ABOVE A COVE, JUST WEST OF THE CITY OF ELEUSIS, FOUR OF ALARIC’S SCOUTS ADMIRE THE SUNSET.
“Amazing,” says one.
“This weather!” another scout stretches out on his back and bites into a fig. “I could get used to this.”
“Look at them,” says another, gazing down at the busy harbor. “They have no idea what’s about to hit them.”
“I don’t know, it looked like they were running about a thousand troops through drills to the north.”
“Little boys and old men. The real warriors are in Thrace. Constan-tin-no-pull..”
“What does that make us?”
“We get the Greek booty.”
“Sshh. I hear something.”
They look down toward the cove beneath them.
HELLEN AND HER BOYFRIEND HOLD HANDS ON THE BEACH
“We don’t have much time,” says Hellen.
“There’s never enough time with you.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
“I have to rehearse! I have to get bread!”
“Well, I do!”
ABOVE ON THE CLIFF: The scouts muffle their chuckles behind their hands. One of them mock chokes himself.
“Hellen,” the young man holds her face in his hands. “Be with me.”
“I’m with you.” They embrace and murmur to one another.
One of Alaric’s scouts grasps his hands in front of his chest and mouths, “I’m with you.”
“No! Stop!” Hellen shouts.
“Hellen!” the young man pleads.
“I can’t do this! I have to go!” she says. She turns and rushes up the path away from the beach.
“Greek booty,” says one of the scouts, watching Hellen.
Hellen runs, half blind with tears. She stumbles toward the town and suddenly disappears, falling headlong. The scouts run over and pull aside some scrub brush to see Hellen, lying unconscious at the bottom of a deep crevasse.
“Best stay on the path,” one of the scouts says. They quickly make their way up the trail toward the nearby treeline.
Meanwhile, down on the beach, the young man holds his head in his hands. “Stupid, stupid,” he berates himself. He slaps his palm against the cliff. Kicks the cliff. Limps a little because it hurts. He takes out a small drawstring bag and brings out the necklace he was going to give Hellen. He kisses it and puts it back in the bag. He shakes himself and rushes up the path to catch up with Hellen, shouting, “Hellen!”
“Hellen!” he continues to shout. “Where are you?” He runs toward the town.
CUT TO THE FAMILY HOME
“Hellen!” the young man bursts in on Sophia and Eirene cleaning up after dinner. “Where is she? Please.”
“What is this?” says Sophia.
“Is she here? I have to talk to her.”
“No, Hellen is not here. Perhaps the theater?” says Sophia.
The young man runs off without another word.
“He has been pierced by Eros,” Sophia says to Eirene.
“Does that mean he loves Hellen?” says the child.
“She could do worse,” says Sophia.
The young man bursts onto the stage, interrupting the Hymn to Zeus.
“Where is Hellen?” he insists. “Please, I need to talk to her.”
Agnas approaches him. “What’s this about?” she says.
“We were at the cove. We had an argument.”
“Then where is she?” says Agnas.
“I don’t know!” he says.
“She’s probably at home.”
“I just came from there!”
“Where could she have gone?” says Agnas. “It’s getting dark out. We must find her.”
Agnas lights a torch from the altar of Hestia.
“We will help you find her,” says one of the performers. The actresses and musicians light torches and follow Agnas from the theater calling for Hellen as they walk. Soon, the entire area around the city is lit with the torches of the search party.
The next day finds Agnas exhausted and lying on the ground, her unlit torch lying next to her. She rouses to the sound of music and sits up, listening, scowling. She hustles toward the theater, muttering to herself.
“What is going on here?” she bellows when she enters the theater. All goes silent. “How dare you!” she shouts, knocking over the musicians’ instruments and music stands. A dozen or so elders watch from the audience. The few children present stop their games to watch.
One of her stage managers approaches. “Of course, we never should have started without you, My Lady. We should have waited for your direction,” she says to pacify her.
“No song will be sung!” intones Agnas. “No music shall be played! All of you—go! Don’t you dare to come back until my daughter returns. Go!”
Sophia is one of the elders present. She detaches herself from the group and approaches Agnas as the performers collect their things to leave.
“My dear,” says Sophia. “For one thousand years the Mysteries have been performed here for the benefit of all. Without the Mysteries, the grain will not grow, the corn will shrivel and die, nothing on earth will bloom in the Spring, Without the Mysteries, Earth becomes sterile.”
“No!” roars Agnes. “Let them all die! Let the animals let the people let the plants die! I care not! There will be no Mysteries without my daughter!” She turns her wrath on the elders. “Get out!” she screams. “Get out!” She topples some scenery. She grabs a bucket of water and douses the altar fire. The elders clutch their chests and gasp. “This altar is dead!” she proclaims. She lets out a wrenching shriek and sinks to the ground. Sophia tries to comfort her. “Get out!” she screams at Sophia.
Sophia is in the Senate office with her brothers and nephews, Eleusis’ presiding governing officials.
“She will not be dissuaded,” says Sophia.
“The Mysteries make us vulnerable,” says one brother.
“Alaric’s army is still within striking distance,” says another.
“Athens’ loyalty is questionable. They opened their gates to him.”
“If we open our gates to them, we risk a Trojan horse.”
“Besides, Thebes has sent us a priest of Mithras as hierophant.”
“Mithras? Absurd! Unacceptable,” says Sophia.
“And no soldiers to accompany him.”
“It is fitting that the world starve while the daughter of Eleusis is missing,” says an elder.
They exchange sober looks. “And what if she is never found?” says Sophia.
“We will have a private ceremony of Eleusinian citizens only.”
“We will lock the gates to outsiders.”
“We will restrain Agnas if need be.”
“We will honor the Mother and Daughter as we must.”
“Let it be known: the Mysteries of Eleusis are closed. The gates of Eleusis are locked.”
Several scribes write the words on scrolls. The eldest brother reviews them, drips wax at the bottom, and impresses his ring insignia into the wax.
Heralds are dispatched.
A messenger runs into the room, out of breath. “Alaric’s army approaches!” he cries.
The eldest brother looks out the window and sees the army approaching from the east. “Battle stations,” he announces.
Guards hasten to their posts along the wall, the brothers don battle gear. They bow their heads before Sophia and she lays her hands on their heads and murmurs a prayer.
On his march toward Eleusis, Alaric apprehends one of the Eleusinian messengers.
“We caught him on his way to Athens,” says Alaric’s soldier. He wrenches the parchment away from the messenger and hands it to Alaric.
Alaric reads. “Why have they closed the gates?” he demands.
“The daughter of Eleusis is missing. Her mother grieves,” says the messenger.
“What kind of men concern themselves with women?”
Alaric’s counselor speaks quietly to him so that no one else can hear. “If they close the gates to Athens,” he says, “our monks won’t get in during the procession. It is a difficult city to breach.”
There is a general murmuring among the soldiers.
“Silence!” Alaric commands. One of the soldiers comes up and whispers in the counselor’s ear.
“My Lord,” the counselor says, “there is rumor of a woman of Eleusis. The scouts witnessed her disappearance,” he nods toward the four scouts.
“What say you?” demands Alaric.
“Sir, we saw a young woman, alone. She wandered off the path and fell into a deep crevasse.”
“Then Eleusis shall have its daughter.”
“And open the doors to its Mysteries,” the counselor says with a smile.
Outside the city gate, on horseback, the Eumolpos’ brothers meet Alaric, also on horseback at the head of his army. Archers line the city walls, their sights trained on Alaric and his officers.
Alaric’s crier announces him: “Alaric, King of the Goths, Commander of the Eastern Imperial Army! Greetings to the citizens of Eleusis.”
Alaric says to the Eumolpos’ brothers, “We are passing through. To Rome.”
“Make haste then--" says the elder brother.
“We met with your messenger on the road.”
“What of it?”
“Tell what you know,” Alaric commands his scout.
“West of the city, on the path above a cove, we saw a girl wandering alone. She fell into a crevasse.”
“What was your business there?” Eumolpos demands of the scout.
“Scouting fresh water,” says Alaric. “For our journey. We are on a mission of goodwill.” He smiles.
“Our neighbors to the north say otherwise.”
“Your neighbors to the north have been silenced,” says Alaric.
This riles the Eleusinian guards. Eumolpos holds up his hand to calm them.
“If you help us find her, we will be in your debt,” says Eumolpos.
“You,” Alaric points at the scout. “Find the girl! We ask only safe passage,” Alaric says to Eumolpos.
“Let it be so,” says Eumolpos.
Alaric tips his hat, goads his horse, and rides off, his soldiers trailing behind.