Illustrations © Zenobia 2018
A small Rowing Boat on the high Seas.
In it are TILDA, VULPECULA, ETTY, JESSICA, and MAISIE with little VUSILLUS. TILDA and ETTY are at the Oars.
TILDA: Pull, Etty, pull, as thou ne’er didst before!
ETTY: I have done plenty o’ pulling in my time,
But not to save my life. We’ll make this island:
The current drives us to it. Let us hope
It is not ringed by fangs of coral rock
Nor girt by inaccessible cliffs
’Neath which the breakers fling us to the sharks.
TILDA: Away with all these dire imaginings,
We are alive and well, and yet retain
The gold that I concealed upon the ship.
Land beckons, though we know not where it be.
(They land on a sandy Beach fringed with Palms.)
VULPECULA: Well rowed, my girls; once more ye save our lives.
See, here’s a flowing stream, the palms bear dates,
’Tis well for now, whate’er the morrow brings.
JESSICA: O what a fine adventure we are having,
Better than any in the books at home.
Thinkst thou there will be dragons? I would like one
With scaly wings of pink. I’ll call him Fred.
TILDA: Jessica, think not overmuch of dragons
Or they’ll appear, and at this time they are
The last thing that we need. Say, canst thou climb
This tree, and pluck a bunch of dates for us?
(As JESSICA goes to the Tree, she halts, frozen to the Spot. All are gripped by a Spell and cannot move or speak. Enter OROSIUS, a Wizard, with ATTENDANTS.)
OROSIUS: What have we here? E’en when this little boat
Was a full league from shore, I sensed such power
Of magic as I never yet have seen.
(He points at VULPECULA.)
Lady, I free your voice from out my spell.
VULPECULA: Good sir, I bow to your superior power.
I am a witch indeed, but not so strong
As to provoke you when far out to sea.
We are the royalty o’ Uraemia;
I the queen mother, Tilda here the queen.
We come in peace: we are forced from our land,
Uraemia, by the invading Thetans.
To save of children from the ravening horde
We took ship, bound for th’ isle of Tapioca;
’Twas seized by pirates, we were set adrift,
And wind and current bore us to your shore.
OROSIUS. Your majesty, I sense your witch’s power,
Yet ye speak sooth: this is not what I sensed
And called me to the shore. Let me look more –
(He points at JESSICA.)
Ah! What great might streams from this little child!
Tell me true, is ’t safe to let her free?
VULPECULA: Aye, sir, she is but young, and until now
She hath done naught but conjure gaudy visions,
Pink unicorns and such – yet sooth I say,
We knew not that she had the power for more.
Pray you, unbind us, we intend no harm.
(OROSIUS gestures, and they are released from the spell.)
JESSICA: O, that was magic, like my granny does!
I can make magic too: see how I can.
(She conjures a pink Dragon. With a wave of his hand, OROSIUS turns it golden. It flies around their Heads and vanishes in a Thunderclap. They both laugh.)
OROSIUS: So thou canst, child. But know, I am a master;
I’ll teach thee tricks not yet seen on the earth.
JESSICA: I should like that indeed, good wizard sir.
OROSIUS (to Vulpecula): Pray, madam, let us introduce ourselves.
I am Orosius, master o’ Polenta island
Where ye do stand, a small one but a fair.
VULPECULA: And I Vulpecula, queen of Uraemia
Till king Vusillus died these two years since.
My son, king Felix, reigns now, and his queen
Tilda stands on the strand before you now.
They have two children: Jessica, the girl
With whom ye conjured dragons, and their son
Vusillus, in the arms of Maisie, th’ nurse.
The other lady’s Etty, the court poet –
Eight years ago, when an ill tide of war
Brought my son to captivity, Tilda and she
Ventured with staunchest hearts to distant lands
And rescued him and brought him home to reign;
I love them from the bottom of my heart.
But now, the tide of war is ris’n again:
The filthy Thetans, worshippers of Satan,
Have poured into our land from th’ eastern marches
And taken our great city of Purdonium.
Felix’s men are scattered, yet they rejoin
And harry the foul foe as best they can.
We were sent out to th’ isle of Tapioca,
Whose rulers are allied to us by marriage
To keep the children safe, but fain we’d fight
To rid our country of barbarians.
OROSIUS: Dear lady, I have no love to the Thetans;
Their vile ways threaten to engulf the world.
I’ll help you as I can to overcome them;
For now all decent folk must stand together.
Let us repair t’ my castle, a mile hence,
Where food and rest await you, and we’ll plan
To bring the Thetans down, as well we can.