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Across the Lethe

INT. THE HOUSE OF HADES, ON THE SHORE OF THE RIVER LETHE NIGHT

AGAMEMNON arrives at the shore of the river Lethe, the river of forgetfulness. The river is inside the giant cavern of Hades, and shadowed so that it is difficult to see more than a few feet in front of him.

AGAMEMNON: So it has come to this. I was a king of Mycenae, once, my army thousands strong. My queen, although a spiteful, serpentine woman, had born me many beautiful children, whom I loved dearly. We could have lived happily, had Helen, my brother's treacherous wife, not fled to Troy with Paris the prince. Because of her, I was forced to send Iphigenia, my oldest and favorite daughter, to the alter to be murdered by a priest of the goddess Artemis. It was either that, or allow the remaining members of my family to be torn apart by my own army. And how does my dear queen repay me for protecting the lives of her and her remaining children? She takes a lover in my absence, while I am at war, fighting in Troy for her sister's sins, and murders me upon my return. Never was a human soul more miserable, more accursed than mine…

IPHIGENIA steps out from the shadows.

IPHIGENIA: Father?

AGAMEMNON: Iphi…Iphigenia?

Iphigenia runs towards her father, her arms outstretched as if she wants to embrace him. However, she stops suddenly when she is about three feet away, and lowers her arms and eyes.

AGAMEMNON: Iphigenia, what is the matter? Why will you not greet me?

IPHIGENIA: Father…do you love me?

AGAMEMNON: What? Of course I do. Why would you doubt it? Haven't you always been my favorite, the first and most beautiful of all my daughers? My most loved? Why do you ask me this?

Agamemnon reaches towards his daughter (Iphigenia) to lift up her chin, so that she is looking at him. Iphigenia moves away from his touch.

AGAMEMNON: Why do you recoil from your own father? Why won't you look at me? Iphigenia?

Iphigenia takes a couple of steps back.

IPHIGENIA: Am I still beautiful, even now?

Agamemnon makes a few half-hearted attempts at a reply, but all die on his lips.

IPHIGENIA: I should be. I haven't changed since the beginning of the war, when I was to be the bride of a hero.

Agamemnon looks away in shame.

IPHIGENIA: Father, why did you tell that lie? Why did you tell mother that I was to marry Achilles? Had you told the truth, it would have at least prepared us for my sacrifice, and I could have come alone. Instead, we were only prepared for joy, and my mother and younger siblings came with me, expecting a celebration. Their grief was unexpected, hidden beneath a happy deception, and so it gave a sharper blow. They were forced to bear witness as my wedding became my funeral.

(Pause)

Father, why did I have to die?

AGAMEMNON: There was no other way! Iphigenia, if I had had any choice in the matter, do you think that I would have let you be sacrificed?

Agamemnon attempts to close some of the distance between himself and Iphigenia.

AGAMEMNON: The ships had to set sail, and the priest of Artemis told me that the only way to bring the wind was to sacrifice you, my most precious child. You know that such a thing was the last thing that I would ever desire. But if I had not, riots would have broken out among the soldiers, a wave of violence that would not end until not only you were dead, but also your mother, your sisters, your little brother, and your father, me. You understand my predicament?

IPHIGENIA: As perfectly as I did the day you sent me to die. But tell me, who was it who killed the young rabbits, whose deaths so offended Artemis enough to demand my life?

Agamemnon freezes.

IPHIGENIA: You had a choice.

Iphigenia turns to leave, but Agamemnon grabs her shoulder.

AGAMEMNON: Iphigenia, stay with me. Please.

IPHIGENIA: The winds came before my death. Did you notice?

AGAMEMNON: I…yes. Yes, I did. I tried to stop the sacrifice when I saw the winds arrive, but…I…

(Pause)

I'm sorry. I'm so sorry.

Iphigenia allows Agamemnon to embrace her.

IPHIGENIA: But father, why are you here? Why are you dead? Were you killed in battle? Is the war over Helen still raging?

Agamemnon tenses, remembering his death at Clytemnestra's hand.

IPHIGENIA: Father? Is something wrong? What happened?

Agamemnon forces his expression to relax.

AGAMEMNON: I… Yes. Yes, I was killed in the war. But do not worry, my daughter; the war is finished. The Greeks won, and the remaining soldiers have returned home to their families.

IPHIGENIA: I'm glad. Before I was sacrificed, mother was so furious with you. I was worried that she was the one who sent you here.

AGAMEMNON: I promise you, she was not. I died honorably, fighting for Greece. But come, let us drink from the river Lethe, like the rest of the lost souls, and forget our misfortunes. Perhaps in the next life, the gods will show us mercy.