to Greater Anthropology


The Apple Kingdom

by Eric Pettifor

 [The desert. And that is enough for description, the word itself contains arid wind, hot sand, burning sun, enough. Just the desert and the soul is glad to be at home and not there. On the horizon of this desert a shape appears. It grows larger as it approaches and takes on form. A lizard. A lizard such as might be found in a desert, as part of the definition of the word, part of the conjured image in the mind. But this lizard is different. It stops, looks up, and there is intelligence in its eyes. It speaks.]

LIZARDIt is a desert, yes, so indeed. But more to me who can remember and to me who calls it home and to me who am so old that I have seen you all a hundred times a hundred places. It is good you forget or you would become bored all the sooner with it all bored all the sooner, not I. I remember things and remembering remember more till I am not sure I'm not then now, and now now is just a fancy I don't fancy much but which I cannot shake.

This desert was not always so, oh no, not so, not always. It is a place you have all forgotten and yet cannot forget, not if you live ten thousand lives or just one as long as mine has been these years on years.

This was 'Once Upon A Time' when 'Once Upon A Time' wasn't called that, when 'Once Upon A Time' was not long ago nor far away, when those who lived here were living and not spoken of as those who are dead and whose memories we bespeak as though inventing them for the first time.

I close my eyes and remember, remembering and remembering live again when then was now, and not so far away, no, not so very far away.

Once upon a time, a long time ago,
For that's the way these stories go,
Once upon a time, a sigh across the years,
Initials in a stone, a reflection in a tear.

 [The glaring sun of the scorching desert shifts and changes, becomes muted and twisted and eerie. Sounds of mud bubbling and sad nameless things moaning in the distance. The feeble rays of the sun cast mottled shadows through the trees. It is the lair of ZAMA KOR. She enters, excited.]

ZAMA KOR A visitor!

LIZARDWitch?

ZAMA KOR Royalty! Bow low before me, my reptilian friend, let our guest see how I must be revered.

LIZARDBut I am your familiar, not some random petitioner.

ZAMA KOR If you do not, why then I shall turn you into something terrible, truly awful.

LIZARDWorse than a lizard?

ZAMA KOR Silence! A king approaches!

LIZARDYour power has not escaped the notice of kings.

ZAMA KOR My power is of the ancient line. Is it any wonder that kings shall seek my council?

LIZARDNo wonder, no, no wonder at all. My mind was merely wandering to the Kingdom of Troost where that great witch Ashra Za was burned at the stake.

ZAMA KOR Silence!

LIZARDThey say she threw off blue flames as she burned.

ZAMA KOR Be quiet! Or I shall transform you into something truly terrible!

LIZARDWorse than a lizard?

ZAMA KOR Bow before me!

Please?

 [The LIZARD bows obligingly. The KING enters, young, nervous.]

KINGAre the witch Zama Kor?

ZAMA KOR Why do you seek her, king?

KINGBecause I need help. I need help to become mighty.

ZAMA KOR Are you not a king?

KINGBarely. My kingdom is small, and not much. It is the Apple Kingdom.

ZAMA KOR The Apple Kingdom! The Apple Kingdom! You are not a king at all. You are little more than a peddler.

KINGI am a king!

ZAMA KOR In name, perhaps.

LIZARDI would ask a question, oh witch.

KINGIt talks!

LIZARDSo do you! How splendid! But my question is not for you, so we must talk later.

You call him a peddler, then concede him a crown in name. How can this be?

ZAMA KOR Kings of the World are mighty and possess armies, castles, land and gold aplenty. But this little king, most minor royalty, has none of these. All he has are apples, for that is all his kingdom is; one very old apple tree and all the land around it for 100 paces of a dwarf.

LIZARDI have heard of this land. The apples from that tree are the sweetest in all the world. Why do you seek the aid of Zama Kor?

KINGI am tired of apples! My kingdom is a joke! 'Ho, ho, there is the little Apple Kingdom! What mighty plans does its monarch have!' And whenever I attend the councils of kings they smile to themselves as I walk by, and the servants bow low with mock courtesy and sarcastic reverence and snicker at me as I pass! I can stand it no longer! I will be a king as kings should be and no one will laugh at me anymore!

ZAMA KOR And what have you to pay Zama Kor with, apples?

KINGI will do whatever you say, go on any quest, perform any deed that you can name!

ZAMA KOR And what tasks, what deeds, what quests can you perform, little peddler king, that my mighty magic could not do? Go home to your apples, go home to your tree and drown your ambition in cider.

KINGIs there nothing I can do to earn your help?

LIZARDThe great Zama Kor speaks only with mighty monarchs and absolute emperors, indeed, she even did love one once.

ZAMA KOR Silence lizard! That is none of his concern.

LIZARDAh me, that was long ago.

ZAMA KOR Be quiet.

LIZARDIt did not go well. He tried to slay her with his sword. It broke her heart and took his life and she has not loved since.

ZAMA KOR Silence, I say!

LIZARDThis she told me whilst in her cups, for it happened long before I was hatched.

ZAMA KOR Wait. Perhaps there is something you may do for me, King.

KINGName it and it shall be done!

ZAMA KOR Once upon a time I gave a lizard the power of speech. Now he talks.

LIZARDIt's true. I do.

ZAMA KOR And he talks.

LIZARDAnd I talk.

ZAMA KOR And he talks.

LIZARDAnd I talk.

ZAMA KOR And he talks too much.

LIZARDI talk rather a lot, it's true. Though never with my mouth full, for that would be rude, and the bugs I eat would escape from between my lizard lips.

ZAMA KOR You see! And there is nothing I can do, for once a spell is cast it may not be reversed! I have tried threats, I have threatened to turn him into something terrible, horrible, awful...

LIZARDWorse than a lizard?

ZAMA KOR Find for me a threat that will make my lizard shut his mouth that I may have peace!

KINGWitch, since it is terrible to be a lizard, threaten him with life eternal.

LIZARDOh no!

ZAMA KOR Oh yes! Oh yes indeed, it is perfect! Than you so much little peddler of apples. Now run along home and fortify your kingdom against worms, for that is the only army that would be interested in your worthless plot.

KINGBut what of our agreement?

LIZARDYou have much to learn about dealing with witches, mortal.

ZAMA KOR Begone, King of Apples.

KINGIs there nothing then?

ZAMA KOR Begone!

LIZARDWait, there is something I think.

ZAMA KOR Silence, reptile! Or you shall live forever a lizard!

LIZARDBut...

ZAMA KOR None of that!

LIZARDOkay.

ZAMA KOR What?

 [LIZARD looks at her and shrugs his shoulders. ]

 Speak!

LIZARDI cannot. You have forbidden me.

ZAMA KOR Then I unforbid you! Now tell!

LIZARDThe beauty spell. He could help you.

ZAMA KOR He? How so? I must have princess, virgin upon the celebration of her sixteenth year. I must have her heart to mince into an ointment.

LIZARDMight he not one day be a father?

ZAMA KOR Y...es, I see, yes indeed, he may very well be, he must! If I were to give you power and dominion over the kingdoms of the world, would you surrender up to me upon her sixteenth birthday a maiden princess, your daughter?

KINGIndeed I would! Anything you name! Dominion over the kingdoms of the world is even more than I have dreamed of! I will do it!

ZAMA KOR Very well then. This will take a magic greater than I have attempted ever, but the centuries pass and I grow stronger and mightier, and now at last the day has come and fate has ordained it to both our benefits.

 [ZAMA KOR raises both hands high above her head and makes little circles in the air. The wind begins to grow louder, its edge honed by the tinkling chimes in a minor chord. Suddenly ZAMA KOR plunges both her hands into her side and screams with the agony of centuries of suffering, and gradually her screams change to a roar such as a pride of triumphant lionesses might make, and from her side all dripping dark red blood she pulls a sword. Her voice is charged with power.]

 Take ye this sword, the gift of a lover and know; wherever and whenever in the ancient history of the world there has been a great man who conquered kingdoms and before whom none could stand, a man to whom nations swore oaths of blood and raised statues, this sword was in his hand.

KINGHas it a name, oh witch?

ZAMA KOR Of names it has many; Deliverer, Justice, and Vengeance are but a few. Call it what you will. With it, you are invincible.

KINGGive it me, oh witch, and come the time my promise shall be kept.

ZAMA KOR You do not know what you promise, and I cannot count on your word. There is yet another spell to make, a mighty bond between us.

KINGMy soul is not part of the bargain. Is it?

ZAMA KOR I need no more trash to litter this place.

Come time, come time,
The maiden will be mine.
Her young and untried heart
Will aid me in my art.
Come time, come time,
Her sixteenth year will chime,
And you will not oppose me.

KINGI will not oppose you.

ZAMA KOR You couldn't if you chose to.

KINGWhy should I oppose you?

Power is my only aim.

ZAMA KOR Then listen, young king, to these words of mine,
Come time, come time, the maiden will be mine,
Oppose me you will not, but you will aid me in this crime,
Come time, come time, come time.
Shillum illum killum, akabar roo,
Okus horus modious, scaborous droo,
Hilter kilter calander, gumpcious lie,
Pan piston, pan plato, pan portious pie.
  [KING and LIZARD join in chant, as gradually does an unholy sounding choir as well.]

 ALL Shillum illum killum, akabar roo,
Okus horus modious, scaborous droo,
Hilter kilter calander, gumpcious lie,
Pan piston, pan plato, pan portious pie.
 [The characters cease chanting, but the choir continues with the spell. KING kneels. ZAMA KOR presents to him the sword. He takes it, rises, and salutes her with it, pommel end down. He leaves the presence of ZAMA KOR with considerably more confidence and courage than when he first entered it. She waits a moment, to be sure he has gone, then she sinks to her knees in exhaustion.]
ZAMA KOR Such pain, such pain I had from it. How then is it that I am sad to have it gone?

LIZARDThe sorrow that you feel is for the lost last memento of a last love lost.

ZAMA KOR How dearly I paid for that memento! It poisoned me, poisoned me terribly.

LIZARDPoisoned you? How so?

ZAMA KOR I was beautiful once.

 [Light go down on all but LIZARD. He takes few steps forward into the void and his light moves with him. He addresses us.]

LIZARDThe story of the Apple King's rise to power.

 [KING is also suddenly in the void. The light fades on LIZARD.]

KINGIt was a sword of great might and even mightier will. It had a strange voice that was not a language, and yet I could understand it.

 [The sword makes a strange high pitched shivering of metal sound.]

 It was telling me to go to the court of King Lynn of Histronia, the country which surrounded my Apple Kingdom and a King who had laughed a lot at me, who once called me a fool amongst kings. When he saw me approaching his castle he did not laugh or call names. He quickly drew up the drawbridge. I stood outside his castle and did not know what I should do. Then my sword again did speak to me.

 [The sword makes its sound.]

 It told me what to say. I shouted, "King Lynn, come out of your tower, you cannot hide from me. By the power of the Sword That Was Lost But Now Has Returned I command you to surrender. You may keep your crown and your throne, but from this day hence you will bow to me and your armies will obey my commands, for I am no longer a fool amongst kings, but am Emperor of Kings, and you are now my subject. By the Power of the Sword I command it."

The drawbridge lowered and King Lynn came out and kneeled before me and said "I commend myself unto your service."

I took the Sword and knighted him, and so it came to pass that the kings of the lands I conquered became my knights, and the few that refused were slain and the Sword drank their blood.

The more I conquered the more powerful I became and the easier it was to conquer, but no matter how fast I added to my powerful realm, there were always still other lands to conquer, for the world is large, but one day, I knew, and so my sword sang to me, I would rule the world.

And so I conquered, and I conquered, and never did I lose.

 [He mimes sword battle with invisible enemies in slow motion accompanied by ponderous metal clanging sounds.

Once again the LIZARD stands in void, while the KING slowly fights his battles.]

LIZARDAnd so he fought and he conquered and he fought and he conquered and he fought and he conquered, and on and on and on, more than a vocation it was an obsession. Watching him endlessly battle and wage war it was never clear to me whether he possessed the Sword, or if the Sword possessed him.

Time passed marked by an hour glass whose sand was of dried blood. His subjects cried out for an heir, someone to succeed him on the throne, for should he die without leaving an heir to such a mighty empire, the world would be plunged into a bloody chaos and anarchy for years without end.

 [Suddenly ZAMA KOR too is in the void.]

ZAMA KOR He married with reluctance, for he remembered the promise he had so long ago made to me, and now that he had that which he desired, power, he did not feel as inclined to keep his end of the bargain. But he married a young queen and she became with child and ever and anon he would cry to her...

KINGA son! Give me a son! Do not bring into the world a girl-child doomed to die before her time.

ZAMA KOR At night I took the form of an old crow and I would fly into the bedroom of the queen. Taking my own form I would then pass my hands above her swollen belly and cast spells that would insure the baby be a girl.

LIZARDBut that was not all the wicked Zama Kor's spell did do. It so weakened the poor queen that immediately after the child was born, she...

KINGDied! Never again will I marry, never more will royal children be brought forth, let whom-so-ever wants to be, be king when I am gone.

LIZARDAnd so the King returned to the fields of war. His visits home were not many and never were they long, for he feared to grow fond of the child.

KINGBut I did grow fond of the child.

LIZARDIt is his fondness and his love that keep him away, for when he looks on her...

KINGI feel such sadness and such shame and I know that I have a done a wicked thing.

LIZARDHe tried to forget his feelings, to bury them beneath the terrible battle lust he felt when he wielded the Sword. And he sought peace through death, he sought to be killed in battle...

KINGBut I never was.

LIZARDThe years passed, war piled upon war piled upon war, every year saw a million men die. The Princess Catherine was near to sixteen million dead men old when she fell in love.

 [KING, ZAMA KOR, and LIZARD exit. ALDRIC enters bouncing a basketball, CATHERINE follows close behind. They are laughing and pass the ball back and forth between them.]

CATHERINEThis is basketball?

ALDRICIt is the latest in a long series of games invented by the gamemasters of my land. It is not expected to catch on, but for now it is popular.

CATHERINEPass!

 [He passes her the ball.]

ALDRICPass! I love you!

 [She passes him the ball.]

CATHERINEPass! And I love you.

 [He passes the ball to her. A servant enters and whispers in CATHERINE's ear.]

 No, say not so!

 [The servant looks at her gravely.]

 This will not be the last word! But it is the latest, and it must be obeyed. Thank you.

 [Exit servant. CATHERINE walks slowly over to ALDRIC and gives him the ball.]

ALDRICWhy look you so sad?

CATHERINEYou must be gone this minute.

ALDRICWhy?!

CATHERINEHe will not grant us permission to wed.

ALDRICDo you love me?

CATHERINEYes.

ALDRICThen I shall not go!

CATHERINEI will not have you caught and killed for a few more moments, precious though they be. You must leave. And now.

ALDRICCathy, when first I looked on you I loved. It was the same with you, I could see.

 [CATHERINE laughs ]

CATHERINENo. Not at first. I've seen many beautiful princes and twice as many beautiful eyes filled with generous supplication. It was when you spoke, and not of crowns or diamond halls, but of horses, of rolling hills, of people that you know, of basketball. And when you laughed, and I laughed, and we laughed, and it was there amidst the laughter that I felt something I had never felt before, yet knew. I love you, Aldric.

ALDRICI will await his return and speak to him directly.

CATHERINEIf the guards catch you they will kill you and think themselves doing service to the king.

ALDRICIt is a risk I take. I stay.

 [ZAMA KOR enters, disguised as CATHERINE's Aunt Wilhelmina. She has the LIZARD on a leash. The LIZARD is on all fours and wears long dog ears on his head. He neither looks nor feels very dignified.]

ZAMA KOR Do I know you?

CATHERINEAuntie! This is Prince Aldric.

ZAMA KOR (gasps, auntie roles slips for a moment) Aldric... but no, that cannot be...

ALDRICYou know the name?

ZAMA KOR (recovers auntie role) What? How could I? Indeed, no, I do not know, or did not know, that is to say, it is just that you resemble one whom I did love in my youth who also by chance you not only resemble but share the very same name. Perhaps he was your grandfather.

ALDRICThe kings and the sons of the kings of my land are always named Aldric. It is done to honour that great and mighty Lord of Men who brought Justice to our land and who was King Aldric the First. The legend has it that Death himself could not have conquered him but that it had for its ally that foulest of witches, the fabled Zama Kor.

ZAMA KOR Ah, how I do love history when it has fermented into legends. And what of Zama Kor? Do your folk have legends of the brutal treatment she received at Aldric's hand?

ALDRICHe did show her nothing but loving kindness which she did repay with treachery and death.

ZAMA KOR Oh, how history cheats! And you, young fellow, what number will be behind your borrowed name when you take the throne?

ALDRICI shall be King Aldric the 33rd.

ZAMA KOR Time passes, time passes so quickly it seems.

ALDRIC(aside to CATHERINE) Princess, are sure this is your aunt? There is a feeling around the back of my neck that she is not, that she is terrible evil.

CATHERINEAuntie?

ALDRICShe's not your aunt, my blood cries out she's not.

CATHERINEI've known her since I was small, every year she comes with Rex and sings with me. You are mistaken.

ALDRICI should not leave.

ZAMA KOR He should leave, Princess. Is he not the prince whom your father has forbidden you to marry?

CATHERINEBut Auntie, father has never met Aldric. If they can I know father will give his blessing.

ZAMA KOR I am so sorry, little Cathy, but your father's will must be obeyed, by me as much as you, and I fear I must call the guards.

CATHERINEI understand, Auntie. Run, Aldric!

ZAMA KOR Guards!

CATHERINEAldric, you must escape!

ALDRICI love you, Cathy!

ZAMA KOR Guards!

CATHERINEAnd I you! But go now!

ALDRICI will, but not to my lands, not far. Call and I will hear!

ZAMA KOR Guards, hurry, capture the intruder!

CATHERINEGood-bye!

ALDRICGood-bye!

CATHERINEGood-bye!

ALDRICGood-bye!

ZAMA KOR Hurry guards, or he will escape!

 [ALDRIC exits running.]

ZAMA KOR Guards, make haste! There are five gold ducats for the one who brings me his head! (To CATHERINE) Ah, me, I fear the guards will catch and kill him. I gave him more time than I ought, but he wouldn't take it. I gave him every chance.

CATHERINEYou didn't have to offer the guards five gold ducats for his head.

ZAMA KOR Did I do that? Ah, me, I must have gotten caught up in the excitement of it all. Will you forgive me?

CATHERINEOf course, Auntie. I know he will escape.

ZAMA KOR Do you think so? Let's ask Rex. Do you think he'll escape, Rex?

 [No response from LIZARD.]

 I said, do you think he'll escape?

LIZARD(without enthusiasm) Woof. Woof.

 [CATHERINE gets down to the level of LIZARD.]

CATHERINEGive me a kiss!

 [LIZARD looks up at ZAMA KOR. She gives him a little kick. LIZARD licks CATHERINE's face. She laughs delightedly.]

ZAMA KOR I know, why don't we sing our song?

CATHERINEYes. When I was little, before I learned of time, the surest way that I could tell that my birthday was coming was your arrival and the song.

ZAMA KOR Then let us sing, let us sing the song and cleanse your heart.

 [The song might have some light accompaniment to begin with, but as it progresses the unholy choir from the scene with ZAMA KOR and the young KING fades in chanting and continues under ZAMA KOR's verse monologue. ]

BOTHShillum illum killum, akabar roo,
Okus horus modious, scaborous droo,
Hilter kilter calander, gumpcious lie,
Pan piston, pan plato, pan portious pie.
& CHOIRShillum illum killum, akabar roo,
Okus horus modious, scaborous droo,
Hilter kilter calander, gumpcious lie,
Pan piston, pan plato, pan portious pie.
ZAMA KOR She has opened up her heart and welcomed in the stranger,
She sings on and on and she cannot see the danger,
For I am Zama Kor, the sorceress she warned of,
That black nightmare power, who killed whom she was born of.

I am Zama Kor! Friend of Pestilence and War!
Mighty Mistress of Magic, of lightning and Lore!

I must repossess the beauty that's my right,
The beauty that I lost in that woeful, wrongful fight.
The remedy's apparent, and well within my art,
I must have the Princess, I must have her for her heart!

Then not only mighty, I'll be beautiful as well,
And the men who come aflocking, their souls I'll send to hell.
All the world I'll burn and crack and I'll destroy,
Then when all but I are ugly, I'll be heaven's only joy.

I am Zama Kor! Friend of Pestilence and War!
Mighty Mistress of Magic, of lightning and Lore!

 [Choir ceases abruptly. CATHERINE snaps out of trance. ZAMA KOR returns to auntie role.]

ZAMA KOR Oh, my little dear, you sing so prettily!

CATHERINEThat is so... that song..., it makes me feel... It's hard to put it right.

ZAMA KOR Try.

CATHERINEIt makes me feel wanted.

ZAMA KOR Oh, you are, my sweet, you are most certainly wanted.

CATHERINECan we sing it again. Please?

ZAMA KOR If you insist, my little dear heart.

BOTHShillum illum killum, akabar roo,
Okus horus modious, scaborous droo,
Hilter kilter calander...

 [KING enters.]

KINGCathy!

CATHERINEDaddy!

 [She runs and jumps into his arms. They hug.]

KINGOh, princess!

CATHERINEYou've come home!

KINGThat's right, I've come home to see you. And to see Auntie Wilhelmina. I can count on her to be here this time of year. She sings that song with you, doesn't she.

CATHERINEIllum shillum killum, akabar...

KING(shouting) I do not want to hear it!... I am sorry Cathy, I am, it is just that I heard a song like it once long ago, and now it makes me sad.

CATHERINEI won't sing it if it makes you so.

KINGI'm sorry I shouted. I have returned especially to see you and to be with you.

ZAMA KOR How touching. What a good father you are.

KINGBut first I must have some words with the... with your aunt. Will you leave us for a short time?

CATHERINEI have something important to ask you.

KINGI know. I will call you soon, and then we shall spend the rest of the day together.

CATHERINEWe will not be interrupted?

KINGWhoever does so will be at peril of his very life.

CATHERINEGood. Don't be long.

KINGNo longer than I can help, Cathy, no longer than that.

 [CATHERINE looks fondly at her father and leaves.]

 Good Witch, I am glad to see you.

ZAMA KOR 'Good Witch, I am glad to see you!' Ah, here is a new song!

KINGZama Kor, there is nothing the world that I do not have the power to give. Pick some other thing. Leave me my daughter.

ZAMA KOR There is nothing you have that I could not take if I desired it. And there is nothing I desire but that which is already mine. Your daughter. You cannot break the bond.

KINGThere must be a way. What if I could.

CATHERINEIt is not a matter for 'what ifs'. You simply cannot.

KING'What ifs' are my only hope. They are the most powerful of all, for they are found in beginnings. Before there was anything, there was a 'What if'.

ZAMA KOR You speak drivel and you speak nonsense and you do speak of things you do not know. But know this; even should you break my mighty bond, the girl is mine. I am a great Witch, yes, I, Zama Kor, am the mightiest of the dwindling ancient line, the mightiest there has ever been. But that contract into which you entered so many years ago makes me mightier still in matters concerning its fulfillment. Even if you could hide your daughter at the very centre of this world, it would give me the power to blow all the world away to find her. So much for your 'What ifs'. They only exist in beginnings. Endings are so much more permanent.

KINGI will tell her you are not really her aunt. I will tell her you are really an evil witch who seeks to kill her. Then she will run away and escape you.

ZAMA KOR You cannot tell her. The bond will not let you. But surely you know that?

KINGI know.

ZAMA KOR What if I could give you more time with her? Extend the contract? I must ask something in return. Kill the prince that visits her.

KINGSurely he has returned to his own land?

ZAMA KOR No. He lingers still, impudent brat, near to the castle. Hunt him out and destroy him and you will have your daughter for another year.

KINGWhy is it that you do not kill him yourself?

ZAMA KOR A matter of little importance. He does resemble slightly one whom I did love. It is a visage that I would be loathe to slay again.

KINGWhat is he to you, aside from this resemblance?

ZAMA KOR Nothing! He is nothing. It is merely the custom that when one of the ancient line, such as I, do generously grant a favour that a price must be paid. That is my price, that is all. Do as I command!

KINGWhat if the prince were dangerous to the dreadful witch?

ZAMA KOR Hah!

KINGAnd what if within her stony heart a dusty spark of remembered love flared up and would not let her kill his likeness?

ZAMA KOR My heart is of cold iron and I command it!

KINGWhat if Prince Aldric could somehow save my daughter from you?

ZAMA KOR Stop with your 'What ifs'! Your daughter's fate cannot be changed!

KINGWhat if it can?

ZAMA KOR You can do nothing! You are a servant of the bond, you are a pawn and you will obey my will and the terms of the contract.

KINGPerhaps, but then I am not the one you fear! Get you gone, Witch! And never more let your twisted shadow darken my castle's stones. Now go!

 [There is an explosion and ZAMA KOR disappears.]

 Catherine! Come quick, make haste, your father calls! Summon the Princess Catherine unto the King! Cathy, come to your daddy!

 [She runs to him.]

 That's the way! That's the way! What took you so long?

CATHERINEI was playing basketball. It's a new game I learned.

KINGNow tell me, you had something to discuss.

CATHERINEI'm in love.

KINGWith who?

CATHERINEA fellow. A fine, fine fellow, father. His name is Aldric. He wants to marry me.

KINGI see. And do you want to marry him?

CATHERINEVery much.

KING(hopeful) Would you now?

CATHERINEYes, I would.

KINGWell then.

CATHERINEI must ask for your permission.

KINGDo not, for I cannot give it.

CATHERINEBut father, he is a good man and comes from good people, why then can you not give me your permission to marry him?

KINGAsk not, for I cannot tell you, just as surely as I cannot give my permission for you to wed.

CATHERINEPlease give Aldric and I your blessing.

 [The KING's head nods up and down and all his body language suggests an affirmative response, but the words contradict the appearance.]

KINGNo, you certainly cannot marry the prince.

CATHERINEPlease, father?

KING(still nodding) Never in ten million years.

CATHERINEWhich do you mean? Your head nods yes, but your words say no. Which is it then?

 [The KING is still nodding and now trying with all his might to say 'yes', but to no avail.]

KING...nnno...nnnnoo... ye...nno. No. Alas, it is of no use.

CATHERINEYou mock me. You are making fun of me.

KINGOh no, Cathy, I am not, please don't think that. Do you wish to wed Prince Aldric?

CATHERINEWith all my heart.

KINGHave you never thought to disobey me? To marry the prince without my permission and against my decree?

CATHERINEAs much as I do love him, I do owe to you a double loyalty. First as you are my father, and second as king. I cannot marry without your blessing.

KINGOh... Well... Are you certain? Can there be no exception? Not even if your life did depend upon it?

CATHERINEAm I in danger, father?

KING(nodding vigorously) No, no, no, it is safe here.

CATHERINEThere, once more you mock me! You will not answer me straight, but nod your head 'yes' whilst speaking 'no', just as when I asked for your permission to wed! I will have no more of this, father or no father, king or no king!

KINGNo, wait! I do not mock you, truly I do not.

CATHERINEYou do, truly you do! May I have your majesty's permission to leave the royal presence?

KINGNo. One... thing. Just one thing before you go from me. A gift.

CATHERINEI need no gifts. I have all that I desire but that which I desire most.

KINGIt was your mother's.

CATHERINEI did not know my mother. It would mean more to you who can remember her. Keep it.

KINGYou must take it. Do not make me order you to accept a gift that is given for love.

CATHERINEWhat is it then.

KINGA ring of three small wishes. It is not a mighty magic, but if you do not tax it overly it may serve you well. I gave it to her on our wedding day. She had neither time nor opportunity to use it.

CATHERINEIt cannot be said to be very lucky then, can it.

KINGI am hoping it will be more so for you.

CATHERINEOh father, let me beseech you once more, Aldric will one day be a king in his own right, and he is a good fellow and his laughter is such music to me, and his country is said to be kind. Let us wed.

KING(nodding) No, you cannot.

CATHERINEHow can you be so cruel? You are never home and never home and when you are you are just cruel.

KINGYou do not understand.

CATHERINEMay I leave now?

KINGYou may leave.

 [She exits. The KING shuts his eyes tight and bows his head.

Lights down. Lights up on ALDRIC. He is trying to write a poem.]

ALDRICI do love a princess fair
Who doth live in the castle yond,
And she and I will one day wed,
And...

And...

And what? What can I rhyme with yond? Gond, lond, hond, pond... Pond? Perchance pond?

I do love a princess fair
Who doth live in the castle yond,
And she and I will one day wed...
And swim in the castle pond!

Yes, that works! Next verse. Hmm.
Our marriage will be blest with all,
With fortune and good luck,
Together we'll walk hand in hand...

 [LIZARD enters running]

LIZARDPrince Aldric! Prince Aldric! We must save the princess for she is in terrible danger!

ALDRICWilhelmina's dog! Thou art no dog! Thou art a lizard!

LIZARDThat is so, but prithee, listen...

ALDRICAnd you can talk!

LIZARDYes, I can talk. Can you listen?

ALDRICI can listen.

LIZARDThen listen while I talk.

(To audience) So I did tell him of Catherine's plight.

ALDRICAnd I did listen to his words.

LIZARDTogether we decided...

BOTHTo the princess!

 [They exit running. Enter CATHERINE in her garden, reciting.]

 For I do love a prince so bold
Who waits nearby for me,
My heart does know one day we'll wed,
And happy we will be, will be,
And happy we will be.

That this be so, that we be wed,
I pray you gods of serendipity,
Bring us together and bring us joy,
And...

 [Enter ALDRIC and LIZARD running. ]

LIZARDPrincess, you are in great danger!

ALDRICIf this lizard speaks true, your peril is great!

CATHERINEThat this lizard who I took for dog speaks at all doth strike me with amazement, but it is you who are in great danger, returning here to me.

LIZARDAunt Wilhelmina is not your aunt, but the wicked Zama Kor and she does seek your heart that she may mince it into an ointment!

ALDRICYou must come away with me! I will guard you and protect you from her evil! Come!

CATHERINEAldric, it took courage to come here despite your danger, and this trick you try, I realize it is done for love.

ALDRICWhat trick?

CATHERINEI do not know how the dog became a talking lizard, perhaps some magic from your father's kingdom.

LIZARDYou don't believe us?

CATHERINE(laughing) How do you do it, Aldric? How do you make it talk?

LIZARDPrincess, I can speak because of a spell put on me by the witch. I am her familiar, and it is with most grave danger to my future that I am here. Please do not laugh or disbelieve.

CATHERINEI will not go away with you. I will not marry without my father's consent.

ALDRICI wish only to save you! The witch who is no relative of thine seeks to kill you.

CATHERINEWere this so, and I know it is not, my father would protect me.

LIZARDIt was he that sold you to her.

CATHERINEDo you test the limit of my love?

LIZARDHe sold you before you were even born, promised you to her in return for great power, that power that even now he wields. She made him mighty.

CATHERINEHe has been acting strange of late...

LIZARDThe witch's spell will not let him do anything that would help you. Doubt not that he loves you. For he does. Very much.

CATHERINEYes, he does, and he would not sell me to a witch and I cannot believe that Aunt Wilhelmina is a witch and I think that this trick has been carried far, too far, Aldric. Get ye gone! Or this time I will call the guards upon you! Go!

 [ALDRIC and LIZARD leave reluctantly.]

 Go!

Where was I?

Yes. I remember.

That this be so, that we be wed,
I pray you gods of serendipity,
Bring us together... and bring us joy...,

Father? Could you have? I do not want to believe it. Therefore it is not so? No. No trick. The lizard speaks truly. Oh, my poor, poor father, what is it that you have done? Father?

You're in all the paintings in my memory's collection,
Your love's the only thing I'm certain that is true,
Your face, your sweet sad smile, when we say good-bye,
And though you've never said it, you love me too.

You're a king of men, so powerful to behold,
As you lead our roaring armies through the castle gates,
But to me you are my dad, and your leaving makes me sad,
My father forever, forever my father,
Forever, forever, my dad.

That's why it's hard to say good-bye,
More cruel, I cannot even say it to your face.
It's a different kind of love I'll live for now.
Beyond the fields we know, beyond this place.

For if I stay I will not be,
With two fine friends then I will flee,
But always in my heart, father,
Always in my soul, daddy,
There's eternal love for thee,
Burns eternal love for thee.

You're a king of men, so powerful to behold,
As you lead our roaring armies through the castle gates,
But to me you are my dad, and my leaving makes me sad,
My father forever, forever my father,
Forever, forever, my dad.

I must find them.

 [She goes, looks back once, exits. Lights down. Lights up on LIZARD and ALDRIC.]

ALDRICShe would not believe us.

LIZARDI have risked much.

ZAMA KOR (offstage voice, miked with a bit of reverb) Very much, my lizard friend, very much indeed!

 [Suddenly a wild wind comes up and ALDRIC is blown away. The LIZARD spins and the light shrinks around him until he stands alone in a glaring spot. The wind dissolves into the sounds of the witch's lair.]

 You have betrayed me! You have been warned again and again what would happen should you ever do such a thing! Forever as a lizard you must live!

LIZARDNo, oh witch, oh wise and wonderful, oh mighty and terrible Zama Kor! Forgive your poor lizard his little mistake. It has done you no harm, the princess would not believe us, she is still at the castle, her fate is in no way changed!

ZAMA KOR Fool! A bat within the castle braved the light of day and flew to me to report not only your disobedience, but that the princess has fled!

LIZARDThen she must pass through the forest where you have so many fearful, faithful servants! She will not escape you.

ZAMA KOR Faithful servants! Ha! I place no stock in them. Perhaps she will charm them as she hath my little doggy, most faithful, most trusted, most true! But come the dead of night we will see.

LIZARDYes, we will see.

ZAMA KOR And you will see millennia pass before you find a mightier magic than mine to send you to your rest! A spell of eternal life I cast upon thee, you will not die, but live forever a lizard! Forever and forever! Forever and forever!

 [The last "Forever and forever" repeats and echoes, growing louder and more distorted as the spot of light grows even stronger and the LIZARD curls up in pain and agony, until finally the sound and the spot dissolve into the sound and light of the desert that was at the top of the show. It is a very tired and ancient LIZARD who speaks to us.]

LIZARDI have not yet found a mightier magic, though I have searched the world over seven times seven times. And so I have returned to this desert that was 'Once Upon A Time' and so I come to tell to you this tale. But I grow weary and must rest a bit, a short while before I continue. The mighty forces that have brought you here to me, that great wind, the powers that are here manifest, have made available refreshments in the lobby. For myself, I must rest awhile ere I go on.

End Act I

 [To Act II]

  1995 Eric Pettifor

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