KABUMPO AND THE RAIN KING: AN OZ TALE
By Nathan M. DeHoff
Revised Version: 11/15/15. Formerly “Who Stopped the Rain?” 2/13/15.
Cover by Michael Herring with interpolation by John R. Neill
“Kerumph!” said Kabumpo, the Elegant Elephant. “If the High King is going to live all the way up there, he really needs to install an elevator or something.”
“He wouldn’t be the High King if he didn’t live up high, would he?” joked Woot the Wanderer, who was riding the elephant. The two of them had just attended the ceremony celebrating Joe King’s ascension to Ruler of the Gillikins, to replace the Good Witch of the North who had retired to family life with her husband King Cheeriobed of the Munchkins. Ozma, Royal Ruler of Oz, thought it might be a conflict of interest for Orin to have a hand in ruling both countries, and her father King Gil of Gilkenny had served loyally in the past, but did not wish to serve as high king. So the crown went to Joe, a jolly and charismatic monarch who lived in UpTown, a community located above the clouds on the highest of the Gillikin Mountains. Many Gillikin rulers and delegates had met in the mountaintop town, with Kabumpo representing the Kingdom of Pumperdink, where King Pompus had recently declared him an honorary prince. Woot was not royalty, but as a loyal Gillikin who had heard about the celebration, he came to the reception as well. As Woot had never visited Pumperdink, Kabumpo offered to take him there after the meeting.
“Harumph! Everyone knows I appreciate a good pun, but Joe King? What were his parents thinking?”
“Didn’t your king name his only son after a hairstyle?”
“Well, it was more an homage to his own name, but I take your point.”
“That Giant Horse was certainly something, wasn’t he?”
“Oh, he was something, all right,” returned the elephant, who was used to being the biggest animal present at such functions. The horse’s body was smaller than his, to be sure, but he could extend his legs to amazing heights. “Wait, what’s that in the sky?”
“It looks like a bird, but it’s awfully noisy. I’ve never known a bird to be that loud.”
“Yes, it sounds like thunder, doesn’t it?”
The bird descended to the hilly ground on which Kabumpo was currently walking, and revealed itself to be a grayish animal with glowing eyes and enormous wings, that indeed produced a thunder-like sound when it flapped them. On its back sat a beautiful girl who was quite the opposite of the bird’s drab color, with a gown displaying every conceivable color of the visible spectrum. Her long blonde hair flowed down her back, and she wore a skullcap on top.
“Polychrome!” exclaimed Woot.
“Hello, Woot,” said the girl. “It’s so nice to see you again. And who’s your friend?”
“This is Kabumpo, Elegant Elephant of Oz and Prince of Pumperdink. Kabumpo, this is Polychrome, Daughter of the Rainbow.”
“Oh, yes, I think I remember reading somewhere that the Rainbow had daughters. Hank the Mule might have mentioned you as well. I must say it is lovely to meet such a charming young lady,” stated Kabumpo, as he held out his trunk for Polychrome to shake. “When I went with the Emperor of the Winkies to find his old fiancée, we rescued Polly from the giantess Mrs. Yoop. So what brings you back down to Earth?”
“I’m afraid it has to do with Wakhiya here. As you may have guessed, he’s a thunderbird. They’re very popular mounts in the sky, where I live. We have lots of fun with them, at least until Daddy takes them away. Anyway, Wakhiya was playing with my uncle’s Rain Stick, and lost it somewhere around here.”
“A Rain Stick? What’s that?”
“It’s sort of my uncle’s scepter. Without it, it’s difficult for him to control the rain. Wakhiya, who did you say took it?”
“A man in a purple turban with a brown jewel,” replied the bird, in a booming but still somewhat shy voice.
“Brown jewel? That sounds like the typical headwear of the Ho-Taro nomads,” pondered Woot.
“Nomads? They aren’t anything like Nomes, are they?” questioned Polychrome.
“Oh, you’ve had problems with Nomes, too?” asked Kabumpo. “The first time I visited the Emerald City, the old Nome King had grown to a giant and taken the palace with him to Ev.”
“You mean Ruggedo? He wasn’t a giant when I met him, but he was pretty dangerous nonetheless. He actually proposed marriage to me. I thought it was just a bluff at the time, but maybe he was genuinely lonely. I don’t think things worked out with his first wife.”
“Considering how he treated our Princess, I wouldn’t blame her.”
“It’s not like a sky fairy could be happy underground, anyway. So, Woot, what’s a nomad?”
“They’re people who live in the desert and don’t have a home. Wanderers, like me, really.”
“Well, it’s as good a hint as any,” said the elephant. “So where’s Ho-Taro?”
“It’s not too far from where I come from,” said Woot, as he examined a map of Oz. “It’s to the west of Zamagoochie, near the Kingdom of Kapurta.”
“Oh, yes. That’s on the other side of the West Mountains from Pumperdink. I’ve never been up that way myself, but I suppose there’s a first time for everything.”
The four companions walked through the hills, catching up on old times and exchanging stories of their recent adventures. Polychrome had not yet heard about the forgotten life of the Good Witch of the North, whom she had once met at a party in Ozma’s palace. Kabumpo told of the time he had helped to find Ozma’s father Pastoria, trying his best to gloss over the part where he had thought the motion picture dummy from the United States was the lost king. By evening, they had made it to the Forest of Gugu, which takes up much of the western part of the Gillikin Country. Fortunately, with Wakhiya able to fly above the trees and see what was ahead, they navigated it fairly easily. The flapping of the thunderbird’s wings also kept away most of the animals that might have posed a threat. The party slept in a grove of blanket trees at the northern end of the forest, with Kabumpo and Wakhiya using multiple blankets. The part of the country in which they found themselves was rather sparsely populated, and the air became dryer and dryer as they approached the gray desert in the far north.
“Well, this must be the desert,” stated Kabumpo, as he stepped onto the sands, “but I don’t know how we’ll find this one particular man.”
“Yes, it is rather like looking for a needle in a haystack,” observed Woot.
“I wish I had a haystack,” returned the elephant, as he began walking across the desert.
It was difficult to navigate the Desert of Ho-Taro, even with help from Wakhiya. Sand was constantly blowing from one place to another, and the climate was very hot and dry. The company had to rest every half hour or so to drink some water that Kabumpo had with him in a jug. They asked every person and animal they saw, and while none of them had heard of a Rain Stick, an armadillo did mention that there was a major encampment of nomadic people just to the north. They arrived here to find a sheik sitting in a tent, where he was being fed grapes by two women.
“Bah! These grapes are so tiny! Couldn’t you do better?”
“It’s not our job to pick them, just to feed them to you,” objected one of the women. “If you don’t like them, we’ll eat them ourselves.”
“No, no, it’s fine. Oh, wait, we have visitors. Prince Kabumpo of Pumperdink, Woot the Wanderer, Polychrome, and Wakhiya the Thunderbird, if I’m not mistaken.”
“How did you know who we were, Your Highness?” inquired Woot.
“These jewels in our turbans are not just decoration. They provide basic information on people and things around us. Sometimes far TOO basic, mind you.”
“We were wondering if you’d seen such a thing as a Rain Stick,” said the Rainbow’s Daughter. “It was about—“
“Oh, yes, I’ve seen it. A worthless piece of garbage, if you ask me.”
“Worthless garbage? Why, my uncle needs it to control the world’s weather!”
“It’s worthless without instructions, anyway. You see, my lovely varicolored lady, I was on my way to the reception for the new High King of the Gillikins when your uncle’s scepter fell from the sky. My jewel told me what it was, so I brought it back here, hoping to bring some rain to what must be the driest part of all Oz. I couldn’t get it to work, and neither could any of my shamans, so I broke it in half and threw it outside.”
“What? Oh, I can’t believe anyone would be so careless!”
“It might still be out there, if you’d care to look. Then again, perhaps a packrat took it. Regardless, be sure to tell your uncle we could do with more precipitation here.”
“I wouldn’t tell him after what you did, you horrid monad!”
“That’s nomad,” corrected Woot, “and you wouldn’t want to punish all of the desert dwellers because of what one of them did wrong, would you?”
“No, I suppose not.” With that, the four companions left the tent and began digging in the sand nearby. It turned out to be a rather pointless task, as new sand would blow in just as soon as someone had dug a hole. They continued this way until they heard a voice saying, “It looks like you could use a little help.”
Looking up, the party noticed a sleek black jackal who had just come up to them. He introduced himself as Imhotep, an expert tracker. When Polychrome told him what they were looking for, he sniffed at the ground and eventually dug a hole, retrieving part of a silver scepter decorated with clouds and raindrops.
“Is this what you’re looking for, ma’am?” asked Imhotep, as he dropped the object at the sky fairy’s feet.
“Oh, yes! Thank you! What about the other half, though?” inquired Polychrome.
“Even though I live in the desert and know the smell of rain, I can’t detect any more of it around here. Don’t worry, though. I can track it down, as sure as crocodiles are crocodiles.”
“Oh, would you? That would be so helpful!”
“Anything for a beautiful fairy such as you.” With that, Imhotep again began sniffing the sand, finally catching a whiff of what he wanted and walking off toward the east. The others followed him as quickly as they could, and by late afternoon had arrived at a rock where a large gray lizard with purple spots was sunning itself. Next to the animal was a bottle of some liquid, a book, and a box with knobs on it. The lizard had his eyes closed, so the group was unable to tell if he was awake or asleep. Kabumpo coughed to get the reptile’s attention, and the creature promptly looked up and jumped back behind its rock.
“Oh, my anoles and iguanas!” exclaimed the lizard in a panic. “Is this the end of the Lackadaisical Lizard of Oz?”
“Why would you think we mean you harm?” asked Polychrome.
“Yes, you should calm yourself,” advised Imhotep, “especially as you are in the presence of a sky fairy.”
“Oh, am I? I always try to stay calm, but I can’t around that bird! No offence, but they eat creatures like me.” While most carnivorous animals in Oz behaved themselves and stuck to dining on meat plants that grew wild around the country, it was difficult for some to change their old ways.
“Me?” said the thunderbird timidly. “I’m on a strict diet of cloud buns and thunder muffins. A lizard would be harmful to my constitution.”
“Oh, so eating me would be unconstitutional? Good to hear it,” said the lizard, as he climbed back on the rock and sipped his ochre drink. “So, how can I help you? You did interrupt me during naptime, you know. If I fall behind, my schedule gets all disorganized. I won’t be ready for dinnertime at seven, or my after-dinner nap at seven-thirty.”
“Did you find anything like this?” asked the Daughter of the Rainbow, showing the lizard the part of the Rain Stick she had.
“Sort of, only much narrower.”
“That would be it. The top part is narrower than the bottom.”
“Yes, I traded it with a packrat earlier today, as I thought I could get better radio reception with it. It just makes everything sound like rain, though. I’ll give it to you if you want it.”
“Where did you get a radio?” inquired Kabumpo. While they were not totally unheard of in Oz, they were somewhat rare.
“The same packrat. Don’t ask me where he got it. Just thinking of treasure hunting before dinner is too much exertion for me.” The lizard walked over to a hollow log, rummaged through it a bit, and brought out the thinner part of the Rain Stick.
“Thank you very much—what is your name?” asked Polly.
“LeRoi, the Lackadaisical Lizard of Oz. Look me up if you’re ever in the area again. We can split a lunch of crickets.”
Politely declining to mention that such a meal would not appeal to any of them, the group bade farewell to LeRoi, and trudged a bit into the desert before more closely examining the two parts of the scepter.
“Kerumph! Now how are we going to put this back together?” asked Kabumpo. “I don’t think ordinary glue would do it.”
“No, it probably requires magic, but I don’t know what kind,” stated Polychrome. “Wakhiya, would you mind flying back to my uncle and asking him how it can be fixed?”
While the thunderbird returned to the sky with the two pieces, the others remained where they were and had a snack from a nearby date palm. Imhotep went off to hunt his own food, and came back with some spoiled meat that had fallen from a tree. “We jackals are scavengers, after all,” explained the dog.
When Wakhiya returned, he was noticeably flustered, having been severely scolded by the Rain King. He had, however, learned that water from Lake Stormen was required to repair the Rain Stick. Woot had been to the lake before, so he flew ahead on Wakhiya’s back and led Kabumpo, who carried Polychrome on his back. Imhotep decided to remain behind in the desert. The lake was located to the west, on the other side of the Hills of Humber. Surrounded by a ring of mountains, it was a cloudy body of water with waves breaking on the shore. As the pachyderm approached it, a gruff voice called out, “No swimming after six!”
“We weren’t going to swim,” explained Polychrome. “We just needed some water.”
“Water? You can get water anywhere! This is magical water here. It needs to be preserved for emergencies.”
“Well, this is an emergency! My uncle’s Rain Stick needs to be repaired!”
“Rain Stick? That doesn’t sound very important.”
Ignoring the warning, Wakhiya swooped down to the lake, with Woot holding a bottle he intended to fill. But he quickly retreated when saw a wolf’s head snap up at him! It turned out that the wolf’s head was attached to a body much like Kabumpo’s, with the tail of an alligator at the end. The creature had another head as well, that of an owl, which was fast asleep.
“There’s no getting past me, so I wouldn’t bother trying,” yawned the wolf’s head.
Wakhiya flew down to Kabumpo, and the two of them backed up somewhat and discussed how they could overcome this strange guardian. As they talked, a tall, thin woman with white hair and brown eyes approached the group.
“Oh, hello!” said the elephant, upon seeing the woman. “I remember you from the High King’s reception. One of the Three Adepts, right?”
“It’s Audah, right?” questioned Woot. “Or is it Aurah?”
“Aujah, actually,” laughed the Adept. “I was the third one born, and ended up with the hardest name to pronounce. My sisters and I were on our way back from UpTown, and I stopped here to retrieve some water. I heard rumors of there being a guardian here now.”
“Yes, you can see him yourself,” stated Kabumpo, as he waved his trunk toward the two-headed monster. “We need water too, and it won’t let us near it.”
“Maybe it will listen to me.” With that, Aujah walked up to the lake and addressed the creature. “Oh guardian, I am Aujah, one of the Three Adepts of Flathead Mountain. May I retrieve some of the water of this lake?”
“I don’t care if you’re Emperor of the Winkies!” replied the monster. “No one takes this water without our permission, and we don’t give my permission to anyone, as you will discover when our other head awakens.”
Wakhiya and Woot once again tried flying over to take some water, but the creature was too fast for them. Kabumpo, however, managed to put his trunk in the lake and inhale a large amount of its contents before the monster could see him. With Woot’s help, he emptied his trunk into a jar, and the party promptly moved outside the ring of mountains. The two-headed beast tried to pursue them, but it was apparently unable to step outside the vicinity of the lake.
With the water, Aujah and Polychrome were able to repair the Rain Stick, and the Rain King showed up in person to reclaim it. He gave medals to the elephant, the wanderer, and the Adept for their assistance in finding his scepter.
While the King deemed more frequent rainfall in the Ho-Taro Desert to be out of the question due to concerns with the balance of nature, Aujah and her sisters did assist the Sheik in creating an improved irrigation system. They also found out that the guardian creature had been placed there by a wizard named Purpurat, who had caused some trouble in Pumperdink a few years previously. The wizard had intended to use the water in his own spells, but since he had disappeared, the monster was no longer under his geas and was free to roam the country. He later teamed up with a man named Terp, but that is a tale told elsewhere. While Kabumpo did not meet the Rain King again for years, it is quite likely that the fairy ruler kept some watch over the elephant, which would explain why rain came up to help him over the desert on at least two occasions.
For plot synopsis and continuity notes, go here.