Scene One : The King’s Chamber. The King is seated in effulgent glory on his throne. The light pours out of him. Enter Sir Cleothgard, the King’s Chamberlain.
Chamberlain : May I be ushered into your dazzling presence, O mighty King?
King : Yes, yes, come in, Sir Cleothgard. Execute the necessary fawning and scraping, prostrate yourself in the muck, then hoist yourself to your feet and come clanking for’ard, but not too close.
Sir Cleothgard does as he is commanded.
Chamberlain : I bring grave news from the frontier, Sire.
King : Really? What have you been doing, galumphing around the frontier, when your duties lie here in the chamber?
Chamberlain : I thought I would get a bit of fresh air, O lord of light.
King : Did you indeed? Are you suggesting that the chamber is a fug of stale air enmixed with noisome pongs?
Chamberlain : Not for a moment, Sire. Truly, it is bliss to breathe the merest atom of air in the vicinity of your regal presence. And rest assured that all the while I was gallivanting I was in constant contact with the underchamberlain via my cordless metal tapping machine, ready to rush! rush! rush! to your side should my services be required.
King : And now you have come rush! rush! rushing!, so what is afoot?
Chamberlain : As I said, Sire, grave news, grave news indeed. You know that those who dwell beyond the frontier are, by definition, strangers? But of course you do! You are the King, and therefore omniscient. Be that as it may, while I was out and about, mincing around the frontier lands, I had the opportunity to study the eyes of the strangers. I carried with me, as I always do, an oculoscope, crafted for me by the court wizardy man, Ulg.
King : Ulg is indeed a great servant of the crown, and the maker of many a bewildering instrument. Go on.
Chamberlain : It pains me to say it, Sire, but when I peered through Ulg’s oculoscope into the eyes of the strangers, I was begraunt a vision, reflected back at me, of your puissance.
King : Ah! My puissance! How I treasure it! You know, Sir Cleothgard, that few kings in all history have had puissance as puissant as mine?
Chamberlain : Indeed, Your Magnificence. But the puissance I saw in the eyes of those strangers was ruin’d, quite, quite ruin’d!
King : Bloody hell! Really?
Chamberlain : I am afraid so, Sire.
King : You realise what this means, Sir Cleothgard? War! It means war!
Chamberlain : I am well aware of that, Sire.
King : You must immediately prepare my army and my navy and my air force and my special forces and my black ops unit for battle.
Chamberlain : I have already taken the liberty of doing just that, Sire. They are fully provisioned and victualled and marching or sailing or ballooning off to the frontier to do battle with your foes.
King : Excellent, Sir Cleothgard. I will pin a medal on your chest in recognition of your brio. But not before you have flown to the United Nations headquarters to present our case to the Security Council. I wish to get their blessing that this is a just war, in the terms laid down by the great French writer Racine.
Chamberlain : If I might be so bold, O majestic one, why bother with those jumped-up bureaucrats and paper-pushers?
King : For the very simple reason that once I have prosecuted this war, and defeated the enemy, and my puissance is once again restored to fantasticness, I do not wish to be haunted, where’er I go, by gaggles of unruly placard-waving wankers protesting that it was an unjust or illegal war, as happened with Tony Blair.
Chamberlain : Of course, Sire, I ought to have thought of that and got Security Council clearance already.
King : Yes, Sir Cleothgard, you should. Perhaps I may not give you a medal after all, but instead have your head lopped off and stuck upon a spike.
Chamberlain : Oo-er!
King : Ho ho ho. I was only joking. Now, off you go to the United Nations.
Chamberlain : At once, Sire!
Scene Two : The King’s Chamber. The King is seated in effulgent glory on his throne. The light pours out of him. Enter Sir Potipharge, the King’s Underchamberlain.
Underchamberlain : May I be ushered into your dazzling presence, O mighty King?
King : Yes, yes, come in, Sir Potipharge. Execute the necessary fawning and scraping, prostrate yourself in the muck, then hoist yourself to your feet and come clanking for’ard, but not too close.
Sir Potipharge does as he is commanded.
Underchamberlain : I bring grave news from the United Nations, Sire.
King : What now?
Underchamberlain : Your Chamberlain, Sir Cleothgard, was mistaken for the diplomat Lester Townsend and stabbed in the back by a knife hurled with expert dexterity by a dour grim agent in the pay of Phillip Vandamm, Sire.
King : Crikey! What does this mean for my puissance?
Underchamberlain : I fear it is ruin’d, Your Effulgence, quite, quite ruin’d.
They sob. Bats swoop from down from the rafters and darkness falls.