Illustrations © Zenobia 2018
Enter OROSIUS, TILDA, VULPECULA, ETTY and JESSICA, with MAISIE carrying little VUSILLUS.
OROSIUS: My friends, I have taught you much in a short space;
’Tis but the rudiments of wizardry
But there’s no time for more. And in the field
Necessity, the mother of invention,
Will teach you devious twists and cunning stunts.
’Tis time for you to sail t’ Uraemia
And take the battle to the grisly foe.
Yet I do hesitate to send a child,
However strong she be, into a war.
TILDA: And I: my mother’s heart is rent in twain
At what my dearest daughter must endure.
I have seen killing, and myself have killed
More than my share, and it doth blight the soul.
VULPECULA: But yet the soul is withered by inaction:
We cannot sit in a safe place, and watch
Our countrymen abused, and crushed, and slain.
JESSICA: Though I be little, yet I know full well
How mother frets for me. But let me speak:
I cannot sit here while my friends are killed.
I will do all I can to save their lives,
Careless of danger, till the foe be vanquished.
TILDA: Well spoken, child, thy courage blazes bright,
And thou’lt have need of it i’ th’ coming days.
OROSIUS: Thy son and Maisie shall stay here with me;
No foe can touch them on th’ enchanted island.
And when the battle’s done, I will dispatch them
To join thee gladly in a rescued land.
A ship awaits to bear thee to Uraemia,
– But ere ye sail, let’s talk of strategy.
The scrying glass tells us King Felix’s men
Lie in the east, and ye can reach them soon
From landfall to the north of Erbium.
The shore is wooded, so that ye can land
In a small boat, the enemy none the wiser.
Yet Felix and his men can do naught here
Against a numerous and well armed foe;
They are but few, with only swords and pistols,
And they are hampered, since the bloody Thetans
Will level any village thought to help them.
Therefore the battleground must be moved north
To the deserted mountains near the border
Of Zinnia, a friendly nation still at peace.
Your task, therefore, is to mislead the Thetans
To think a Zinnian army’s on its way
To aid th’ Uraemians. This will draw the Thetans
Into the mountains, where it will be easy
To harry them with raids and pin them down
And pick them off, a few men at a time.
Thy daughter’s talent for delusive visions
Shall be thy standby in the coming days.
With her power, ye must form a fictive army
For Thetan spies to see, and report back,
And draw their forces up to their destruction.
I would suggest the valley of the Drongo
As a place to lure them to: the way is narrow
And a few men can hold a larger force
And gradually destroy them from the heights.
History is full of stories of invaders
Lured to the mountains of a foreign land
Where they have perished at the hands of few.
TILDA: I thank you, ’tis a plan of wondrous merit.
My Felix told me of Thermopylae
Where a small band of Spartans in a vale
Opposed the myriad forces of the Persians
And beat them with three hundred men. All died
In the attempt; we’ll try t’ avoid their fate.
Though we have barely forty on our side
We are aided by the magic powers that ye
Have fostered in us; surely we shall win.
OROSIUS: Before ye go, I have some gifts for you:
Two scrying glasses of the latest mode
Wherein ye may see anyone ye name;
Alike to th’ glass we used to find King Felix.
VULPECULA: Aye, and it worked far better than the glass
I used eight years ago when Tilda and Etty
Wandered the eastern ways to rescue him.
Such is the march of progress, by my troth.
OROSIUS: And these are new, and still far from perfection:
A pair of skyping crystals – if thou have one
– And thou the other – ye two may converse.
They carry sounds as well as images.
Though th’ image flickers and the sound distorts,
They’ll serve you well enough in their own fashion.
VULPECULA: I had not known of these: what wondrous things!
OROSIUS: When thou wast walking in my kitchen garden,
Saws’t thou the empty space upon the wall
Tended by my blind gardener Antipas?
VULPECULA: Indeed I did, and wondered greatly at it.
OROSIUS: He cultivates th’ invisible tree that bears
Peaches whose stones confer invisibility.
It bears but few fruit; this year’s crop was six,
But ye shall have the stones.
VULPECULA: Ah! I had two o’ those
Eight years ago; Tilda and Etty found them
Essential in the rescue of my son.
I’d no idea they came from your own garden.
These are precious gifts indeed, Master Orosius;
We stand awed by your generosity.
TILDA: Indeed we do; a rare thing in this world.
OROSIUS: Think no more of ’t, ladies. I possess great power
Gifted to me by heaven; but with it comes
The duty of responsibility.
If I failed in this duty, I would be
No better than Khan Gonbad and his minions
Whose power pollutes the world. Come, it is time
To say farewell to th’ boy and his good nurse,
And board the ship bound for Uraemia.
TILDA (embracing VUSILLUS): My darling boy, I shall be gone awhile;
Maisie shall cherish thee, and keep thee well,
And I shall see thee soon as fate permits.
MAISIE: Your majesty, I’ll guard him with my life.
TILDA: I know thou wilt, my good and faithful servant.
(Exeunt all but MAISIE and VUSILLUS.)
MAISIE: My boy, the world’s at war. Here we have peace
To rest awhile until the conflict cease.