The Nome King and his terrible allies sat at the banquet table until
midnight. There was much quarreling between the Growleywogs and
Phanfasms, and one of the wee-headed Whimsies got angry at General
Guph and choked him until he nearly stopped breathing. Yet no one was
seriously hurt, and the Nome King felt much relieved when the clock
struck twelve and they all sprang up and seized their weapons.
“Aha!” shouted the First and Foremost. “Now to conquer the Land of Oz!”
He marshaled his Phanfasms in battle array and at his word of command
they marched into the tunnel and began the long journey through it to
the Emerald City. The First and Foremost intended to take all the
treasures of Oz for himself; to kill all who could be killed and
enslave the rest; to destroy and lay waste the whole country, and
afterward to conquer and enslave the Nomes, the Growleywogs and the
Whimsies. And he knew his power was sufficient to enable him to do
all these things easily.
Next marched into the tunnel the army of gigantic Growleywogs, with
their Grand Gallipoot at their head. They were dreadful beings,
indeed, and longed to get to Oz that they might begin to pilfer and
destroy. The Grand Gallipoot was a little afraid of the First and
Foremost, but had a cunning plan to murder or destroy that powerful
being and secure the wealth of Oz for himself. Mighty little of the
plunder would the Nome King get, thought the Grand Gallipoot.
The Chief of the Whimsies now marched his false-headed forces into the
tunnel. In his wicked little head was a plot to destroy both the
First and Foremost and the Grand Gallipoot. He intended to let them
conquer Oz, since they insisted on going first; but he would afterward
treacherously destroy them, as well as King Roquat, and keep all the
slaves and treasure of Ozma’s kingdom for himself.
After all his dangerous allies had marched into the tunnel the Nome
King and General Guph started to follow them, at the head of fifty
thousand Nomes, all fully armed.
“Guph,” said the King, “those creatures ahead of us mean mischief.
They intend to get everything for themselves and leave us nothing.”
“I know,” replied the General; “but they are not as clever as they
think they are. When you get the Magic Belt you must at once wish
the Whimsies and Growleywogs and Phanfasms all back into their own
countries–and the Belt will surely take them there.”
“Good!” cried the King. “An excellent plan, Guph. I’ll do it.
While they are conquering Oz I’ll get the Magic Belt, and then
only the Nomes will remain to ravage the country.”
So you see there was only one thing that all were agreed upon–that
Oz should be destroyed.
On, on, on the vast ranks of invaders marched, filling the tunnel from
side to side. With a steady tramp, tramp, they advanced, every step
taking them nearer to the beautiful Emerald City.
“Nothing can save the Land of Oz!” thought the First and Foremost,
scowling until his bear face was as black as the tunnel.
“The Emerald City is as good as destroyed already!” muttered the Grand
Gallipoot, shaking his war club fiercely.
“In a few hours Oz will be a desert!” said the Chief of the Whimsies,
with an evil laugh.
“My dear Guph,” remarked the Nome King to his General, “at last my
vengeance upon Ozma of Oz and her people is about to be accomplished.”
“You are right!” declared the General. “Ozma is surely lost.”
And now the First and Foremost, who was in advance and nearing the
Emerald City, began to cough and to sneeze.
“This tunnel is terribly dusty,” he growled, angrily. “I’ll punish
that Nome King for not having it swept clean. My throat and eyes are
getting full of dust and I’m as thirsty as a fish!”
The Grand Gallipoot was coughing too, and his throat was parched and dry.
“What a dusty place!” he cried. “I’ll be glad when we reach Oz,
where we can get a drink.”
“Who has any water?” asked the Whimsie Chief, gasping and choking.
But none of his followers carried a drop of water, so he hastened
on to get through the dusty tunnel to the Land of Oz.
“Where did all this dust come from?” demanded General Guph, trying
hard to swallow but finding his throat so dry he couldn’t.
“I don’t know,” answered the Nome King. “I’ve been in the tunnel
every day while it was being built, but I never noticed any dust before.”
“Let’s hurry!” cried the General. “I’d give half the gold in Oz for a
drink of water.”
The dust grew thicker and thicker, and the throats and eyes and noses
of the invaders were filled with it. But not one halted or turned back.
They hurried forward more fierce and vengeful than ever.