FictionForest

Chapter 5 – The Magic Stairway

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

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The flat mountain looked much nearer in the clear
light of the morning sun, but Dorothy and Ozma knew
there was a long tramp before them, even yet. They
finished dressing only to find a warm, delicious
breakfast awaiting them, and having eaten they left the
tent and started toward the mountain which was their
first goal. After going a little way Dorothy looked
back and found that the fairy tent had entirely
disappeared. She was not surprised, for she knew this
would happen.

“Can’t your magic give us a horse an’ wagon, or an
automobile?” inquired Dorothy.

“No, dear; I’m sorry that such magic is beyond my
power,” confessed her fairy friend.

“Perhaps Glinda could,” said Dorothy thoughtfully.

“Glinda has a stork chariot that carries her through
the air,” said Ozma, “but even our great Sorceress
cannot conjure up other modes of travel. Don’t forget
what I told you last night, that no one is powerful
enough to do everything.”

“Well, I s’pose I ought to know that, having lived so
long in the Land of Oz,” replied Dorothy; “but I can’t
do any magic at all, an’ so I can’t figure out e’zactly
how you an’ Glinda an’ the Wizard do it.”

“Don’t try,” laughed Ozma. “But you have at least one
magical art, Dorothy: you know the trick of winning all
hearts.”

“No, I don’t,” said Dorothy earnestly. “If I really
can do it, Ozma, I am sure I don’t know how I do it.”

It took them a good two hours to reach the foot of
the round, flat mountain, and then they found the
sides so steep that they were like the wall of a house.

“Even my purple kitten couldn’t climb ’em,” remarked
Dorothy, gazing upward.

“But there is some way for the Flatheads to get down
and up again,” declared Ozma; “otherwise they couldn’t
make war with the Skeezers, or even meet them and
quarrel with them.”

“That’s so, Ozma. Let’s walk around a ways; perhaps
we’ll find a ladder or something.”

They walked quite a distance, for it was a big
mountain, and as they circled around it and came to the
side that faced the palm trees, they suddenly
discovered an entrance way cut out of the rock wall.
This entrance was arched overhead and not very deep
because it merely led to a short flight of stone
stairs.

“Oh, we’ve found a way to the top at last,” announced
Ozma, and the two girls turned and walked straight
toward the entrance. Suddenly they bumped against
something and stood still, unable to proceed farther.

“Dear me!” exclaimed Dorothy, rubbing her nose, which
had struck something hard, although she could not see
what it was; “this isn’t as easy as it looks. What has
stopped us, Ozma? Is it magic of some sort?”

Ozma was feeling around, her bands outstretched
before her.

“Yes, dear, it is magic,” she replied. “The Flatheads
had to have a way from their mountain top from the
plain below, but to prevent enemies from rushing up the
stairs to conquer them, they have built, at a small
distance before the entrance a wall of solid stone, the
stones being held in place by cement, and then they
made the wall invisible.”

“I wonder why they did that?” mused Dorothy. “A wall
would keep folks out anyhow, whether it could be seen
or not, so there wasn’t any use making it invisible.
Seems to me it would have been better to have left it
solid, for then no one would have seen the entrance
behind it. Now anybody can see the entrance, as we did.
And prob’bly anybody that tries to go up the stairs
gets bumped, as we did.”

Ozma made no reply at once. Her face was grave and
thoughtful.

“I think I know the reason for making the wall
invisible,” she said after a while. “The Flatheads use
the stairs for coming down and going up. If there was a
solid stone wall to keep them from reaching the plain
they would themselves be imprisoned by the wall. So
they had to leave some place to get around the wall,
and, if the wall was visible, all strangers or enemies
would find the place to go around it and then the wall
would be useless. So the Flatheads cunningly made their
wall invisible, believing that everyone who saw the
entrance to the mountain would walk straight toward it,
as we did, and find it impossible to go any farther. I
suppose the wall is really high and thick, and can’t be
broken through, so those who find it in their way are
obliged to go away again.”

“Well,” said Dorothy, “if there’s a way around the
wall, where is it?”

“We must find it,” returned Ozma, and began feeling
her way along the wall. Dorothy followed and began to
get discouraged when Ozma had walked nearly a quarter
of a mile away from the entrance. But now the invisible
wall curved in toward the side of the mountain and
suddenly ended, leaving just space enough between the
wall and the mountain for an ordinary person to pass
through.

The girls went in, single file, and Ozma explained
that they were now behind the barrier and could go
back to the entrance. They met no further obstructions.

“Most people, Ozma, wouldn’t have figured this thing
out the way you did,” remarked Dorothy. “If I’d been
alone the invisible wall surely would have stumped me.”

Reaching the entrance they began to mount the stone
stairs. They went up ten stairs and then down five
stairs, following a passage cut from the rock. The
stairs were just wide enough for the two girls to walk
abreast, arm in arm. At the bottom of the five stairs
the passage turned to the right, and they ascended ten
more stairs, only to find at the top of the flight five
stairs leading straight down again. Again the passage
turned abruptly, this time to the left, and ten more
stairs led upward.

The passage was now quite dark, for they were in the
heart of the mountain and all daylight had been shut
out by the turns of the passage. However, Ozma drew her
silver wand from her bosom and the great jewel at its
end gave out a lustrous, green-tinted light which
lighted the place well enough for them to see their way
plainly.

Ten steps up, five steps down, and a turn, this way
or that. That was the program, and Dorothy figured that
they were only gaining five stairs upward each trip
that they made.

“Those Flatheads must be funny people,” she said to
Ozma. “They don’t seem to do anything in a bold
straightforward manner. In making this passage they
forced everyone to walk three times as far as is
necessary. And of course this trip is just as tiresome
to the Flatheads as it is to other folks.”

“That is true,” answered Ozma; “yet it is a clever
arrangement to prevent their being surprised by
intruders. Every time we reach the tenth step of a
flight, the pressure of our feet on the stone makes a
bell ring on top of the mountain, to warn the Flatheads
of our coming.”

“How do you know that?” demanded Dorothy, astonished.

“I’ve heard the bell ever since we started,” Ozma
told her. “You could not hear it, I know, but when I am
holding my wand in my hand I can hear sounds a great
distance off.”

“Do you hear anything on top of the mountain ‘cept
the bell?” inquired Dorothy

“Yes. The people are calling to one another in alarm
and many footsteps are approaching the place where we
will reach the flat top of the mountain.”

This made Dorothy feel somewhat anxious. “I’d thought
we were going to visit just common, ordinary people,”
she remarked, “but they’re pretty clever, it seems, and
they know some kinds of magic, too. They may be
dangerous, Ozma. P’raps we’d better stayed at home.”

Finally the upstairs-and-downstairs passage seemed
coming to an end, for daylight again appeared ahead of
the two girls and Ozma replaced her wand in the bosom
of her gown. The last ten steps brought them to the
surface, where they found themselves surrounded by
such a throng of queer people that for a time they
halted, speechless, and stared into the faces that
confronted them.

Dorothy knew at once why these mountain people were
called Flatheads. Their heads were really flat on top,
as if they had been cut off just above the eyes and
ears. Also the heads were bald, with no hair on top at
all, and the ears were big and stuck straight out, and
the noses were small and stubby, while the mouths of
the Flatheads were well shaped and not unusual. Their
eyes were perhaps their best feature, being large and
bright and a deep violet in color.

The costumes of the Flatheads were all made of metals
dug from their mountain. Small gold, silver, tin and
iron discs, about the size of pennies, and very thin,
were cleverly wired together and made to form knee
trousers and jackets for the men and skirts and waists
for the women. The colored metals were skillfully mixed
to form stripes and checks of various sorts, so that
the costumes were quite gorgeous and reminded Dorothy
of pictures she had seen of Knights of old clothed
armor.

Aside from their flat heads, these people were not
really bad looking. The men were armed with bows and
arrows and had small axes of steel stuck in their metal
belts. They wore no hats nor ornaments.

 

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