Way Back When, when the world of legend and myth began to fall away and merge half-heatedly with the real world, two brothers from the mythical kingdom of Pollis fought over the ruler-ship of that land. One brother, Neilio - taking his cue from the biblical story of Esau and Jacob, disguises himself as his older brother Beckus and tricks his father old king Pollis into giving him the birthright and ruler-ship over the kingdom. ("War") breaks out and we find the once unified kingdom of Pollis, split asunder into the kingdoms of Neilio and Beckus.
From here we are thrust into intrigue and mystery. Allies from opposing sides bound by power, lust and deceit meet. King Neilio, concerned that his act of deception is coming to light has summoned Queen Aluis, the wife of King Beckus, his brother to meet in secret to uncover the person or person’s uncovering the deception within the Royal houses.
As chance would have it, (and it often does) there is only one person that can travel safely between these two kingdoms. His name is Clown. Having lived at a time when both kingdoms were one, Clown has the trust and affection of both Neilio and Beckus. On one such occasion, Clown is sent to King Neilio by King Beckus to listen to reason and give up this costly war. ("The Message") Clown then reveals that a spy has been seen lurking in and out of the King's lands. We soon learn that Prince Aaron, (son of King Neilio and heir to the throne) has been in league with Clown to end the war and it is he who has been seen lurking about the Kingdom of Beckus at night! ("Way Back When").
Prince Aaron has fallen in love with a commoner from the Kingdom of Beckus and counts on Clown to keep their liaison secret as they work through a way to end the war. Aaron is caught in the Clown’s quarters with the maiden Jess ("Come Close to Me") and is taken away for spying and certain death. In desperation, Jess tells Clown she will go to the Queen and plead with her to free the Prince. Moved, Clown tells Jess that he will speak with the Queen on her behalf.
The next morning comes and as Clown makes his way to see Queen Aluis but is met instead by King Beckus. King Beckus frustrated and in a terrible mood explains that he isn’t having good relations with Queen Aluis. In fact, he isn’t having relations, period. (“Give Me A Chance”) Clown convinces King Beckus not to give up and moves on to meet with Queen Aluis to gain an audience for Jess.
The Queen agrees and shortly thereafter the maiden Jess meets with the Queen Aluis and pleads for the life of her love, Prince Aaron. ("I Never Thought") But Queen Aluis refuses to release him and in anguish, Jess tells the Queen she will tell King Beckus of her deception and affair with King Neilio if she doesn’t help her. The Queen calls to Sir Robert, Captain of the Guard and commands him to take Jess to the land of the Dragons! ("War: Reprise")
Sir Robert doesn't want to venture to the Land of the Dragons and is soon met with Clown. In his ramblings, he reveals unwittingly to Clown who he really is, where he came from and more importantly who his mother really is. Armed with this new information Clown persuades Sir Robert that he will take Jess to the Land of the Dragons. Sir Robert so elated at this gesture places himself in Clowns debt. Clown accepts and wisps Jess away to a secret haven until he can make right what has gone wrong.
In his attempt to bring the warring parties together, Clown disguises himself and leaks information to a Neilean spy about Prince Aaron’s capture and impending execution. The spy promptly returns and tells King Neilio the news. ("What Have I Done?”) Motivated to save the life of his son, King Neilio sends word to Queen Aluis to tell King Beckus the truth about everything. Queen Aluis sends word through the spy that she will do as the king asks.
The following day King Beckus tormented at having to put his nephew to death seeks out the queen for solace and a little lovemaking ("Stranger to My Heart"). Instead of easing his burden she asks him to break the rules of war and execute the Prince in two days, rather than the customary five!
The spy soon returns to King Neilio and gives him the good news that the Queen will comply. Neilio summons Clown and is shocked to hear from Clown that Prince Aaron will be executed in two days. Queen Aluis has lied to him! King Neilio then commands Clown to deliver another message to his brother revealing the truth!
Clown journeys to the Kingdom of Beckus he stops to rest and gather up Jess for tomorrow’s ride to save Prince Aaron. ("One Step Further") Meanwhile, Queen Aluis meets with Prince Aaron in the Tower. ("Tell Me"), ("Come Close To Me: Reprise,"). Queen Aluis in a moment of remorsefulness at the choices she has made in her life seeks redemption ("I'm Sorry, Aaron").
As dawn approaches on the day Aaron is to be executed King Neilio is unable to leave Aaron's fate in the hands of another and prays to God to send him the fabled winged horse Pegasus so he can save Prince Aaron’s life ("Hear My Prayer"). God agrees and sends Pegasus to King Neilio who flies off to save Prince Aaron's life.
As day breaks, Prince Aaron is lead to his death as the Clown and Jess arrive. Witnessing this, Queen Aluis orders the guards to kill Jess but Clown defends her successfully with the aid of Sir Robert. Outraged, the Queen tries to kill Jess herself but is restrained by King Beckus. Clown then begins to unwind the story ("War" Part I) of how a child (Prince Aaron whose real father is King Beckus) was carried away at birth as a ransom for keeping silent about a secret love affair between Queen Aluis and King Neilio.
At this point, King Neilio arrives - flying in on Pegasus - and proclaims his deceitfulness in stealing Beckus’ birthright and confirms Clowns accusations ("War" Part II”). Beckus in total madness prepares to cut Queen Aluis’ head off when Clown suddenly proclaims one last incredible truth ("War" Part III").
Clown having revealed that Queen Aluis is in fact, his real mother shocks the entire court as Aluis breaks down from shame. King Beckus finally understanding the reason why the Queen had so much patience for Clown, takes pity on her by proclaiming his love for her is greater than any transgression or perceived mistake she might have committed as a young child herself. King Neilio relinquishes his claim on the throne and King Beckus is acknowledged as the rightful ruler of both lands decrees an end to the war and then gives his permission for Prince Aaron to marry the Maiden Jess to the surprise of the court ("Finale").
Around 1525 in a kingdom long since forgotten.
The Kingdoms of Beckus and Neilio Pollis