Disclaimer: I do not own Macbeth.
It was a dark and stormy night. This didn't bother three old women who were taking a pleasant stroll through a battlefield in the slightest.
"Well that was fun," one of them said.
"There's nothing like a good war to get the blood racing," the second agreed.
"I'm bored now," the last one whined. "The fighting's almost over! And our guy didn't even win!"
"He wasn't supposed to," the second reminded her. "He was just supposed to cause a lot of havoc-"
"Which he did marvelously," the first interrupted.
"That he did," the second concurred. "He was only a distraction for our next plan: get Macbeth to cause much havoc. And then possibly we can do something with Macduff…"
"Do you think our guy understood what we meant when we warned him that 'no loyal subject of Duncan' would slay him?" the third woman. "Because he seemed rather surprised when Macbeth killed him."
"It's not our fault if the mortals never listen properly," the first woman sniffed. "They're always so literal-minded. Say no LOYAL subject will do something and they start obsessing over foreigners and overthrow the one days away from regicide."
"To be fair," the second moderated, "It's not like the mortals have any way of knowing that."
"Not yet," the first conceded with a cackle. "But they will…Oh, they will…"
"Hooray for ambiguously evil plots!" the third cheered.
"This is the last time I agree to a night thunderstorm battle," King Duncan groused. "I mean, the atmosphere is nice and I'm seriously loving the symbolism but it's just so miserable out there!" He paused, and pulled his perfectly dry cloak closer to him. "Or at least it would be if I were willing to get all wet and muddy."
Just then, a heavily bleeding captain staggered in, clutching his stomach. "I think I'm dying…"
"That's no excuse not to address me with the proper respect," Duncan said sternly. "You didn't bow or salute me or address me as 'your majesty' or anything!"
"S-sorry, your majesty," the captain apologized, hacking up some blood.
"So…what's the status?" Duncan asked curiously. "And could you try not to move around so much? It's bad enough that there's going to be bloodstains no matter what we do, but if we could at least minimize the area the stain is located at, that would be just fantastic."
"I'll try to bleed over less of your floor," the captain said sarcastically.
"That's all I ask," Duncan said magnanimously. "So…status report, captain?"
"Your son Malcolm looked like he was going to be captured by the Irish so I helped him escape," the captain began.
"And that's how you got wounded?" Duncan guessed.
"Not *cough* quite," the captain shook his head. "After we escaped, I slipped in the mud and fell on him so he stabbed me straight through with his sword. He said it was an accident."
"I lose more captains that way," Duncan said, shaking his head ruefully.
"I think your son's insane," the captain ventured to say this only because he was already minutes from death.
Duncan's glare might have killed him if he'd been any healthier. "Well no one asked you. Go die somewhere else and stop telling me how to raise my son!"
"I thought you wanted to know what else happened?" the captain managed to get out before another huge coughing fit overtook him.
"Oh, right," Duncan remembered. "Do go on."
"Macbeth had his friend Banquo sneak up behind Macdonald and tap him on the shoulder. When Macdonald turned around, Macbeth cut his head off," the captain explained.
"Why couldn't Banquo just cut his head off?" Duncan inquired.
"Apparently Macbeth wanted the glory more and Banquo just wanted to seek shelter from the storm," the captain replied.
"Then why didn't Macbeth sneak up behind Macdonald and cut off his head?" Duncan pressed.
"Apparently that wouldn't be a very honorable thing to do, sneaking up behind him like that," the captain guessed.
"But tricking him into turning his back and then killing him is?" Duncan was kind of incredulous.
The captain shrugged. "I don't think he's quite sane either."
"In an insane world, the sane appear insane," Duncan said wisely.
"And coincidentally enough, so do the bat-shit crazy people," the captain noted before falling over.
"Now, really, I get that you're wounded and all, but lying down in the middle of a briefing? I am SO demoting you…" Duncan muttered, annoyed.
"I think he's dead, my lord," a Scottish nobleman says, eyeing the body carefully, as he strode into the room.
Duncan blinked. "Oh. Well he's at least getting a demerit for this! Bleeding to death in front of your king…But never mind that, Ross, my good man. Have you any news?"
Ross nodded. "Indeed. The Thane of Cawdor has been captured and Norway has been defeated. What do you want us to do with him?"
"Let's kill him," Duncan said immediately. "I will not stand for treason."
"What about his title?" Ross inquired.
Duncan shrugged. "Like I care. Give it to Macbeth. I just heard he did something cool."
"Isn't he already Thane of Glamis?" Ross asked.
"Who even knows?" Duncan asked rhetorically. "Let him have both titles. What's the worst that could happen?"
"Well, since you've just said that, we're almost guaranteed to find out," Ross noted as he hurried off to go find Macbeth.
"Can we hurry this up?" one of the women asked. "I was trying to see how many pigs I could kill with one bolt of lightning." These women were either crazy, witches, or both.
"And I was plotting how to ruin a man whose wife said I looked to evil to share her chestnuts with," the second witch added. "The nerve!"
"Well, she was kind of right," the first witch pointed out.
"That's not the point," the second sniffed. "You shouldn't judge people by their appearances, even if you do happen to be right."
"Hey, settle down you two; Macbeth is coming and then we can all get back to our various acts of evil," the third spoke up.
"Oh dear God!" Macbeth's friend Banquo cried out as he saw them. "You can't possibly be mortal! You look like nothing I've ever seen! And the evil aura! Oh, I think I need to sit down…"
Macbeth eyed him strangely. "They're just old, Banquo; don't you think you're overreacting?"
"They have beards!" Banquo cried out dramatically.
"They're old, it happens," Macbeth replied with a shrug. "I am so sorry. Normally, he's much more polite."
"Do not worry about it, thane of Glamis," the first witch said magnanimously.
"Yes, we'll remember it was him that insulted us, thane of Cawdor," promised the second.
"And we thank you for your kind words, my king," the third added.
Macbeth looked a little confused. "…I think two of you have mistaken me for somebody else. I am the thane of Glamis, that is true, but the thane of Cawdor is a traitor and Duncan is the King. Although even if you had mistaken me for either of them, no one in their right mind would think those three could be the same person…not that I'm saying you're not in your right mind or anything," he amended hastily.
"Don't apologize to them, Macbeth," Banquo said exasperatedly. "They're clearly witches and that makes them not in their right minds."
"You don't know that," Macbeth defended.
"They're hovering," Banquo pointed out.
Macbeth looked. It was true; the witches' feet weren't touching the ground. "A trick of the light."
"You are lesser than Macbeth but greater," the first witch prophesized.
"How am I supposed to be both at the same time?" Banquo inquired. "Or do you mean that while, say, he may be a better swordsman I am better at riding and things like that? Because that's not really news as everyone is better and worse at something than everybody else. It's kind of a fact of life. And I can't believe I'm going to say that but…that may be too vague to be a prophecy."
"Your fate isn't as happy as his is, and yet perhaps much happier," the second witch tried.
"Okay, now you're outright contradicting yourself," Banquo said flatly.
"You won't be King but your descendents will," the third said bluntly, giving up the aura of mysticism.
Banquo blinked. "Really? That's nice."
"Tell me more about me!" Macbeth begged. "Why did you say I'm thane of Cawdor?"
But the witches were gone.
"Well that was weird," Banquo noted. "And if you didn't actually believe that they were witches, why did you want to know why they were calling you thane of Cawdor?"
"Well," Macbeth reasoned, "since the current thane of Cawdor is a traitor, chances are that they will need a new one and I wanted to know if they'd heard anything about me being the replacement."
"How would they know?" Banquo demanded.
Macbeth shrugged again. "You're the one who thinks they're witches," he pointed out. "And speaking of, apparently you will beget kings. How do you feel about that, given you don't even have a fancy title like I do?"
Banquo thought about it. "I suppose that if we have enough nobles rebelling I or my loyal decedents will pick up a fancy title somewhere along the line. It doesn't make nearly as much of an impact on my life as, say, the fact that you're supposed to be king."
"Let's not get ahead of ourselves," Macbeth said, laughing. "After all, I've yet to become thane of Cawdor."
"Did somebody say 'thane of Cawdor'?" Ross asked, riding up to them.
Macbeth and Banquo exchanged surprised glances.
"Yes, we did, why?" Banquo asked cautiously.
"Because Macbeth is the new thane of Cawdor since we just executed the previous one for treason," Ross announced.
"Wow, that was quick," Macbeth noted. "So…does your son have his sights on any princesses?"
"Oh, who even knows," Banquo said dismissively. "Maybe you can have a daughter and our children can marry."
"Oh, that's a good plan," Macbeth decided. "That way we can both win!"
"Let's not worry too much about that for now," Banquo cautioned. "This all sounds great, but since the witches are CLEARLY EVIL and cannot be trusted, we shouldn't put too much stock in what they say."
"But it seems pretty straightforward," Macbeth argued. "Your children will be kings and so will I. Oh, I hope this doesn't mean I'll have to kill someone…"
"If it's inevitable that you will take the throne, I don't see why you would need to," Banquo assured him.
"You're probably right," Macbeth agreed. "Either way, let's think some more about this and talk later."
"Alright," Banquo agreed absently, already putting the strange encounter out of his mind.
"Thane of Cawdor's dead," the King's son, Malcolm, announced.
"Did he die nobly, confessing freely and repenting of his crimes?" Duncan inquired.
Malcolm snorted. "No. He passed out when the sword got within three feet of him."
"…We should probably stick to that first version," Duncan decided.
Malcolm shrugged. "You're the boss."
Duncan was about to respond when Macbeth and Banquo entered the room, followed by Ross. "I have heard many good things about your bravery in battle and your willingness to go out in the middle of a thunderstorm," he said instead.
"Thank you," Banquo said and Macbeth echoed the sentiments.
"I would just like to take this time to declare that my loyalty to you is unwavering and I am, in no way, conspiring to kill you as we speak," Macbeth added.
Duncan beamed. "It is so good to be surrounded by people you can trust."
"Don't you think that's…oddly specific?" Malcolm asked, looking at Macbeth suspiciously.
"Don't be silly," Duncan disagreed. "He's obviously just trying to reassure me since this nasty rebellion has just been put down."
"It's your funeral…" Malcolm muttered.
"Is that a threat?" Duncan asked sharply.
"Oh, THAT you're concerned about," Malcolm said, shaking his head in clear disbelief. "And no, no it's not a threat."
"Good," Duncan said, relieved. "It would be most inconvenient if the heir to the throne were to decide he wanted me out of the picture."
"Heir to the throne?" Banquo questioned.
"What? Oh yes!" Duncan cleared his throat. "This may come as a surprise to many of you, but I have decided to name my son, Malcolm, as my heir. Once I die, he gets the throne so if anyone wants to be king, remember I'm old so kill him first."
"Dad!" Malcolm complained.
"What?" Duncan asked innocently.
"This is great!" Macbeth declared. "I'm sorry to hear about your suicide attempt, Malcolm, and I hope you seek help."
"What?" Malcolm asked, startled. "But I didn't-"
"So, your majesty, do you want to dine at my castle tonight?" Macbeth interrupted.
"I would love to," Duncan said, touched. "You're so thoughtful and considerate. If I didn't have children, you would totally be my pick for heir."
"Great!" Macbeth looked considerably cheerier. "I'll just ride ahead to inform my wife…"
"Oh, I am getting a really bad feeling about this…" Malcolm muttered.
"'Dear Lady Macbeth'," Lady Macbeth read. "I can't believe he's so formal he'd address me like that in a private letter! 'I have recently become thane of Cawdor due to treachery and loyalty. Speaking of, I met some nice old ladies that Banquo kept insisting were 'evil witches' and they told me I'm going to be king someday but so will his descendents. Pretty great, right? Sadly, the king's son Malcolm has just been declared heir to the throne. I did not see that coming at all. So yeah…I'll be back when I can. Love you, your husband, Lord Macbeth.'"
"Hm. My husband, King of Scotland?" Lady Macbeth mused. "I like the sound of that. Of course, I like the thought of my being Queen even better. And yes, it might happen eventually, but if it's going to happen it might as well happen now. That settles it then: Macbeth will simply have to kill Duncan. Of course, he'll probably need some…persuading, since he's all talk, but this is important! This castle gets a little drafty in the winter, anyway…Though how to do it?"
"Excuse me, Lady Macbeth?" a messenger asked, entering the room. Lady Macbeth nodded for him to continue. "Your husband and King Duncan are on the way to the castle, along with all sorts of other less important people."
"Really?" Lady Macbeth asked, brightening immediately. "Excellent…" With that, she began cackling evilly.
"Um, are you alright?" the messenger asked her.
"Of course I am," Lady Macbeth replied indignantly. "Now go away before my newfound murderous rage renders you dead."
Quickly, the messenger made himself scarce.
"Hello, Lady Macbeth," Macbeth greeted her smiling as he entered the room.
Lady Macbeth narrowed her eye s. "You know, that was cute fifteen years ago when we first got married, but now it just leads me to think you don't remember my name."
"…Of course I do!" Macbeth lied. "Because it would just be ridiculous if I forgot."
"I'm sure," Lady Macbeth said sarcastically. "But never mind that: I have read your letter and have decided on a course of action."
"Course of action?" Macbeth asked blankly. "What course of action? Duncan's only going to be here one night."
"Oh, he'll only be here one night, all right," Lady Macbeth grinned evilly.
"That's what I just said," Macbeth didn't get it.
Lady Macbeth gave a long-suffering sigh. Her husband was so oblivious sometimes! "We're going to kill him."
"Oh," Macbeth said. He paused. "Why?"
"So you can be king!" Lady Macbeth answered.
"But Banquo said if it was going to happen it was going to happen so I wouldn't have to do anything," Macbeth protested.
Lady Macbeth rolled her eyes. "If Banquo told you to jump off a cliff, would you do it?"
"Probably," Macbeth answered honestly. "He hasn't steered me wrong yet."
"What a lovely little castle," Duncan said, charmed. "A bit drafty, though…"
"That it is," Lady Macbeth acknowledged, moving to greet him.
"Thank you for your hospitality, Lady Macbeth," Duncan said graciously. "Even though you had no choice in the matter as your husband volunteered you."
"It's no trouble at all," Lady Macbeth claimed. "In fact, you being here suits my plans perfectly."
"Plans?" Malcolm asked, still wary from earlier.
"Of how to show my appreciation for everything King Duncan has done for us," Lady Macbeth covered.
"And I do love your husband dearly," Duncan said wistfully.
"Dad!" Malcolm hissed.
Duncan started. "But not like that, don't worry, your husband isn't cheating on you," he quickly reassured her.
"I wasn't," Lady Macbeth said slowly. "But now I wonder…"
"So, Lady Macbeth," Macbeth said that night at dinner. "Are you sure we should kill Duncan? I mean, doing so with him sleeping under our roof would be easy enough, but just think of the consequences!"
Malcolm's head shot up at 'kill Duncan' but nobody else was paying any attention.
"You're just scared of eternal damnation," Lady Macbeth accused.
"No! I'm just worried about earthly ones. I mean, Duncan's my friend, my comrade, my King, my guest, and he's a wonderful and virtuous ruler," Macbeth pointed out. "In fact, there is really no reason why I should kill the king at all. That settles it, I won't do it."
"Do you guys hear this?" Malcolm demanded.
"What?" Duncan looked over. "Yes, Macbeth just said again that he has no reason to kill me."
"But…right before that…" Malcolm trailed off, recognizing a lost cause when he saw one. "Never mind."
"You are such a coward!" Lady Macbeth accuses.
"Because I'm a little hesitant about regicide?" Macbeth shot back.
"Yes. Be a man!" Lady Macbeth urged.
"And the only way I can do this will be to kill my king?" Macbeth asked skeptically.
"Yes," Lady Macbeth said firmly.
"There must be a shortage of men today seeing as there are a shortage of kings to kill," Macbeth noted dryly.
"It's a tragedy," Lady Macbeth said absently. "Now listen: tonight when Duncan's asleep, I'll drug his guards and then you can kill him. You can smear Duncan's blood on the guards so it looks like they did it."
"You're a genius!" Macbeth said. "And now I'm definitely going to go against my morals because you called me a coward."
"Doesn't anybody care that my father's going to die tonight?!?!" Malcolm demanded.
Everyone ignored him.