Illustrations © Zenobia 2018
The Seraglio of Gonbad’s Palace in Uttalibad.
CONCUBINES are chained to the Wall, including ETHYLENE and OCTANE. Enter TILDA, VULPECULA and JESSICA, escorted by KEVIN, accompanied by a EUNUCH GUARD.
GUARD: Stand while I lock your fetters to the rail;
Ye may remove the bags from off your heads.
(To VULPECULA): Say, art thou not too old for th’ ruler’s bed?
KEVIN (in a high Voice): She was the choice of Pervi, the selector;
He called her milfy, and ’tis not for us
To question his decisions, Satan be praised.
GUARD: Nay, brother eunuch. By the warts of Satan,
If Gonbad like her not, she’s for the pit
Where she’ll be torn apart by starving dogs,
And Pervi’s back shall feel the lash, not ours.
KEVIN: I must be on my way. Farewell, my brother;
May Satan spew his supper on thy head. (Exit.)
GUARD: Ladies, I leave you to your lovely dreams;
Ye’ll get your bread and water in the morning. (Exit.)
VULPECULA: So this is how Gonbad doth treat his women.
We’ll lose these chains: Rumpo! They are all gone.
(All the CONCUBINES are unchained. They stand astonished.)
ETHYLENE: What hast thou done? We shall be slain for this.
By Satan’s horns, restore our chains to us.
OCTANE: Art thou a witch, that thou canst do such things?
Canst thou unmake our bonds and put them back?
VULPECULA: Aye, Retro!
(OCTANE is chained again.)
(The Chains vanish.)
VULPECULA: See, a moment’s work.
We three are witches: crone, mother and child,
A threefold coven armed with mystic powers,
And we have come to free you, and your nation.
ETHYLENE: Free us? From what? This is our role in life,
To comfort master Gonbad, the great ruler
Of Theta, the chief state of all the world
Whose conquests have amassed a mighty empire
Of boundless domination for all time.
What’s freedom when compared to Satan’s glory?
TILDA: Glory, ye say? Ye squat i’ a filthy cellar
Chained to a wall, waiting for master Gonbad
To roger you upon his stinking bed.
Ye are prisoners, the lowest of the low,
And with you, all the womenfolk of Theta,
Fettered and bagged and led about by eunuchs.
Ye are half the population of the land
– Aye, more than half, for many men are lost
In Theta’s stupid everlasting wars –
And yet ye let yourselves be shoved around
Like cattle waiting for the butcher’s axe.
Have ye no pride? Do ye not long for freedom
To walk the city streets with heads held high,
Unchained, unveiled, on level terms with men?
ETHYLENE: But ’tis the will of Satan we are here,
To serve him giving comfort to our ruler
Who is his intermediary on earth.
Men are our masters, and by pleasing them
We may please Satan, master of the world.
TILDA: Who said men were your masters?
ETHYLENE: Why, our priests.
TILDA: And they are men; of course they told you this.
Did Satan speak to you to tell you so?
ETHYLENE: Satan speaks not to us, but to the priests.
TILDA: How do ye know Satan talks to your priests
Or anyone? Why ever should he wish to?
His business, a task laid on him by God,
Is to preside in hell and punish sinners.
He doth not care a jot for all your priests,
Nor they for him. All they desire is power
And comfort, aided by your stolen gold.
ETHYLENE: Blasphemy! Satan sure will strike thee down
For these unruly words.
TILDA: See, am I struck?
OCTANE: I do confess I see no sign of ’t.
TILDA: Is there a temple in the palace precincts?
OCTANE: Aye, ’tis above. They take us there each Friday
And torture us to glorify his name;
See how my hands are burnt from the last session.
TILDA: They torture you, and yet ye praise his name?
This is abominable. Come, let’s to the temple,
Where we shall break their dismal instruments;
Then let us see if Satan smites me down.
ETHYLENE: He surely will, and gladly I shall watch it.
OCTANE: I am not sure. But say, we are unchained;
Let’s go above and put them to the test.
(All go above to the Temple.)
TILDA: See here a host of gruesome golden engines:
Pincers and tongs, braziers filled with coals,
Hooks, racks and the whole horrid apparatus
Of humans thinking that they serve their god.
Come, let us smash them all to smithereens.
(Some of the Instruments break.)
(All the Instruments are reduced to small Fragments.)
(The Building trembles and part of the Wall collapses.)
JESSICA: Was that too strong?
TILDA: Nay, in the circumstances ’twas just right.
Now see, ladies. We have profaned your temple
To some effect: the place is laid in ruins.
Is Satan raining fire upon my head?
Do ye smell brimstone, see a hornèd goat,
Or hear the faintest mutter of dissent?
Nay, this is not a seat of hellish power;
’This nothing but a room where wicked men
Amuse their evil selves with vicious pastimes.
Ye have it in your power to overthrow them:
Armed with our magic, will ye not prevail?
Let us away before the roof collapses,
And call the womenfolk throughout the city
To march with us and overthrow our tyrants!
OCTANE: I stand with thee.
CONCUBINES (severally): And I, and I, and I.
ETHYLENE: And I, though my heart is filled with bitter fear;
But when the chance is offered, we must seize it.
Better to die in battle than in chains.
TILDA: Onward to Uttalibad to free our sisters!
Today the town, tomorrow all of Theta!
All men must yield to our united might;
The wrong shall ne’er prevail against the right.