Return to Boboland
By Nathan M. DeHoff
“Your Majesty, and Your Highness,” announced the Royal Cook, with a low bow toward his ruler, and another bow to the visiting Prince, “dinner tonight will be gray and mutton-chops from your favorite mutton-tree, and sparkling apple cider to drink.”
“Sounds delicious,” said King Rinkitink, looking up from the scroll that he was reading and laughing about it. The scroll, as any Ozophile would probably know, was entitled How to Be Good, and was written by Professor Ernest Blabbergass, who had recently been appointed Royal Hippolorum, Count of Dinkyrink, and Ambassador to the Nome Kingdom. The nomes, much to their King Roquat's irritation, enjoyed hearing the scroll and trying to learn from it.
The dinner was indeed delicious, as were nearly all meals in the Royal Palace of Rinkitink. In fact, the entire Kingdom of Rinkitink was extremely pleasant, and Prince Bobo was enjoying his stay immensely. However, this Prince felt that he needed to return to his own Kingdom of Boboland, and he told this to the King.
“I suppose you must return,” stated Rinkitink, whose mood was considerably less jolly than it had been before Bobo's announcement, “but the old Kingdom won't be the same without you.”
“I haven't been there in years, you know,” explained Prince Bobo, “and there's no telling what could have happened.”
“I'll have a ship made ready to sail to Boboland in the morning. And I shall accompany you.”
“I cannot allow Your Majesty to leave the Kingdom again,” objected Lord Pinkerbloo. “Especially not so soon after your last journey. Why, we almost didn't find you.”
“I sometimes wish you hadn't found me. But, in some ways, it is more comfortable to remain at home than to travel. The voyage tomorrow, though, will not be as long or involved as my last one. I just want to see Prince Bobo safely restored to his home.”
“Well, all right. But this time, a bodyguard must come with you, to make sure that you are safely restored to this country.”
Not long before the beginning of this story, King Rinkitink had sneaked out of his castle, and, accompanied only by a few rowers and Bilbil, his talking goat, journeyed to the Island of Pingaree. While the King was on the island, fierce pirates from Regos and Coregos had attacked the place, capturing everyone except Rinkitink, Bilbil, and Prince Inga of Pingaree. The three had traveled to Regos and Coregos to free the captives, and then to the Nome Kingdom to rescue Inga's parents. With the aid of three magical pearls and the cleverness of Inga, Bilbil, and Rinkitink, the mission was successful. Later, however, it was discovered that Bilbil was really Prince Bobo of Boboland under an evil enchantment; and Glinda, the Good Witch of the South, restored the Prince to his proper form. Bobo then accompanied Rinkitink to the great Domain of Rinkitink, where the former goat—who still very much retained his goatlike personality—had remained for three months.
Well, on the day after the mutton dinner, a large ship, with a crew of ninety men and fifty bodyguards, was made ready to sail. King Rinkitink and Prince Bobo boarded this ship, and the boat sailed away, while the people of Gilgad, the capital of Rinkitink, waved farewell from the shore.
The ship stayed close to the coast throughout the voyage. King Rinkitink pointed out the mountains that separated his domain from the Land of Ev, while rolling and unrolling a ball of string he had brought along. The southern reaches of Ev were rather sparsely populated, but the travelers saw the occasional fisherman, as well as what appeared to be fish-people marching in step. A rushing river formed the boundary between Ev and Boboland.
Finally, the Rinkitinkian boat reached Port Bristorn, the northernmost harbor of the Kingdom of Boboland. Rinkitink's boat dropped anchor near the major dock in the town of Port Bristorn, which Prince Bobo pointed out to the Gilgadian captain. A few sailors stayed behind to watch the vessel, but Rinkitink, Bobo, the bodyguards, the captain, and most of the crew left the ship and headed toward the Bristorn Inn.
The captain led the way into the inn, where the innkeeper stood behind the counter, serving food and drink. When the Prince's party entered, the keeper observed, “You're not from around here, are you? You all look like foreigners, except for the child. And you,” he said, pointing to Rinkitink, “must be a foreign king.”
“Right the first try,” replied Rinkitink. “Hoo, hoo, the first try. I am King Rinkitink, Ruler of the City of Gilgad and the great Dominion of Rinkitink, and these men are my bodyguards and the crew of the ship that brought me here.”
“And I am no child,” announced Prince Bobo. “I am the long-lost Prince of Boboland, returning at last to my native land.”
Most of the Bobolanders at the counter laughed at this, but the innkeeper stated, “He does look somewhat like our old Prince.”
“Come to think of it, he does,” agreed a tall man who had been eating the whole time.
“The Prince has been missing for years,” added another Bobolander, "and this youth is about the correct age."
“Wait a minute,” argued a large, muscular man. “Are you just going to believe that this stranger is our Prince?”
“Well, I suppose the Regent would know, but I don’t think he’s around now,” declared the innkeeper.
“The Regent? Are my parents still missing?”
“You have been away for a while, haven’t you? The rest of the royal family disappeared around when you did, and the wizard Botai took over the throne. We heard a while back that he died and the King and Queen had returned, but then they presumably disappeared again. That’s what the minstrels tell us, anyway. They also say something about a doll, some monkeys, and creatures with pies. The Regent now is a man named Sandor, the Duke of BoNus.”
“Sandor? Sounds like something you’d use on lumber,” laughed Rinkitink.
“No, I remember Sandor. He’s my uncle.”
“He’s a good man,” declared one of the customers. “He’s really helping to clean up the country after that wizard did his best to terrorize it.”
“Well, I shall journey to the castle in Bobobia, and find out for myself what happened to the rest of my family.”
“Well, then you'd better watch out for Groanos,” warned the innkeeper.
“And who exactly is Groanos?”
“Some sort of giant who lives along the road to Bobobia. Acts like he owns the road. He's stopped all traffic to and from the city, since he attacks all travelers.”
“If this child really is our brave Prince, he should have no trouble disposing of Groanos,” stated the muscular man in a disagreeable voice.
“Hasn’t Sandor been told about this?” asked Bobo.
“He’s been busy settling disputes back east, so I’m not sure he even knows. Besides, since when do dukes slay giants? That seems more like a prince thing to me.”
“I would think it was knights, or possibly days. Hoo, hoo, nights and days, you see? Come to think of it, though, my friend Prince Inga did dispatch a giant in the Nome Kingdom.”
“We shall leave for the capital in the morning,” announced Bobo. “But for tonight, we intend to stay at this inn.”
The keeper gave good dinners to the visitors, and then showed them to some of the nicest rooms. In the morning, Rinkitink paid the innkeeper, and the travelers held a conference.
“I don't think I want to face that giant,” said the captain.
“But you have the reputation of being the bravest seaman in my dominions,” objected King Rinkitink.
“Well, I am the bravest man on sea. But on land, I'm not at my best. I could easily conquer a sea serpent or a giant shark, but not a land giant.”
“Well, I don't really wish to face Groanos, either, but I swore to see Prince Bobo safely returned to his home, and I shall stand by my words."
“Our duty is to protect you, Your Majesty,” the head of the bodyguards told Rinkitink, “so we shall accompany you.”
“Well, then, the sailors will return to the ship, and Rinkitink, his bodyguards, and I will travel to the capital,” decided Bobo.
So, after a quick breakfast at the inn, the party of fifty-two set out along the road to the capital. Rinkitink sang songs to amuse the company on the journey. The land in the area was rocky, and largely used for goat herding. Bobo admitted that the animals brought back some unpleasant memories.
“Do you think the sorcerer turned you into a goat because there are so many other goats around?” asked the King.
“Maybe, but from what I can recall, he wasn’t that bright.”
“A bit of a dimwit, eh? I wonder if I could buy one of those goats. Walking everywhere is rather tiring for me, and I certainly can't ride you anymore, hoo, hoo, heek, keek, not now that you're a prince, hee-hee-hee!”
Bobo shot him a dirty look, but Rinkitink just kept walking without asking any of the herdsmen if the goats were for sale, making a mental note that he would ask about it at the castle. The country became more fertile farther down the road, with much of it being farmland. As the travelers continued, fewer and fewer people could be seen, and the land was largely overgrown with weeds. A few miles down the path, the travelers heard a horrible noise.
“What was that?” asked Prince Bobo.
“I don't know,” replied a bodyguard, “but it sounded sort of like a groan.”
“A groan? It must be Groanos!” exclaimed another guard.
“Now, we can't be sure of that,” said Bobo.
A minute later, however, everyone was sure of it. A great giant, at least forty feet tall, stomped into the center of the road. He had shoulder-length blond hair, and wore plate armor that did not cover his arms, legs, or head. Groanos, for that was who the giant was, carried a sickle in his left hand, and an hourglass in his right.
“"How dare you?” demanded the giant, in a gruff voice.
“How dare we what?” questioned Bobo.
“How dare you walk on my road? And worst of all, you sang while you were on it. I hate singing! Now, I shall destroy all of you trespassers!”
King Rinkitink's bodyguards turned tail (even though they had no tails) and ran back in the direction from whence they had come. Prince Bobo, however, calmly stood his ground and said, “We are not trespassing. This is a public road, belonging to the people of Boboland, and you have no right to claim it as your own.”
“Well, you’re a stubborn one, aren’t you? And who are you to tell me what I don't have the right to do?”
“I am Prince Bobo of Boboland.”
“Prince Bobo? You're lying! Prince Bobo is enchanted, and will never return to Boboland.”
“I have been disenchanted, and have returned to my homeland.”
“Well, isn't that a kicker! Listen to me, Princeling, if that's who you really are. I don't care if you're Queen Lurline! I'm not giving up this road, and I still intend to destroy you!” So saying, Groanos turned over his hourglass and stood perfectly still. While the Giant was standing, Bobo grabbed a sword that one of the guards had dropped, and brought the flat down on the bare right foot of his enemy. As it made no impact on his foot whatsoever, the Prince then tried using the sword to sever a toe, but his efforts were to no avail. The monster seemed invincible, yet despite his threat he appeared to be making no attempt to harm Rinkitink or Bobo.
“Why don't we just run past him?” suggested the King. “I'm not much of a runner, myself, but I believe I could do it now.”
As our two heroes prepared to run, the sand in the giant's hourglass had all reached the bottom. Groanos quickly swung his sickle, barely missing Bobo and Rinkitink. As soon as the two travelers had recovered from their shock, they tried to lift their feet, and found to their horror that they could not move at all. Groanos lifted his foot, and began to bring it down on top of the Prince and the King. When the foot had almost touched the adventurers, it suddenly flew back up into the air, taking the giant's entire body with it. Groanos fell to the ground, dropping his hourglass as he did so. As the now-helpless monster helplessly waved his arms and legs, an old dwarf rode up on a horse and grabbed the glass.
“Give that back!” whined the Giant.
“Not likely," laughed the Dwarf. “I'm quite aware of without that hourglass, you're powerless!” The stranger then turned the hourglass over. As soon as the sand had run to the bottom, the Dwarf pointed to the giant, and Groanos promptly disappeared.
“What just happened?” asked Bobo, who was now able to move.
“It looks like we conquered the giant, Bobo,” laughed Rinkitink. “We're a couple of giant slayers, aren't we?”
“But why couldn't he crush us?”
“That was my doing,” replied the dwarf. “I created a force field around you with my magic.”
“So you're a magician?”
“Yes, Your Highness. I am Gvarin, Dwarf Wizard from Castle Svarnin, which is on Mount Svarnel.”
“I see," said Bobo testily. “You’re one of those dwarves? The ones who sold arms to Boboland, but also to the invading Flame Folk?”
“Mount Svarnel is neutral in such matters.”
“Then why are you helping us now? We haven’t paid you anything and we don't intend to.”
“I was sent by King Svarnin on a special mission to retrieve a magic sword commissioned by the King of Seebania. It was treated with Shifting Sands.”
“Like in the Deadly Desert?”
“Yes, but it was discovered that, if removed from the desert, they have other powers. It was those sands that enabled Botai to transform you and your family, and that gave power to Groanos’ hourglass. We treated a sword with the sands, but it was stolen from us by a witch named Narlana.”
“So why come to us?” asked Rinkitink.
“Partially because you were convenient, but also because you helped overthrow the rulers of Regos and Coregos and bested the Nome King.”
“Hee hee hee, we did do that, didn’t we?”
“Yes, but we had some magical assistance, and Inga really did most of the work,” argued Bobo, “not to mention the Sea Fairies.”
“Details, Your Highness,” said Gvarin.
“So why should we help a war profiteer like you? And how do you know this King of Seebania wasn’t going to do something evil with this sword?”
“Perhaps he was, but he did pay for it, and in very high-quality sapphires, I might add!”
“Well, we won’t help you. Get someone else who doesn’t mind prolonging wars, or just give back the sapphires.”
“He did save us from that giant, Bobo,” stated Rinkitink.
“Yes, because he wanted something from us! Really, Rinkitink, I don’t see why you’re falling for this con job. Don’t you have brains in your head?”
“I'm glad you're still my Bilbil, even if you are a prince.”
“I am, aren’t I? Nevertheless, I don’t trust this dwarf.”
“You need not trust me,” said the dwarf craftily, “You'll help me because it will benefit you! The sword can disenchant your family.”
“Can it? What exactly do you know about my family?”
“I know were transformed by Botai, just as you were. A magical doll took away his box of Shifting Sands and turned them back, but once she took them out of the country, they all were enchanted again. Botai is dead now, but the transformations remain.”
“We must help now,” offered Rinkitink.
“I suppose I don’t really have a choice, then. So where does this witch who stole your sword live?”
“Somewhere toward the southeast of here. I’ve seen her from the observatory atop Castle Svarnin, but I can’t find her hideout exactly.”
So the party turned off to the southeast, with Gvarin riding his horse, whose name was Swift-As-Light. The wizard explained that he was not actually as swift as light, but he was quite fast regardless. The paths the party was following led through a dense forest and a smelly swamp before reaching another more inhabited area. By this time, night had fallen, but Gvarin’s night vision was good enough to guide the group. At about ten o'clock, Bobo noticed a light, which was coming toward the party.
“Must be someone with a torch,” observed Gvarin.
But the man who approached our heroes was not bearing a torch. His head was glowing with a bright light, allowing the King and the Prince to see the rest of the man's body. The stranger was about six feet tall, and he wore a red coat, a light green kilt, and silver sandals.
“Who are you?” asked Prince Bobo.
“My name is Glowinpate, and I am a Light-Head. Our village is about three miles to the east of here. Now that you know who I am, who are you?”
“I am Prince Bobo of Boboland," replied the Prince, "and these are my—um, companions, King Rinkitink, Gvarin, and Swift-As-Light. We’re trying to find the witch Narlana.”
“I would love to see Narlana destroyed. That wicked witch is always robbing our village. Well, I hope you succeed.”
“Wait! How would you like to come with us?” questioned Bobo.
“I don't know. Why do you want me to join you? I'm just a Light-Head. I don't have any magical powers or anything.”
“A Light-Head may be just what we need in a dark cave.”
Glowinpate thought on that for a moment. “Very well, I'll join you. I didn't have anything better to do tonight.”
Down the road stood a small village from which a golden glow was emanating. It turned out to be a golden tower, unfinished and with scaffolding around it. A guard rushed up to the visitors and yelled, “Leave! Leave this village right away!”
“Why? You’ve always been welcoming to strangers before,” said Glowinpate.
“It’s not that. BoGo is being terrorized by a witch! When any of us anger her, she turns us into golden bricks for the tower she’s building.”
“Sounds inefficient,” remarked Gvarin. “Wouldn’t it make more sense to transform everyone into bricks and then build the tower?”
“Not when you have Slowbos as contractors. They’re the only ones who would work for her, and they’re notoriously lazy. Besides, I wouldn’t want to give her any ideas.”
“Is the witch here now?” inquired Bobo.
“No, she’s out in BoDega, probably looking for some spell components. I don’t know what she does in her private time.”
“Then this would be the perfect time to storm her hideout,” advised Gvarin. “Do you know where it is?”
“It’s at the base of the hill at the end of town, but I wouldn’t go there. She has all kinds of security set up.”
“Well, I’m a wizard myself,” said the dwarf proudly, “so I’m not afraid of any witchcraft.”
“If you insist, but don’t blame me if you’re gold bricked.”
As the visitors entered the village, they noticed a sign reading, “BoGo. Get two for the price of one!”
“Do all of these towns start with ‘Bo’?” asked Rinkitink.
“No, but that was the fashion for awhile, back in the time of one of my ancestors,” explained Bobo.
The town was very quiet, with only the occasional guard on the streets. The party had soon crossed it, and came across the hill, in which was placed a great wooden door. A sign above it announced, “This is the home of Narlana, Terror of Boboland. Keep out!”
“The Terror of Boboland? I think that’s a bit egotistical,” said Glowinpate. “I thought that sorcerer who took over the throne was far worse.”
“I have my own issues with him,” admitted the Prince, “but he’s just an idiot who got lucky. I think the dragon Hadasse might be a worse terror, although she doesn’t come out from underground that often. At least, she didn’t when I lived here.”
“Haven’t you had Phanfasm incursions before? I’d say they’re the worst, although they’ve been pretty peaceful as of late,” said Gvarin. “Anyway, Terror of Boboland or not, let’s see what we can do.” Dismounting from his horse, the dwarf turned the doorknob twice to the right and three times to the left, then pulled on it. The door swung open, revealing a dark set of stairs. The Light-Head led the way, providing light by which the party could descend.
“How did you open that door, Gvarin?” asked King Rinkitink.
“Oh, it’s a typical pattern for opening doors from Jalvo’s Magic Supply. We’re not necessarily dealing with someone all that original here.”
At the bottom of the stairs was a maze of corridors, some with luminescent slime dripping from the ceiling. After a while of wandering that just led back to the stairs, Rinkitink used the ball of string from his pocket to mark the halls they had already explored. Finally, they came upon a room with an uncomfortable-looking stone bed and chair, and several brooms, wands, and weapons hanging on the wall. In the middle stood an enormous cauldron, which was presently empty. When he noticed the weapons, Bobo grabbed the only sword he could find. Unfortunately, just as he did so, a dark figure descended through an opening in the ceiling, using her skirts as a parachute.
“What are you doing in my cave?” asked the woman in her cackling voice as she alighted on the ground next to the Prince. “Didn’t you see the ‘Keep Out’ sign on the front door?” She wore a black dress with white trim, knee-high boots, and a peaked hat. Her eyes were small and beady, and she had a large sack draped over one arm. It was obvious that she was a witch, or at least someone dressed as a witch.
“I am Prince Bobo of Boboland, come to retrieve this sword.”
“And I am Narlana, Terror of Boboland!”
“Boboland has had much worse terrors. What about—“
“It doesn’t matter! I’ll destroy you all!” The witch began rooting in her sack, but was distracted when Glowinpate amplified his light and shined it right in her face. She complained, “Turn out that light, fool, I can't see!”
“I can’t turn it off,” said the Light-Head. “It’s a natural part of me.”
“Well, when I’m done with you, I’ll make you the beacon at the top of my golden tower.”
As this was happening, Prince Bobo waved the sword toward Narlana, and with a swirl of smoke, the witch turned into a mushroom. Rinkitink promptly noted, “Well, that’s one way to get rid of a witch!”
“I’m not even sure how I did that,” stated Bobo.
“You must have been thinking of mushrooms,” observed the dwarf.
“Well, I haven’t eaten in a while, and caves do make me think of mushrooms.”
“I suppose now we can eat her for dinner,” said the King.
“That's disgusting! No, we’ll take her back to the castle, and perhaps we can find a way to make her reform.”
“I could get my Royal Hippolorum to make her a copy of How to Be Good.”
“Hippolorum? Is that a keeper of horses?” inquired Gvarin.
“No, it’s a title that holds no official responsibilities. What’s the fun of being a member of the court when you have to work all the time? As a king, I know that all too well. Ho, ho, hee-hee-heek, all too well!”
“I understand the Land of Oz has a fountain that makes people lose their memories, and a pond that forces them to tell the truth. Maybe you could ask to use one of those on her if you ever get to Oz.”
“Oh, we’ve been to Oz, and we have an open invitation to come back. I’m not sure how we’d accomplish it, though. The last time, we crossed the desert on a magic carpet. Maybe next time we’ll have to fly. I’d make a handsome bird, wouldn’t I, Bobo? Oh, hee hee, hoo hoo hoo!”
The travelers emerged from the cave, and Prince Bobo promptly waved the sword at the golden tower, turning the bricks back into humans. They were awkwardly balancing on top of each other, but they managed to all reach the ground without serious incident. The grateful townspeople let the visitors use their ox-drawn cart, which had been a gift from the nearby town of BoVine. This town also produced some excellent wine, and the inhabitants of BoGo gave them several bottles.
The cart made the trip to Bobobia by the next afternoon, with Swift-As-Light trotting alongside, and the four adventurers and the horse approached the BoPalace.
“How long has it been since I've seen this place?” asked Bobo.
“It's not as impressive as Castle Svarnin,” observed Gwarin, “but it's not bad for a human castle.”
As the four arrived at the moat, Prince Bobo called, “Lower the drawbridge!”
“Be you friend or foe?” shouted a voice from inside.
“All right.” The drawbridge was quickly lowered, and the travelers entered the castle. Once they had done so, the man who had shouted to the heroes began to raise the bridge.
“What's the use of asking if strangers are friends or foes?” Gwarin asked this man. “Even if they are foes, they will say they're friends in order to gain access to the castle.”
“I never thought of that,” replied the man. “By the way, who are you, and why are you here?”
“I am Bobo, the long-lost Prince of this Kingdom!” answered Prince Bobo.
“So you just expect me to believe that you’re the long-lost prince? You know how many people come here claiming that?”
“No,” replied Rinkitink. “How many?”
“Well, actually, he’s the first. You still don’t have proof, though.”
“Let him in, Birvon!” called a hearty voice. “I’d recognize my nephew anywhere!”
“Uncle Sandor!” exclaimed Bobo, as a distinguished man with gray hair and blue eyes entered the foyer.
“Welcome back, my lad!” shouted the man, as he embraced his nephew. “It's been too long! I'd heard that you'd returned, and then I heard you’d taken out two of the greatest threats in the country! What a brave lad you've turned out to be.”
“Well, I couldn’t have done it without help. These are my companions, King Rinkitink from Gilgad, the wizard Gvarin from Mount Svarnel, and Glowinpate the Light-Head.”
“Welcome to you all! And if you’re a wizard, do you think there’s any way you could disenchant my family? They were all restored to themselves when a visitor conquered Botai, but later regressed to their alternate shapes.”
Duke Sandor led the way into the throne room, where a bird and a rat wandered aimlessly about, and an assortment of objects sat at the foot of the shining Aurora Throne. Waving the sword around the room, the bird turned into a stately woman, Queen Bobeth, and the rat into a young boy, Prince Bobob. A ring became a tall, handsome man, King Bobo, and two doorstops were replaced by the girls, Princess Boellen and Princess Bojo (who they call Princess Bebe as she is the yougest).
The disenchanted royals immediately rushed over to Bobo and Sandor and greeted them warmly. Explanations were in order, and as soon as everyone had finished telling their stories, the Duke and King organized a grand feast. In between courses, King Rinkitink sang a song he had composed about his adventures with Bobo.
After the feast, Gvarin took the magic sword and returned to Mount Svarnel. Sandor declared that, while he was no longer needed as Regent, he would continue to right wrongs throughout the country. Bobo quickly returned to his role as Prince, taking lessons from his parents and the Duke. And if he occasionally was regarded as having a stubborn or churlish attitude, the people forgave him, just as they did young Prince Bobob for having a habit of gnawing on things.
For Synopsis & Continuity notes, go here.