Illustrations © Zenobia 2018
Aboard the Pirate Ship.
Enter TILDA, ETTY and KEVIN.
TILDA: ’Tis grand to be aboard a ship once more.
Yet I confess, when climbing up the rigging
I felt quite breathless ere I reached the top.
ETTY: So did I. We are sadly out of training,
E’en after months of climbing bloody mountains.
We need to sharpen up before the fight.
KEVIN: I never saw a lady scale the ratlines;
Ye did it well enough despite those skirts.
Might I suggest, before the fray begins,
Ye rummage in the slop chest for some breeches?
(Voice of a LOOKOUT, from above): Sail ho! Due east, it looks to be a galley.
KEVIN: They’ll not have seen us yet from their short mast.
(Enter VULPECULA, bearing the Scrying Glass.)
VULPECULA: ’Tis captain Rottun, as I promised thee.
See, here he is, having a rower flogged.
KEVIN: Aye, there’s the bugger. When we seize the galley
The rowers all will turn against their masters
And be the best prize crew ye can imagine.
A handful of our men to guide their way,
And they will row t’ a safe port and their freedom
And thank us for it, while we take the gold.
TILDA: Dusk falls. Are we sufficiently upwind
To close upon them when ’tis fully dark?
KEVIN: Aye, and the plan’s well laid. We’ll strike her side,
Where th’ gunwale’s low, and boarding a short leap.
’Twill crush the oars and hamper her retreat
So we can cast our grappling irons upon her
And haul ourselves alongside in a trice.
’Tis well ye had a dozen blacksmiths with you
To break the rowers’ fetters. We shall arm them,
And they will marmalise the Thetan crew
With all the bitterness seared in their souls.
JESSICA: O I have had such sport upon the rigging!
The sailors showed me how to pass the top
By th’ futtock shrouds, not through the lubbers’ hole,
I would not be a lubber for all th’ world.
KEVIN: She is the favourite of all the crew,
And clambers on the rigging like a monkey.
JESSICA: I’ve made a new illusion for you all:
A great big navy of a hundred ships.
O, may I show you?
KEVIN: Aye gladly, my poppet,
But make it on that side, away from th’ galley;
We do not wish them to see anything.
(A huge Navy appears.)
KEVIN: ’Tis wondrous finely done, and I can see
Thou hast the rigging perfectly correct;
Thy time i’ th’ shrouds hath truly served thee well.
Even the sails are filling as they should
I’ th’ westerly breeze. But pray, why are they pink?
ETTY: ’Tis a girl thing, thou wouldst not understand.
KEVIN: ’Twill puzzle th’ enemy, and that is good.
But I’ve a thought: canst thou remove the sails
And show the ships moving without a wind
And all manned by a crew of skeletons?
’Twould terrify the trews off th’ enemy.
JESSICA: Aye, that I can. Say, how do ye like this?
(The Illusion changes. Enter PIRATES.)
FIRST PIRATE: Jesu Maria! Fly, or we are doomed!
SECOND PIRATE: ’Tis nothing but the little maid’s illusion.
Brace up, man, thou dost look a proper wally.
KEVIN: ’Tis brilliant, lass, truly they’ll soil their breeches.
Now save thy grand illusion for the future,
For we creep softly like a rat i’ th’ dark.
(The Navy vanishes.)
KEVIN: Now, men, ’tis time to clear the decks for action:
As night falls, we shall fall upon the galley.
Knock the partitions down, run out the guns,
Break out the cutlasses, daggers and pistols,
Set pails of water all about the deck,
Let the damned sawbones sharpen all his knives;
Ye know the drill. And Jessica, my dear,
When we come close, thou’rt going below deck.
I know thou hast more power than any o’ us,
But all the more we need to keep thee safe.
And sooth, we wish not thy young eyes to see
The carnage there will be upon the deck.
JESSICA: Aye, I will go. But Kevin, if ye need
A navy suddenly, ye know who to call.
TILDA: We’ll stay, for ’tis not our first sea battle.
Etty, my dear, let’s garb ourselves in trews
And choose ourselves a brace of cutlasses
And take a little practice on the poop
To get our arms true for the coming fray.
ETTY: Aye, for eight years and more have passed
Since we slew Tartars with our yataghans.
We’ll add some Thetans to our hunting bag.
TILDA: I think me not that we have lost the knack.
They fought us down; now we are fighting back.