FictionForest

Chapter 11

L. Frank BaumOct 04, 2016'Command+D' Bookmark this page

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On leaving the Growleywogs General Guph had to recross the Ripple
Lands, and he did not find it a pleasant thing to do. Perhaps having
his whiskers pulled out one by one and being used as a pin-cushion for
the innocent amusement of a good natured jailer had not improved the
quality of Guph’s temper, for the old Nome raved and raged at the
recollection of the wrongs he had suffered, and vowed to take vengeance
upon the Growleywogs after he had used them for his purposes and Oz
had been conquered. He went on in this furious way until he was half
across the Ripple Land. Then he became seasick, and the rest of the
way this naughty Nome was almost as miserable as he deserved to be.

But when he reached the plains again and the ground was firm under his
feet he began to feel better, and instead of going back home he
turned directly west. A squirrel, perched in a tree, saw him take this
road and called to him warningly: “Look out!” But he paid no
attention. An eagle paused in its flight through the air to look at
him wonderingly and say: “Look out!” But on he went.

No one can say that Guph was not brave, for he had determined to visit
those dangerous creatures the Phanfasms, who resided upon the very
top of the dread Mountain of Phantastico. The Phanfasms were Erbs,
and so dreaded by mortals and immortals alike that no one had been
near their mountain home for several thousand years. Yet General Guph
hoped to induce them to join in his proposed warfare against the good
and happy Oz people.

Guph knew very well that the Phanfasms would be almost as dangerous to
the Nomes as they would to the Ozites, but he thought himself so
clever that he believed he could manage these strange creatures and
make them obey him. And there was no doubt at all that if he could
enlist the services of the Phanfasms, their tremendous power, united
to the strength of the Growleywogs and the cunning of the Whimsies
would doom the Land of Oz to absolute destruction.

So the old Nome climbed the foothills and trudged along the wild
mountain paths until he came to a big gully that encircled the
Mountain of Phantastico and marked the boundary line of the dominion
of the Phanfasms. This gully was about a third of the way up the
mountain, and it was filled to the brim with red-hot molten lava in
which swam fire-serpents and poisonous salamanders. The heat from
this mass and its poisonous smell were both so unbearable that even
birds hesitated to fly over the gully, but circled around it. All
living things kept away from the mountain.

Now Guph had heard, during his long lifetime, many tales of these
dreaded Phanfasms; so he had heard of this barrier of melted lava, and
also he had been told that there was a narrow bridge that spanned it
in one place. So he walked along the edge until he found the bridge.
It was a single arch of gray stone, and lying flat upon the bridge was
a scarlet alligator, seemingly fast asleep.

When Guph stumbled over the rocks in approaching the bridge the
creature opened its eyes, from which tiny flames shot in all
directions, and after looking at the intruder very wickedly the
scarlet alligator closed its eyelids again and lay still.

Guph saw there was no room for him to pass the alligator on the narrow
bridge, so he called out to it:

“Good morning, friend. I don’t wish to hurry you, but please tell me
if you are coming down, or going up?”

“Neither,” snapped the alligator, clicking its cruel jaws together.

The General hesitated.

“Are you likely to stay there long?” he asked.

“A few hundred years or so,” said the alligator.

Guph softly rubbed the end of his nose and tried to think what to do.

“Do you know whether the First and Foremost Phanfasm of Phantastico is
at home or not?” he presently inquired.

“I expect he is, seeing he is always at home,” replied the alligator.

“Ah; who is that coming down the mountain?” asked the Nome,
gazing upward.

The alligator turned to look over its shoulder, and at once Guph ran
to the bridge and leaped over the sentinel’s back before it could turn
back again. The scarlet monster made a snap at the Nome’s left foot,
but missed it by fully an inch.

“Ah ha!” laughed the General, who was now on the mountain path.
“I fooled you that time.”

“So you did; and perhaps you fooled yourself,” retorted the alligator.
“Go up the mountain, if you dare, and find out what the First and
Foremost will do to you!”

“I will,” declared Guph, boldly; and on he went up the path.

At first the scene was wild enough, but gradually it grew more and
more awful in appearance. All the rocks had the shapes of frightful
beings and even the tree trunks were gnarled and twisted like serpents.

Suddenly there appeared before the Nome a man with the head of an owl.
His body was hairy like that of an ape, and his only clothing was a
scarlet scarf twisted around his waist. He bore a huge club in his
hand and his round owl eyes blinked fiercely upon the intruder.

“What are you doing here?” he demanded, threatening Guph with his club.

“I’ve come to see the First and Foremost Phanfasm of Phantastico,”
replied the General, who did not like the way this creature looked at
him, but still was not afraid.

“Ah; you shall see him!” the man said, with a sneering laugh. “The
First and Foremost shall decide upon the best way to punish you.”

“He will not punish me,” returned Guph, calmly, “for I have come here
to do him and his people a rare favor. Lead on, fellow, and take me
directly to your master.”

The owl-man raised his club with a threatening gesture.

“If you try to escape,” he said, “beware–”

But here the General interrupted him.

“Spare your threats,” said he, “and do not be impertinent, or I will
have you severely punished. Lead on, and keep silent!”

This Guph was really a clever rascal, and it seems a pity he was so
bad, for in a good cause he might have accomplished much. He realized
that he had put himself into a dangerous position by coming to this
dreadful mountain, but he also knew that if he showed fear he was
lost. So he adopted a bold manner as his best defense. The wisdom of
this plan was soon evident, for the Phanfasm with the owl’s head
turned and led the way up the mountain.

At the very top was a level plain upon which were heaps of rock that
at first glance seemed solid. But on looking closer Guph discovered
that these rock heaps were dwellings, for each had an opening.

Not a person was to be seen outside the rock huts. All was silent.

The owl-man led the way among the groups of dwellings to one standing
in the center. It seemed no better and no worse than any of the
others. Outside the entrance to this rock heap the guide gave a low
wail that sounded like “Lee-ow-ah!”

Suddenly there bounded from the opening another hairy man. This one
wore the head of a bear. In his hand he bore a brass hoop. He glared
at the stranger in evident surprise.

“Why have you captured this foolish wanderer and brought him here?”
he demanded, addressing the owl-man.

“I did not capture him,” was the answer. “He passed the scarlet
alligator and came here of his own free will and accord.”

The First and Foremost looked at the General.

“Have you tired of life, then?” he asked.

“No indeed,” answered Guph. “I am a Nome, and the Chief General of
King Roquat the Red’s great army of Nomes. I come of a long-lived
race, and I may say that I expect to live a long time yet. Sit down,
you Phanfasms–if you can find a seat in this wild haunt–and listen
to what I have to say.”

With all his knowledge and bravery General Guph did not know that the
steady glare from the bear eyes was reading his inmost thoughts as
surely as if they had been put into words. He did not know that these
despised rock heaps of the Phanfasms were merely deceptions to his own
eyes, nor could he guess that he was standing in the midst of one of
the most splendid and luxurious cities ever built by magic power. All
that he saw was a barren waste of rock heaps, a hairy man with an
owl’s head and another with a bear’s head. The sorcery of the
Phanfasms permitted him to see no more.

Suddenly the First and Foremost swung his brass hoop and caught Guph
around the neck with it. The next instant, before the General could
think what had happened to him, he was dragged inside the rock hut.
Here, his eyes still blinded to realities, he perceived only a dim
light, by which the hut seemed as rough and rude inside as it was
outside. Yet he had a strange feeling that many bright eyes were
fastened upon him and that he stood in a vast and extensive hall.

The First and Foremost now laughed grimly and released his prisoner.

“If you have anything to say that is interesting,” he remarked,
“speak out ,before I strangle you.”

So Guph spoke out. He tried not to pay any attention to a strange
rustling sound that he heard, as of an unseen multitude drawing near to
listen to his words. His eyes could see only the fierce bear-man, and
to him he addressed his speech. First he told of his plan to conquer
the Land of Oz and plunder the country of its riches and enslave its
people, who, being fairies, could not be killed. After relating all
this, and telling of the tunnel the Nome King was building, he said he
had come to ask the First and Foremost to join the Nomes, with his band
of terrible warriors, and help them to defeat the Oz people.

The General spoke very earnestly and impressively, but when he had
finished the bear-man began to laugh as if much amused, and his laughter
seemed to be echoed by a chorus of merriment from an unseen multitude.
Then, for the first time, Guph began to feel a trifle worried.

“Who else has promised to help you?” finally asked the First and Foremost.

“The Whimsies,” replied the General.

Again the bear-headed Phanfasm laughed.

“Any others?” he inquired.

“Only the Growleywogs,” said Guph.

This answer set the First and Foremost laughing anew.

“What share of the spoils am I to have?” was the next question.

“Anything you like, except King Roquat’s Magic Belt,” replied Guph.

At this the Phanfasm set up a roar of laughter, which had its echo in
the unseen chorus, and the bear-man seemed so amused that he actually
rolled upon the ground and shouted with merriment.

“Oh, these blind and foolish Nomes!” he said. “How big they seem to
themselves and how small they really are!”

Suddenly he arose and seized Guph’s neck with one hairy paw, dragging
him out of the hut into the open.

Here he gave a curious wailing cry, and, as if in answer, from all the
rocky huts on the mountain-top came flocking a horde of Phanfasms, all
with hairy bodies, but wearing heads of various animals, birds and
reptiles. All were ferocious and repulsive-looking to the deceived
eyes of the Nome, and Guph could not repress a shudder of disgust as
he looked upon them.

The First and Foremost slowly raised his arms, and in a twinkling his
hairy skin fell from him and he appeared before the astonished Nome
as a beautiful woman, clothed in a flowing gown of pink gauze. In her
dark hair flowers were entwined, and her face was noble and calm.

At the same instant the entire band of Phanfasms was transformed into
a pack of howling wolves, running here and there as they snarled and
showed their ugly yellow fangs.

The woman now raised her arms, even as the man-bear had done, and in
a twinkling the wolves became crawling lizards, while she herself
changed into a huge butterfly.

Guph had only time to cry out in fear and take a step backward to
avoid the lizards when another transformation occurred, and all
returned instantly to the forms they had originally worn.

Then the First and Foremost, who had resumed his hairy body and
bear head, turned to the Nome and asked

“Do you still demand our assistance?”

“More than ever,” answered the General, firmly.

“Then tell me: what can you offer the Phanfasms that they have not
already?” inquired the First and Foremost.

Guph hesitated. He really did not know what to say. The Nome King’s
vaunted Magic Belt seemed a poor thing compared to the astonishing
magical powers of these people. Gold, jewels and slaves they might
secure in any quantity without especial effort. He felt that he was
dealing with powers greatly beyond him. There was but one argument
that might influence the Phanfasms, who were creatures of evil.

“Permit me to call your attention to the exquisite joy of making the
happy unhappy,” said he at last. “Consider the pleasure of destroying
innocent and harmless people.”

“Ah! you have answered me,” cried the First and Foremost. “For that
reason alone we will aid you. Go home, and tell your bandy-legged king
that as soon as his tunnel is finished the Phanfasms will be with him
and lead his legions to the conquest of Oz. The deadly desert alone
has kept us from destroying Oz long ago, and your underground tunnel
is a clever thought. Go home, and prepare for our coming!”

Guph was very glad to be permitted to go with this promise. The owl-man
led him back down the mountain path and ordered the scarlet alligator to
crawl away and allow the Nome to cross the bridge in safety.

After the visitor had gone a brilliant and gorgeous city appeared upon
the mountain top, clearly visible to the eyes of the gaily dressed
multitude of Phanfasms that lived there. And the First and Foremost,
beautifully arrayed, addressed the others in these words:

“It is time we went into the world and brought sorrow and dismay to
its people. Too long have we remained for ourselves upon this
mountain top, for while we are thus secluded many nations have grown
happy and prosperous, and the chief joy of the race of Phanfasms is to
destroy happiness. So I think it is lucky that this messenger from
the Nomes arrived among us just now, to remind us that the opportunity
has come for us to make trouble. We will use King Roquat’s tunnel to
conquer the Land of Oz. Then we will destroy the Whimsies, the
Growleywogs and the Nomes, and afterward go out to ravage and annoy
and grieve the whole world.”

The multitude of evil Phanfasms eagerly applauded this plan,
which they fully approved.

I am told that the Erbs are the most powerful and merciless of all
the evil spirits, and the Phanfasms of Phantastico belong to the
race of Erbs.

 

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