Illustrations © Zenobia 2018
The same Rock overlooking the Chankly Gorge.
Enter FELIX, bearing a Horn, VISCUS and SOLDIERS.
FELIX: The Thetan army files into the valley.
Men, take good care your slow match stays alight:
There can be no delay firing the charges.
Now to your stations. When I blow my horn,
Light ye your fuses and run up the slope
Quick as ye can: we know not what will happen.
VISCUS: Nay, we do not. We may not shift the snow,
Or the whole valley may come tumbling down
Bearing us with it to a dismal death.
FELIX: What would we do without thy cheerful words?
We are secure: we stand upon a rock,
And all the men save those who fire the charges
Are drawn well back behind the mountain edge.
But see: the Thetans reach the fatal zone.
(He blows his Horn.)
Now brother, brighten thou thy gloomy visage
And hope with me that we shall crush the foe.
Nature is on our side; let her rain down
Destruction on these most unnatural men.
(Explosions, followed by a growing Hiss and a deafening Roar.)
VISCUS: O what a scene! The mountainside doth melt
And flow in tumult like a stormy ocean
Bearing away the trees, the very rocks,
Cascading ruin on the hapless foe;
Glad as I am, I tremble at the sight.
Brother, forgive me for my feeble doubts;
We win a battle as no army could.
FELIX: I too had no idea of what a force
We would unleash with a few pounds of powder.
Moments ago there was a valley floor,
A road, a teeming throng of well armed men;
Now, nothing but a formless sea of white.
Pray for their souls – although I fear that Satan
Will disappoint them in their foolish hopes.
(Enter a few SOLDIERS.)
Say, are our men all safe after the fall?
FIRST SOLDIER: Aye, all climbed up in time except Wee Gonk,
Who lost his footing; nearly carried down,
He saved himself by clinging to a tree.
But next time, sire, we should use longer fuses.
FELIX: I doubt there’ll be a next time for this trick;
Once is the only chance that we shall get.
VISCUS: Not so, brother: none know what we did.
Those who saw are all buried in the snow.
(Enter more SOLDIERS, leading SLAVES in Chains.)
SECOND SOLDIER: Your majesty, we found these men below;
They lagged behind the Thetan regiments
And ’scaped engulfment in the avalanche.
They are slaves, chained and driven by overseers,
But when they saw the snow swallow their masters
They gained new courage and dispatched their guards,
Strangling them with their bonds of slavery.
FIRST SLAVE: O gracious majesty, pray spare our lives!
We are Gromboolians, captured by the Thetans,
Fettered and made to do their menial tasks.
We hate them from the bottom of our hearts
And long to wreak our vengeance on them all.
The Thetan armies raped our native land,
Stole the gold from our mines and bore it home.
I was brought there on one o’ their treasure ships,
A galley rowed by slaves, where I’d be yet,
Had not an overseer’s blow broken my arm,
So I was stranded on the Thetan shore
To toil in chains until a welcome death.
’Twas fate that spared our lives: now let us strive
To bring the foe the fate that they deserve.
FELIX: I hear thy plea. Now ye are slaves no more:
The farrier shall strike off your galling fetters.
Then, soldiers, bring them back one at a time
To take the oath to join our ragged army.
A word of caution: when ye swear that oath
Ye’ll hold this chalcedony of Etruria
Given me by my mother, a powerful witch.
If ye swear true, it will not do thee harm,
But if ye lie, ’twill burn you to the bone.
SECOND SLAVE: We hear, sire, and obey. We shall be true:
We live in hope to see the filthy Thetans
Cast down to hell to meet their master Satan.
He’ll give them a warm welcome, by my troth.
(SOLDIERS lead the Slaves away. Enter more SOLDIERS, leading a Band of ragged WOMEN.)
THIRD SOLDIER: Sire, we have found these ladies on the road
Straggling along behind the regiments.
FIRST WOMAN: Your majesty, we are camp followers,
Winning a few coins ministering to the Thetans;
They treated us like dogs, but we must live.
We’ll follow any camp that we can find:
We offer our professional services
To comfort and relieve your mighty army.
FELIX: Mighty? My army? Lass, thou mak’st me laugh.
We number scarce ten score, a motley crew,
Soldiers and farmers standing side by side,
Armed with whatever we could find or steal,
Quite without money for your services.
If ye desire to see Uraemia
Freed from the Thetan yoke, then come with us,
And serve us upright at the barricades
Rather than on your backs i’ a muddy thicket.
That is the best that I can offer you:
Take it, or else begone. What do ye say?
(The WOMEN confer.)
FIRST WOMAN: Sire, we have little love for our old trade;
A military career is a step up.
We’ll stand beside your soldiers, come what may.
FELIX: Then welcome to my band of ragged ruffians
Scraping a bare existence in the woods.
We live in peril, but within our souls
A flame burns, for we fight to free our folk.
SECOND WOMAN: Sire, we will join your cause with all our hearts:
Better to serve as soldiers than as tarts.