FictionForest

Chapter 17 – The Nome King

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

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The Kingdom of the Nomes does not border on the
Nonestic Ocean, from which it is separated by the
Kingdom of Rinkitink and the Country of the Wheelers,
which is a part of the Land of Ev. Rinkitink’s country
is separated from the country of the Nomes by a row of
high and steep mountains, from which it extends to the
sea. The Country of the Wheelers is a sandy waste that
is open on one side to the Nonestic Ocean and on the
other side has no barrier to separate it from the Nome
Country, therefore it was on the coast of the Wheelers
that King Cos landed — in a spot quite deserted by any
of the curious inhabitants of that country.

The Nome Country is very large in extent, and is only
separated from the Land of Oz, on its eastern borders,
by a Deadly Desert that can not be crossed by mortals,
unless they are aided by the fairies or by magic.

The nomes are a numerous and mischievous people,
living in underground caverns of wide extent, connected
one with another by arches and passages. The word
“nome” means “one who knows,” and these people are so
called because they know where all the gold and silver
and precious stones are hidden in the earth — a
knowledge that no other living creatures share with
them. The nomes are busy people, constantly digging up
gold in one place and taking it to another place, where
they secretly bury it, and perhaps this is the reason
they alone know where to find it. The nomes were ruled,
at the time of which I write, by a King named Kaliko.

King Gos had expected to be pursued by Inga in his
magic boat, so he made all the haste possible, urging
his forty rowers to their best efforts night and day.
To his joy he was not overtaken but landed on the sandy
beach of the Wheelers on the morning of the eighth day.

The forty rowers were left with the boat, while Queen
Cor and King Cos, with their royal prisoners, who were
still chained, began the journey to the Nome King.

It was not long before they passed the sands and
reached the rocky country belonging to the nomes, but
they were still a long way from the entrance to the
underground caverns in which lived the Nome King. There
was a dim path, winding between stones and boulders,
over which the walking was quite difficult, especially
as the path led up hills that were small mountains, and
then down steep and abrupt slopes where any misstep
might mean a broken leg. Therefore it was the second
day of their journey before they climbed halfway up a
rugged mountain and found themselves at the entrance of
the Nome King’s caverns.

On their arrival, the entrance seemed free and
unguarded, but Gos and Cor had been there before, and
they were too wise to attempt to enter without
announcing themselves, for the passage to the caves was
full of traps and pitfalls. So King Gos stood still and
shouted, and in an instant they were surrounded by a
group of crooked nomes, who seemed to have sprung from
the ground.

One of these had very long ears and was called The
Long-Eared Hearer. He said: “I heard you coming early
this morning.”

Another had eyes that looked in different directions
at the same time and were curiously bright and
penetrating. He could look over a hill or around a
corner and was called The Lookout. Said he: “I saw you
coming yesterday.”

“Then,” said King Gos, “perhaps King Kaliko is
expecting us.”

“It is true,” replied another nome, who wore a gold
collar around his neck and carried a bunch of golden
keys. “The mighty Nome King expects you, and bids you
follow me to his presence.”

With this he led the way into the caverns and Gos and
Cor followed, dragging their weary prisoners with them,
for poor King Kitticut and his gentle Queen had been
obliged to carry, all through the tedious journey, the
bags of gold and jewels which were to bribe the Nome
King to accept them as slaves.

Through several long passages the guide led them and
at last they entered a small cavern which was
beautifully decorated and set with rare jewels that
flashed from every part of the wall, floor and ceiling.
This was a waiting-room for visitors, and there their
guide left them while he went to inform King Kaliko of
their arrival.

Before long they were ushered into a great domed
chamber, cut from the solid rock and so magnificent
that all of them — the King and Queen of Pingaree and
the King and Queen of Regos and Coregos — drew long
breaths of astonishment and opened their eyes as wide
as they could.

In an ivory throne sat a little round man who had a
pointed beard and hair that rose to a tall curl on top
of his head. He was dressed in silken robes, richly
embroidered, which had large buttons of cut rubies. On
his head was a diamond crown and in his hand he held a
golden sceptre with a big jeweled ball at one end of
it. This was Kaliko, the King and ruler of all the
nomes. He nodded pleasantly enough to his visitors and
said in a cheery voice:

“Well, Your Majesties, what can I do for you?”

“It is my desire,” answered King Gos, respectfully,
“to place in your care two prisoners, whom you now see
before you. They must be carefully guarded, to prevent
them from escaping, for they have the cunning of foxes
and are not to be trusted. In return for the favor I am
asking you to grant, I have brought Your Majesty
valuable presents of gold and precious gems.

He then commanded Kitticut and Garee to lay before
the Nome King the bags of gold and jewels, and they
obeyed, being helpless.

“Very good,” said King Kaliko, nodding approval, for
like all the nomes he loved treasures of gold and
jewels. “But who are the prisoners you have brought
here, and why do you place them in my charge instead of
guarding them, yourself? They seem gentle enough, I’m
sure.”

“The prisoners,” returned King Gos, “are the King and
Queen of Pingaree, a small island north of here. They
are very evil people and came to our islands of Regos
and Coregos to conquer them and slay our poor people.
Also they intended to plunder us of all our riches, but
by good fortune we were able to defeat and capture
them. However, they have a son who is a terrible wizard
and who by magic art is trying to find this awful King
and Queen of Pingaree, and to set them free, that they
may continue their wicked deeds. Therefore, as we have
no magic to defend ourselves with, we have brought the
prisoners to you for safe keeping.”

“Your Majesty,” spoke up King Kitticut, addressing
the Nome King with great indignation, “do not believe
this tale, I implore you. It is all a lie!”

“I know it,” said Kaliko. “I consider it a clever
lie, though, because it is woven without a thread of
truth. However, that is none of my business. The fact
remains that my good friend King Gos wishes to put you
in my underground caverns, so that you will be unable
to escape. And why should I not please him in this
little matter? Gos is a mighty King and a great
warrior, while your island of Pingaree is desolated and
your people scattered. In my heart, King Kitticut, I
sympathize with you, but as a matter of business policy
we powerful Kings must stand together and trample the
weaker ones under our feet.”

King Kitticut was surprised to find the King of the
nomes so candid and so well informed, and he tried to
argue that he and his gentle wife did not deserve their
cruel fate and that it would be wiser for Kaliko to
side with them than with the evil King of Regos. But
Kaliko only shook his head and smiled, saying:

“The fact that you are a prisoner, my poor Kitticut,
is evidence that you are weaker than King Cos, and I
prefer to deal with the strong. By the way,” he added,
turning to the King of Regos, “have these prisoners any
connection with the Land of Oz?”

“Why do you ask?” said Gos.

“Because I dare not offend the Oz people,” was the
reply. “I am very powerful, as you know, but Ozma of Oz
is far more powerful than I; therefore, if this King
and Queen of Pingaree happened to be under Ozma’s
protection, I would have nothing to do with them.”

“I assure Your Majesty that the prisoners have
nothing to do with the Oz people,” Gos hastened to say.
And Kitticut, being questioned, admitted that this was
true.

“But how about that wizard you mentioned?” asked the
Nome King.

“Oh, he is merely a boy; but he is very ferocious and
obstinate and he is assisted by a little fat sorcerer
called Rinkitink and a talking goat.”

“Oho! A talking goat, do you say? That certainly
sounds like magic; and it also sounds like the Land of
Oz, where all the animals talk,” said Kaliko, with a
doubtful expression.

But King Gos assured him the talking goat had never
been to Oz.

“As for Rinkitink, whom you call a sorcerer,”
continued the Nome King, “he is a neighbor of mine, you
must know, but as we are cut off from each other by
high mountains beneath which a powerful river runs, I
have never yet met King Rinkitink. But I have heard of
him, and from all reports he is a jolly rogue, and
perfectly harmless. However, in spite of your false
statements and misrepresentations, I will earn the
treasure you have brought me, by keeping your prisoners
safe in my caverns.

“Make them work,” advised Queen Cor. “They are rather
delicate, and to make them work will make them suffer
delightfully.”

“I’ll do as I please about that,” said the Nome King
sternly. “Be content that I agree to keep them safe.”

The bargain being thus made and concluded, Kaliko
first examined the gold and jewels and then sent it
away to his royal storehouse, which was well filled
with like treasure. Next the captives were sent away in
charge of the nome with the golden collar and keys,
whose name was Klik, and he escorted them to a small
cavern and gave them a good supper.

“I shall lock your door,” said Klik, “so there is no
need of your wearing those heavy chains any longer.” He
therefore removed the chains and left King Kitticut and
his Queen alone. This was the first time since the
Northmen had carried them away from Pingaree that the
good King and Queen had been alone together and free of
all bonds, and as they embraced lovingly and mingled
their tears over their sad fate they were also grateful
that they had passed from the control of the heartless
King Gos into the more considerate care of King Kaliko.
They were still captives but they believed they would
be happier in the underground caverns of the nomes than
in Regos and Coregos.

Meantime, in the King’s royal cavern a great feast
had been spread. King Gos and Queen Cor, having
triumphed in their plot, were so well pleased that they
held high revelry with the jolly Nome King until a late
hour that night. And the next morning, having cautioned
Kaliko not to release the prisoners under any
consideration without their orders, the King and Queen
of Regos and Coregos left the caverns of the nomes to
return to the shore of the ocean where they had left
their boat.

 

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