FictionForest

Chapter 9 – Lady Aurex

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

Light off Small Medium Large

Lady Aurex led Ozma and Dorothy along a street to a
pretty marble house near to one edge of the great glass
dome that covered the village. She did not speak to the
girls until she had ushered them into a pleasant room,
comfortably furnished, nor did any of the solemn people
they met on the street venture to speak.

When they were seated Lady Aurex asked if they were
hungry, and finding they were summoned a maid and
ordered food to be brought.

This Lady Aurex looked to be about twenty years old,
although in the Land of Oz where people have never
changed in appearance since the fairies made it a
fairyland — where no one grows old or dies — it is
always difficult to say how many years anyone has
lived. She had a pleasant, attractive face, even though
it was solemn and sad as the faces of all Skeezers
seemed to be, and her costume was rich and elaborate,
as became a lady in waiting upon the Queen.

Ozma had observed Lady Aurex closely and now asked
her in a gentle tone:

“Do you, also, believe me to be an impostor?”

“I dare not say,” replied Lady Aurex in a low tone.

“Why are you afraid to speak freely?” inquired Ozma.

“The Queen punishes us if we make remarks that she
does not like.”

“Are we not alone then, in this house?”

“The Queen can hear everything that is spoken on this
island — even the slightest whisper,” declared Lady
Aurex. “She is a wonderful witch, as she has told you,
and it is folly to criticise her or disobey her
commands.”

Ozma looked into her eyes and saw that she would like
to say more if she dared. So she drew from her bosom
her silver wand, and having muttered a magic phrase in
a strange tongue, she left the room and walked slowly
around the outside of the house, making a complete
circle and waving her wand in mystic curves as she
walked. Lady Aurex watched her curiously and, when Ozma
had again entered the room and seated herself, she
asked:

“What have you done?”

“I’ve enchanted this house in such a manner that
Queen Coo-ee-oh, with all her witchcraft, cannot hear
one word we speak within the magic circle I have made,”
replied Ozma. “We may now speak freely and as loudly as
we wish, without fear of the Queen’s anger.”

Lady Aurex brightened at this.

“Can I trust you?” she asked.

“Ev’rybody trusts Ozma,” exclaimed Dorothy. “She is
true and honest, and your wicked Queen will be sorry
she insulted the powerful Ruler of all the Land of Oz.”

“The Queen does not know me yet,” said Ozma, “but I
want you to know me, Lady Aurex, and I want you to tell
me why you, and all the Skeezers, are unhappy. Do not
fear Coo-ee-oh’s anger, for she cannot hear a word we
say, I assure you.”

Lady Aurex was thoughtful a moment; then she said: “I
shall trust you, Princess Ozma, for I believe you are
what you say you are — our supreme Ruler. If you knew
the dreadful punishments our Queen inflicts upon us,
you would not wonder we are so unhappy. The Skeezers
are not bad people; they do not care to quarrel and
fight, even with their enemies the Flatheads; but they
are so cowed and fearful of Coo-ee-oh that they obey
her slightest word, rather than suffer her anger.”

“Hasn’t she any heart, then?” asked Dorothy.

“She never displays mercy. She loves no one but
herself,” asserted Lady Aurex, but she trembled as she
said it, as if afraid even yet of her terrible Queen.

“That’s pretty bad,” said Dorothy, shaking her head
gravely. “I see you’ve a lot to do here, Ozma, in this
forsaken corner of the Land of Oz. First place, you’ve
got to take the magic away from Queen Coo-ee-oh, and
from that awful Su-dic, too. My idea is that neither of
them is fit to rule anybody, ’cause they’re cruel and
hateful. So you’ll have to give the Skeezers and
Flatheads new rulers and teach all their people that
they’re part of the Land of Oz and must obey, above
all, the lawful Ruler, Ozma of Oz. Then, when you’ve
done that, we can go back home again.”

Ozma smiled at her little friend’s earnest counsel,
but Lady Aurex said in an anxious tone:

“I am surprised that you suggest these reforms while
you are yet prisoners on this island and in Coo-ee-oh’s
power. That these things should be done, there is no
doubt, but just now a dreadful war is likely to break
out, and frightful things may happen to us all. Our
Queen has such conceit that she thinks she can overcome
the Su-dic and his people, but it is said Su-dic’s
magic is very powerful, although not as great as that
possessed by his wife Rora, before Coo-ee-oh
transformed her into a Golden Pig.”

“I don’t blame her very much for doing that,”
remarked Dorothy, “for the Flatheads were wicked to try
to catch your beautiful fish and the Witch Rora wanted
to poison all the fishes in the lake.”

“Do you know the reason?” asked the Lady Aurex.

“I don’t s’pose there was any reason, ‘cept just
wickedness,” replied Dorothy.

“Tell us the reason,” said Ozma earnestly.

“Well, your Majesty, once — a long time ago — the
Flatheads and the Skeezers were friendly. They visited
our island and we visited their mountain, and
everything was pleasant between the two peoples. At
that time the Flatheads were ruled by three Adepts in
Sorcery, beautiful girls who were not Flatheads, but
had wandered to the Flat Mountain and made their home
there. These three Adepts used their magic only for
good, and the mountain people gladly made them their
rulers. They taught the Flatheads how to use their
canned brains and how to work metals into clothing that
would never wear out, and many other things that added
to their happiness and content.

“Coo-ee-oh was our Queen then, as now, but she knew
no magic and so had nothing to be proud of. But the
three Adepts were very kind to Coo-ee-oh. They built
for us this wonderful dome of glass and our houses of
marble and taught us to make beautiful clothing and
many other things. Coo-ee-oh pretended to be very
grateful for these favors, but it seems that all the
time she was jealous of the three Adepts and secretly
tried to discover their arts of magic. In this she was
more clever than anyone suspected. She invited the
three Adepts to a banquet one day, and while they were
feasting Coo-ee-oh stole their charms and magical
instruments and transformed them into three fishes — a
gold fish, a silver fish and a bronze fish. While the
poor fishes were gasping and flopping helplessly on the
floor of the banquet room one of them said
reproachfully: ‘You will be punished for this, Coo-ee-
oh, for if one of us dies or is destroyed, you will
become shrivelled and helpless, and all your stolen
magic will depart from you.’ Frightened by this threat,
Coo-ee-oh at once caught up the three fish and ran with
them to the shore of the lake, where she cast them into
the water. This revived the three Adepts and they swam
away and disappeared.

“I, myself, witnessed this shocking scene,” continued
Lady Aurex, “and so did many other Skeezers. The news
was carried to the Flatheads, who then turned from
friends to enemies. The Su-dic and his wife Rora were
the only ones on the mountain who were glad the three
Adepts had been lost to them, and they at once became
Rulers of the Flatheads and stole their canned brains
from others to make themselves the more powerful. Some
of the Adepts’ magic tools had been left on the
mountain, and these Rora seized and by the use of them
she became a witch.

“The result of Coo-ee-oh’s treachery was to make both
the Skeezers and the Flatheads miserable instead of
happy. Not only were the Su-dic and his wife cruel to
their people, but our Queen at once became proud and
arrogant and treated us very unkindly. All the Skeezers
knew she had stolen her magic powers and so she hated
us and made us humble ourselves before her and obey her
slightest word. If we disobeyed, or did not please her,
or if we talked about her when we were in our own homes
she would have us dragged to the whipping post in her
palace and lashed with knotted cords. That is why we
fear her so greatly.”

This story filled Ozma’s heart with sorrow and
Dorothy’s heart with indignation.

“I now understand,” said Ozma, “why the fishes in the
lake have brought about war between the Skeezers and
the Flatheads.”

“Yes,” Lady Aurex answered, “now that you know the
story it is easy to understand. The Su-dic and his wife
came to our lake hoping to catch the silver fish, or
gold fish, or bronze fish — any one of them would do –
– and by destroying it deprive Coo-ee-oh of her magic.
Then they could easily conquer her. Also they had
another reason for wanting to catch the fish — they
feared that in some way the three Adepts might regain
their proper forms and then they would be sure to
return to the mountain and punish Rora and the Su-dic.
That was why Rora finally tried to poison all the
fishes in the lake, at the time Coo-ee-oh transformed
her into a Golden Pig. Of course this attempt to
destroy the fishes frightened the Queen, for her safety
lies in keeping the three fishes alive.”

“I s’pose Coo-ee-oh will fight the Flatheads with all
her might,” observed Dorothy.

“And with all her magic,” added Ozma, thoughtfully.

“I do not see how the Flatheads can get to this
island to hurt us,” said Lady Aurex.

“They have bows and arrows, and I guess they mean to
shoot the arrows at your big dome, and break all the
glass in it,” suggested Dorothy.

But Lady Aurex shook her head with a smile.

“They cannot do that,” she replied.

“Why not?”

“I dare not tell you why, but if the Flatheads come
to-morrow morning you will yourselves see the reason.”

“I do not think they will attempt to harm the
island,” Ozma declared. “I believe they will first
attempt to destroy the fishes, by poison or some other
means. If they succeed in that, the conquest of the
island will not be difficult.”

“They have no boats,” said Lady Aurex, “and Coo-ee-
oh, who has long expected this war, has been preparing
for it in many astonishing ways. I almost wish the
Flatheads would conquer us, for then we would be free
from our dreadful Queen; but I do not wish to see the
three transformed fishes destroyed, for in them lies
our only hope of future happiness.”

“Ozma will take care of you, whatever happens,”
Dorothy assured her. But the Lady Aurex, not knowing
the extent of Ozma’s power — which was, in fact, not
so great as Dorothy imagined — could not take much
comfort in this promise.

It was evident there would be exciting times on the
morrow, if the Flatheads really attacked the Skeezers
of the Magic Isle.

 

Leave a Reply