The scene is an magnificent throne room, resplendent in marble, cloth-of-gold, etc. An elegant young queen sits in state upon the throne, clothed in purple garments and resplendent jewels. Two stoic looking, silent servants are positioned by the doors at the end of the hall. A few feet from the dais stands a somewhat ruffled-looking knight in amour, clutching his helmet.
THE QUEEN (pursing her mouth): My dear Sir Reginald, We wish for an explanation of your conduct… (she pauses for an instant, then almost imperceptibly shrugs) Actually, I really want to know what in the world you were thinking… (she regains her composure, and clears her throat) You will give us an account.
SIR REGINALD: I…ah…um…well (makes an unintelligible noise) …ah…three weeks ago, your majesty had a feast.
THE QUEEN: We are aware of it.
SIR REGINALD: And…I…um…
THE QUEEN: Sir Reginald, I would advise you to make this explanation phenomenal… (gasps in frustration) But, if it would make it any easier, let us very well begin at this beginning. For whom did We hold a feast?
SIR REGINALD: (brightening) This particular one was for the closest members of your majesty’s court, about one hundred fifty people, I believe.
THE QUEEN: Why did We hold a feast?
SIR REGINALD: It was in celebration of the fifth year of your majesty’s reign.
THE QUEEN: Indeed. And what transpired at that feast that brought on so extraordinary a method of conduct from you? (she purses her mouth again) Sir Reginald, what does this have to do with anything?
SIR REGINALD: (cringing) Ah, yes, well your majesty was seated at the head of the table…
THE QUEEN: As is my wont.
SIR REGINALD: …and was in conversation with two of your majesty’s closest friends. Um, the Lady Marianne and the Lady Geraldine.
THE QUEEN: Halt a moment. (she motions to the two servants) Fetch the ladies Marianne and Geraldine.
The ladies arrive, curtsy to the Queen, and nod to Sir Reginald. The Queen motions them beside her.
THE QUEEN: Ladies, Sir Reginald declares that three weeks ago there was a feast for one hundred fifty members of my court celebrating my fifth anniversary as Queen, and that I sat at the head of the table in conversation with both of you. Is it so?
LADY MARIANNE: It is so.
LADY GERALDINE: Assuredly.
THE QUEEN: (a trifle sarcastically) Good then! Continue, Sir Reginald.
SIR REGINALD: Well…in the course of that evening your majesty declared that your majesty would award your majesty’s best castle on the banks of the Nile to the one who brought the Crown Prince of Lumonia trussed up like chicken to your majesty …
The faces of the ladies have been growing more and more extraordinary.
LADY MARIANNE: (laughing) What?
THE QUEEN: (torn between amusement and outrage) I did no such thing!
LADY GERALDINE: (outraged) What in the world?
SIR REGINALD: (eagerly) Oh, it is quite true, you majesty. And so I summoned a few of my friends and we rode straightway to Lumonia and ambushed a hunting party…
THE QUEEN: What!?!
SIR REGINALD: But unfortunately, it wasn’t the Crown Prince’s hunting party, it was his younger brother’s . But we ambushed it anyway, figuring once we returned to your majesty we could use him for ransom or something. But hoping to find extra favor in your majesty’s eyes we trussed the Prince up like a chicken anyway to present to your majesty! I hope I have pleased your majesty!
THE QUEEN: WHAT!?! (half laughing, half hyperventilating) Pardon my inattention, but what was that again about me saying something at the feast?
SIR REGINALD: (smiling) Your majesty said that your majesty would give your majesty’s finest castle on the Nile to the man who brought back the Crown Prince of Lumonia to your majesty trussed up like a chicken, and I have done my best.
THE QUEEN: (almost laughing) What! What? I would say no such ridiculous thing!
Lady Marianne has been looking a bit embarrassed, chewing on her lip. At this point she taps the Queen on the arm.
LADY MARIANNE: (murmuring) Well, your majesty, you know, we did get a bit…tipsy that night…
THE QUEEN: (face falling) Oh dear…
LADY GERALDINE: Yes, you both were.
THE QUEEN: (very downcast) Oh dear… (she motions to one of the servants) Morold, you were near me that evening…can you…can you recall me…saying…anything like that? (she puts her face in her hands)
MOROLD: Ah, yes, your majesty, I believe it was… (he stops, uncertain)
THE QUEEN: (resignedly) Don’t worry; proceed without fear.
MOROLD: I believe your majesty’s exact words were: “By all means! If a King may kidnap his bride, then why not a queen her husband? I shall gift my finest castle on the Nile to the one who brings me the Crown Prince of Lumonia trussed up like a chicken!”
The Queen lets out a groan.
LADY MARIANNE: (whispering) I seem to recall several large bouts of laughter that evening.
LADY GERALDINE: Yes, indeed.
The Queen rouses herself.
THE QUEEN: Morold, please relay to the Prince of Lumonia my request that he join me here in the throne room, along with my sincere compliments and apologies (again) and my hopes that the sores from the ropes may have healed. (Morold retires) And now, Sir Reginald, I must confess that I was only joking in my request for the Crown Prince of Lumonia trussed up like a chicken. Neither do I not own a castle by the Nile, wherever that is… (Sir Reginald opens his mouth, but the queen raises her hand) However, your loyalty to the crown is admirable. Therefore you will be awarded ten thousand crowns… (she motions the other servant close and whispers) Ronald, get him out of here, I don’t care if you have to gift him an estate as well (is ten thousand enough?) I don’t want to see his face around here again. (Does he know he could start a war?) The same with his companions. Shut them up. I don’t care how you do it, I don’t want word of this going farther than can absolutely be helped.
Sir Reginald is led off, beaming, as the Prince of Lumonia is led in. The Queen looks rather nervous, and foolish, but pulls herself together.
THE QUEEN: (hurriedly) My lord Prince, let me once again express my deepest apologies and…
THE PRINCE: No apology necessary, my lady, I’m sure it wasn’t your fault. Anyway, I’ve had worse done to me.
THE QUEEN: (brightening) Oh? Well, that’s a relief.
THE PRINCE: Yes, in the Second Penem War…but that’s another story, anyway, after the ridiculous explanation Sir Reginald offered me upon my capture I was sure it was all a misunderstanding.
THE QUEEN: (still embarrassed) Yes well, the fact of the matter is, I still owe you an explanation. You see, it was one of the many feasts celebrating my fifth year as queen, and this one was a more “private” one, and I (and my ladies) got a bit…what was the word, Marianne?…ah…tipsy, you see, and we were talking about how I would need to be married soon and all, and someone (Lady Geraldine coughs) mentioned how your brother, the Crown Prince of Lumonia, was very handsome and all, and…one thing led to another and I…I assume you know what I said?
THE PRINCE: (waiving his hand) Think no more of it, my lady.
THE QUEEN: (regaining her dignity for the first time in a long time) Well, this shall serve as a lesson to me to always retain my royal composure…and now, Lord Prince, would you care for some refreshment? I personally am rather tired out…
They exit, arm in arm…