Tik-Tok of Oz
21. A Bashful Brother
With fast beating hearts they all rushed forward and, beyond a group of stately metal
trees, came full upon a most astonishing scene.
There was Ruggedo in the hands of the officers of Oogaboo, a dozen of whom were
clinging to the old nome and holding him fast in spite of his efforts to escape. There also
was Queen Ann, looking grimly upon the scene of strife; but when she observed her
former companions approaching she turned away in a shamefaced manner.
For Ann and her officers were indeed a sight to behold. Her Majesty's clothing, once so
rich and gorgeous, was now worn and torn into shreds by her long crawl through the
tunnel, which, by the way, had led her directly into the Metal Forest. It was, indeed, one
of the three secret passages, and by far the most difficult of the three. Ann had not only
torn her pretty skirt and jacket, but her crown had become bent and battered and even her
shoes were so cut and slashed that they were ready to fall from her feet.
The officers had fared somewhat worse than their leader, for holes were worn in the
knees of their trousers, while sharp points of rock in the roof and sides of the tunnel had
made rags of every inch of their once brilliant uniforms. A more tattered and woeful army
never came out of a battle, than these harmless victims of the rocky passage. But it had
seemed their only means of escape from the cruel Nome King; so they had crawled on,
regardless of their sufferings.
When they reached the Metal Forest their eyes beheld more plunder than they had ever
dreamed of; yet they were prisoners in this huge dome and could not escape with the
riches heaped about them. Perhaps a more unhappy and homesick lot of "conquerors"
never existed than this band from Oogaboo.
After several days of wandering in their marvelous prison they were frightened by the
discovery that Ruggedo had come among them. Rendered desperate by their sad
condition, the officers exhibited courage for the first time since they left home and,
ignorant of the fact that Ruggedo was no longer King of the nomes, they threw
themselves upon him and had just succeeded in capturing him when their fellow
adventurers reached the spot.
"Goodness gracious!" cried Betsy. "What has happened to you all?"
Ann came forward to greet them, sorrowful and indignant.
"We were obliged to escape from the pit through a small tunnel, which was lined with
sharp and jagged rocks," said she, "and not only was our clothing torn to rags but our
flesh is so bruised and sore that we are stiff and lame in every joint. To add to our
troubles we find we are still prisoners; but now that we have succeeded in capturing the
wicked Metal Monarch we shall force him to grant us our liberty."
"Ruggedo is no longer Metal Monarch, or King of the nomes," Files informed her. "He
has been deposed and cast out of his kingdom by Quox; but here is the new King, whose
name is Kaliko, and I am pleased to assure Your Majesty that he is our friend."