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Chapter 3 – Magic Mystifies the Marchers

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

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Princess Ozma was all unaware that the Army of
Oogaboo, led by their ambitious Queen, was
determined to conquer her Kingdom. The beautiful
girl Ruler of Oz was busy with the welfare of her
subjects and had no time to think of Ann Soforth
and her disloyal plans. But there was one who
constantly guarded the peace and happiness of the
Land of Oz and this was the Official Sorceress of
the Kingdom, Glinda the Good.

In her magnificent castle, which stands far
north of the Emerald City where Ozma holds her
court, Glinda owns a wonderful magic Record Book,
in which is printed every event that takes place
anywhere, just as soon as it happens.

The smallest things and the biggest things are
all recorded in this book. If a child stamps its
foot in anger, Glinda reads about it; if a city
burns down, Glinda finds the fact noted in her
book.

The Sorceress always reads her Record Book every
day, and so it was she knew that Ann Soforth,
Queen of Oogaboo, had foolishly assembled an army
of sixteen officers and one private soldier, with
which she intended to invade and conquer the Land
of Or.

There was no danger but that Ozma, supported by
the magic arts of Glinda the Good and the powerful
Wizard of Oz–both her firm friends–could easily
defeat a far more imposing army than Ann’s; but it
would be a shame to have the peace of Oz
interrupted by any sort of quarreling or fighting.
So Glinda did not even mention the matter to Ozma,
or to anyone else. She merely went into a great
chamber of her castle, known as the Magic Room,
where she performed a magical ceremony which
caused the mountain pass that led from Oogaboo to
make several turns and twists. The result was that
when Ann and her army came to the end of the pass
they were not in the Land of Oz at all, but in an
adjoining territory that was quite distinct from
Ozma’s domain and separated from Oz by an
invisible barrier.

As the Oogaboo people emerged into this country,
the pass they had traversed disappeared behind
them and it was not likely they would ever find
their way back into the valley of Oogaboo. They
were greatly puzzled, indeed, by their
surroundings and did not know which way to go.
None of them had ever visited Oz, so it took them
some time to discover they were not in Oz at all,
but in an unknown country.

“Never mind,” said Ann, trying to conceal her
disappointment; “we have started out to conquer
the world, and here is part of it. In time, as we
pursue our victorious journey, we will doubtless
come to Oz; but, until we get there, we may as
well conquer whatever land we find ourselves in.”

“Have we conquered this place, Your Majesty?”
anxiously inquired Major Cake.

“Most certainly,” said Ann. “We have met no
people, as yet, but when we do, we will inform
them that they are our slaves.”

“And afterward we will plunder them of all
their possessions,” added General Apple.

“They may not possess anything,” objected
Private Files; “but I hope they will fight us,
just the same. A peaceful conquest wouldn’t be any
fun at all.”

“Don’t worry,” said the Queen. “We can fight,
whether our foes do or not; and perhaps we would
find it more comfortable to have the enemy
surrender promptly.”

It was a barren country and not very pleasant to
travel in. Moreover, there was little for them to
eat, and as the officers became hungry they became
fretful. Many would have deserted had they been
able to find their way home, but as the Oogaboo
people were now hopelessly lost in a strange
country they considered it more safe to keep
together than to separate.

Queen Ann’s temper, never very agreeable, became
sharp and irritable as she and her army tramped
over the rocky roads without encountering either
people or plunder. She scolded her officers until
they became surly, and a few of them were disloyal
enough to ask her to hold her tongue. Others began
to reproach her for leading them into difficulties
and in the space of three unhappy days every man
was mourning for his orchard in the pretty valley
of Oogaboo.

Files, however, proved a different sort. The
more difficulties he encountered the more cheerful
he became, and the sighs of the officers were
answered by the merry whistle of the Private. His
pleasant disposition did much to encourage Queen
Ann and before long she consulted the Private
Soldier more often than she did his superiors.

It was on the third day of their pilgrimage
that they encountered their first adventure.
Toward evening the sky was suddenly darkened
and Major Nails exclaimed:

“A fog is coming toward us.”

“I do not think it is a fog,” replied Files,
looking with interest at the approaching cloud.
“It seems to me more like the breath of a Rak.”

“What is a Rak?” asked Ann, looking about
fearfully.

“A terrible beast with a horrible appetite,”
answered the soldier, growing a little paler than
usual. “I have never seen a Rak, to be sure, but I
have read of them in the story-books that grew in
my orchard, and if this is indeed one of those
fearful monsters, we are not likely to conquer the
world.”

Hearing this, the officers became quite worried
and gathered closer about their soldier.

“What is the thing like?” asked one.

“The only picture of a Rak that I ever saw in a
book was rather blurred,” said Files, “because the
book was not quite ripe when it was picked. But
the creature can fly in the air and run like a
deer and swim like a fish. Inside its body is a
glowing furnace of fire, and the Rak breathes in
air and breathes out smoke, which darkens the sky
for miles around, wherever it goes. It is bigger
than a hundred men and feeds on any living thing.”

The officers now began to groan and to tremble,
but Files tried to cheer them, saying:

“It may not be a Rak, after all, that we see
approaching us, and you must not forget that we
people of Oogaboo, which is part of the fairyland
of Oz, cannot be killed.”

“Nevertheless,” said Captain Buttons, “if the
Rak catches us, and chews us up into small pieces,
and swallows us–what will happen then?”

“Then each small piece will still be alive,”
declared Files.

“I cannot see how that would help us,” wailed
Colonel Banjo. “A hamburger steak is a hamburger
steak, whether it is alive or not!”

“I tell you, this may not be a Rak,” persisted
Files. “We will know, when the cloud gets nearer,
whether it is the breath of a Rak or not. If it
has no smell at all, it is probably a fog; but If
it has an odor of salt and pepper, it is a Rak and
we must prepare for a desperate fight.”

They all eyed the dark cloud fearfully. Before
long it reached the frightened group and began
to envelop them. Every nose sniffed the cloud
–and every one detected in it the odor of salt and
pepper.

“The Rak!” shouted Private Files, and with a
howl of despair the sixteen officers fell to the
ground, writhing and moaning in anguish.
Queen Ann sat down upon a rock and faced the
cloud more bravely, although her heart was beating
fast. As for Files, he calmly loaded his gun
and stood ready to fight the foe, as a soldier
should.

They were now in absolute darkness, for the
cloud which covered the sky and the setting sun
was black as ink. Then through the gloom appeared
two round, glowing balls of red, and Files at once
decided these must be the monster’s eyes.

He raised his gun, took aim and fired.

There were several bullets in the gun, all
gathered from an excellent bullet-tree in Oogaboo,
and they were big and hard. They flew toward the
monster and struck it, and with a wild, weird cry
the Rak came fluttering down and its huge body
fell plump upon the forms of the sixteen officers,
who thereupon screamed louder than before.

“Badness me!” moaned the Rak. “See what
you’ve done with that dangerous gun of yours!”

“I can’t see,” replied Files, “for the cloud
formed by your breath darkens my sight!”

“Don’t tell me it was an accident,” continued
the Rak, reproachfully, as it still flapped its
wings in a helpless manner. “Don’t claim you
didn’t know the gun was loaded, I beg of you!”

“I don’t intend to,” replied Files. “Did the
bullets hurt you very badly?”

“One has broken my jaw, so that I can’t open
my mouth. You will notice that my voice sounds
rather harsh and husky, because I have to talk
with my teeth set close together. Another bullet
broke my left wing, so that I can’t fly; and still
another broke my right leg, so that I can’t walk.
It was the most careless shot I ever heard of!”

“Can’t you manage to lift your body off from
my commanding officers?” inquired Files. “From
their cries I’m afraid your great weight is
crushing them.”

“I hope it is,” growled the Rak. “I want to
crush them, if possible, for I have a bad
disposition. If only I could open my mouth, I’d
eat all of you, although my appetite is poorly
this warm weather.”

With this the Rak began to roll its immense
body sidewise, so as to crush the officers more
easily; but in doing this it rolled completely off
from them and the entire sixteen scrambled to
their feet and made off as fast as they could run.

Private Files could not see them go but he
knew from the sound of their voices that they had
escaped, so he ceased to worry about them.

“Pardon me if I now bid you good-bye,” he
said to the Rak. “The parting is caused by our
desire to continue our journey. If you die, do
not blame me, for I was obliged to shoot you
as a matter of self-protection.”

“I shall not die,” answered the monster, “for I
bear a charmed life. But I beg you not to leave
me!”

“Why not?” asked Files.

“Because my broken jaw will heal in about an
hour, and then I shall be able to eat you. My wing
will heal in a day and my leg will heal in a week,
when I shall be as well as ever. Having shot me,
and so caused me all this annoyance, it is only
fair and just that you remain here and allow me to
eat you as soon as I can open my jaws.”

“I beg to differ with you,” returned the soldier
firmly. “I have made an engagement with Queen
Ann of Oogaboo to help her conquer the world,
and I cannot break my word for the sake of being
eaten by a Rak.”

“Oh; that’s different,” said the monster. “If
you’ve an engagement, don’t let me detain you.”

So Files felt around in the dark and grasped
the hand of the trembling Queen, whom he led
away from the flapping, sighing Rak. They
stumbled over the stones for a way but presently
began to see dimly the path ahead of them, as
they got farther and farther away from the
dreadful spot where the wounded monster lay.
By and by they reached a little hill and could
see the last rays of the sun flooding a pretty
valley beyond, for now they had passed beyond
the cloudy breath of the Rak. Here were huddled
the sixteen officers, still frightened and panting
from their run. They had halted only because
it was impossible for them to run any farther.

Queen Ann gave them a severe scolding for
their cowardice, at the same time praising Files
for his courage.

“We are wiser than he, however,” muttered
General Clock, “for by running away we are
now able to assist Your Majesty in conquering
the world; whereas, had Files been eaten by the
Rak, he would have deserted your Army.”

After a brief rest they descended into the
valley, and as soon as they were out of sight of
the Rak the spirits of the entire party rose
quickly. Just at dusk they came to a brook, on
the banks of which Queen Ann commanded
them to make camp for the night.

Each officer carried in his pocket a tiny white
tent. This, when placed upon the ground, quickly
grew in size until it was large enough to permit
the owner to enter it and sleep within its canvas
walls. Files was obliged to carry a knapsack, in
which was not only his own tent but an elaborate
pavilion for Queen Ann, besides a bed and chair
and a magic table. This table, when set upon the
ground in Ann’s pavilion, became of large size,
and in a drawer of the table was contained the
Queen’s supply of extra clothing, her manicure and
toilet articles and other necessary things. The
royal bed was the only one in the camp, the
officers and private sleeping in hammocks attached
to their tent poles.

There was also in the knapsack a flag bearing
the royal emblem of Oogaboo, and this flag Files
flew upon its staff every night, to show that the
country they were in had been conquered by the
Queen of Oogaboo. So far, no one but themselves
had seen the flag, but Ann was pleased to see it
flutter in the breeze and considered herself
already a famous conqueror.

 

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