The Coast of Uraemia.
Enter TILDA, VULPECULA, ETTY and JESSICA, all garbed as Peasants.
ETTY: Back on the dear soil of Uraemia,
We breathe the scent of our familiar herbs;
’Tis well. And yet, in these oppressive times,
Danger attends our every step. Say, Tilda,
What doth thy scrying glass tell thee of Felix?
TILDA: It points to the northwest, mayhap a day
Or two days’ march. If I might make a guess,
I’d say he was nigh to Delirium,
Where the deep woods gave shelter to his men.
This road would lead us there, if we could follow
A way used daily by the Thetan troops,
Passing through populous towns; ’tis fraught with peril.
ETTY: Ho, I hear hooves! Quickly, behind this bush.
(They conceal themselves. Enter a Haywain drawn by a Horse. It is driven by HUMPHREY, an Innkeeper, also disguised as a Peasant.)
TILDA: ’Tis but a farmer carting home his hay.
We’ve naught to fear from him, and he doth fare
In our direction; shall we cadge a lift?
Ho, honest farmer! May we board thy wain?
We seek Delirium, and the way is long.
HUMPHREY: Your majesty, why are ye garbed so strangely?
And Lady Etty too, and thy little daughter,
And queen Vulpecula, if my eyes do serve me.
(He leaps from the Haywain and bows low.)
TILDA: Thou hast sharp eyes, my friend. But by my troth,
If we are recognised so easily
We’ll have to think anew on our disguise.
HUMPHREY: I too am now obliged t’ disguise myself:
Humphrey, an innkeeper, formerly of th’ Old Ship;
Yet I am forced from home to roam the land.
TILDA: What drove thee from thy inn?
HUMPHREY: Have ye not heard
What fate hath smitten th’ inns o’ Uraemia?
TILDA: Nay, we are new returned from overseas.
HUMPHREY: The Thetans drink no spirituous liquor,
And forced that prohibition on ourselves.
All inns are shut, landlords obliged to flee.
TILDA: May asses dance on th’ graves o’ their ancestors!
Inns are the solace of the working man,
An evening’s pleasure at a modest price;
Part of the life of our dear countrymen.
Well dost thou know I am of peasant birth
And quaffed ale after a hard day in the fields.
HUMPHREY: Well do ye speak, ’tis solace to mine ears.
Patrick, ’tis safe t’ emerge. We are with friends.
(PATRICK appears out of the Hay.)
PATRICK: God bless your majesties and you fair ladies;
May heaven prosper all your enterprise.
I am an Irish soldier, sailor, adventurer,
Whatever fortune brings; now that my friend
Humphrey hath need of help, I gladly aid him.
TILDA: A fighting man! Our land hath need of such.
Since we are friends, I’ll tell thee of our mission.
When the vile Satanists o’ertook Purdonium
We fled abroad, headed for Tapioca
To keep the children safe. ’Twas not to be:
Our ship was taken by the pirate Kevin.
PATRICK: Kevin! I’ve sailed with him; not a bad man.
TILDA: He set the women drifting in a boat,
Furnished with food and water, it is true,
To find what fortune the wild waves allowed us;
And fortune favoured us: we found the shore
Of old Orosius, the famed enchanter.
Know that Vulpecula, myself, and th’ child
Are witches of some power. Orosius
Tutored us, setting up a coven o’ three,
A fighting force of magic. We seek king Felix
To aid him with our spells in time of need.
PATRICK: Fain would I fight beside thee and the king!
I feel the thirst for war mount in my veins.
TILDA: He will be glad of thee and all good men
To help him in his struggle. But pray tell us
Why do ye hide beneath this heap of hay?
HUMPHREY: Beneath the hay we carry various casks
Of ale and claret, malmsey and usquebaugh.
Whenever chance permits, we raise the sign
Of the Old Ship, and then refresh the people.
TILDA: A worthy task! But why doth Patrick lurk
Within thy load?
PATRICK: Sure, I am six feet tall;
My ginger hair resists the deepest dye.
All folk remember me, so I must hide.
’Tis not my choice, but these are troublous times.
HUMPHREY (to TILDA and the Women): Speaking of dye, pray take this walnut juice
And rub it on your faces and your hands.
’Twill stain them brown, so ye do look like peasants,
As ye are garbed. I use it on myself
To hide the pallor of an indoor trade.
But now I am on the road, the rays o’ th’ sun
Are burning me towards a natural brown,
And soon I shall have no more need of it.
TILDA: Grateful thanks, Humphrey. When I was a girl
I was brown as thee, from labour i’ th’ fields.
Palaces turn folk pale as much as inns.
ETTY: Forsooth, what a fair fortune falls on us
To meet with thee and with thy warrior friend!
Truly we gather allies on our way
To join the fight; surely we’ll win the day.