Enter TILDA, Queen of Uraemia, with the Queen Mother, VULPECULA, and her Children JESSICA, aged six, and VUSILLUS, four, with their Nurse MAISIE, and ETTY, the Court Poet.
JESSICA: Mother, why must we fight these wretched Thetans?
I’m sick of wars, I miss my father so.
TILDA: As do we all, dear child. Would it were over.
This war was not our choice: the Thetans swarmed
Over the border from Opuntia,
Which they have conquered, and laid waste to it.
They will not stop until the world is theirs,
Or till we drive the last one from our land.
JESSICA: But what is it that makes them want the world?
TILDA: They worship Satan, and they do his bidding,
Or what their priests pretend is Satan’s will
– And that is, that they must subdue all men
To Satan’s rule. They think of nothing else:
Music and dancing, wine and merriment,
Sweet arts that ease men’s lot upon the earth,
Are all forbidden to them. They must curse
And utter Satan’s name with every breath
So he should favour them, and when they die,
They’ll feast with him in hell, while others burn.
VULPECULA: Truly they are the slaves of their beliefs,
Which make their lives no less than hell on earth.
’Tis terrible to be a Thetan woman:
Their men keep them in chains, pent in the house,
To toil for them. They never see the day,
For when they go to fetch food from the market
They’re swathed in sacks, led along by a eunuch.
They may not speak a word, on pain of death.
JESSICA: O granny, that is terrible! But father
Will slay them all, for he is brave and good.
TILDA: Sadly, the war doth not go well for us.
They come in myriads, and for each one killed
Ten more rush in, waving their bloody swords.
They have no fear of death, for they believe
They shall be welcomed to the arms of Satan
And given all the joys they lacked on earth.
(A Sound of Trumpets. Enter KING FELIX, his brother PRINCE VISCUS, and SOLDIERS, in Haste and Disarray. TILDA rushes to embrace FELIX.)
TILDA: Welcome, my Felix, how I have longed to see thee!
FELIX: My love, I wish I came with better news.
Our army is o’erwhelmed and put to flight,
The Thetans press upon Purdonium
And will be here in hours. My dearest Tilda,
Thou and our children, and my reverend mother
Must flee the town and seek a safer place,
And that right soon. Dress ye in peasants’ garb
And haste to th’ harbour of Opprobrium
To find a ship sailing to Tapioca
Where Sago, husband of my sister Sheba,
Shall surely welcome you into his court.
As for myself and Viscus, and our men –
All that remain after the last affray –
We’ll take to th’ hills and fight them tooth and nail,
But it will be a long war and a bitter
To extirpate these devils from our land.
VISCUS: Aye, it hath been bitter enough already:
I like not my first taste of war at all.
Would I could sail to Tapioca with you
To Princess Semolina, my betrothed.
TILDA: Felix, I’ll fight, thou know’st what deeds I did
When I did rescue thee from the foul Tartars
These eight years gone.
ETTY: And I shall stand beside thee,
With sword in hand, as we did stand before
Against the foe in far Kamysyak.
FELIX: Indeed, my love, I know that thou canst fight
Like a great tigress standing by her cubs.
But this is not the time, nor yet the place.
Thy duty’s to our children: guard them well
With all thy strength and courage, and the day
When we have beaten down the hideous foe,
Bring them both safely to Purdonium
To live in peace and plenty once again.
Now flee t’ Opprobrium and take to sea
Before th’ invaders cut off your retreat:
Lose not a minute, for this town is lost.
TILDA: My love, thou speakest sooth, though ’t tears my heart
To part from thee after so brief a moment.
But what must be, must be. A fond farewell;
May God and all his angels keep thee safe
Against the devil’s horde, till thou prevail.
(They embrace. Exit FELIX, VISCUS and the SOLDIERS.)
VULPECULA: ’Tis well dear King Vusillus, two years gone,
Lived not to see this fate fall on our land.
TILDA: Ho, courtiers, there is no time to lose.
I ask for one last duty, ere ye flee:
Throw all our treasure in the castle well
And then be off to hide as best ye may.
We’ll to Opprobrium with all due speed:
Come, dear Vulpecula, my children, Etty,
This is not our first time upon the ways.
We shall live hard, but hope for better days.