Eildon Rhymer (rhymer23) wrote,
Eildon Rhymer

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Once More, With Old Ones

With apologies to Joss Whedon

This was inspired by the current challenge on darkisrising100, which calls for drabbles in which the characters sing. As soon as I read it, I started getting ideas for "Once More, With Old Ones" - a Dark is Rising musical, based on the Buffy episode, "Once More, With Feeling."

Chances are, I'd not have gone any further, had it not been that I've spent the last two days off work, sick. I retreated to my bed with a box of tissues, cough medicine, lots of paper, a pencil, and a copy of the "Once More, With Feeling" lyrics.

This is the result.

1. Oldest of the Old

The scene is a bleak and misty landscape, that could be any time, any season, any where. MERRIMAN wanders alone, wearing clothes that could belong in any century. As he walks, he sings:

Through the endless years of hope and sorrow,
Staunchly I uphold the Light.
Centuries of men have passed before me,
As I fight the Dark,
As I fight for Right.
I have lived alone, without true home,
For no-one mortal knows,
That I'm oldest of the Old Ones,
Wisest of the wise.
No-one ever penetrates my… guise.

So wrapped up is MERRIMAN in his song that he fails to notice that some MORTALS, clad in the clothes of many different centuries, have wandered in and are overhearing him. Or maybe MERRIMAN wants them to hear, and this whole singing thing is a Cry For Help. Who knows?

I was once a seer, and kind of mystic,
Spouting riddles everywhere.
Once I had a beard, a long and white one,
And a pointy hat.

And a witch's cat?

What's the point of that?

We just heard him sing a wondrous thing,
So now all mortals know,
He's the oldest of the Old Ones,
Wisest of the wise,
Call the papers! Oh? Alarm! Surprise!

The reason for this exclamation soon becomes apparent. While the MORTALS have been singing, MERRIMAN has raised his hand, spread his fingers, and mouthed a single word. The MORTALS wander off, looking confused, wondering why they are on this hillside when they just popped round the corner for a loaf of bread.

I must stay this way forever,
Always wandering, resting never.
What's my name this year? Whatever.
And I'll always be,
Oldest of the Old Ones,
Wisest of the wise,
That is how it was.
That is how it is.
That is how it always will be.

2. How exciting!

The scene changes to Cornwall. It is a sunny day. Three children cavort around a tall man with white hair. The children are SIMON, JANE and BARNEY. The man is MERRIMAN, but he is a far cuddlier Merriman than seen in song one.

Oh, how exciting!
We're here in Cornwall,
Where the natives speak
In quaint and funny accents.

Oh, how exciting!
A secret message!
It's like we've landed in
A book by Enid Blyton.

Oh, how exciting! Someone's lost a Grail.
And I will find it,
I'm soon eight,
And so I cannot fail.

It could be smugglers,
Or wicked forgers,
Because in children's books
Like this it's always smugglers,
and the children vanquish them,
and no-one dies, and - woo! - this is such fun!

It's not exciting.
The Dark is Rising...

It's so exciting...

Clouds suddenly pass over the sun. MERRIMAN throws off his cuddly great-uncle coat to reveal flowing Robes underneath. He flings his arms wide in a true wizardly pose and, to an accompaniment of dramatic lighting effects and show-off camera work, he sings:

The Dark's not a children's game, the Dark's not exciting.
Wait until the second book for truly chilling writing.
And why am I called "Merry"?
An Old One like me needs more dignity.
Dark, Dark,
The Dark is Rising!

...or maybe burglars?

It's so exciting,
We should solve it fast.
Because we're back at school soon,
And the hols they never last.

Oh, how exciting....

The scene of the CHILDREN and MERRIMAN freezes. The camera pans back to show an ASSEMBLY OF EVIL-DOERS, who are Rising in the hills and moors and valleys all around. The very observant among the audience (or those who have read it pointed out on fan forums) will notice that the Rider is not present. As they Rise, the ASSEMBLY OF EVIL-DOERS interrupt the poor CHILDREN and steal and sabotage their song.

...The Dark is Rising!
We'll fill the world with fire and fury.
The Dark will triumph with great glory.
Apocalypse -
Won't that be nice!
Traps and whips -
How they entice!
Mankind will grovel down before us,
And all will join in with our chorus.
We have to win,
We have to fight,
We have to sin,
To crush the Light.
We'll fill the world with fire and fury,
The Dark will triumph with great glory.
The Dark is Rising!
And no-one can defeat us...

Except the Old Ones.

3. At the dry cleaner's

A young woman is standing behind the counter, with that smile that they teach you on Customer Service courses, in the "how to deal with awkward customers" module. Said awkward customer is the RIDER, thus explaining his absence in the preceding song. He is holding up a robe that was once black, but has now been cleaned to a lovely rose colour.

RIDER (furious):
You got the black dye out!

THE QUEUE (impressed):
They got the black dye out!

4. Under your spell

HAWKIN is staring sadly out of a window, onto a world far removed from the world of his birth.

I once was just a peasant,
Tilling my crops, without you.
It did not seem unpleasant,
It was all that I knew.
But you raised your hand,
Beckoning me from the land.

I'm under your spell,
Whisked away in time,
Far away from what was mine.
I love my lord so well,
Clad in Light sublime,
And me in my green coat so fine.

I've seen a world enchanted,
Standing there at your side.
I saw things out of stories,
Things that no mortal yet spied.
But you stood so near,
Told me not to feel fear.

I'm under your spell,
Snatched across the years,
Laughing, yes, but shedding tears.
You love me, lord, so well,
That you dragged me here,
Risked my life, despite my fear.

You made me afraid.

In the background, MAGGIE BARNES starts to dance, slowly, slowly edging towards HAWKIN in a seductive fashion. HAWKIN at first shrinks from her, but gradually he begins to sway in the rhythm of her dance. By the time the song ends, they are fully dancing together, though MAGGIE is leading.

Light conquers Dark,
But you have broken my heart.

I'm under your spell,
How else could it be,
That you'd dare do this to me?
I loved you, lord, so well,
But you loved not me,
But you broke and shattered me.

There is a flash of darkness. When it clears, HAWKIN has been transformed into the WALKER. The WALKER shuffles across a bleak landscape that resembles the landscape MERRIMAN was crossing in the first song. It cannot really be called singing, what he does, but muttering.

You made me this way.
You made me this way.
You made me this way.

MERRIMAN watches sadly, but does not show himself.

5. I'll never tell

WILL is zipping up his seventies-style coat against the winter chill. As MERRIMAN waits for him to force the zip past the fake fur, he starts to sing:

This is the boy I was destined to mentor,
Isn't he fine?
Just yesterday he was dreaming of Santa,
Now he is mine.
I'll teach him how to be,
An Old One there alongside me.
The only trouble is...
I'll never tell.

This is the man who told me I am
An Old One like him.
(Though not so old, or so wise,
Or so hairy, tall, or so thin.)
I'll never let him down,
I'll never give him cause to frown.
There's just one thing that...
No. I'll never tell.

'Cause there's nothing to tell.

He's young...

He's cryptic,
His orders are elliptic,
And once he was a mystic
In his Merlin phase
He's old...

He's tiny,
He's sometimes rather whiny,
He's not much more than nine,
He's in his green-stick days.

This thing gets rather scary.
And it's taken me unwary,
For I once was ordinary,
Like James and Paul and Mary,
But it's all very well,
'Cause, Light knows, I'll never tell.

When things get scary,
He goes! He isn't there! He -
Leaves! It isn't fair! He -
Ought to help me, you know.

He clings,
He worries,
And goes off in a hurry,
He never...

He eats strong curry!

It is chili, you know.

Look at me, Merriman! I'm dancing!

WILL starts dancing up and down the room, very rhythmic and showy. MERRIMAN frowns, before joining in, but his dance is a traditional folk dance. It is clear that he strongly disapproves of "those new-fangled dances them young Old Ones are doing nowadays."

You know, you are my master,
Though I dance faster.

You're the littlest immortal,
Though your dancing makes me chortle,
And your body is so....
Young and... er... young.

He's old...

He's older.
He's wiser and he's bolder.

That's why I'll never own up
That our fate's in his hands.
The end's uncertain,
Before the final curtain,
Darkness could be surging
Over all of the land.
I lied,
I said it's easy,
I've tried
But there's there fears I can't quell.
Will he falter when he must be strong?

Will I let him down and lose my song?
Will I fail to do what's needed,
By youth and fear impeded?

Will I fail him like with Hawkin,
Who's trapped in endless walking?

Am I dreaming?
Am I waking?
Am I hoping?
Am I faking?

WILL (quietly):
Before the end you're taking
All my friends as well.

WILL (louder):
But, Master, I'll never tell.

I swear that I'll never tell.
My lips are sealed,

But you hear my thoughts,
You know it all.
You know me well.
You know me

6. Bad Day

The RIDER (now in black robes, but only his second-best ones) is being chased by HERNE THE HUNTER

I've been having a bad, bad day
Oh, hunter, put that sword away.
I'm asking you, please no,
It isn't right, it isn't fair,
There is no Darkness anywhere,
They've scattered holly everywhere,
And Christmas lights with all their glare…
And someone dyed my underwear.

7. He waits

We see a beautiful island set in a silver sea. A noble-looking man with a beard sits on the shore. He is attended by chaste and beautiful maidens, but he pays them no heed. This is Avalon, and he is ARTHUR.

I died
So many years ago
Or I would have died then,
If the Light had let me go.
So now I'm here in Avalon,
Wondering how you grow.
Oh! Oh!

I'm scared,
Fearing that you pine.
Did you know your mother's touch?
Do you know you're mine?
Am I just a tale to you,
My child born out of time?

They say,
I have a part to play,
Fighting in the cause of Light,
To save another day.
I'd rather spend one hour with you,
The future come what may.
Let me see my son.

Let me see my son,
Let me take his hand.
I'd rather have his love than rule
The whole of this fair land.
So I endure in paradise,
Until the time has come,
For me to see my son.

They say,
I was brave and bold,
Standing 'gainst dark minions,
The strongest lord of old.
But when I fear I've lost you,
Oh, then my blood runs cold.
Let me see my son.

I know I should go,
I should let you live a happy life,
Should let you thrive and take a wife,
And live in comfort, free from strife,
Though it strikes me harsh as any knife.
Let you go, and live your life…
Oh, no! I can't, my son!

Let me see my son,
Let me take his hand.
I'd rather have his love than rule
The whole of this fair land.
So I endure in paradise,
Until the time has come,
For me to see my son.
Why won't you
Let me see my son?

8. Alone, with a secret

Floating slowly under the ocean, we see the GREENWITCH. Watched only by us, the unseen audience, she opens her leafy mouth and sings:

Does anybody even notice?
Does anybody even care?

9. Temptation, with dancing

The pedantic might observe that this scene does not appear in the books. To such accusations, the author retorts that it jolly well ought to.)

The RIDER (whose cloak has now been dyed black again) accosts WILL on a lonely road. WILL tries to flee, but the RIDER is on horseback and catches him up. He dismounts, and WILL prepares to fight for his life, but instead of attacking, the RIDER starts to sing and dance:

Why'd you run away?
Don't you like my... style?
Why don't you come and play?
I guarantee you a great big smile.
I come from the midnight forces,
Where minions ride on pretty horses.
So what do you say?
Why don't we play a while?

I'm a smile in the night,
I'm the shadow of day,
I'm the thrill of a fight,
I am lovers at play.
You call me - I'll come at a canter,
I bring things like drinking and banter.
Now you're tempted! That's what it's all about.

'Cause I know how you feel, boy.
I know how you feel, boy.

WILL (spoken):
You mean, you're a good Rider? Is that what you're saying?

The Dark is Rising. Is that so wrong?
We've been underdogs for far too long.
Join with us, you'll never be lonely -
Won't stay behind, the one and the only.
There'll be others there, joining you in song.
Come to the Dark, my dearest boy -
Oh, sweetheart, do not wince!
When I am lord of all of the world,
You can be my prince.

'Cause I know how you feel, boy.

No, you see, you and me,
Though I am rather flattered...

I'll make it real, boy.

I am staunch with the Light -
I thought that it mattered.

I wear clothes of velvet so swirly,
(But manfully so, and not at all girly)

Well, the cloak is quite nice,
But I know you're a liar.

Join with me and say no to angsting!
Yes to the sex - and it's me you'll be thanking.

I'm too young for sex,
And your rhyme's truly dire.



RIDER (spoken):
That's it. I'm done tempting you. I'm going home.
To think... I would have given you anything
RIDER (sung):
And now you'll be alone,
That's what the Light's about.

10. Never be. Never free.

WILL is tossing and turning in bed. MRS STANTON and a DOCTOR tend to him. Far away, MERRIMAN watches it sadly through a magic mirror.

You're not ready
For the world outside.
Just a boy who needs
His mother's side.
Lost in sickness,
Secrets locked inside.
But I…

This quest is crucial,
And you stand alone.
In a country strange,
That's far from home.
You've forgotten
Everything I've shown.
But I…

Wish I could stand beside you,
And take this task away.
Wish I could play the master,
And let you walk away.
Wish I could stand beside you,
Until the final day.
But that can never be.

WILL, on his feet again but still pale and shaky, is wandering across a mountain-side. Dark and theatrical villains are lurking behind every rock. The audience at home is shouting, "It's behind you!" but WILL is oblivious.

The Dark around you
You don't sense at all.
Blind, you wander,
And I fear you'll fall.
Where's the Raven Boy,
To reach you with his call?
But I…

Wish I could stand beside you,
To guide you to the track,
Which I could walk before you,
Your burden on my back.
Wish I could shield you always,
From ruin and from rack.
But that can never be.
For Old Ones are not free.

11. Wish I could stay

OWEN and BRAN sit in an empty cottage, talking. We do not hear what they are saying, but we do see a FLASHBACK, as evidenced by that wibbly flashbacky thing. A beautiful woman is holding a baby and tearfully singing over it:

I'm under your spell.
Taken through the years,
Weeping cruel and bitter tears.
I love you, son, so well,
But I'm torn with fears,
Nothing is as it appears.
Your lord will believe…

Tears rob her of words. Then the scene changes and we see the same woman writing a note in an empty cottage

WOMAN (singing aloud the words of her note):
Believe me,
I don't want to go.
And it'll grieve me
'Cause I love you so.
But I know…
Wish I could say,
The right words,
To keep you by my side.
Wish I could watch you growing,
But all my hopes have died.
Wish I could stay…
Wish I could stay…
Wish I could stay.

12. Through the Lost Lands

WILL and BRAN are walking towards a coast that is supposed to be Wales, but since this is TV, it probably looks a bit more like California.

I touch the shore and it melts from me,
Revealing land beyond the West.
Beneath the sea,
With Bran alongside me,
Our last and greatest quest.

Ahead, the sword it waits for us,
It calls to Bran, but not to me.
He spoke its name,
And everything is changed:
Oh, who will pay the fee?

But I will walk through the Lost Lands,
Beyond them lies my fate.
I will walk through the Lost Lands,
And I will…

A horse made of bones cavorts past. BRAN cowers and whimpers. Although overcome and unmanned with terror, he still finds time to rhyme and sing very tunefully:

The sword ahead is calling me.
Will's beside me, strong and wise,
But childhood fears,
Have stoppered up my ears,
And drive me to my knees.

But I will walk through the Lost Lands,
For where else lies my home?
I am lost in the Lost Lands,
And I will…

Far away, in a world that is not lost (and yet, in a way, is far more lost. Cryptic, eh?) SIMON, JANE and BARNEY huddle anxiously, staring at the place where the Lost Land had so briefly shown itself. MERRIMAN is also visible, but in a mystic "not really there" sort of way - i.e. a misty face on the clouds, or something, so he can join in this verse, without us having to build an extra set.

What if Will is gone forever?

Or Merry says that we will never
See this thing right through until the end?

What if we are lost, in danger?

Caught by magic of a stranger?
Far away from family and friends.

We'll see it through
That's what the Light is here to do,
And you will watch for the Lost Lands…

Back to WILL, who seems to have had some sort of prophetic vision, doubtless brought on by hallucinogenic hazelnuts:

And one by one, they'll turn from me.
If we triumph, I'm still lost
I'll do it all,
I always will stand tall…
But, oh, at what great cost!

BRAN does not hear WILL's angsty little aside. He is waving a shiny sword around, as overjoyed as a little boy on Christmas day.

Eirias the sword I'm wielding,
Womb and blaze and queen and shielding
Tombs of hopes - the hopes, that is, of Dark.
Neath this sword, the Dark will tumble!
Come on, Dark! Let's have a rumble!
Light! Come on! A furnace from a spark.
These endless years
Are finally ending without tears,
And we will stride from the Lost Land,
And go to crush the foe.
We will stride from the Last Lands,
And here we go!
Here we go!
Here we go!
Here we go!

13. So now it ends

It's all happening here on the Downs. Around a Midsummer Tree are gathered the entire ASSEMBLY OF EVIL-DOERS, and the CIRCLE OF OLD ONES. There is also BRAN, SIMON, JANE and BARNEY, JOHN ROWLANDS, and many, many other extras, many of them hastily shipped in from other productions. As we watch, BRAN brings a shiny sword down on the tree, and for some reason this means that the ASSEMBLY OF EVIL-DOERS has been routed. Before routing, though, they sing:

So here we are, it all comes crashing down.
And so we sing, our faces in a frown.
It would be nice if we had won this thing.
We'd sing a glad refrain
(We sang it on the train.)

Where's there's Dark,
There's fear.
Every day's
A curse
Wishes can
Be crushed.
Whistle while
You Rise
So fierce

Or so we always thought.
And that is why we always fought.
And now we fall.
And now we fall.

Give us something to gloat about.
We need something to gloat about.

Here we are, we thought we'd conquer all.
We plotted long, but now all plots they fall.
Still our foes
Don't know why we still strive,
To salvage shreds of pride
To try to stay alive.

All the pain
Life sends.
To friends.
Torment with-
Out end.
That's what we
Though that depends…
On if you get to win.
Or if the Light comes galloping in,
And spoils your games,
Your plans of pain.

There was no doubt,
Vict'ry was ours
Till they cruelly stopped
Our Rising.
So that's it again.
We're out of Time,
'Cause they cruelled stopped
Our Rising.
They stopped the Dark from Rising.

So give us something to gloat about!
Please give us something…

The ASSEMBLY OF EVIL-DOERS start to dance in a very frenzied and evil fashion. Some of them dance so wildly that they get sucked out of Time forever. Some of them dance less well, and get tapped on the shoulder by the LADY or MERRIMAN, and sent out of Time. At length, only the RIDER remains.

Light isn't good,
Light isn't bliss,
Light is just this:
They're cheaters.
They spoil all our fun,
They call us rude names,
And ruin our games,
With cheating.
The Light has won by cheating.
But we will go on…

MERRIMAN rolls his eyes and banishes the RIDER out of Time forever.

14. My work here is done

Everyone says "woo-hoo!" and other similar expressions of joy. MERRIMAN starts to sing. The fact that he uses the same tune that the Rider used in his temptation scene is, perhaps, significant, and possibly has sinister implications, but we won't go there.

What a lot of fun!
Everyone did really well.
Now the Dark has gone,
So the Light will go as well.
All those deeds
That you played a part in.
All will forgotten be,
When I'm departing.
Now I've got to dash -
My work here is done.

15. Where do we go from here?

Everyone remaining gathers around the Midsummer Tree and sings:

Where do we go from here?
Where do we go from here?

The battle's won
Will you come, my son?

No, I'm staying here.

Where do we go from here?

MERRIMAN raises his hand and speaks a spell. SIMON, JANE, BARNEY and BRAN pause mid-dance, and bring their hands to their brow in an expressive mime of confusion:

Why is the past unclear?
How did we end up here?
The past's forgot,
But the future's not,
And we'll grow and thrive from here.
Where can't we go from here?

As they were singing, MERRIMAN and the other OLD ONES start to drift away, melting into the skies and the sunrise in a mystic and poetic fashion. WILL watches them go.

Where do I go from here?
Everyone's disappeared
The Light has won,
But my Master's gone,
And my friends don't know I'm near.
Tell me,
Where do I go from here?

The screen fades to grey, and this is the end of canon. However…

16. The Fanfic Epilogue

A man is walking through a landscape reminiscent of the landscape we saw Merriman in at the start. For a moment, he seems as if he is going to sing an echo of Merriman's opening song, but then the background music changes. We see that this man is WILL, grown-up. (We recognise him by some trick of his walk.) A figures come to meet WILL, and slowly to landscape changes from its bleak blank canvas, and becomes a real place, full of warmth and light and the possibility of love.

I saw the Dark and it frightened me.

I lost…

I stood up to it…

My memory years ago…

With the Light.

You can't be real,
So why d'you make me feel…?

They move together, as if to kiss, but the camera is coy and teasing and does not show us if they do. It also does not reveal who this figure is, in order to avoid angry letters from people who are staunch fans of any particular pairing. You all get your happy ending, okay?

Where do we go from here?

The bedroom?

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