"It's cold out here." Hamlet looked ridiculous, bundled as he was in no less than five cloaks and, Horatio strongly suspected, two pairs of boots. Teeth chattering noisily in the night air, the Prince of Denmark strode over to the edge of the platform (which fortunately had a railing) and looked down at the cobblestones.

"Yes, bitter cold," Horatio replied, adjusting his own cloak and trying not to laugh at the face that Marcellus was making.

"What time is it, Horatio?"

"I think about twelve, my lord. About the time for the King to walk among us." He paused and glanced out over the darkened land. "Hark! What is that noise?" It sounded as if a herd of angry—and likely inebriated—sheep and/or goats had been let loose in the courtyard below.

Hamlet made an attempt to wrinkle his nose. "The...current...king is going out to dance and carouse in the town."

"Is it a custom?"

"Yes, but my real father never did this; now, because of Claudius, people think the Danes are drunkards and swine and sully our reputation by their words. In his case, they're right; some men—not royalty, for I am royalty and thus it would be stupid to blame it on social status—are born with defects of personality and are the cause of all scandal."

That was a LONG explanation to a yes-or-no question. Horatio forced a smile, then glanced behind Hamlet at the approaching specter."Look, my lord, it comes."

Hamlet turned and made a noise that would have sent Marcellus quite literally over the edge with laughter had his arm not been seized by Bernardo. "What are you, spirit? Speak!" Hamlet squeaked, resembling nothing so much as a quaking lump of jelly in—Horatio was sure now—two pairs of boots.

The Ghost approached slowly, shimmering dramatically against the frigid sky and glittering stars. It raised a hand toward its visor and bellowed, "Hamlet! I am your father!"

Hamlet screeched, "Noooooo! I mean...come back! I mean..." The Ghost turned and glided away, gesturing for his son to follow.

"My lord!" Horatio strode forward and grabbed his prince's arm. "It beckons you to go with it! Do not obey, for it will deprive you of all reason and perhaps it will tempt you toward the flood or to the cliff, where you will fall to your death! The very place puts thoughts of suicide into your head!"

"Nay, Horatio, let me go! I shall speak with it!" Hamlet wrenched his arm free and waved at the Ghost. "Go on; I'll follow thee," he called. Tripping over his extra boots, he half-ran, half-stumbled after the apparition.

"Crazy bugger." Bernardo scratched his head, staring after the pair.

Horatio frowned. "Let's follow him. We can't leave him alone with that thing."

"Why not?"

"Oh, shut up. Come on."


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