FictionForest

Chapter 1 – The Call to Duty

L. Frank BaumOct 05, 2016'Command+D' Bookmark this page

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Glinda, the good Sorceress of Oz, sat in the grand
court of her palace, surrounded by her maids of honor
— a hundred of the most beautiful girls of the
Fairyland of Oz. The palace court was built of rare
marbles, exquisitely polished. Fountains tinkled
musically here and there; the vast colonnade, open to
the south, allowed the maidens, as they raised their
heads from their embroideries, to gaze upon a vista of
rose-hued fields and groves of trees bearing fruits or
laden with sweet-scented flowers. At times one of the
girls would start a song, the others joining in the
chorus, or one would rise and dance, gracefully swaying
to the music of a harp played by a companion. And then
Glinda smiled, glad to see her maids mixing play with
work.

Presently among the fields an object was seen moving,
threading the broad path that led to the castle gate.
Some of the girls looked upon this object enviously;
the Sorceress merely gave it a glance and nodded her
stately head as if pleased, for it meant the coming of
her friend and mistress — the only one in all the land
that Glinda bowed to.

Then up the path trotted a wooden animal attached to
a red wagon, and as the quaint steed halted at the gate
there descended from the wagon two young girls, Ozma,
Ruler of Oz, and her companion, Princess Dorothy. Both
were dressed in simple white muslin gowns, and as they
ran up the marble steps of the palace they laughed and
chatted as gaily as if they were not the most important
persons in the world’s loveliest fairyland.

The maids of honor had risen and stood with bowed
heads to greet the royal Ozma, while Glinda came
forward with outstretched arms to greet her guests.

“We’ve just come on a visit, you know,” said Ozma.
“Both Dorothy and I were wondering how we should pass
the day when we happened to think we’d not been to your
Quadling Country for weeks, so we took the Sawhorse and
rode straight here.”

“And we came so fast,” added Dorothy, “that our hair
is blown all fuzzy, for the Sawhorse makes a wind of
his own. Usually it’s a day’s journey from the Em’rald
City, but I don’t s’pose we were two hours on the way.”

“You are most welcome,” said Glinda the Sorceress,
and led them through the court to her magnificent
reception hall. Ozma took the arm of her hostess, but
Dorothy lagged behind, kissing some of the maids she
knew best, talking with others, and making them all
feel that she was their friend. When at last she joined
Glinda and Ozma in the reception hall, she found them
talking earnestly about the condition of the people,
and how to make them more happy and contented —
although they were already the happiest and most
contented folks in all the world.

This interested Ozma, of course, but it didn’t
interest Dorothy very much, so the little girl ran over
to a big table on which was lying open Glinda’s Great
Book of Records.

This Book is one of the greatest treasures in Oz, and
the Sorceress prizes it more highly than any of her
magical possessions. That is the reason it is firmly
attached to the big marble table by means of golden
chains, and whenever Glinda leaves home she locks the
Great Book together with five jeweled padlocks, and
carries the keys safely hidden in her bosom.

I do not suppose there is any magical thing in any
fairyland to compare with the Record Book, on the pages
of which are constantly being printed a record of every
event that happens in any part of the world, at exactly
the moment it happens. And the records are always
truthful, although sometimes they do not give as many
details as one could wish. But then, lots of things
happen, and so the records have to be brief or even
Glinda’s Great Book could not hold them all.

Glinda looked at the records several times each day,
and Dorothy, whenever she visited the Sorceress, loved
to look in the Book and see what was happening
everywhere. Not much was recorded about the Land of Oz,
which is usually peaceful and uneventful, but today
Dorothy found something which interested her. Indeed,
the printed letters were appearing on the page even
while she looked.

“This is funny!” she exclaimed. “Did you know,
Ozma, that there were people in your Land of Oz
called Skeezers?”

“Yes,” replied Ozma, coming to her side, “I know that
on Professor Wogglebug’s Map of the Land of Oz there is
a place marked ‘Skeezer,’ but what the Skeezers are
like I do not know. No one I know has ever seen them or
heard of them. The Skeezer Country is ‘way at the upper
edge of the Gillikin Country, with the sandy,
impassable desert on one side and the mountains of
Oogaboo on another side. That is a part of the Land of
Oz of which I know very little.”

“I guess no one else knows much about it either,
unless it’s the Skeezers themselves,” remarked Dorothy.
“But the Book says: ‘The Skeezers of Oz have declared
war on the Flatheads of Oz, and there is likely to be
fighting and much trouble as the result.'”

“Is that all the Book says?” asked Ozma.

“Every word,” said Dorothy, and Ozma and Glinda both
looked at the Record and seemed surprised and
perplexed.

“Tell me, Glinda,” said Ozma, “who are the
Flatheads?”

“I cannot, your Majesty,” confessed the Sorceress.
“Until now I never have heard of them, nor have I ever
heard the Skeezers mentioned. In the faraway corners of
Oz are hidden many curious tribes of people, and those
who never leave their own countries and never are
visited by those from our favored part of Oz, naturally
are unknown to me. However, if you so desire, I can
learn through my arts of sorcery something of the
Skeezers and the Flatheads.”

“I wish you would,” answered Ozma seriously. “You
see, Glinda, if these are Oz people they are my
subjects and I cannot allow any wars or troubles in the
Land I rule, if I can possibly help it.”

“Very well, your Majesty,” said the Sorceress, “I
will try to get some information to guide you. Please
excuse me for a time, while I retire to my Room of
Magic and Sorcery.”

“May I go with you?” asked Dorothy, eagerly.

“No, Princess,” was the reply. “It would spoil the
charm to have anyone present.”

So Glinda locked herself in her own Room of Magic and
Dorothy and Ozma waited patiently for her to come out
again.

In about an hour Glinda appeared, looking grave and
thoughtful.

“Your Majesty,” she said to Ozma, “the Skeezers live
on a Magic Isle in a great lake. For that reason —
because the Skeezers deal in magic — I can learn
little about them.”

“Why, I didn’t know there was a lake in that part of
Oz,” exclaimed Ozma. “The map shows a river running
through the Skeezer Country, but no lake.”

“That is because the person who made the map never
had visited that part of the country,” explained the
Sorceress. “The lake surely is there, and in the lake
is an island — a Magic Isle — and on that island live
the people called the Skeezers.”

“What are they like?” inquired the Ruler of Oz.

“My magic cannot tell me that,” confessed Glinda,
“for the magic of the Skeezers prevents anyone outside
of their domain knowing anything about them.”

“The Flatheads must know, if they’re going to fight
the Skeezers,” suggested Dorothy

“Perhaps so,” Glinda replied, “but I can get little
information concerning the Flatheads, either. They are
people who inhabit a mountain just south of the Lake of
the Skeezers. The mountain has steep sides and a broad,
hollow top, like a basin, and in this basin the
Flatheads have their dwellings. They also are magic-
workers and usually keep to themselves and allow no one
from outside to visit them. I have learned that the
Flatheads number about one hundred people — men, women
and children — while the Skeezers number just one
hundred and one.”

“What did they quarrel about, and why do they wish to
fight one another?” was Ozma’s next question.

“I cannot tell your Majesty that,” said Glinda.

“But see here!” cried Dorothy, “it’s against the law
for anyone but Glinda and the Wizard to work magic in
the Land of Oz, so if these two strange people are
magic-makers they are breaking the law and ought to be
punished!” Ozma smiled upon her little friend.

“Those who do not know me or my laws,” she said,
“cannot be expected to obey my laws. If we know nothing
of the Skeezers or the Flatheads, it is likely that
they know nothing of us.”

“But they ought to know, Ozma, and we ought to know.
Who’s going to tell them, and how are we going to make
them behave?”

“That,” returned Ozma, “is what I am now considering.
What would you advise, Glinda?”

The Sorceress took a little time to consider this
question, before she made reply. Then she said: “Had
you not learned of the existence of the Flatheads and
the Skeezers, through my Book of Records, you would
never have worried about them or their quarrels. So, if
you pay no attention to these peoples, you may never
hear of them again.”

“But that wouldn’t be right,” declared Ozma. “I am
Ruler of all the Land of Oz, which includes the
Gillikin Country, the Quadling Country, the Winkie
Country and the Munchkin Country, as well as the
Emerald City, and being the Princess of this fairyland
it is my duty to make all my people — wherever they
may be — happy and content and to settle their
disputes and keep them from quarreling. So, while the
Skeezers and Flatheads may not know me or that I am
their lawful Ruler, I now know that they inhabit my
kingdom and are my subjects, so I would not be doing my
duty if I kept away from them and allowed them to
fight.”

“That’s a fact, Ozma,” commented Dorothy.
“You’ve got to go up to the Gillikin Country and make
these people behave themselves and make up their
quarrels. But how are you going to do it?”

“That is what is puzzling me also, your Majesty,”
said the Sorceress. “It may be dangerous for you to go
into those strange countries, where the people are
possibly fierce and warlike.”

“I am not afraid,” said Ozma, with a smile.

“‘Tisn’t a question of being ‘fraid,” argued Dorothy.
“Of course we know you’re a fairy, and can’t be killed
or hurt, and we know you’ve a lot of magic of your own
to help you. But, Ozma dear, in spite of all this
you’ve been in trouble before, on account of wicked
enemies, and it isn’t right for the Ruler of all Oz to
put herself in danger.”

“Perhaps I shall be in no danger at all,” returned
Ozma, with a little laugh. “You mustn’t imagine danger,
Dorothy, for one should only imagine nice things, and
we do not know that the Skeezers and Flatheads are
wicked people or my enemies. Perhaps they would be good
and listen to reason.”

“Dorothy is right, your Majesty,” asserted the
Sorceress. “It is true we know nothing of these faraway
subjects, except that they intend to fight one another,
and have a certain amount of magic power at their
command. Such folks do not like to submit to
interference and they are more likely to resent your
coming among them than to receive you kindly and
graciously, as is your due.”

“If you had an army to take with you,” added Dorothy,
“it wouldn’t be so bad; but there isn’t such a thing as
an army in all Oz.”

“I have one soldier,” said Ozma.

“Yes, the soldier with the green whiskers; but he’s
dreadful ‘fraid of his gun and never loads it. I’m sure
he’d run rather than fight. And one soldier, even if he
were brave, couldn’t do much against two hundred and
one Flatheads and Skeezers.”

“What then, my friends, would you suggest?” inquired
Ozma.

“I advise you to send the Wizard of Oz to them, and
let him inform them that it is against the laws of Oz
to fight, and that you command them to settle their
differences and become friends,” proposed Glinda. “Let
the Wizard tell them they will be punished if they
refuse to obey the commands of the Princess of all the
Land of Oz.”

Ozma shook her head, to indicate that the advice was
not to her satisfaction.

“If they refuse, what then?” she asked. “I should be
obliged to carry out my threat and punish them, and
that would be an unpleasant and difficult thing to do.
I am sure it would be better for me to go peacefully,
without an army and armed only with my authority as
Ruler, and plead with them to obey me. Then, if they
prove obstinate I could resort to other means to win
their obedience.”

“It’s a ticklish thing, anyhow you look at it,”
sighed Dorothy. “I’m sorry now that I noticed the
Record in the Great Book.”

“But can’t you realize, my dear, that I must do my
duty, now that I am aware of this trouble?” asked Ozma.
“I am fully determined to go at once to the Magic Isle
of the Skeezers and to the enchanted mountain of the
Flatheads, and prevent war and strife between their
inhabitants. The only question to decide is whether it
is better for me to go alone, or to assemble a party of
my friends and loyal supporters to accompany me.”

“If you go I want to go, too,” declared Dorothy.
“Whatever happens it’s going to be fun — ’cause all
excitement is fun — and I wouldn’t miss it for the
world!”

Neither Ozma nor Glinda paid any attention to this
statement, for they were gravely considering the
serious aspect of this proposed adventure.

“There are plenty of friends who would like to go
with you,” said the Sorceress, “but none of them would
afford your Majesty any protection in case you were in
danger. You are yourself the most powerful fairy in Oz,
although both I and the Wizard have more varied arts of
magic at our command. However, you have one art that no
other in all the world can equal — the art of winning
hearts and making people love to bow to your gracious
presence. For that reason I believe you can accomplish
more good alone than with a large number of subjects in
your train.”

“I believe that also,” agreed the Princess. “I shall
be quite able to take care of myself, you know, but
might not be able to protect others so well. I do not
look for opposition, however. I shall speak to these
people in kindly words and settle their dispute —
whatever it may be — in a just manner.”

“Aren’t you going to take me?” pleaded Dorothy.
“You’ll need some companion, Ozma.”

The Princess smiled upon her little friend.

“I see no reason why you should not accompany me,”
was her reply. “Two girls are not very warlike and they
will not suspect us of being on any errand but a kindly
and peaceful one. But, in order to prevent war and
strife between these angry peoples, we must go to them
at once. Let us return immediately to the Emerald City
and prepare to start on our journey early tomorrow
morning.”

Glinda was not quite satisfied with this plan, but
could not think of any better way to meet the problem.
She knew that Ozma, with all her gentleness and sweet
disposition, was accustomed to abide by any decision
she had made and could not easily be turned from her
purpose. Moreover she could see no great danger to the
fairy Ruler of Oz in the undertaking, even though the
unknown people she was to visit proved obstinate. But
Dorothy was not a fairy; she was a little girl who had
come from Kansas to live in the Land of Oz. Dorothy
might encounter dangers that to Ozma would be as
nothing but to an “Earth child” would be very serious.

The very fact that Dorothy lived in Oz, and had been
made a Princess by her friend Ozma, prevented her from
being killed or suffering any great bodily pain as long
as she lived in that fairyland. She could not grow big,
either, and would always remain the same little girl
who had come to Oz, unless in some way she left that
fairyland or was spirited away from it. But Dorothy was
a mortal, nevertheless, and might possibly be
destroyed, or hidden where none of her friends could
ever find her. She could, for instance be cut into
pieces, and the pieces, while still alive and free from
pain, could be widely scattered; or she might be buried
deep underground or “destroyed” in other ways by evil
magicians, were she not properly protected. These facts
Glinda was considering while she paced with stately
tread her marble hall.

Finally the good Sorceress paused and drew a ring
from her finger, handing it to Dorothy.

“Wear this ring constantly until your return,” she
said to the girl. “If serious danger threatens you,
turn the ring around on your finger once to the right
and another turn to the left. That will ring the alarm
bell in my palace and I will at once come to your
rescue. But do not use the ring unless you are actually
in danger of destruction. While you remain with
Princess Ozma I believe she will be able to protect you
from all lesser ills.”

“Thank you, Glinda,” responded Dorothy gratefully, as
she placed the ring on her finger. “I’m going to wear
my Magic Belt which I took from the Nome King, too, so
I guess I’ll be safe from anything the Skeezers and
Flatheads try to do to me.”

Ozma had many arrangements to make before she could
leave her throne and her palace in the Emerald City,
even for a trip of a few days, so she bade goodbye to
Glinda and with Dorothy climbed into the Red Wagon. A
word to the wooden Sawhorse started that astonishing
creature on the return journey, and so swiftly did he
run that Dorothy was unable to talk or do anything but
hold tight to her seat all the way back to the Emerald
City.

 

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