Illustrations © Zenobia 2018
Felix’s Camp in the Mountains.
Enter FELIX, TILDA, VULPECULA, ETTY, JESSICA and VISCUS.
JESSICA: And did the snow really kill all those men?
I wish I’d seen, it would have been such sport.
TILDA: Nay, child, ’twould not have been. There is no sport
In seeing folk engulfed in glaciers;
Bad though they be, they are still mortal men,
And one man’s death’s a little death for all.
Killing is what we do when other means
Have failed, and we can find no other way.
O that we could evict the enemy
Without one murder more: just let them go,
And leave our country in its wonted peace!
VULPECULA: Remember, Jessica, thou must not kill:
A single death brings ruin to thy soul.
JESSICA: Granny, I know. And yet I sit and chafe:
I conjure armies, fiends disguised as goats,
Anything I can think of – there it is!
And it can frighten folk, but nothing more.
’Tis naught compared to the great fall of snow
That took so many of the Thetan army.
FELIX: Jessica, ’tis thy talent, and a great one.
Do not dismiss it: we shall use thy skill
And deem it great as any avalanche.
– But now, let us consider what we’ve done,
And what we may do: we have won a battle,
And not a small one, for three regiments
Are gone; but seven more are still at large
And garrisoned within Purdonium
Beyond our reach, while we hide in the hills
With our intrepid but innocuous band.
What can we do to further our campaign?
ETTY: I have thought much on that. We are but few
And struggle feebly ’gainst the numerous foe.
Today good fortune gave us victory
But, in the long run, who can count on fate?
Here in the hills there’s little we can shift;
Where can we do more? Then within my mind
The germ of an idea began to sprout.
Mayhap ’tis foolish.
VULPECULA: Etty, tell us more;
Foolish ideas may have wise consequences.
ETTY: May we have words with that Gromboolian slave
Who was a rower in the treasure ship?
FELIX: Ho, guard, come hither, I’ve a task for thee.
(Enter a SOLDIER.)
Pray find the slave who brought his fellows to us.
SOLDIER: I hear, sire, and obey; I know the man.
ETTY: How can we hurt the Thetans worst of all?
Taking their treasure ships would be a start,
And who could do it better than Red Kevin,
The boldest pirate on the seven seas?
TILDA: Dear friend, ’tis brilliant. From old times I knew
In times of trouble I could count on thee.
When we cannot defend, we shall attack;
We’ll take the war right to the enemy.
VULPECULA: I’ll find their vessels with my scrying glass
If I but know the name of each ship’s captain.
The scrying glass is of the latest mode,
Giving the bearing and distance of its visions:
We’ll find a ship within a mile or two
Though it be hid in farthest Madagascar.
Etty, I thank thee – lo, here the man comes.
(Enter FIRST SLAVE.)
FIRST SLAVE: Sire, I am here to do your gracious bidding.
FELIX: Welcome, good comrade. We have questions for thee.
ETTY: On th’ treasure ship, how was the captain called?
FIRST SLAVE: Why, Rottun, captain of the Pestilence.
ETTY: And didst thou hear of th’ other treasure ships?
FIRST SLAVE: Aye, there were six in all: the others were,
If memory serves well, the Inflammation
Captained by Filthi, and the Carbuncle
With captain Septik, and the Teratoma –
What was the captain’s name? I have it – Pus.
The last two were the Ulcer, under Sordid,
And captain Snotragh’s old Abomination.
VULPECULA: ’Tis well remembered. Prithee, stay awhile
And look into this glass that I shall show thee.
(She speaks to the Scrying Glass.)
Show captain Rottun, of the Pestilence.
(To FIRST SLAVE:) Is that the captain of thy treasure ship?
FIRST SLAVE: Aye, curse the dog, that is his evil visage;
May festering infection sear his loins!
VULPECULA: He stands some fifty-seven miles from here;
The bearing is southeast by south – we have him!
FIRST SLAVE: A short way off the shore o’ Opuntia
He creeps coastwise to bear his cargo home
Lest ocean storms should sink his golden burden.
Aye, in our ship the ballast in the bilges
Was bars of purest gold stacked three feet high
Till she could barely float, and in a storm
We nearly foundered as the waves broke o’er us.
ETTY: We’ll turn this image to reality
If we can list Red Kevin to our cause.
Surely he’ll rally to us if we offer
Riches beyond the dreams of avarice.
TILDA: We have a plan, Felix my dearest love.
FELIX: And in the morn we shall be on the move.