Arriving at Elsinore

It’s dusk when you and your companion arrive in Elsinore. The sun is setting behind you; your shadows spool out before you, painting queer, elongated shapes on the road.

You pass through the quiet town to the fortress that guards the sound. Your horses’ hooves sound loud on the paving stones. Through every window, you see light: firelight dancing on the glass panes of mullioned windows, candlelight spilling through cracks between shutters and drapes. You shiver a little as you pass them by. Without the sunlight, the streets are bitterly cold.

There are no proper mountains in Denmark, or none so far as you can remember, but the castle commands a slight rise all the same. As you ride up the hill to the fortress, Elsinore drops away all around you. The last sunlight gleams on the black water of the sound like a path of gold.

“What do we say to them when we get there?” your companion asks. “‘Hallo, we hear your prince has gone mad?'”

“We’ll tell them were sent for,” you answer. “That’s what we’ll say: We are Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, here upon order of the king and queen.”

“Because their prince has gone mad.”

“More melancholy than mad. In a black humor.”

“Glum,” your companion pronounces.

“Exactly. What they expect us to do about that, I’ve no idea.”

“It isn’t too late to turn around,” someone else says, and the shock of a third voice is enough to make you whip around.

Your eyes fix on a young woman with her arms full of autumn rosemary. She is dressed well, but her long, dark hair lies loose about her shoulders. It’s difficult to make out much else about her in the fading light, but you’re fairly certain that you’ve never seen her before in your life.

Greet the girl.
Move along. The king and queen are waiting.