Tik-Tok of Oz
18. A Clever Conquest
The great dragon still had his eyes closed and was even snoring in a manner that
resembled distant thunder; but Polychrome was now desperate, because any further delay
meant the destruction of her friends. She seized the pearl necklace, to which was attached
the great locket, and jerked it with all her strength.
The result was encouraging. Quox stopped snoring and his eyelids flickered. So
Polychrome jerked again--and again--till slowly the great lids raised and the dragon
looked at her steadily. Said he, in a sleepy tone:
"What's the matter, little Rainbow?"
"Come quick!" exclaimed Polychrome. "Ruggedo has captured all our friends and is
about to destroy them."
"Well, well," said Quox, "I suspected that would happen. Step a little out of my path, my
dear, and I'll make a rush for the Nome King's cavern."
She fell back a few steps and Quox raised himself on his stout legs, whisked his long tail
and in an instant had slid down the rocks and made a dive through the entrance.
Along the passage he swept, nearly filling it with his immense body, and now he poked
his head into the jeweled cavern of Ruggedo.
But the King had long since made arrangements to capture the dragon, whenever he
might appear. No sooner did Quox stick his head into the room than a thick chain fell
from above and encircled his neck. Then the ends of the chain were drawn tight-- for in
an adjoining cavern a thousand nomes were pulling on them--and so the dragon could
advance no further toward the King. He could not use his teeth or his claws and as his
body was still in the passage he had not even room to strike his foes with his terrible tail.
Ruggedo was delighted with the success of his stratagem. He had just transformed the
Rose Princess into a fiddle and was about to transform Files into a fiddle bow, when the
dragon appeared to interrupt him. So he called out:
"Welcome, my dear Quox, to my royal entertainment. Since you are here, you shall
witness some very neat magic, and after I have finished with Files and Tik-Tok I mean to
transform you into a tiny lizard--one of the chameleon sort--and you shall live in my
cavern and amuse me."
"Pardon me for contradicting Your Majesty," returned Quox in a quiet voice, "but I don't
believe you'll perform any more magic."
"Eh? Why not?" asked the King in surprise.
"There's a reason," said Quox. "Do you see this ribbon around my neck?"
"Yes; and I'm astonished that a dignified dragon should wear such a silly thing."
"Do you see it plainly?" persisted the dragon, with a little chuckle of amusement.