will personally skewer you. Got it?
GUARD 1: Okay! You can ask them then! But you'd better not take all the credit.
GUARD 2: The last thing I would ever do would be to take credit for one of your ideas, believe me. When we see the astrologers we ask where they found it and make our report. "Engage in no further conversation," remember?
GUARD 1: You know what I think?
GUARD 2: I never do.
GUARD 1: I think someone up top came up with the same idea as me and wants to keep all the glory for himself. That's why we're not allowed to talk to the astrologers. It's a conspiracy against us! They do all they can to keep us peons down at the bottom. That's why they sent us here, they know we're too smart for them.
GUARD 2: Why must you always include me in these pipe dreams?
GUARD 1: But one of these days, I'll be something more. Next thing you know they'll be calling me Centurion! From there, who knows? Maybe I'll even make it to the Imperial Senate!
GUARD 2: That'll be the day.
GUARD 1: You know what your problem is?
GUARD 2: Please, enlighten me.
GUARD 1: You're too content with your lot in life. You have no dreams! (He thinks.) I might not even stay in the Empire. Maybe I could become the astrologers' apprentice and learn to predict the future, there's an idea! Now that would be exciting. (He looks up at the sky.) Who knows what I'd learn about the future every night, and it would all be a surprise. Disasters, invasions, kings being born, people dying, and a million other things that haven't happened yet. It's all written up there in the sky. All those stars... (Pause) What's that one?
GUARD 2: Some astrologer. You'd better learn your astronomy first.
GUARD 1: No, really, what's that really bright light over there?
GUARD 2: We usually call that "the Moon."
GUARD 1: That can't be the moon. It's a new moon tonight. (GUARD 2 thinks about this.)
GUARD 2: You're right. (He looks.) What on earth is that?
GUARD 1: That's what I was asking you, Mr. Know-It-All. Still think it's the moon?
GUARD 2: No, I've never seen that star before. Sure is bright.
GUARD 1: See! I'd make a great astrologer! Five minutes and I've already discovered a new star!
GUARD 2: I don't think you're the only one who's seen it.
GUARD 1: Do you think it could have something to do with why the astrologers are here?
GUARD 2: I don't know, maybe. (He looks down the street.) Look sharp, company. (Both GUARDS stand at attention.)
GUARD 1: Is that them?
GUARD 2: Sure looks like it. Now please, don't speak. (The MAGI enter.) In the name of Caesar of Rome, we greet you. Are you the astrologers of the east? (The MAGI say nothing.) We were told to expect your arrival.
MAGI C: We art soothsayers of the east, Kings of Nations...
MAGI B: ...here among the children of strangers.
MAGI A: Who art thou that thou dost speak to us?
GUARD 2: We are soldiers of Rome.
MAGI A: They are nothing and their work is naught. (Isaiah 41:24)
MAGI B: They have not known nor understood (C), for their eyes are shut. (A) They cannot see, they cannot understand. (Isaiah 44:18)
GUARD 1: What are they talking about?
GUARD 2: Why are you asking me?
GUARD 1: You told me not to ask them.
GUARD 2: Good point.
MAGI A: I see a great shadow upon them. Their battles are confused noise and their garments shall be rolled in blood. (B) (Isaiah 9:5)
MAGI B: It is because there is no light in them. (Isaiah 8:20)
MAGI C: Yet the Lord of Hosts hath purposed it to stain the pride of all glory, and to bring into contempt (A) all the honorable of the earth. (Isaiah 23:9)
MAGI B: For all must be fulfilled, great lamentations and bitter weeping (A) because the children shall be not. (Jeremiah 31:15)
MAGI A: Woe to the wicked, it shall be ill with them! (Isaiah 3:11)
MAGI C: (To Guards) Speak, your minds hold questions for us. What knowledge do ye seek?
GUARD 2: We have orders to ask where you have found that which you are looking for.
MAGI C: Understand ye not? Lift thine eyes to the heavens (Isaiah 51:6), for there it is written. At the evening time it shall be light! (Zechariah 14:7) (Guard 1 looks up.)
GUARD 1: That star? Is that showing you where to go?
MAGI C: Perchance his eyes see and are not dim.
GUARD 1: But what does it mean?
GUARD 2: What are you looking for?
MAGI A: We seek the one foretold.
MAGI C: For the virgin hath conceived and borne a son, and his name is called Immanuel. (Isaiah 7:14)
MAGI B: He shall know to refuse the evil (A) and choose the good (C) (Isaiah 7:15), and the spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him. (Isaiah 11:2)
MAGI A: We come to behold the man whose name is The Branch. (Zechariah 6:12)
MAGI C: He shall build the temple of the Lord and sit and rule upon his throne. (Zechariah 6:13)
MAGI A: For it shall come to pass that this land shall be forsaken of both her kings... (Isaiah 7:16)
MAGI C: ...and the King of Kings shall reign in righteousness. (Isaiah 32:1)
GUARD 1: (To Guard 2) Sounds like they're looking for a new king. What did I tell you, it's an invasion!
GUARD 2: Don't start that again.
GUARD 1: I know how to find out for sure. (To MAGI) So you guys can tell the future, right?
MAGI C: Thy spoken words hold truth. What wouldst thou inquire of us?
GUARD 1: This king you're looking for, what's going to happen to him?
GUARD 2: What on earth do you think you're doing?
GUARD 1: If they can't tell us, then we'll know they aren't really astrologers.
MAGI A: Silence and hearken!
MAGI B: That you may see and know, and understand together... (C) (Isaiah 41:23)
MAGI C: ...we shall show you the things to come. (Isaiah 41:23) He shall be a man more precious than fine gold. (Isaiah 13:12)
MAGI B: The key of the house of David shall be upon his shoulder so that what he shall open none shall shut, (A) and what he shuts none shall open. (Isaiah 22:22)
MAGI C: His people have been as lost sheep (Jeremiah 50:6), but he has come to feed his flock like a shepherd. (Isaiah 40:11) When the poor and needy seek water and there is none (A), he shall not forsake them. (Isaiah 41:17) He will give power to the faint and to them that have no might (A) he shall increase their strength. (B) (Isaiah 40:29)
MAGI A: Yet woe! A grievous vision is declared unto me! (Isaiah 21:2) They shall weigh for his price thirty pieces of silver (B) (Zechariah 11:12) and the sun shall be turned to darkness (B) (Joel 2:31) as he is fastened as a nail (B) in a sure place. (Isaiah 22:23)
MAGI C: But the nail shall be cut down (B) and the burden that was upon it shall be cut off. (B) (Isaiah 22:25) Then it shall come to pass that the mountain of the Lord's house shall be established (B) and exalted (A) above the hills. (Isaiah 2:2)
MAGI A: We have declared these things are coming. (Isaiah 44:7)
MAGI B: Before they came to pass we have shown them to thee. (Isaiah 48:5)
MAGI C: It is written thus in the book of the Lord and none of these shall fail. (Isaiah 34:16) (Pause)
GUARD 2: So, what do you think, is that the future? Are they really astrologers?
GUARD 1: I have no idea.
MAGI A: They have heard but understand not. (Isaiah 6:9) We go, for our search awaits.
GUARD 2: When you've found this king, inform us or other servants of Rome where he may be found.
MAGI C: If you seek him, remember that the ox knoweth his owner and the donkey his master's crib. (Isaiah 1:3)
GUARD 1: Hey, before you go, I was wondering, do you need an apprentice?
GUARD 2: Will you let them go before we get into trouble? You've already said enough to get both of us flogged.
MAGI B: (To GUARD 1) Wouldst thou become like unto us? (Isaiah 14:10) Seekest thou great things for thyself? (C) (Jeremiah 45:5) (The MAGI gesture to the sky.)
MAGI A: Then look to the stars and read this.
GUARD 1: I can't.
MAGI A: No, for it is sealed unto thee. (Isaiah 29:11)
MAGI B: For in the heavens are a people of deeper speech than thou can perceive. (Isaiah 33:19)
MAGI C: But wouldst thou understand?
GUARD 1: Yes, I'd like to.
MAGI C: Then speedily with us come and know the root of all glory.
GUARD 2: He can't.
MAGI A: (Thundering) Didst we speak to thee?
GUARD 2: (To GUARD 1) You can't.
GUARD 1: (To Magi) I wish I could, but...
MAGI B: What holds thee here among blind souls and deaf hearts?
MAGI C: Follow us and learn the mysteries of the heavens.
GUARD 1: (To GUARD 2) See! They do need an apprentice!
GUARD 2: Don't even think about it. You have a job to do, right here. You don't need me to tell you the punishment for deserting your post.
GUARD 1: But this is the chance of a lifetime! I'm going with them. (GUARD 2 aims his spear at GUARD 1.)
GUARD 2: I can't let you do that. I know my duty. You should know yours.
GUARD 1: I just want to see the king. I'll be back before dawn.
MAGI A: Thou shalt not...
MAGI B: ...if with us you come.
GUARD 2: They said it, not me. I can't let you leave.
GUARD 1: Would you really...
GUARD 2: Yes. Don't make me do this.
GUARD 1: I...
GUARD 2: ...am staying here, I hope. (Pause. GUARD 2 gives in.)
GUARD 1: Yeah. (To MAGI) I'm sorry, but I can't.
MAGI C: Then star-crossed wonders pass thee by.
MAGI A: Thy dreams shall be dark. (The MAGI are about to exit.)
GUARD 1: One last thing: What's in our future?
MAGI A: Your hands shall be defiled with blood, your fingers with iniquities. (Isaiah 59:3) Know certainly ye both shall die by the sword. (Jeremiah 42:22) (The MAGI exit.)
GUARD 2: I'm not sorry to see them leave. You gave me a real scare, you know that? I really thought you were going to go with them.
GUARD 1: (Not listening) They're following that star, I knew it was important. It does look like it's pointing at something. What's over that way? (He points.)
GUARD 2: Over there? Just a bunch of pastures, I think. Not the place to find a baby king, if you ask me.
GUARD 1: But that's where the king is, under that star.
GUARD 2: Fine. You go tell the Centurion to follow a star to find a baby king in a pasture. I'll cheer you on in the coliseum.
GUARD 1: I wish I could have gone to see the king. He must be important for the astrologers to have come all this way. I bet there is an invasion coming.
GUARD 2: Not again.
GUARD 1: I'm serious. I'll bet that's why the local king is so scared. He's afraid this new king is going to come in with an army and take over.
GUARD 2: (Incredulous) The baby king?
GUARD 1: Well, maybe that's why the astrologers are here, to help the king.
GUARD 2: With the invasion?
GUARD 1: Exactly!
GUARD 2: Look, can we talk about something else?
GUARD 1: What do you think all that stuff the astrologers said meant? Especially the parts about bloody clothes and dying by the sword. (GUARD 2 shrugs.)
GUARD 2: We're soldiers, there's always a chance we could get killed in battle. Anyone could predict that. Why, what do you think it meant?
GUARD 1: It sounded like we're going to do something awful.
MAGI C: (Unheard by GUARDS) We hath spoken and given them warning, will they hear? (Jeremiah 6:10)
GUARD 2: They were just trying to scare us, that's what I think. I doubt we're important enough to be written in the stars.
GUARD 1: But they did seem to know about us, and there are a lot of stars up there.
GUARD 2: Do you think we're going to do something terrible?
GUARD 1: No, not really.
GUARD 2: Then don't worry about it.
MAGI B: We hath spoken unto them, but they shall not hearken. (Isaiah 7:27)
GUARD 2: Look, nothing bad is going to happen tonight as long as we do our job.
GUARD 1: You're right. Still, it gave me the creeps.
GUARD 2: Me too, so you're not alone.
GUARD 1: It's getting cold. (GUARD 2 looks up.)
GUARD 2: No wonder, it looks like a storm is rolling in. It's gotten cloudy all of a sudden.
MAGI A: And the stars withdraw their shining. (Joel 3:15)
GUARD 1: You're right, I can't see the star!
GUARD 2: Good. Maybe you'll stop talking about it then.
GUARD 1: Well, I have to talk about something. What else is there?
GUARD 2: Does the phrase "blissful silence" mean anything to you?
GUARD 1: Yeah, boredom.
GUARD 2: My fault for asking. (Pause) All right then, what do you want to talk about?
GUARD 1: What do you think it all means?
GUARD 2: Don't get metaphysical on me.
GUARD 1: I mean everything that's happened tonight. Don't you get the feeling that something incredibly important is going on?
GUARD 2: Not really.
GUARD 1: I do! And whatever it is, we're right in the middle of it, but we have no idea what "it" is.
GUARD 2: It's not our job to know. It's our job to follow orders.
GUARD 1: But don't you want to know, to understand?
GUARD 2: Understand what?
GUARD 1: Well, why three astrologers would come all this way to see a baby, for a start.
GUARD 2: I don't see how their reasons concern us.
GUARD 1: But if this kid is so important, wouldn't you at least like to see him?
GUARD 2: We're Romans, we have no king but Caesar. Why should I care about this baby king? He doesn't rule us.
GUARD 1: "No king but Caesar." Don't you know anything besides what the Empire teaches us?
GUARD 2: What else do I need to know?
GUARD 1: Never mind, you don't understand.
GUARD 2: Neither do you.
GUARD 1: But I want to, that's my point!
GUARD 2: Why are you so interested in this kid? Five minutes ago you were ready to desert your post, risk torture and death, and leave the Empire behind just to see one little baby. Why?
GUARD 1: Because something exciting, something important, is finally happening in this insignificant little town. Something incredible and wonderful is taking place all around us, but we're in the dark.
GUARD 2: Of course we're in the dark, it's night watch.
GUARD 1: Very funny. You know what I meant.
GUARD 2: And it's a first, let me assure you.
GUARD 1: I don't mind being kept ignorant when there's nothing to know, but this is unbearable. I want to know what's going on.
GUARD 2: We'll be told what we need to know to do our jobs. That should be enough for you.
GUARD 1: But it isn't!
GUARD 2: Then that's your problem, you expect too much.
GUARD 1: And you don't expect enough.
GUARD 2: You see? It all evens out.
GUARD 1: I don't know why I try.
GUARD 2: If you really want to know more, then go ask the Centurion.
GUARD 1: No thanks, I'm staying out of his way tonight.
GUARD 2: Good plan. (Pause)
MAGI B: Shall we send the lamb to the ruler of this land? (Isaiah 16:1)
MAGI A: Or shall we give the innocent (C) over to the fury of the slaughter?
MAGI C: Shall we work against the word given to us? Quench the star revealed to us? (B)
MAGI A: Nay, for they are dead and shall not live. (Isaiah 26:14)
MAGI B: In secret we must be gone. But as the sword reacheth unto their souls... (A) (Jeremiah 4:10)
MAGI C : ...they shall have peace. (Jeremiah 4:10)
MAGI: The Lord shall perform the words he hath prophesied. (Jeremiah 28:6) (GUARD 2 sees something.)
GUARD 2: There! Down the road!
GUARD 1: What?
GUARD 2: Three shadows. The astrologers. (He shouts at them.) In the name of Caesar, halt!
GUARD 1: I don't think they heard you. (Excited) Should we go after them?
GUARD 2: No, they're too far away. Let them report to someone else.
GUARD 1: But we could still catch them.
GUARD 2: I said let them go.
GUARD 1: But why?
GUARD 2: Because I'm not giving you another chance to chase after baby kings. (The MESSENGER enters.)
MESSENGER: Hold them here!
GUARD 1: Who, the astrologers?
MESSENGER: No, Caesar. Of course the astrologers! Don't let them pass.
GUARD 1: But they're already gone. We just saw them off in the distance, going that way. (He points.) What's wrong?
GUARD 2: Did they find the baby they were looking for?
MESSENGER Yes, but no one knows where.
GUARD 1: It's under the star.
GUARD 2: Don't pay any attention to him.
MESSENGER: Have you had any contact with the astrologers?
GUARD 2: Yes, but only before they found this kid. Haven't they reported to anyone else?
MESSENGER: They're avoiding all the guards. It's believed they're trying to leave the country in secret. Our orders are to prevent that. The local king is furious.
GUARD 2: Why? Why is this baby so important to everyone?
MAGI C: If only ye would listen, we would say, "Behold thy God." (Isaiah 40:9)
MESSENGER: He's a king, or so they say, and all kings are a potential threat to Caesar.
GUARD 2: So that's it. (To Guard 1) Your idea of an invasion might not be so unlikely after all.
GUARD 1: But he's just a baby.
MESSENGER: It doesn't matter. All claims to sovereignty must be fully investigated. But we can't do that unless we know where he is. If the astrologers come this way again, don't let them pass without giving you the child's exact location. You have permission to use force, if necessary.
GUARD 1: I thought they were guests.
MESSENGER: They were. Now they're fugitives. That's what happens when you cross the will of Rome. I'll be back should the Centurion have any further instructions. And I won't mention that you let the astrologers go by.
GUARD 2: Thanks.
MESSENGER: I told you to be careful. (He exits.)
GUARD 2: It would have been nice if those orders had come five minutes earlier. But as long as someone finds the astrologers, we'll be off the hook. Stay alert. (Slight pause)
GUARD 1: It's been an exciting night, hasn't it? Strangers from a foreign land, a baby king, prophecies, and the star. A special star.
GUARD 2: Right, I almost forgot, you're now a student of astrology. So tell me, O Wise One, what does the future hold? What have the stars told you would happen tonight? (GUARD 1 looks at the stars and thinks.)
MAGI A: Behold! The day of the Lord cometh! Cruel both with wrath and fierce anger to lay the land desolate. (B) (Isaiah 13:9-10)
GUARD 1: Death.
GUARD 2: Why do you say that?
GUARD 1: I don't know. I can just feel it, in the air. Can't you? I've felt it ever since those clouds rolled in. All this darkness makes me uneasy.
GUARD 2: You're just imagining things. It is dark though, and cold.
GUARD 1: (Seriously) It's the chill of death.
GUARD 2: Will you stop it!
GUARD 1: You feel it too, don't you? (GUARD 2 says nothing but is obviously uneasy.) I knew it! The astrologers were right. Something terrible is going to happen, I'm sure of it. I don't think I like this astrology thing anymore.
GUARD 2: You're the one who wanted to make dire predictions, remember?
GUARD 1: I changed my mind.
GUARD 2: Good. Maybe now you'll stick to guard duty.
GUARD 1: Definitely. I just wish I could shake this funny feeling.
GUARD 2: Then stop thinking about stars and prophecies. Think about something happier, like getting transferred away from here.
GUARD 1: Yeah, maybe we can get posted to that island for awhile.
GUARD 2: Why would you want to go there?
GUARD 1: It'd be a change of scenery. Hey, what do you say? If we both put in a transfer request, maybe we could get sent there together. We can't get assigned to a worse Centurion than we've already got.
GUARD 2: That's certainly true. I'm sure he'd be happy to get rid of us.
GUARD 1: See? He'd approve our transfer in a minute! He'd love to send us to the other end of the Empire, all we have to do is ask.
GUARD 2: You know what? For once you've had a sensible idea. It might not be any more exciting, but at least we'd be someplace different.
GUARD 1: So how about it? First thing tomorrow we ask for a transfer.
GUARD 2: All right, let's do it. It'll be an adventure.
GUARD 1: That's the spirit! I feel better already.
GUARD 2: Same here. That funny feeling gone?
GUARD 1: Not a trace.
GUARD 2: No more astrology?
GUARD 1: No more astrology.
GUARD 2: Good. Now let's finish the watch. (They both stand at attention, quite pleased.) Not a bad job, is it?
GUARD 1: Couldn't ask for anything better.
GUARD 2: You still want to repel an invasion?
GUARD 1: No thanks. Peace and quiet isn't so bad.
GUARD 2: Well said. (Pause)
MAGI A: Lamentation and mourning is at hand! Come forth, harbinger of doom!
GUARD 1: Hey, look who's coming back.
GUARD 2: The Messenger. Wonder what's up now.
MAGI B: Evil comes upon thee... (C) (Isaiah 47:11)
MAGI A: ...thou shalt not be able to put it off. (Isaiah 47:11)
MAGI B: Desolation comes upon thee suddenly... (C) (Isaiah 47:11)
MAGI A: ...which thou shalt not know. (Isaiah 47:11) (The MESSENGER enters carrying a scroll.)
GUARD 1: That looks official.
MESSENGER: It is. Final orders for the night.
MAGI A: Arise, O Bethlehem, cry out in the night! (Lamentations 2:19) (Guard 2 takes the scroll.)
GUARD 2: What are the orders?
MAGI A: Lift up thy hands to the Lord for the life of thy young children! (B) (Lamentations 2:19)
MESSENGER: I prefer not to know. (He exits. GUARD 2 opens the scroll and reads. His face becomes very serious.)
MAGI: For he hath delivered them to the slaughter! (Isaiah 34:2)
GUARD 1: What does it say? Did they find the astrologers? (Guard 2 doesn't answer.)
MAGI B: And so they run to and fro in the city, entering in the windows like a thief. (Joel 2:9)
GUARD 1: Well? What are our orders?
MAGI A: Their feet run to evil. They make haste to shed innocent blood. (Isaiah 59:7)
GUARD 2: We'll need to stop by the armory and pick up some swords.
MAGI B: Their thoughts are thoughts of iniquity. (Isaiah 59:7)
GUARD 1: What for? Is there an invasion?
MAGI A: Wasting and destruction are in their paths. (Isaiah 59:7)
GUARD 2: Not exactly.
MAGI A: They have made for themselves crooked paths. (B) (Isaiah 59:8)
GUARD 1: Then what?
MAGI: Whosoever goeth therein shall not know peace. (Isaiah 59:8) (In silence, GUARD 2 hands the scroll to GUARD 1 who reads. After a pause he stares at GUARD 2 in disbelief.)
GUARD 1: All of them? (GUARD 2 nods. Silently, they exit.)
© Colorado Tolston 1999
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For more information about this play, including royalty information, contact Colorado Tolston at email@example.com