FictionForest

Chapter 17 – A Tragic Transformation

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

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“Don’t let us worry,” said Shaggy to his
companions, “for it may take the Queen some time
to conquer the Metal Monarch, as Tik-Tok has to do
everything in his slow, mechanical way.”

“Do you suppose they are likely to fail?” asked
the Rose Princess.

“I do, indeed,” replied Shaggy. “This Nome King
is really a powerful fellow and has a legion of
nomes to assist him, whereas our bold Queen
commands a Clockwork Man and a band of faint-
hearted officers.”

“She ought to have let Quox do the conquering,”
said Polychrome, dancing lightly upon a point of
rock and fluttering her beautiful draperies. “But
perhaps the dragon was wise to let her go first,
for when she fails to conquer Ruggedo she may
become more modest in her ambitions.”

“Where is the dragon now?” inquired Ozga.

“Up there on the rocks,” replied Files. “Look,
my dear; you may see him from here. He said he
would take a little nap while we were mixing up
with Ruggedo, and he added that after we had
gotten into trouble he would wake up and conquer
the Nome King in a jiffy, as his master the Jinjin
has ordered him to do.”

“Quox means well,” said Shaggy, “but I do not
think we shall need his services; for just as soon
as I am satisfied that Queen Ann and her army have
failed to conquer Ruggedo, I shall enter the
caverns and show the King my Love Magnet. That he
cannot resist; therefore the conquest will be made
with ease.”

This speech of Shaggy Man’s was overheard by the
Long-Eared Hearer, who was at that moment standing
by Ruggedo’s side. For when the King and Guph had
recovered from Hank’s kick and had picked
themselves up, their first act was to turn Tik-Tok
on his back and put a heavy diamond on top of him,
so that he could not get up again. Then they
carefully put his gun in a corner of the cavern
and the King sent Guph to fetch the Long-Eared
Hearer.

The Hearer was still angry at Ruggedo for
breaking his ear, but he acknowledged the Nome
King to be his master and was ready to obey his
commands. Therefore he repeated Shaggy’s speech to
the King, who at once realized that his Kingdom
was in grave danger. For Ruggedo knew of the Love
Magnet and its powers and was horrified at the
thought that Shaggy might show him the magic
talisman and turn all the hatred in his heart into
love. Ruggedo was proud of his hatred and abhorred
love of any sort.

“Really,” said he, “I’d rather he conquered and
lose my wealth and my Kingdom than gaze at that
awful Love Magnet. What can I do to prevent the
Shaggy Man from taking it out of his pocket?”

Kaliko returned to the cavern in time to
overhear this question, and being a loyal nome and
eager to serve his King, he answered by saying:

“If we can manage to bind the Shaggy Man’s arms,
tight to his body, he could not get the Love
Magnet out of his pocket.”

“True!” cried the King in delight at this easy
solution of the problem. “Get at once a dozen
nomes, with ropes, and place them in the passage
where they can seize and bind Shaggy as soon as he
enters.

This Kaliko did, and meanwhile the watchers
outside the entrance were growing more and more
uneasy about their friends.

“I don’t worry so much about the Oogaboo
people,” said Polychrome, who had grown sober with
waiting, and perhaps a little nervous, “for they
could not be killed, even though Ruggedo might
cause them much suffering and perhaps destroy them
utterly. But we should not have allowed Betsy and
Hank to go alone into the caverns. The little girl
is mortal and possesses no magic powers whatever,
so if Ruggedo captures her she will be wholly at
his. mercy.”

“That is indeed true,” replied Shaggy. “I
wouldn’t like to have anything happen to dear
little Betsy, so I believe I’ll go in right away
and put an end to all this worry.”

“We may as well go with you,” asserted Files,
“for by means of the Love Magnet, you can soon
bring the Nome King to reason.

So it was decided to wait no longer. Shaggy
walked through the entrance first, and after him
came the others. They had no thought of danger to
themselves, and Shaggy, who was going along with
his hands thrust into his pockets, was much
surprised when a rope shot out from the darkness
and twined around his body, pinning down his arms
so securely that he could not even withdraw his
hands from the pockets. Then appeared several
grinning nomes, who speedily tied knots in the
ropes and then led the prisoner along the passage
to the cavern. No attention was paid to the
others, but Files and the Princess followed on
after Shaggy, determined not to desert their
friend and hoping that an opportunity might arise
to rescue him.

As for Polychrome, as soon as she saw that
trouble had overtaken Shaggy she turned and ran
lightly back through the passage and out of the
entrance. Then she easily leaped from rock to rock
until she paused beside the great dragon, who lay
fast asleep.

“Wake up, Quox!” she cried. “It is time for you
to act.”

But Quox did not wake up. He lay as one in a
trance, absolutely motionless, with his enormous
eyes tight closed. The eyelids had big silver
scales on them, like all the rest of his body.

Polychrome might have thought Quox was dead had
she not known that dragons do not die easily or
had she not observed his huge body swelling as he
breathed. She picked up a piece of rock and
pounded against his eyelids with it, saying:

“Wake up, Quox-wake up!” But he would not waken.

“Dear me, how unfortunate!” sighed the
lovely Rainbow’s Daughter. “I wonder what is
the best and surest way to waken a dragon. All
our friends may be captured and destroyed
while this great beast lies asleep.”

She walked around Quox two or three times,
trying to discover some tender place on his body
where a thump or a punch might he felt; but he lay
extended along the rocks with his chin flat upon
the ground and his legs drawn underneath his body,
and all that one could see was his thick sky-blue
skin–thicker than that of a rhinoceros–and his
silver scales.

Then, despairing at last of wakening the beast,
and worried over the fate of her friends,
Polychrome again ran down to the entrance and
hurried along the passage into the Nome King’s
cavern.

Here she found Ruggedo lolling in his throne and
smoking a long pipe. Beside him stood General Guph
and Kaliko, and ranged before the King were the
Rose Princess, Files and the Shaggy Man. Tik-Tok
still lay upon the floor, weighted down by the big
diamond.

Ruggedo was now in a more contented frame of
mind. One by one he had met the invaders and
easily captured them. The dreaded Love Magnet was
indeed in Shaggy’s pocket, only a few feet away
from the King, but Shaggy was powerless to show it
and unless Ruggudo’s eyes beheld the talisman it
could not affect him. As for Betsy Bobbin and her
mule, he believed Kaliko had placed them in the
Slimy Cave, while Ann and her officers he thought
safely imprisoned in the pit. Ruggedo had no fear
of Files or Ozga, but to be on the safe side he
had ordered golden handcuffs placed upon their
wrists. These did not cause them any great
annoyance but prevented them from making an
attack, had they been inclined to do so.

The Nome King, thinking himself wholly master of
the situation, was laughing and jeering at his
prisoners when Polychrome, exquisitely beautiful
and dancing like a ray of light, entered the
cavern.

“Oho!” cried the King; “a Rainbow under ground,
eh?” and then he stared hard at Polychrome, and
still harder, and then he sat up and pulled the
wrinkles out of his robe and arranged his
whiskers. “On my word,” said he, “you are a very
captivating creature; moreover, I perceive you
are a fairy.”

“I am Polychrome, the Rainbow’s Daughter,” she
said proudly.

“Well,” replied Ruggedo, “I like you. The others
I hate. I hate everybody–but you! Wouldn’t you
like to live always in this beautiful cavern,
Polychrome? See! the jewels that stud the walls
have every tint and color of your Rainbow–and
they are not so elusive. I’ll have fresh dewdrops
gathered for your feasting every day and you shall
be Queen of all my nomes and pull Kaliko’s nose
whenever you like.”

“No, thank you,” laughed Polychrome. “My home is
in the sky, and I’m only on a visit to this solid,
sordid earth. But tell me, Ruggedo, why my friends
have been wound with cords and bound with chains?”

“They threatened me,” answered Ruggedo. “The
fools did not know how powerful I am.”

“Then, since they are now helpless, why not
release them and send them back to the earth’s
surface?”

“Because I hate ’em and mean to make em suffer
for their invasion. But I’ll make a bargain with
you, sweet Polly. Remain here and live with me and
I’ll set all these people free. You shall be my
daughter or my wife or my aunt or grandmother–
whichever you like only stay here to brighten my
gloomy kingdom and make me happy!”

Polychrome looked at him wonderingly. Then she
turned to Shaggy and asked:

“Are you sure he hasn’t seen the Love Magnet?”

“I’m positive,” answered Shaggy. “But you seem
to be something of a Love Magnet yourself,
Polychrome.”

She laughed again and said to Ruggedo: “Not even
to rescue my friends would I live in your kingdom.
Nor could I endure for long the society of such a
wicked monster as you.

“You forget,” retorted the King, scowling
darkly, “that you also are in my power.”

“Not so, Ruggedo. The Rainbow’s Daughter is
beyond the reach of your spite or malice.”

“Seize her!” suddenly shouted the King, and
General Guph sprang forward to obey. Polychrome
stood quite still, yet when Guph attempted to
clutch her his hands met in air, and now the
Rainbow’s Daughter was in another part of the
room, as smiling and composed as before.

Several times Guph endeavored to capture her and
Ruggedo even came down from his throne to assist
his General; but never could they lay hands upon
the lovely sky fairy, who flitted here and there
with the swiftness of light and constantly defied
them with her merry laughter as she evaded their
efforts.

So after a time they abandoned the chase and
Ruggedo returned to his throne and wiped the
perspiration from his face with a finely-woven
handkerchief of cloth-of-gold.

“Well,” said Polychrome, “what do you intend to
do now?”

“I’m going to have some fun, to repay me for all
my bother,” replied the Nome King. Then he said to
Kaliko: “Summon the executioners.”

Kaliko at once withdrew and presently returned
with a score of nomes, all of whom were nearly as
evil looking as their hated master. They bore
great golden pincers, and prods of silver, and
clamps and chains and various wicked-looking
instruments, all made of precious metals and set
with diamonds and rubies.

“Now, Pang,” said Ruggedo, addressing the leader
of the executioners, “fetch the Army of Oogaboo
and their Queen from the pit and torture them here
in my presence–as well as in the presence of
their friends. It will be great sport.”

“I hear Your Majesty, and I obey Your Majesty,”
answered Pang, and went with his nomes into the
passage. In a few minutes he returned and bowed to
Ruggedo.

“They’re all gone,” said he.

“Gone!” exclaimed the Nome King. “Gone where?”

“They left no address, Your Majesty; but they
are not in the pit.”

“Picks and puddles!” roared the King; “who took
the cover off?”

“No one,” said Pang. “The cover was there, but
the prisoners were not under it.”

“In that case,” snarled the King, trying to
control his disappointment, “go to the Slimy Cave
and fetch hither the girl and the donkey. And
while we are torturing them Kaliko must take a
hundred nomes and search for the escaped
prisoners–the Queen of Oogaboo and her officers.
If he does not find them, I will torture Kaliko.”

Kaliko went away looking sad and disturbed, for
he knew the King was cruel and unjust enough to
carry out this threat. Pang and the executioners
also went away, in another direction, but when
they came back Betsy Bobbin was not with them, nor
was Hank.

“There is no one in the Slimy Cave, Your
Majesty,” reported Pang.

“Jumping jellycakes!” screamed the King.
“Another escape? Are you sure you found the right
cave?”

“There is but one Slimy Cave, and there is no
one in it,” returned Pang positively.

Ruggedo was beginning to be alarmed as well as
angry. However, these disappointments but made him
the more vindictive and he cast an evil look at
the other prisoners and said:

“Never mind the girl and the donkey. Here are
four, at least, who cannot escape my vengeance.
Let me see; I believe I’ll change my mind about
Tik-Tok. Have the gold crucible heated to a white,
seething heat, and then we’ll dump the copper man
into it and melt him up.

“But, Your Majesty,” protested Kaliko, who had
returned to the room after sending a hundred nomes
to search for the Oogaboo people, you must
remember that Tik-Tok is a very curious and
interesting machine. It would be a shame to
deprive the world of such a clever contrivance.”

“Say another word, and you’ll go into the
furnace with him!” roared the King. “I’m getting
tired of you, Kaliko, and the first thing you know
I’ll turn you into a potato and make Saratoga-
chips of you! The next to consider,” he added more
mildly, “is the Shaggy Man. As he owns the Love
Magnet, I think I’ll transform him into a dove,
and then we can practice shooting at him with Tik-
Tok’s gun. Now, this is a very interesting
ceremony and I beg you all to watch me closely and
see that I’ve nothing up my sleeve.”

He came out of his throne to stand before the
Shaggy Man, and then he waved his hands, palms
downward, in seven semicircles over his victim’s
head, saying in a low but clear tone of voice the
magic wugwa:

“Adi, edi, idi, odi, udi, oo-i-oo!

Idu, ido, idi, ide, ida, woo!”

The effect of this well-known sorcery was
instantaneous. Instead of the Shaggy Man, a pretty
dove lay fluttering upon the floor, its wings
confined by tiny cords wound around them. Ruggedo
gave an order to Pang, who cut the cords with a
pair of scissors. Being freed, the dove quickly
flew upward and alighted on the shoulder of the
Rose Princess, who stroked it tenderly.

“Very good! Very good!” cried Ruggedo, rubbing
his hands gleefully together. “One enemy is out of
my way, and now for the others.”

(Perhaps my readers should be warned not to
attempt the above transformation; for, although
the exact magical formula has been described, it
is unlawful in all civilized countries for anyone
to transform a person into a dove by muttering the
words Ruggedo used. There were no laws to prevent
the Nome King from performing this transformation,
but if it should be attempted in any other
country, and the magic worked, the magician would
be severely punished.)

When Polychrome saw Shaggy Man transformed into
a dove and realized that Ruggedo was about do
something as dreadful to the Princess and Files,
and that Tik-Tok would soon be melted in a
crucible, she turned and ran from the cavern,
through the passage and back to the place where
Quox lay asleep.

 

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