New Publication: We’ll Tell Happy Stories

We’ll Tell Happy Stories is now availableCover-2 on Smashwords and Amazon!

The 70-minute play is about Boa and Ardom, two refugees posing as ambassadors. With the help of a local captain, they and their daughter have survived for years pretending that their home country, Choroa, is still perfectly stable. When a royal edict orders that all Choroans must leave the country or face enslavement, Boa and Ardom must reveal harsh truths and spin fanciful stories in order to convince their hosts that they should be allowed to stay.

The publication also includes an afterword describing how the classes I was taking at the time affected this play, the origins of some of the names, and other trivia you may find interesting.

You can read the first half of the play for free below.

SCENE ONE

 

Set: The Choroan embassy to the kingdom of Kurrod. The building was previously a mess hall for soldiers. It is composed of wood and cobblestone. At stage right is a large wood door that leads outside, which is offstage right. There is a window that also looks outside at right. At left is a separate room with a door between it and the main hall, a library. The library holds two chairs and some shelves filled with scrolls and bound books. Additionally, the shelves hold Choroan artifacts, including a box of silver daggers, an array of pots painted with a few repeated, bright colors, and a very old, worn, stone figurine. There are more shelves in the main room, which contain more pots and more scrolls, as well as loose pieces of parchment. A map hung on the wall depicts Choroa, an empire composed of a large central island and a few smaller ones to the south. At center is a table with a rough wool cloth laid over it, though not covering all of it. Five chairs are pulled up to the table. At right is a writing desk and chair, with a few quills and a stack of parchment on the desk. A door upstage leads to the private quarters of BOA, ARDOM, and IMA. Big tallow candles light the rooms.

 

At rise: MASO ARDOM sits at the desk, a leaf of parchment and inkwell before him, a quill in hand. BOA stands behind him. They wear heavy coats over looser, lighter clothing. It is late winter, and the embassy hall is drafty.

 

BOA:

But then—

ARDOM scribbles this down.

A great, powerful storm took the longboat, and rocked it from side to side …

She pauses to allow ARDOM to get this all.

and the whole boat flipped upside down … and all the rowers, the warriors, and the drummers perished.

 

ARDOM:

As he gets this.

All of them?

 

BOA:

All but the Fifth Founder, the Man with Wings of Silver.

 

ARDOM:

Of course.

 

BOA:

He escaped, flying up into the clouds … but the winds were worse there. He was blown east, west, south, north, and spun around a thousand thousand times … before his wings were too tired, and he fell back to the ocean. When the storm finally cleared … he found just one piece of the ship remained. He clung to the piece, and waited for the currents, the currents that rush forever to Amo, to take him home.

 

ARDOM:

As he writes.

Is that true? All currents go to Amo?

 

BOA:

Yes, why wouldn’t it be?

 

ARDOM:

Because this is a founder story.

 

BOA:

You don’t believe in founder stories?

 

ARDOM:

I just think they’re exaggerated in places.

He finishes writing and looks to BOA.

 

BOA:

So, the Fifth Founder, the Man with Wings of—

 

ARDOM:

Can I just write “the fifth founder”? Or “he”?

 

BOA:

I’m telling the story the way the storytellers do. They always call him that.

 

ARDOM:

The way they did.

 

BOA:

What?

Pause.

This is the way the storytellers back home tell the story. We can’t just ignore that because your hand is tired.

 

ARDOM:

Laughing.

Carry on then.

 

BOA:

The Fifth Founder, the Man with Wings of Silver—

 

ARDOM:

Simultaneously with BOA.

The Man with Wings of Silver!

 

BOA:

He had been thrown so far from the islands of Choroa, that it took generations for him to drift back—“A thousand generations”, say that.

 

ARDOM:

As he writes this.

It took a thousand generations for him to drift back.

 

BOA:

And in all that time, he forgot who he was, and where he had come from … and he began to believe that he was king of his driftwood … and that this was the only nation he had ever known … Finally, when he arrived on the shores of Choroa … and he could see the towering mountain of Amo’s eye … he … shit.

 

ARDOM:

Huh?

 

BOA:

I forget what happens next. What happens next?

 

ARDOM:

I don’t know. Why would I know?

BOA stares at him.

I never bothered with storytellers.

 

BOA:

Oh, Amo.

This is an interjection, not an actual plea to her god.

What does he do?

 

ARDOM:

Just make something up.

 

BOA:

What? No, I can’t—I can’t lie like that.

 

ARDOM:

This whole place is a lie, what are you talking about?

 

BOA:

But that’s different. We have to pretend to be ambassadors out of necessity. We don’t have to make up things about Choroa.

 

ARDOM:

You mean, other than the lie that it isn’t a ruin?

 

BOA:

That’s … I wouldn’t say ruin.

Pause.

Okay, let’s see … He reaches Choroa, sees the enormous, smoldering mountain of Amo’s eye … he sees the trees with big, fat, green leaves …

She is more wandering through this world now than she is dictating.

The bright white sand that squeaks under foot …

 

IMA enters from their living quarters with a tea tray holding a simple earthenware kettle and four earthenware cups.

 

IMA:

The tea is ready.

 

BOA:

Oh, good, thank you Ima. Put it on the table. Darrak should be here soon.

IMA goes to the table and sets the tray on it.

Ima, did I ever tell you the story of the Fifth Founder’s sea voyage?

 

IMA:

Ummmmmmmmm … no. What is it, what happens?

 

BOA:

Silly me!

I’ve forgotten!

 

IMA:

Why don’t we go back? And then we can all hear the story together, and we can eat pies, and we can eat other things, and buy me a new Oloma, and—

 

BOA:

A new Oloma, you hardly ever wear the one you have! The weather here isn’t right for it.

 

IMA:

So we should go home then, to Choroa.

 

ARDOM:

But we can’t.

 

Beat.

 

IMA:

Yes we can. We just need a boat.

 

ARDOM:

He rises and goes to her.

No, Ima, do you remember? How it was? Do you—

 

IMA:

It was sunny. It was always sunny.

 

ARDOM:

No, it—

 

BOA:

Ima, we can’t go because we’re too busy with our work as ambassadors. We have so many fables and stories to write, and we have to meet with Darrak all the time, and we just don’t have time to go home.

 

ARDOM and BOA share a look.

 

IMA:

When I have my fifteen-cake, then we have to go home. Because I’ll tell you to.

 

BOA laughs.

 

BOA:

Well it’ll be a while before you turn fifteen. Now go to your room, Darrak will be here soon.

 

IMA:

Fine.

She exits through the upstage door. Pause.

 

ARDOM:

We’ll have to tell her before she’s fifteen.

Beat.

I think now would be a good time.

 

BOA:

Now? What, right now?

 

ARDOM:

No, but soon. Today. Tomorrow. Immediately.

 

BOA:

No, no, what are you saying? That’s crazy, she’s just a child. It would break her heart to know the truth.

 

ARDOM:

She does know the truth, she’s just blocked it out.

 

BOA:

So? Isn’t it better that way? I mean, don’t you wish that Choroa was still a beautiful, sunny, peaceful place?

 

ARDOM:

Still? Was it ever?

 

BOA:

Well it was better than it is now—and yes, it was beautiful, and sunny. And why not believe it’s still like that, I mean, she’ll never know. She had such a hard childhood, and I could never do anything about it, and now I can. She’s happy, every day, and why should we take that away from her?

 

ARDOM:

Because it’s not true. Because we have to live in the real world, and eventually she will too.

 

A knock at the door.

 

BOA:

I’ll get that.

 

BOA crosses to the door at right, and opens it. DARRAK RO KACHOD enters. He wears a heavy robe over a short tunic, dyed, and leggings.

 

DARRAK:

Greetings, chestnuts.

He gives a slight bow.

 

BOA and ARDOM, when speaking to DARRAK, are speaking Kurrodish, their second language. BOA is worst at it, but still speaks confidently. ARDOM is not much better than her. Kurrodish is a highly formal language, while Choroan is not, and the meaning of a word in Choroan is often conveyed through context and tone rather than conjugation. The different languages may be distinguished through cadence or accent.

 

BOA:

Hello, Darrak.

She bows in greeting, and ARDOM does the same.

Please, sit.

All three go to the table and take seats.

Do you like a cup of tea?

 

DARRAK:

I’m afraid, my dear friends, that I come today bearing grave news.

 

BOA:

Bad news? What does that mean?

 

DARRAK:

The Royal Court and the King together have issued an edict regarding the Choroan population. All Choroans are to leave the nation immediately, or else be imprisoned and enslaved.

 

BOA:

Laughs.

I can not believe, I am still so poor with this language. I think you said something about Choroan people leaving Kurrod. But this is silly—this is not what you said, is it?

 

DARRAK:

You understood perfectly, my lady. The Choroans are from this date forth banished. You must leave within the week, or face the consequences.

 

BOA:

But we are ambassadors. Kurrod needs us, Kurrod needs a way to communicate with Choroa, and we are that. How can they ban us? They can not ban us. Tell this with the King, and he will say to keep us.

 

DARRAK:

The word is “banish,” Dame Boa, and it applies to every Choroan, and every half-Choroan as well. The edict is explicit in that matter.

 

BOA:

This is silly. They can not know who is Choroan and who is not. How can they find Choroan people and imprison them?

 

DARRAK:

You must jest, Dame Boa. You chestnuts could be spotted among a crowd of Kurrodians from a mile away.

Beat.

It has been quite a good game that we played. We have both profited from it, but it is time for you to return home, and for myself to give up the game. I suggest you sell your valuables and charter a small passenger vessel to Choroa as soon as possible. The date of the beginning of incarcerations is six days from now, but the city guard is eager, and “those with spears will use them.”

 

BOA:

Sell our values? Our books, and daggers, and maps? We can not do this, this is silly.

 

DARRAK:

No matter how silly it may be, it is your only option.

 

ARDOM:

What happens on the other Choroans? They expect our protection. We protected them for years.

 

DARRAK:

And some have profited by it. They may have the capital necessary to make the voyage. Others will not, and they will be enslaved.

 

ARDOM:

Why can you not move them? You traded with the north islands in secret for years. Can you not now smuggle people?

 

DARRAK:

I can not. My vessel is now strictly assigned to move goods along the Kurrodian coast, and nowhere beyond.

 

ARDOM:

There is no “profit” for you. That is why you do not smuggle people.

 

DARRAK:

You wound me, Sir Ardom. I would not care about profit if I could perform a favor for you. It is the danger that concerns me, for I could profit from smuggling people. I daresay I could profit from a great many ventures, but I pursue none of them because of the dangers in which they would place me.

 

BOA:

Sir Captain Darrak, we are sorry. Of course you are not wanting profit. You were kind with us since we met you, and you do kind things. We can solve this problem. Let Ardom and I talk, and we find a solution. Please, have tea.

She pours him a cup.

Please, visit in the library. You returned from a long trip? Yes?

 

DARRAK:

He softens for BOA, but coldly ignores ARDOM and does not address him. He takes the cup and stands, then walks with her as she leads him to the library.

I have. I had only just arrived when I was called to the court, and tasked with delivering this information to you at once.

 

BOA:

They arrive in the library.

Yes, that is hard. The sea is very tiring. Maybe not for you, Captain who sails everywhere. For me it was this way when I go from Choroa to Kurrod. Please, sit. We talk with you when we solve the problem. We do this soon.

 

DARRAK:

Many thanks, Dame Boa.

 

BOA returns to the main room, meeting ARDOM at center.

 

BOA:

Ardom, we can’t go back.

 

ARDOM:

Well—

 

BOA:

We can not go back to Choroa. It’s … and it’s no place for Ima.

 

ARDOM:

Well, if the alternative is slavery—

 

BOA:

And what do you think will happen when we get to Choroa? We could be enslaved there too, or executed instantly, or we could catch plague and die.

 

ARDOM:

It’s been four years. Things may be better.

 

BOA:

Ardom, we can’t.

 

ARDOM:

I don’t want to. But if we sold everything we have, and we returned—

 

BOA:

Sell everything? All our work? All of Choroan culture and—

 

ARDOM:

And we would trade it in for the real thing. We’d have some money, some silver, and we might be able to find a safe place to live.

 

BOA:

But what about the others, all the Choroans living here? What about the Bala family? Or Pocha? We can’t just leave them.

 

ARDOM:

I don’t want to. But how can we possibly stay here?

 

BOA:

We need to speak to the king.

 

ARDOM:

He’s the one who’s kicking us out!

 

BOA:

Him and the royal court. But he’s young, right? Do you think it was really him that wrote the edict? Think about it. Think about Choroa. How many laws did Emperor Amoror write, and how many did the bureaucrats write? I doubt King Tedar actually wrote the edict. If we can appeal to him, we can stay. We’ve done it before.

 

ARDOM:

That was a different king.

 

BOA:

And this is his son.

 

Beat.

 

ARDOM:

Well. What do we have to lose?

 

BOA goes to the library, opens the door.

 

BOA:

Sir Captain Darrak, we have a solution.

 

DARRAK stands, and enters the main room.

 

DARRAK:

I am pleased to hear it. What is this solution at which you have arrived?

 

BOA:

We want to speak with the king.

 

DARRAK:

That is no kind of solution, my chestnuts. The king is very much shielded from interaction with anyone the court deems undesirable. And the court certainly deems the two of you undesirable.

 

BOA:

Darrak, you are a Captain. The court does not say you are bad, do they? They let you speak with the king, do they? So you speak with the king, and tell him to speak with us.

 

DARRAK:

Dame Boa—

 

BOA:

You were friend with the old king, yes? You are friend with this one, yes? Of course, you are so nice, you must be a friend on this one. You can persuade the king, tell him you … what is it? You put the value of your name on the value of a meeting with us?

 

DARRAK:

I stake my name on the importance of a meeting with the Choroan ambassadors. But—

 

BOA:

Yes, this is it—so pretty, you say words so pretty, I hope Ima says Kurrodish words so pretty when she is older. You go and you say this at the king, yes?

 

DARRAK:

King Tedar does not have the autonomy to choose with whom he meets. His days are strictly scheduled by the court, and he trusts the judgment of the court more than my own.

 

BOA:

No, surely this is not so. He must have some open time, to play a game, or listen on diverters. You go in this time, and tell him to meet with us—and you say the court says yes for it also.

 

DARRAK:

You would have me lie to the king? This is your solution? I am afraid I can not carry it out. I would be punished for such an act. I may lose my ship, or even my title. The court—

 

BOA:

You have king’s protection. We make sure that you have king’s protection when we meet with him.

 

DARRAK:

I’m afraid I can not place that much faith in the power of your persuasion. The court has a tight hold on young King Tedar.

 

ARDOM:

To BOA, in Choroan.

<Let’s threaten him.>

 

BOA:

<With what?>

 

ARDOM:

<Exposing that he was trading with the north islands.>

 

BOA:

<That’s cruel.>

 

ARDOM:

<He’s a swine, Boa. He doesn’t care about us.>

 

BOA:

<Okay, but you do it.>

 

ARDOM:

<Making me the mean one again?>

 

BOA:

<I don’t know how to be mean.>

 

ARDOM laughs. The two smile with each other for a moment.

 

ARDOM:

To DARRAK.

I am sorry for this, but I must do it. Darrak, if you do not bring the king to us, we reveal your fraud.

 

Pause.

 

DARRAK:

I am not sure if you made yourself perfectly clear, Sir Ardom. As always you seem to struggle with the conditional mode of Kurrodish.

Beat.

Are you threatening me?

 

ARDOM:

Yes.

 

DARRAK:

He is no longer negotiating with fellow gentry. He is dealing with pirates.

Then I must say, that is an absurd and vicious thing to threaten, Ardom. It is absurd because I know you would never do such a thing. To reveal that I have not been trading with Choroa would be to reveal that you are not truly ambassadors of Choroa. You can not possibly value your position here so much that you would rather be imprisoned than lose it. Why, imprisonment may be your best outcome—if the court learned of what you’ve done, you could face execution.

 

ARDOM:

We do value our position here that much. If we leave, we have nothing to go back to.

 

BOA:

Ardom.

 

ARDOM:

Choroan.

<He has to think our threat is serious. He has to think we have nothing to lose.>

 

BOA:

<We do have nothing to lose.>

 

DARRAK:

Yes, the life of a peasant is a far fall from the life of a wealthy ambassador, but it is still superior to imprisonment.

 

ARDOM:

Kurrodish.

We were not peasants.

 

BOA:

Choroan.

<Tell him a different lie though, not the truth.>

 

ARDOM:

<A different lie? Why? The truth is—>

 

DARRAK:

I may not understand the semantics of your words, but I understand what you are saying. You are rapidly cobbling together some fanciful tale of escaping slavery to come here, so that I may believe that you are truly backed into a corner, and your threat is credible.

 

BOA:

Kurrodish.

But this is true. This is not a tale, we do escape slavery—

 

ARDOM:

No!

Choroan.

<Boa, what is the matter with you? He’s not going to believe some horseshit story we make up on the spot.>

 

BOA:

<Yes he will—I can, it’s easier for me to convince people of a fiction, but the truth is just, we—>

 

ARDOM:

<Which is why I’ll tell him. Just shut-up and let me tell him.>

ARDOM realizes he has hurt BOA, but it’s no time for apology.

 

DARRAK:

Have you now gotten your facts in order, chestnuts?

 

ARDOM:

This is truth, Darrak. We did not immigrate to Kurrod to better our lifes. Did not that part of our story always bother you? Why do two peasants and their daughter simply immigrate? Especially when we know that Kurrod does not accept immigrants for forty years. No. We did not immigrate, we fled. We knew that not Kurrod and not Olisa accept immigrants, but we fled, because Choroa was a ruin. It is a ruin.

 

DARRAK:

Laughs.

That is your story? That the Choroan Empire has been obliterated?

 

ARDOM:

I do not know that word. If it means “destroyed,” then yes.

 

DARRAK:

Empires do not simply disappear.

 

ARDOM:

It didn’t. It started with the destruction of the capital—you know this is not a lie, yes?

 

DARRAK:

Yes. Your great Mount Amo erupted and destroyed the city. That is when most of our Choroan population arrived here, and after that we shut our doors to you.

 

ARDOM:

It erupted a few years after I was born. The Empire fell apart ever since then. There were two plagues. The first one was small, but it killed farmers, and caused food to run out … famine, this is the word. The second plague was bigger. It started the year before we left.

 

DARRAK:

Did it? Then there is no reason you can not return. Plagues run in cycles, and if this one started five years hence, it should have run itself out.

 

ARDOM:

I do not know this. But the Choroan Empire is still destroyed. They killed the Emperor, and destroyed the eastern capital.

 

DARRAK:

Who are they?

 

ARDOM:

What … “rebels”? Yes, rebels. I do not know which rebels. The nation split into fifty nations, each one in war with every other.

 

DARRAK:

And how did two peasants survive this apocalypse?

 

ARDOM:

We are not peasants. I am a … what? “Noble,” but different. I had money. And Boa was a … noble as well. Her family, and she, had many connections with seamen. So we get onboard a ship to take us away. We went to the Olisa Empire first, but they knew of the plague. Why do you think they do not let in Choroans? They take people from every nation, but not Choroa. It is the plague, they know of it. So they destroyed our ship. We are rescued by a Kurrod fisherman, and then you know what happened.

 

Pause.

 

DARRAK:

That is ridiculous.

 

ARDOM:

It is true. Do not you wonder why no more Choroan ambassadors come after us? Why no more Choroan immigrants come? There is no more Choroa.

 

DARRAK:

You are clever to weave those facts into your tale, but I am clever too. I know the Choroan empire keeps tight control of who enters and who leaves.

 

ARDOM:

Not so tight. Always people get through, if they know who to pay.

 

DARRAK:

And why did you not tell me all this so long ago, when we struck our deal? You were willing to reveal that you weren’t actual ambassadors, but nothing more?

 

ARDOM:

He glances at BOA, but she is silent.

We did not want you to worry that we had plague.

Pause.

Did not you hear rumors of this when you traded with the northern isles?

 

DARRAK:

Of course. There are always rumors among pirates.

Beat.

Let us suppose that this is all true—at least, the story of the destruction of Choroa. Why should you be scared to return? So scared that you feel you can not return, and you would rather reveal the truth and face certain death?

 

ARDOM:

It is not certain. We do not know either way. We do not know if we die if we return. We do not know if we die if we reveal the truth. Maybe if we reveal the truth, we are rewarded, and protected as long as we continue to tell them about you.

 

DARRAK:

Why should you die if you return? You say you are nobles—a preposterous claim, as one of you can not even write—

 

ARDOM:

Women do not write.

 

DARRAK:

If you are nobles, or whatever your chestnut equivalent of the title is, you should have some safe place to return to. If the family of Boa has connections with seamen, surely enough connections remain that you may find safe haven somewhere on that island.

 

ARDOM:

Our families died in the civil war.

 

DARRAK:

Then how did you have money? How did you have connections? You can pretend to a great many things, and you can be quite good at a great many of them—why, you have certainly done an apt job pretending to be ambassadors—but do not pretend to be of any nobility. You are lowborn cheats, and I can see it in you.

 

ARDOM looks to BOA.

 

DARRAK:

And as a highborn cheat, and an expert in the practice, I may advise you that your story is made much less believable by the utter silence of one of you.

 

BOA:

Choroan, to DARRAK, subtle enough that he is not sure of the meaning.

<Fuck you.>

To ARDOM.

<Just tell him, Ardom.>

 

ARDOM:

You are half right. I am noble, but I was—I am disgraced. Boa is a … was a … what?

 

BOA:

Performer?

 

ARDOM:

She was a performer. Of dance, of fables, of songs. And of sex. She had connections with seamen because they go often to the entertainment quarter. I had some money, but no status. And less status after when Ima was born.

 

DARRAK is stunned.

 

DARRAK:

I must say, you are quick on your feet. But I also must say that I am horrified at the slander you would stoop to to convince me that you are in such a dire situation. A prostitute and a disgraced aristocrat. Absurd. I suggest you clear this embassy of all your artifacts as quickly as possible.

He turns to go, walking briskly for the door.

 

ARDOM:

Following after him.

You regret this! This does not go well!

 

DARRAK:

At the door.

If you are going to threaten me, you starving chestnut, you could at least speak the language properly.

He opens the door.

 

ARDOM:

Grabbing him.

Ask Ima!

 

Pause.

 

BOA:

Choroan.

<What?>

 

DARRAK:

I thought you could sink no lower than claiming your wife to be a prostitute, but you have corrected me in that error.

 

ARDOM:

She is a child. Children tell the truth, yes? You do a phrase for this, yes?

 

DARRAK:

“Lies must be learned.” But—

 

ARDOM:

Please. We have no choice. You must understand this. You ask Ima, you understand.

 

DARRAK:

If I am unconvinced of this, I shall have nothing to do with you ever again. I shall not advise you on which passenger vessels are trustworthy and which will sell your body the instant you step aboard their boat. I will not tell my friends that they may purchase rare Choroan artifacts at this embassy. I will forget you as promptly as possible. Do you understand? Are you sure you want to waste my time in this manner?

 

ARDOM:

Yes, come, sit.

He leads DARRAK back to his chair. Choroan.

<Boa, can you—>

 

BOA:

<No.>

 

ARDOM:

<I know, but I think she still knows the truth. I think she’ll tell the truth if—>

 

BOA:

<What are you talking about? I’m not worried that she’ll spit out some fantasy, I just don’t want to put her through this.>

 

ARDOM:

<She has to understand the truth at some point. If she doesn’t understand it now, she’ll understand it when we’re forced to go back to Choroa because we couldn’t get an audience with the king.>

 

BOA:

<There has to be a better way. Ardom, this is your daughter—whether you like that or not, you can’t just use her to …>

 

ARDOM:

<We’re out of options. And I do care about her, I don’t want to do this, but we’re out of options.>

 

DARRAK:

Enough of this scheming. I can see, the two of you are attempting to form a plan to ensure that she lies in the correct way. Enough.

Calling out.

Dame Ima! Dame Ima, my dear, come see Captain Darrak!

To ARDOM and BOA.

Now if either of you speak Choroan to her, I will leave immediately. And let me ask her questions.

 

IMA enters through the upstage door. She speaks Kurrodish fluently.

 

IMA:

Hello Darrak!

 

DARRAK:

Hello Ima. Please, sit with us.

 

IMA takes one of the chairs.

 

IMA:

Mother, can I have tea?

 

BOA:

Yes.

BOA pours a half a cup for her, looking to DARRAK to see if this communication has jeopardized their credibility.

 

DARRAK:

Now, Ima, I want you to tell me about Choroa.

 

IMA:

Choroa? I love Choroa! It is sunny, and it is full of big, big, big palm trees, and all the ladies wear beautiful dresses. Everyone does everything outside, because it is always warm there, and—

 

ARDOM:

The truth, Ima. Tell him the truth of Choroa.

DARRAK shoots ARDOM a look.

What? We taught her to tell the lie too, she needs to know not to say it now.

 

DARRAK:

Fine then, but do not lead her to anything.

 

ARDOM:

I do not lead.

To IMA.

Ima, do not tell the fake story. Tell about the real Choroa. Tell about how it was when we left.

 

IMA:

Puzzled.

It was … Choroa. We lived in Port City, and Mother told stories. She told stories about Amo, the great power in the world. His eye is in the middle of Choroa. We lived far away from the mountain, so we never made the pilgrimage, but one day, when we go back, we will.

 

DARRAK:

Are you sure about all this Ima? Did anything bad ever happen in Choroa?

 

IMA:

Well … no. Choroans are the favorite children of Amo, and they all love the land, and Amo loves them.

 

DARRAK:

Well, then—

 

ARDOM:

No. Ima, tell the truth. You know that is not the truth, now tell the truth.

 

DARRAK:

Ardom, truly, this is disgusting.

 

ARDOM:

No. Drained canals filled of corpses is disgusting. Men and women with legs like skinny tree branches is disgusting. You remember that, Ima. Tell him!

 

BOA:

Ardom, please—

 

DARRAK:

Ardom you go too far—

 

ARDOM:

You go too short. You not bring the king to us because you worry about your title? Our lives are in danger! Ima, tell him!

 

IMA:

But, that is a lie.

 

BOA:

It is, Ima, it is.

 

ARDOM:

What—Boa?

 

BOA:

Stop, Ardom.

 

ARDOM:

I can not. We can not. Ima, where did you grow up?

 

IMA:

In a castle.

 

ARDOM:

Do you hear that? A castle, she says. So which is it? Were we peasants, or were we a disgraced noble and a prostitute? A castle does not make sense on either of those.

 

DARRAK:

A fantasy of a child then. Fine. But it does not confirm your far-fetched tale of apocalypse and escape.

 

ARDOM:

Tell him the truth, Ima. You grew up in a brothel.

 

IMA:

No. Bad things happen in brothels.

 

ARDOM:

Yes, they do. They happened to your mother, and to you.

 

IMA:

No, I grew up in a castle, and my friends were princesses.

 

ARDOM:

You grew up scared for your life. Tell him!

 

DARRAK:

I can bear no more of this sick, twisted,

DARRAK fumbles for a word, doesn’t find one, and stands.

 

ARDOM:

As DARRAK begins to leave.

Darrak, please—Ima, tell him the truth or you will have to go back to there. You’ll have to go back to that scary place with the scary men who hurt your mother!

 

BOA:

Ardom!

 

IMA:

Fighting with tears.

Those were nightmares! They were nightmares dad! They were stupid, stupid nightmares!

 

DARRAK freezes.

 

IMA:

They were stupid nightmares! They were stupid nightmares!

 

BOA goes to IMA and holds her.

 

BOA:

To ARDOM.

Do not say another word to her.

Choroan, to IMA.

<Of course they were nightmares. Of course they were nightmares. Just nightmares. No one’s going to hurt you or me. We’re okay. We’re all okay. We’re all just fine. Do you want to take a nap? Do you want some flowermilk? Come on.>

 

ARDOM:

<Flowermilk?>

 

BOA:

Standing and leading IMA upstage.

<Do not talk.>

 

BOA and IMA exit.

 

ARDOM:

Do you believe us now?

 

DARRAK:

Well, it is clear that … something has traumatized your daughter, though, what, er …

He falls silent, then returns to the table, sits, and sips tea.

What exactly …

 

BOA enters, and reassumes her seat at the table.

 

BOA:

She sleeps for an hour now. Darrak, please. I will talk now. Do not talk to my Ima again.

 

DARRAK:

I have no desire to do that Boa. What—

 

BOA:

Choroa was a bad place, for me. Ardom made it better, he was nice. He come to watch me dance and sing, and he paid well for nothing. I tried to … manipulate, yes? To manipulate him. But I realized too late that he had no power. He was the most young son of a bureaucrat, and his father never let him take his place. So he spend time in the entertainment quarter. And he come to see me often. We drink coffee together. And then I was pregnant, with the child of Ardom. And when Ima was four, the brothers of Ardom died in the first civil war, and he was needed, and he left. I tried to protect Ima as best as I can … most of the time we did not have food. I steal food sometimes. We starved if not that everyone died of plague. They all died, and then new people come in, and then they all died too, and this happened many times. I think we die every day.

Pause.

When we got here, and we made our deal with you, I did not want to talk about that. We did not want to frighten you with the plague, but I also did not want to tell you all this. We can not go back. Do you believe this? We can not.

 

ARDOM:

Do you see that we will do anything to stay here? Even reveal your fraud, and our fraud too?

 

DARRAK:

Your story …

DARRAK does not know how to handle such a situation.

I believe you. I apologize for any … I will go to the king, and I will do my best to whisk him away from the palace complex. I can guarantee nothing, but … I will try to the best of my abilities.

 

BOA:

Thank you.

 

DARRAK rises, goes to the door, stops and turns back, and then exits. A long pause follows. BOA pours the remains of DARRAK’s tea back into the tea pot.

 

BOA:

Indicating ARDOM’s tea.

Do you still want this?

 

ARDOM:

Oh. No.

She pours it back in the teapot, and, sitting, sips at her own tea. ARDOM approaches her.

I miss coffee.

 

BOA:

Coffee. Remember the coffee Darrak brought us from the northern isles?

 

ARDOM:

That was not coffee.

 

BOA:

Nope. Not even close. It was like drinking mud. A nice, hot cup of mud.

 

ARDOM:

Did you brew coffee? Back then, I mean?

 

BOA:

No. I didn’t know how. I just knew how to serve it.

 

ARDOM:

Hmm. I thought you brewed it.

 

BOA:

I added milk and honey. I didn’t boil the water or grind up the beans or whatever else the people in the kitchen did.

 

ARDOM:

It wasn’t all bad, was it?

 

BOA:

The mud coffee?

 

Pause.

 

ARDOM:

If we had to go back, we could, right? If Darrak can’t bring the king to us—

 

BOA:

I don’t know.

 

BOA continues to sip her tea.

 

ARDOM:

I’m sorry about what I did with … Ima. I should have let you talk, you’re so good at …

 

BOA:

No, I think … it wasn’t all me, I mean …

 

ARDOM:

You know, when you said I left because my family needed me?

 

BOA:

I don’t know.

 

ARDOM:

You did, and, you know that’s not why, right?

 

BOA:

I don’t care.

 

ARDOM:

I … well we hardly ever talk about this stuff, and I feel so bad about it. About how I left you and Ima, abandoned you for the sake of my honor—and I owe you so much—

 

BOA:

We don’t have to talk about this.

 

ARDOM:

Well, can I apologize?

 

BOA:

You have.

 

ARDOM:

Have I? You mean, when we first came here? We didn’t really talk about it then either. We didn’t have time to. I feel like I never … made things right. You saved my life after I had abandoned you to go play aristocrat, and—

 

BOA:

You promised to never leave us again, and always protect us. And you have.

 

ARDOM:

But I’m forced to stay here, I haven’t actually sacrificed anything to … yeah, sorry. You don’t want to talk about that. I’m sorry. I don’t mean to be like this.

 

BOA:

It’s fine.

 

ARDOM:

I think, if the king comes, you should talk to him.

 

BOA:

Okay.

 

ARDOM:

And you should tell him the truth.

 

BOA:

No. No I shouldn’t. Ardom, what? They could execute us!

 

ARDOM:

Or they could just expel us, like they’re doing anyway.

 

BOA:

We just promised we wouldn’t reveal our fraud, how do you think this could be a good idea?

 

ARDOM:

Well you got Darrak’s sympathy by telling the truth.

 

BOA:

I got Darrak to realize I was a mother who was going to protect her child from danger. It’s different. And he already knew we weren’t real ambassadors, the king doesn’t. If we tell him the truth, then that’s it—forever, the truth will be there, and we’ll lose all our power.

 

ARDOM:

What power? We’re ambassadors of a ghost nation.

 

BOA:

And that position gives us power.

 

ARDOM:

Not enough. Not now. They’re kicking us out.

Beat.

Then, use it as a last resort. Tell them the lie first, talk about the value of Choroan culture, work your charm, and then, if that doesn’t work, tell the truth. The truth is powerful. He may be inclined to keep us around so we can advise him on how not to end up like Choroa.

 

BOA:

And Ima will have to remember all of that.

 

ARDOM:

We already do. We bear it.

Beat.

Was it so bad? When I left? You played that up for Darrak, right? Did you think you would die every day?

Pause.

Sorry. I …

 

BOA:

I miss Lossa. Remember her? She sang prettier than anyone I’ve ever heard.

 

ARDOM:

The older woman?

 

BOA:

Yeah. She was nice, too. Whenever she sang “The Epic of Our History,” it always made me cry. Every single time.

 

ARDOM:

Hey. Do you want to keep working on the “Fifth Founder’s Sea Voyage”?

 

BOA:

Oh, Amo’s eye, I’d forgotten we were writing that. I mean, do you really think …

 

ARDOM:

What? Why not? We expect to stay here, right?

 

BOA:

Yes. Yes, yes! Let’s try and finish it.

 

They rise and cross to the desk. ARDOM sits.

 

ARDOM:

Do you remember what happens next?

 

BOA:

Where were we?

 

ARDOM:

The fifth founder finally arrived on—

Laughs.

I mean, The Fifth Founder, the Man with Wings of Silver, finally arrived on the shores of Choroa …

 

BOA:

Oh right! Yes!

Beat.

Yes, I do remember! Seeing the great slopes of Amo’s Eye, he forsook his nation … his kingdom of driftwood. He realized he had deluded himself, and he burned the driftwood, and pledged eternal loyalty to Choroa.

 

Lights down.

 

Copyright © by Francis Bass 2016. All rights reserved.

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