Illustrations © Zenobia 2018
A lonely Road in Theta, outside the Capital City of Uttalibad. Evening.
Enter TILDA, VUPECULA, JESSICA and KEVIN.
KEVIN: Less than a mile to go. Ladies, ’tis time
To don your hideous bags of slavery
And buckle on your fetters. Are ye sure
Ye’ll get them off when needed, with your spells?
VULPECULA: I have it perfectly: the scissor gesture,
The magic word of Rumpo, and they’re gone.
Jessica too can break a chain at will,
Though often she brings down the wall with it.
TILDA: And I at least can turn a chain to cheese,
Easy to slice, convenient, nutritious.
KEVIN: Now I must don the costume of a eunuch
To chaperone thee in the city streets.
’Tis well my face is swathed i’ a flannel scarf
As th’ ginger beard would be a giveaway.
Darkness is falling; with its friendly aid
Wardrobe malfunctions will not be apparent.
(All don Thetan Apparel.)
KEVIN: My dears, ye all look simply horrible.
TILDA: And thou look’st worse than us, i’ thy frilly skirt
And coat of hessian, pointed leather hat
Topped with a bell, slippers of donkey skin,
And face all muffled up in a great cloth.
Truly these Thetans have no fashion sense.
KEVIN: It mocks me as a eunuch; I feel th’ shame.
But we’ve a task to do, and on my word
Of honour as a pirate, I’ll perform it.
(Enter a THETAN.)
THETAN: In Satan’s name, an evil evening to thee.
KEVIN: May Satan’s hand caress thee on thine arse.
Know’st thou the way to our dear leader’s palace?
I’ve concubines for him when he returns
Fresh from his triumph in Uraemia.
THETAN: One of them seems a little under age;
Yet, Satan, if that is how he prefers them,
’Tis not our business.
KEVIN: Nay, by Satan’s spleen.
But say, will this road bring us to the palace?
THETAN: ’Twill bring thee to the western city gate;
From there, thou’lt see the palace straight before thee.
’Tis hard to miss, by Satan: nine floors tall,
Faced with black granite, bleak and terrible.
But stay, a friendly word ere ye depart,
For sons of Satan must assist each other;
No one else will. Affairs go ill at th’ palace
Since Gonbad left to take Uraemia
And left it in the charge o’ his vizier Scuzzi.
News from abroad is ill, and any folk
Who bring such news, or do aught to offend him,
Are racked until their sinews burst asunder,
Then flung i’ th’ fire to soothe his wounded feelings.
I trow thou may’st be safe, bringing him women,
But take good care to hold thy tongue before him.
KEVIN: I thank thee, friend; may Satan do thee th’ honour
Of voiding his noble bowels over thy head.
But say, I have not heard news from abroad:
How goes it with his majesty’s campaign?
Surely he triumphs, as he always has.
THETAN: Truly, ’twixt thou and me and th’ doorpost
– May Satan’s ear be turned away from us –
The conquest of Uraemia goes ill.
Their king, with a gang of ragged terrorists,
Can roam throughout the country as he pleases,
Harrying our men and stealing their provisions;
The country folk all aid him, though we slay them
And burn their villages to keep them sweet.
There’s worse to tell, for three whole Thetan legions
Perished when snow buried them in a valley.
We think it was their work, Satan knows how.
KEVIN: Grave news indeed, by Satan’s hairy bollocks.
THETAN: And graver yet, pirates assail our shores
To loot and burn our lord’s most holy temples.
They steal the instruments of gold, and – Satan smite them –
Have impiously taken th’ Golden Virgin
Crusted with gems from all our conquered lands.
Gonbad hath brought three regiments back home
To stem the raids, but what’s the use of them
When raiders can strike freely on our coast?
Worst of all, they have seized four treasure ships
Laden with gold from the Gromboolian mines.
Our people, hitherto his willing slaves,
Are murmuring: the air is full of rumours.
When Gonbad shall come home, go thou not near him.
Even with all the women thou hast brought,
One word, one look, one gesture out of place
And thou art headed for the rack and th’ fire.
His vizier’s cruel, but he is crueller still,
And not the least of it to his own folk.
By Satan, may the concubines thou bring’st him
Restore his mood before he burns us all.
KEVIN: Amen to that, by Satan’s brimming bowels.
I thank thee, friend, for thy most timely warning.
I’ll be a very paragon of discretion.
THETAN: I must be off: if I be late arriving,
My master’ll flog my back to th’ very bone.
KEVIN: May Satan’s farts waft thee along thy way.
TILDA: ’Tis everything we hoped: the state is failing.
What better time than now to spark rebellion?
On then to Uttalibad and, come what may,
We shall not rest till we have won the day.