Illustrations © Zenobia 2018
A Rock on a snowy Mountain, overlooking the Chankly Gorge in the Valley of the Drongo.
Enter FELIX and VISCUS.
FELIX: This is the narrow place where we must hold them.
With all the people who have joined our force
We number but a hundred, against thousands
– If we have lured them here; we know not yet.
O, we can halt them for a space, forsooth,
Like the bold Spartans at Thermopylae;
But they died, and their courage won the war
Only because their allies battled on.
There’s none but us; for though th’ Uraemian people
Hate the invaders to their dying breath,
They have no arms and know not how to use them.
They’ll rise when the time comes, but for the present
Our band must live to fight another day.
What can we do?
VISCUS: We must construct a trap:
Roll rocks down th’ valley sides to block their way
Before them, then behind.
FELIX: ’Tis heavy work
Without a troop of skilful engineers
With windlasses and ropes and all their gear.
We’d do ’t in time, but haste is needed here.
One thing we have: that wain of gunpowder
We took i’ th’ night outside Dysprosium;
’Twould loosen a few rocks.
VISCUS: But not enough.
E’en if we built a wall at front and back
To trap them, they’d be near as hard to beat:
Would we could drop a mountain on their heads.
(Enter a SOLDIER, with DUFUS, an old Man.)
SOLDIER: Sire, we have met this man, a lonely goatherd
Whose cabin overlooks the Chankly gorge;
And he desires to speak, and give you warning.
His name is Dufus.
FELIX: Welcome, Dufus, my friend;
Pray tells us all thy tidings without fear.
DUFUS: Your majesty, pray go not in the valley:
There’s mortal danger at this time of year.
No local man will pass it in this season.
FELIX: I heed thy warning, but what danger looms
In a deserted valley?
See ye that field of snow upon the slope,
Virgin, untrod, and innocent to th’ eye?
FELIX: I do. But if that snow should come to slide
Into the valley, and upon our heads,
We’d get a fright, but we could struggle out.
’Tis snow, not rocks, where is the harm in it?
DUFUS: Your majesty, I see, begging your pardon,
Ye know not of the power of th’ avalanche.
When ye are under fifteen feet of snow
Ye know not which way’s up, or which is down.
The snow holds you: there’s no way to climb up
Or float to th’ surface as ye would in water.
Less ye are found, and dug out ere ye freeze,
A lonely death comes, i’ a soft cage of white.
In times of peace, when snow lay on the slopes
Thick’ning with every storm, and when the spring
Started it melting, threatening to slide,
We’d use gunpowder to bring it down
Before it fell, and make the valley safe.
But now barbarians swarm in our land
All civil order’s lost, and naught is done.
FELIX: Gunpowder, say’st thou? We have much of that.
Say, hast thou seen, from out thy lonely cabin,
Where the men placed the charges on the slope
To loose the snow and roll it harmless down?
DUFUS: Aye, that I have, sire. Pray you come with me,
Bringing your men. I’ll show you how ’tis done.
FELIX: Harmless the snow fell in a peaceful time,
In a deserted valley. But in time of war
’Twill crash upon the Thetan regiments
And drown them slowly in a chilly hell
Before they go to th’ hot hell of their master.
TILDA: My love, our charm hath worked. Three regiments
Will be here in a day, heading for Zinnia,
And this the only way that they can take.
The scrying glass can see into our palace,
Where Gonbad and his goons befoul our floor,
And out the window to the palace square
Where myriad soldiers mass before they march.
But say, what shall we do when they arrive?
Pink armies of the mind cannot resist them.
FELIX: Fear not: we have a plan to loose a wave
Of tumbling snow t’ engulf the mightiest force.
If we can do it rightly, not a shot
Will fly between us and the filthy foe.
TILDA: ’Tis passing well; but when the Thetans come
And march insensibly towards their doom,
I must be far from here: our dearest daughter
Must not see such a grisly spectacle,
Nor hear the Thetans shriek as they’re engulfed.
’Tis a game to her: we must keep it so
And hold her innocence aloof from woe.