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Tik-Tok of Oz

9. Ruggedo's Rage is Rash and Reckless
The way taken by the adventurers led up hill and down dale and wound here and there in
a fashion that seemed aimless. But always it drew nearer to a range of low mountains and
Files said more than once that he was certain the entrance to Ruggedo's cavern would be
found among these rugged hills.
In this he was quite correct. Far underneath the nearest mountain was a gorgeous
chamber hollowed from the solid rock, the walls and roof of which glittered with
thousands of magnificent jewels. Here, on a throne of virgin gold, sat the famous Nome
King, dressed in splendid robes and wearing a superb crown cut from a single blood-red
ruby.
Ruggedo, the Monarch of all the Metals and Precious Stones of the Underground World,
was a round little man with a flowing white beard, a red face, bright eyes and a scowl that
covered all his forehead. One would think, to look at him, that he ought to be jolly; one
might think, considering his enormous wealth, that he ought to be happy; but this was not
the case. The Metal Monarch was surly and cross because mortals had dug so much
treasure out of the earth and kept it above ground, where all the power of Ruggedo and
his nomes was unable to recover it. He hated not only the mortals but also the fairies who
live upon the earth or above it, and instead of being content with the riches he still
possessed he was unhappy because he did not own all the gold and jewels in the world.
Ruggedo had been nodding, half asleep, in his chair when suddenly he sat upright, uttered
a roar of rage and began pounding upon a huge gong that stood beside him.
The sound filled the vast cavern and penetrated to many caverns beyond, where countless
thousands of nomes were working at their unending tasks, hammering out gold and silver
and other metals, or melting ores in great furnaces, or polishing glittering gems. The
nomes trembled at the sound of the King's gong and whispered fearfully to one another
that something unpleasant was sure to happen; but none dared pause in his task,
The heavy curtains of cloth-of-gold were pushed aside and Kaliko, the King's High
Chamberlain, entered the royal presence.
"What's up, Your Majesty?" he asked, with a wide yawn, for he had just wakened.
"Up?" roared Ruggedo, stamping his foot viciously. "Those foolish mortals are up, that's
what! And they want to come down."
"Down here?" inquired Kaliko.
"Yes!"
"How do you know?" continued the Chamberlain, yawning again.
"I feel it in my bones," said Ruggedo. "I can always feel it when those hateful earth-
crawlers draw near to my Kingdom. I am positive, Kaliko, that mortals are this very
minute on their way here to annoy me--and I hate mortals more than I do catnip tea!"
"Well, what's to be done?" demanded the nome.
 
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