FictionForest

Chapter 14 – The Escape

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

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“Our fault,” said Rinkitink, “is that we conquer only
one of these twin islands at a time. When we
conquered Regos, our foes all came to Coregos, and now
that we have conquered Coregos, the Queen has fled to
Regos. And each time they removed the bridge of boats,
so that we could not follow them.”

“What has become of our own boat, in which we came
from Pingaree?” asked Bilbil.

“We left it on the shore of Regos,” replied the
Prince, “but I wonder if we could not get it again.”

“Why don’t you ask the White Pearl?” suggested
Rinkitink.

“That is a good idea,” returned the boy, and at once
he drew the White Pearl from its silken bag and held it
to his ear. Then he asked: “How may I regain our boat?”

The Voice of the Pearl replied: “Go to the south end
of the Island of Coregos, and clap your hands three
times and the boat will come to you.

“Very good!” cried Inga, and then he turned to his
companions and said: “We shall be able to get our boat
whenever we please; but what then shall we do?”

“Take me home in it!” pleaded Zella.

“Come with me to my City of Gilgad,” said the King,
“where you will be very welcome to remain forever.”

“No,” answered Inga, “I must rescue my father and
mother, as well as my people. Already I have the women
and children of Pingaree, but the men are with my
father in the mines of Regos, and my dear mother has
been taken away by Queen Cor. Not until all are rescued
will I consent to leave these islands.”

“Quite right!” exclaimed Bilbil.

“On second thought,” said Rinkitink, “I agree with
you. If you are careful to sleep in your shoes, and
never take them off again, I believe you will be able
to perform the task you have undertaken.”

They counseled together for a long time as to their
mode of action and it was finally considered best to
make the attempt to liberate King Kitticut first of
all, and with him the men from Pingaree. This would
give them an army to assist them and afterward they
could march to Regos and compel Queen Cor to give up
the Queen of Pingaree. Zella told them that they could
go in their boat along the shore of Regos to a point
opposite the mines, thus avoiding any conflict with the
warriors of King Gos.

This being considered the best course to pursue, they
resolved to start on the following morning, as night
was even now approaching. The servants being all busy
in caring for the women and children, Zella undertook
to get a dinner for Inga and Rinkitink and herself and
soon prepared a fine meal in the palace kitchen, for
she was a good little cook and had often helped her
mother. The dinner was served in a small room
overlooking the gardens and Rinkitink thought the best
part of it was the sweet honey, which he spread upon
the biscuits that Zella had made. As for Bilbil, he
wandered through the palace grounds and found some
grass that made him a good dinner.

During the evening Inga talked with the women and
cheered them, promising soon to reunite them with their
husbands who were working in the mines and to send them
back to their own island of Pingaree.

Next morning the boy rose bright and early and found
that Zella had already prepared a nice breakfast. And
after the meal they went to the most southern point of
the island, which was not very far away, Rinkitink
riding upon Bilbil’s back and Inga and Zella following
behind them, hand in hand.

When they reached the water’s edge the boy advanced
and clapped his hands together three times, as the
White Pearl had told him to do. And in a few moments
they saw in the distance the black boat with the silver
lining, coming swiftly toward them from the sea.
Presently it grounded on the beach and they all got
into it.

Zella was delighted with the boat, which was the most
beautiful she had ever seen, and the marvel of its
coming to them through the water without anyone to row
it, made her a little afraid of the fairy craft. But
Inga picked up the oars and began to row and at once
the boat shot swiftly in the direction of Regos. They
rounded the point of that island where the city was
built and noticed that the shore was lined with
warriors who had discovered their boat but seemed
undecided whether to pursue it or not. This was
probably because they had received no commands what to
do, or perhaps they had learned to fear the magic
powers of these adventurers from Pingaree and were
unwilling to attack them unless their King ordered them
to.

The coast on the western side of the Island of Regos
was very uneven and Zella, who knew fairly well the
location of the mines from the inland forest path, was
puzzled to decide which mountain they now viewed from
the sea was the one where the entrance to the
underground caverns was located. First she thought it
was this peak, and then she guessed it was that; so
considerable time was lost through her uncertainty.

They finally decided to land and explore the country,
to see where they were, so Inga ran the boat into a
little rocky cove where they all disembarked. For an
hour they searched for the path without finding any
trace of it and now Zella believed they had gone too
far to the north and must return to another mountain
that was nearer to the city.

Once again they entered the boat and followed the
winding coast south until they thought they had reached
the right place. By this time, however, it was growing
dark, for the entire day had been spent in the search
for the entrance to the mines, and Zella warned them
that it would be safer to spend the night in the boat
than on the land, where wild beasts were sure to
disturb them. None of them realized at this time how
fatal this day of search had been to their plans and
perhaps if Inga had realized what was going on he would
have landed and fought all the wild beasts in the
forest rather than quietly remain in the boat until
morning.

However, knowing nothing of the cunning plans of
Queen Cor and King Gos, they anchored their boat in a
little bay and cheerfully ate their dinner, finding
plenty of food and drink in the boat’s lockers. In the
evening the stars came out in the sky and tipped the
waves around their boat with silver. All around them
was delightfully still save for the occasional snarl of
a beast on the neighboring shore.

They talked together quietly of their adventures and
their future plans and Zella told them her simple
history and how hard her poor father was obliged to
work, burning charcoal to sell for enough money to
support his wife and child. Nikobob might be the
humblest man in all Regos, but Zella declared he was a
good man, and honest, and it was not his fault that his
country was ruled by so wicked a King.

Then Rinkitink, to amuse them, offered to sing a
song, and although Bilbil protested in his gruff way,
claiming that his master’s voice was cracked and
disagreeable, the little King was encouraged by the
others to sing his song, which he did.

“A red-headed man named Ned was dead;

Sing fiddle-cum-faddle-cum-fi-do!
In battle he had lost his head;

Sing fiddle-cum-faddl-cum-fi-do!
‘Alas, poor Ned,’ to him I said,
‘How did you lose your head so red?’

Sing fiddle-cum-faddle-cum-fi-do!

“Said Ned: ‘I for my country bled,’

Sing fiddle-cum-faddle-cum-fi-do!
‘Instead of dying safe in bed’,

Sing fiddle-cum-faddle-cum-fi-do!
‘If I had only fled, instead,
I then had been a head ahead.’

Sing fiddle-cum-faddle-cum-fi-do!

“I said to Ned –”

“Do stop, Your Majesty!” pleaded Bilbil. “You’re
making my head ache.”

“But the song isn’t finished,” replied Rinkitink,
“and as for your head aching, think of poor Ned, who
hadn’t any head at all!”

“I can think of nothing but your dismal singing,”
retorted Bilbil. “Why didn’t you choose a cheerful
subject, instead of telling how a man who was dead lost
his red head? Really, Rinkitink, I’m surprised at you.

“I know a splendid song about a live man, said the
King.

“Then don’t sing it,” begged Bilbil.

Zella was both astonished and grieved by the
disrespectful words of the goat, for she had quite
enjoyed Rinkitink’s singing and had been taught a
proper respect for Kings and those high in authority.
But as it was now getting late they decided to go to
sleep, that they might rise early the following
morning, so they all reclined upon the bottom of the
big boat and covered themselves with blankets which
they found stored underneath the seats for just such
occasions. They were not long in falling asleep and did
not waken until daybreak.

After a hurried breakfast, for Inga was eager to
liberate his father, the boy rowed the boat ashore and
they all landed and began searching for the path. Zella
found it within the next half hour and declared they
must be very close to the entrance to the mines; so
they followed the path toward the north, Inga going
first, and then Zella following him, while Rinkitink
brought up the rear riding upon Bilbil’s back.

Before long they saw a great wall of rock towering
before them, in which was a low arched entrance, and on
either side of this entrance stood a guard, armed with
a sword and a spear. The guards of the mines were not
so fierce as the warriors of King Gos, their duty being
to make the slaves work at their tasks and guard them
from escaping; but they were as cruel as their cruel
master wished them to be, and as cowardly as they were
cruel.

Inga walked up to the two men at the entrance and
said:

“Does this opening lead to the mines of King Gos?”

“It does,” replied one of the guards, “but no one is
allowed to pass out who once goes in.”

“Nevertheless,” said the boy, we intend to go in and
we shall come out whenever it pleases us to do so. I am
the Prince of Pingaree, and I have come to liberate my
people, whom King Gos has enslaved.”

Now when the two guards heard this speech they looked
at one another and laughed, and one of them said: “The
King was right, for he said the boy was likely to come
here and that he would try to set his people free. Also
the King commanded that we must keep the little Prince
in the mines, and set him to work, together with his
companions.”

“Then let us obey the King,” replied the other man.

Inga was surprised at hearing this, and asked:

“When did King Gos give you this order?”

“His Majesty was here in person last night,” replied
the man, “and went away again but an hour ago. He
suspected you were coming here and told us to capture
you if we could.”

This report made the boy very anxious, not for
himself but for his father, for he feared the King was
up to some mischief. So he hastened to enter the mines
and the guards did nothing to oppose him or his
companions, their orders being to allow him to go in
but not to come out.

The little group of adventurers passed through a long
rocky corridor and reached a low, wide cavern where
they found a dozen guards and a hundred slaves, the
latter being hard at work with picks and shovels
digging for gold, while the guards stood over them with
long whips.

Inga found many of the men from Pingaree among these
slaves, but King Kitticut was not in this cavern; so
they passed through it and entered another corridor
that led to a second cavern. Here also hundreds of men
were working, but the boy did not find his father
amongst them, and so went on to a third cavern.

The corridors all slanted downward, so that the
farther they went the lower into the earth they
descended, and now they found the air hot and close and
difficult to breathe. Flaming torches were stuck into
the walls to give light to the workers, and these added
to the oppressive heat.

The third and lowest cavern was the last in the
mines, and here were many scores of slaves and many
guards to keep them at work. So far, none of the guards
had paid any attention to Inga’s party, but allowed
them to proceed as they would, and while the slaves
cast curious glances at the boy and girl and man and
goat, they dared say nothing. But now the boy walked up
to some of the men of Pingaree and asked news of his
father, telling them not to fear the guards as he would
protect them from the whips.

Then he Teamed that King Kitticut had indeed been
working in this very cavern until the evening before,
when King Gos had come and taken him away — still
loaded with chains.

“Seems to me,” said King Rinkitink, when he heard
this report, “that Gos has carried your father away to
Regos, to prevent us from rescuing him. He may hide
poor Kitticut in a dungeon, where we cannot find him.”

“Perhaps you are right,” answered the boy, “but I am
determined to find him, wherever he may be.”

Inga spoke firmly and with courage, but he was
greatly disappointed to find that King Gos had been
before him at the mines and had taken his father away.
However, he tried not to feel disheartened, believing
he would succeed in the end, in spite of all
opposition. Turning to the guards, he said:

“Remove the chains from these slaves and set them
free.”

The guards laughed at this order, and one of them
brought forward a handful of chains, saying: “His
Majesty has commanded us to make you, also, a slave,
for you are never to leave these caverns again.”

Then he attempted to place the chains on Inga, but
the boy indignantly seized them and broke them apart as
easily as if they had been cotton cords. When a dozen
or more of the guards made a dash to capture him, the
Prince swung the end of the chain like a whip and drove
them into a corner, where they cowered and begged for
mercy.

Stories of the marvelous strength of the boy Prince
had already spread to the mines of Regos, and although
King Gos had told them that Inga had been deprived of
all his magic power, the guards now saw this was not
true, so they deemed it wise not to attempt to oppose
him.

The chains of the slaves had all been riveted fast to
their ankles and wrists, but Inga broke the bonds of
steel with his hands and set the poor men free — not
only those from Pingaree but all who had been captured
in the many wars and raids of King Gos. They were very
grateful, as you may suppose, and agreed to support
Prince Inga in whatever action he commanded.

He led them to the middle cavern, where all the
guards and overseers fled in terror at his approach,
and soon he had broken apart the chains of the slaves
who had been working in that part of the mines. Then
they approached the first cavern and liberated all
there.

The slaves had been treated so cruelly by the
servants of King Gos that they were eager to pursue and
slay them, in revenge; but Inga held them back and
formed them into companies, each company having its own
leader. Then he called the leaders together and
instructed them to march in good order along the path
to the City of Regos, where he would meet them and
tell them what to do next.

They readily agreed to obey him, and, arming
themselves with iron bars and pick-axes which they
brought from the mines, the slaves began their march to
the city.

Zella at first wished to be left behind, that she
might make her way to her home, but neither Rinkitink
nor Inga thought it was safe for her to wander alone
through the forest, so they induced her to return with
them to the city.

The boy beached his boat this time at the same place
as when he first landed at Regos, and while many of the
warriors stood on the shore and before the walls of the
city, not one of them attempted to interfere with the
boy in any way. Indeed, they seemed uneasy and anxious,
and when Inga met Captain Buzzub the boy asked if
anything had happened in his absence.

“A great deal has happened,” replied Buzzub. “Our
King and Queen have run away and left us, and we don’t
know what to do.”

“Run away!” exclaimed Inga. “Where did they go to?”

“Who knows?” said the man, shaking his head
despondently. “They departed together a few hours ago,
in a boat with forty rowers, and they took with them
the King and Queen of Pingaree!”

 

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