An Oz Tale

by Nathan M. DeHoff

(Originally written in 1995. Revised Version: Feb, 2015)

Ruggedo, the former King of the Nomes, sat in his room, busily engaged in sewing. Well, he was attempting to sew, anyway. But Ruggedo had been a king for hundreds of years, and was not used to such tasks. He would prick his finger or make an erroneous stitch nearly every minute, and whenever he did so, he would shout out a curse.  After his first slip, he yelled out, “Coal and copper!”  At the second, he screamed, “Moles and moonstones!”  The curses just became worse each time.  However, the Nome persevered, because this job was important to him.

Not long ago, Tititi-Hoochoo, the Great Jinjin, had removed Ruggedo from his throne and taken away his magical powers.  It was only because of a special pardon by Kaliko, the new Nome King, that Rug was allowed to remain in the Kingdom.  As a former ruler, Ruggedo was entitled to one of the more luxurious suites of rooms in the Nomes’ castle, but without the power to order around the other Nomes, it meant very little to the former Metal Monarch.  He still had plans of regaining his throne, and revenging himself on the people of Oz, whom he blamed as the original cause of his current circumstances.  He would need money to do this, and Tititi-Hoochoo had allowed him to take all the jewels he could carry on his person with him when leaving the kingdom.  The pockets on the cloak had been sewn on with poor thread, though, and he had lost the jewels.  His current plan was to reinforce the pockets with golden thread, and use some jewels to pay someone to take him to Oz.  Unfortunately for him, he was not much good at sewing, and no one else would assist him.

While the former king was trying to thread his needle, a messenger walked through the corridor outside Rug’s room, calling, “The summit meeting with Queen Ozma of Oz will take place tomorrow, beginning at nine in the morning. Let us hope we can achieve peace between Oz and our own nation.”

“Hippikaloric!” yelled Ruggedo.  “Those Ozites invade my Kingdom, steal my ornaments and my Magic Belt, and throw me into that forgetful fountain, and now that pretender Kaliko wants to make peace with them!  Gravel and granite!  I can’t stand it!” And the Nome hurled his scissors across the room.  He then threw the spool of thread, which unraveled as it soared through the air and rolled across the floor.

The Nome tried to figure out a way in which he might stop the meeting as he rewound the thread onto the spool.  Since he had no allies and no magic, he decided that it would be a good idea to locate these.  Where could he find such things, though? Turning to his bookshelf, he began looking for his Encyclopedia of Magic, only to remember that Kaliko had confiscated it.  Figuring that one of his other books might include some information on magic, however, he kept searching.  After angrily pushing a book of folk songs of Burzee that he had mistaken for a tome of spells back into its place, a book from a higher shelf promptly fell and hit Ruggedo on the head, leaving a nasty bump.  The Nome hardly cared about this, however, for it had opened up to a section describing the Jinn.

“The Jinn are Fire Elementals, ruled by a Master who lives in a fire palace near the center of the Earth,” read the former King.  “They are known to have great magical powers—That’s it!  I’ll recruit the Master Jinn to my side!  After all, he wouldn’t want to see a fellow Elemental Ruler as abused as I’ve been, would he?  But how will I get to his palace?”  After thinking for a little bit, the Nome remembered the hidden elevator to other underground kingdoms.  Perhaps it could reach the Master Jinn’s home.  So, at midnight, Ruggedo exited his room, closed and locked the door, and set out through the maze of corridors that made up the Nome Kingdom.  After passing through numerous tunnels, where thousands of Nomes were digging for gold and jewels, Ruggedo reached a dusty, deserted hallway.  At the end of this corridor was a door reading:

Do Not Open Door, Unless Authorized by the King

“The king?” questioned the Nome. “I am the king, or at least I should be.”

There was an archaic combination lock on the door, but Rug remembered the combination from his time as Metal Monarch.  The former king unlocked and opened the portal and entered the room behind it, shutting the door after him.  He then descended a long stairway, eventually coming to a stone floor.  A twisting slide was nearby, and Ruggedo used this to reach a small chamber with a coal-strewn floor and the entrance to the elevator.

The old Nome pushed the button for the elevator, and, when this contraption reached his floor, he said the secret password that opened the doors.  Inside the elevator was a panel with hundreds of buttons.  Ruggedo examined these buttons, passing over the ones for Turvyland, Down, Naught, and Subterranea.  His gaze lingered briefly on one marked “Fire Island,” but then he noticed another labeled “Fire Palace.”  After pressing this, the Nome was promptly pinned uncomfortably against the ceiling as the elevator plummeted down a few miles.

When the elevator screeched to a halt, the former Nome King expected to be thrown back down to the bottom, but he instead remained stuck to the ceiling.  After thinking briefly about this, he reasoned that it was a magical elevator, and that gravity probably worked differently this close to the center of the Earth anyway.  So, like a spider, he scampered down the wall to the floor, and out the door onto a road paved with lava, with a huge palace at the end.  This palace had numerous pointed towers, giving the edifice as a whole the appearance of a burning flame.  The area was hot even for Ruggedo, who had the typical Nome resistance to heat, but he pressed on to the stairs of the palace, where two men made of fire were standing guard.

“What is your business here, Nome?” demanded one of the guards, in a cracking voice.

“I, Ruggedo, Metal Monarch and King of the Nomes, request an audience with the Master Jinn, Lord of Fire!” replied the Nome confidently.

“Very well, Your Majesty.  Follow me.”

Ruggedo followed the guard into the palace, and down a long hall to a throne made of enchanted gold that had been carved to resemble flames.  On the throne sat an enormous man-shaped being dressed in multi-colored robes, with a blue turban on his horned head.  His eyes looked like flaming coals, and he had claws in place of fingernails and toenails.  Various weapons, including many knives and an enormous sword, were stuck through his belt.

“Why have you come to see me, Nome King?” asked the being.

“My Kingdom has been taken from me, Master Jinn,” replied Ruggedo, “and a pretender named Kaliko sits upon my throne.  I need your assistance in retaking what is rightfully mine.”

“Why should I help you?  The affairs of the Nome Kingdom are no concern of mine.  If I aid you, what do I get in return?”

The Nome thought for some time, and then, rather reluctantly, he said, “I’m willing to make the Bond of the Immortals with you.”

Since you have probably never heard of the Bond of the Immortals, I shall describe it.  Under this Bond, the leaders of two groups of Immortals share all that they own with each other.  If the Bond is broken, the leaders are subject to severe punishments.  The exact nature of these punishments is unknown, since no Elemental ruler has ever dared to break such a Bond.  Ruggedo was offering to make the first Bond of the Elementals in over two thousand years.  He obviously would have preferred to reign by himself, but he decided he might be able to find some way of overcoming the Jinn eventually.  In the meantime, his revenge on Kaliko and the people of Oz was his foremost concern.

“I shall think on it,” stated the Jinn.  He was tempted by the promise of co-owning all of the great riches of the Nome Kingdom, and of increasing his own power, but the Bond was not something to be taken lightly.  “In the meantime, remain here as my honored guest.”

Ruggedo was in a hurry to return to the Nome Kingdom, but as he had no chance of regaining his territory without the Jinn’s help, he agreed to wait.  The Master Jinn placed a spell on the Nome to help him withstand the heat, and the former king sat quite comfortably while watching fire maidens dance to the music of the oud, qanun, and tablahs.  Finally, the Jinn came to a decision.

“I shall agree to the Bond, o Nome King,” declared the Jinn.  The two shook hands, and Ruggedo started to lead the Master back to the elevator.  The Jinn stopped him, however, and said, “I have an easier way.”

The Master pulled the sword from his belt, swung it around his head four times, and recited a few words.  Mere seconds later, the Jinn, still seated in his throne, appeared inside Ruggedo’s room.  Accompanying him were the Nome and a variety of the Fire Ruler’s subjects, including Flame Folk, salamanders, tiny red dragons, fire-breathing snakes, and two large flame scorpions.  These beings discussed strategy, finally agreeing on a plan at eight fifty-eight.  The same messenger who announced the summit conference now shouted, “Queen Ozma of Oz and her Royal Wizard have arrived, and the summit meeting is about to begin!”

“Time to move out!” announced Ruggedo. “I’ll lead the way to the Conference Cavern.”

Ruggedo did just that, followed by the odd army of creatures, with the Master Jinn bringing up the rear.  When the Nomes working in the tunnels saw this procession, most of them immediately ran off, but some of the bolder ones simply held their ground. Eventually, the strange assortment of beings reached the Conference Cavern, where King Kaliko, Ruggedo’s former Chamberlain, sat at one end of a long rock table. At the other end sat Ozma, the Ruler of Oz, who wore around her waist the Magic Belt that had once belonged to Ruggedo.  The Wizard of Oz sat on Ozma’s right, and the Soldier with Green Whiskers, who made up Ozma’s entire army, on her left.  Guph, the current Royal Chamberlain of the Nomes, and Klik, Keeper of the Keys and Assistant Chamberlain, were seated on either side of the King.  The room also contained many other important Nomes, including the Chief Digger Quiggeroc and the Royal Wizard Potaroo.

“If everyone is ready, we shall begin the meeting,” stated King Kaliko.

“Oh, no, you won’t!” shouted Ruggedo.

The Master Jinn used his sword to knock the door to the ground. All eyes in the room turned to the doorway, where Ruggedo and the Jinn stood.  The former Nome King announced, “I have come to take back this Kingdom, which is rightfully mine.”

“Rightfully yours?  You know that’s not true, Rug!” objected Kaliko.

Ozma lifted her fairy wand, the Wizard reached into his Black Bag, and the Soldier with Green Whiskers arose from his seat and pointed his unloaded gun at Ruggedo.  Before any of these Ozites could make another move, however, the Master Jinn performed a hasty incantation, which involved a fair amount of sword waving.  When the Jinn had finished, flames sprang up from the floor, and soon covered the walls and ceiling of the domed cave.  While the flames blocked the exits, the Master walked through it quite easily, and was soon back outside with his helpers.

“Now to the Throne Room!” ordered Ruggedo.  The flame creatures followed the Nome through more corridors.  At the end of a carpeted hallway stood a golden door with a diamond knob.  Ruggedo opened this door, revealing a spacious, richly decorated room containing a giant golden throne.

A Nome servant was polishing the furniture of this room, and he was very surprised to see Ruggedo climb up the steps of the great throne, and sit down on the golden seat.

“You’d better get down from King’s Kaliko’s Royal Throne,” said the servant.

“It is now my Royal Throne once again,” stated Rug calmly, as he put Kaliko’s second-best crown, a golden one studded with diamonds, on his head, and picked up the ruby-tipped scepter of the nation.  “The Master Jinn and I are now Co-Rulers of the Nome Kingdom.”

“And anyone who objects,” added the Jinn, “will be burned to a crisp.”

“Go and tell the news to all the Nomes,” commanded Ruggedo. “I trust you remember who I am.”

While these events were transpiring in the Throne Room, the prisoners in the Conference Cavern were trying desperately to escape.  Ozma, the Wizard of Oz, and Potaroo tried many magical tools and chants on the flames, but none of them were effective.  The Queen of Oz tried to transport out of the room, using both her wand and the Magic Belt, but she could not.

“It’s no use,” said the Wizard at last. “These flames were created by a kind of magic that we are all unfamiliar with.”

“I am almost certain that that man with the sword was the Master Jinn, Ruler of the Fire Elementals,” stated Ozma. “I have heard that few can undo his fire spells.  But we must not give up hope.  Glinda is watching us in the Magic Picture, and she may be able to help us.”

Ozma was correct about this.  The Good Sorceress, Dorothy, the Scarecrow, and the Tin Woodman were all gathered in Ozma’s sitting room, using the Picture to keep an eye on the visitors to the Nome Kingdom.  Glinda recognized the Master Jinn at once, and, as she watched the magic-users attempt to get out of the Conference Cavern, she tried to think of a way to fight the Jinn’s magic.

“Couldn’t they just put them out with water?” suggested Dorothy.

“No, it’s not that simple,” replied Glinda.  “That does give me a good idea, though.”  With a smile at Dorothy, she added, “We must all go to my castle.  I believe that I have thought of a way to rescue Ozma and the others.”

“Should I get the Red Wagon ready?” asked Dorothy.

“No, I shall transport us all there with my magic.” And, after a quick spell, the four Picture-watchers were seated in Glinda’s Room of Magic.

“Ozma has been trapped by the Ruler of the Fire Elementals,” explained Glinda. “He is a powerful magical being, but perhaps we would stand a chance if we had the Queen of the Water Sprites assisting us.  Keep quiet, everyone, and I will try to summon the Queen.”

The Sorceress looked through a few books of magic, eventually finding the spell that she wanted.  While reciting the spell, the Good Witch waved a wand in mystic patterns.  When she had finished, a woman and a young girl, both of whom appeared to be made out of water, appeared in the chamber.

“You are Glinda, the Good Sorceress of Oz?” questioned the woman.

“I am indeed, Your Majesty.”

“Why have you summoned me, Great Sorceress?”

“I need your assistance in rescuing some friends, who have been trapped in the Nome Kingdom by the Master Jinn.”

“I have no quarrel with the Jinn.  Why should I risk making an enemy of a fellow Immortal?”

While the Sorceress was considering how to respond, the young Water Sprite walked up to the Tin Woodman and tried to touch him.  The Tin Man, afraid that he would rust, backed away from the girl, and fell over backwards.  The child laughed at this, and then, distracted by a corked bottle that was sitting on a table, tried to open it.

“Stay away from that!” ordered Glinda, as the Good Witch replaced the cork. “Who is this girl, anyway?”

“She is my daughter, the Princess Hydrilla,” replied the Queen. “I had to take her with me, as you summoned me on such short notice.”

“Well, you must stop her from touching things.  This is valuable magical equipment.”  At this moment, the Princess was looking at the pictures in a valuable book of white magic, and getting the pages wet.

“Come here right this instant, Hydrilla!” ordered the Queen.  The Princess rather sulkily obeyed her mother.

“Now,” said Glinda, “I have reason to suspect that the Master Jinn has made the Bond of the Elementals with Ruggedo, the former Nome King.  Ruggedo is very ambitious, and I fear that he and the Jinn will attempt to conquer more lands.  This could be devastating to the Immortals and to our world as a whole.”

After thinking for a little while, the Queen agreed that this would indeed be a serious danger.  She had little respect for either the Master Jinn or Ruggedo, both of whom had held their posts for much less time than she had.  She had also heard of Ruggedo’s past actions, which included a few invasions of other kingdoms.  So the Queen agreed to assist Glinda, and used a powerful spell to transport everyone in the Room of Magic to a corridor in the Nome Kingdom, quite near the Conference Cavern.

The Sorceress, the Queen, Princess Hydrilla, Dorothy, the Scarecrow, and the Tin Woodman walked up to the cavern’s doorway, and Glinda called, “We’ve come to get you out of here!”

The prisoners all cheered at this, and the Queen of the Water Sprites examined the flames.  She stated, “These were created by some of the Jinn’s most powerful magic, but I believe I can manage to destroy them.”

The Queen tried several incantations, but none of them affected the magical flames.  The monarch refused to give up, however, and called, “Hydrilla, come here!”

Hydrilla put down the pickaxe that she was examining, and ran over to her mother.  The Queen told her daughter, “You must help me with an incantation.”

“Huzza!  At last I get to do magic!” cheered the young Princess.

“Just recite these words, dear.”  And the ruler told the words of a spell to Hydrilla, which the Princess then repeated, while her mother chanted another spell.  After a few repetitions, the flames disappeared as quickly as they had appeared, and the Ozites and Nomes rushed out of the Conference Cavern.

“I grant Ruggedo a reprieve, and this is how he repays me?” yelled Kaliko.

“Where do you think Roquat—I mean Ruggedo—is?” asked the Queen of the Water Sprites.

“I’m sure he’s in the Throne Room.”

“Lead us to the Throne Room, and we’ll take care of that throne-stealing Nome!” shouted the Army of Oz, who was always at his bravest when fairly sure that someone else would be able to do the fighting.

Kaliko did this quite willingly, and the group of Ozites and Elementals soon reached the Throne Room door, which was being guarded by the Jinn’s two scorpions.

While everyone was considering the best way to overcome these creatures, one of the scorpions opened its mouth and let out a sheet of flame.  Fortunately, the flame did not touch anyone, but they all panicked at the sight, especially the Scarecrow.  The only one unaffected was Princess Hydrilla, who produced a spray of water from her right hand. This not only extinguished the scorpion’s flame, but caused the scorpion itself to whimper, as if in pain.  The other insect scurried into the Throne Room to summon its Master, who floated into the hallway, with three tiny dragons fluttering around his head.

“We have come to drive you from this kingdom,” announced the Queen of the Water Sprites.

“I am now co-ruler of this kingdom, and I won’t leave it,” said the Ruler of the Fire Elementals stubbornly.

“If you don’t leave, it will lead to war between the Water and Fire Elementals.  Is that what you want?”

“No, it is not what we want!” stated a dragon.

“You know full well that none of us can stand water,” the second dragon told the Jinn.

“If you do not give up your claims on this Kingdom, we’ll be forced to appoint a new Master Jinn,” said the third dragon.

“I cannot.  If I break the bond with Ruggedo, the punishment will be much more severe,” stated the Jinn, who was now frightened.

“What was the nature of this bond?” questioned Ozma.

            “It is between the rulers of two groups of Immortals, forcing them to share all they own and control.”

“But Ruggedo isn’t the rightful ruler of the Nomes,” objected the Scarecrow, who was making sure to keep a distance from the Lord of Fire, but could not resist sharing what his famous brains had just deduced. “He was removed from the throne by the Great Jinjin himself.”

“The Great Jinjin Tititi-Hoochoo?  Is this true?”

Kaliko and Guph, who had both witnessed their former king’s conquest by Quox, the dragon sent by Tititi-Hoochoo as an Instrument of Vengeance, confirmed that it was. The Jinn then declared, “Despite my great powers, Tititi-Hoochoo is more powerful than I, and I know him to be just.  If he has removed Ruggedo from the throne, I see no reason to go against his judgment.  The Bond is null and void, as one of the participants is no longer a ruler, and I hereby relinquish all claims on the Nome Kingdom.”

The Jinn used a spell to return to his own country, taking his servants with him. Ozma, Glinda, the Scarecrow, the Tin Woodman, the Queen of the Water Sprites, Princess Hydrilla, Dorothy, the Wizard of Oz, the Soldier with Green Whiskers, and the Nomes then entered the Throne Room, where Ruggedo was asleep on the great golden throne.  Wasting no time, the little Princess Hydrilla ran up the steps to the high seat, where she quite easily picked up Ruggedo.

“Put me down, you wild watery woman!” shouted the Nome.  Then, after a quick look around the room, he added, “What happened to the Jinn? How did all of you get here?”

“The Master Jinn is gone,” replied the Sprite Queen.

“And you’ll be gone too, in a minute,” remarked Hydrilla, as she started to carry Ruggedo down the steps of the throne.

“You can’t do this!” exclaimed Ruggedo. “I’m the Metal Monarch and King of the Nomes!”

“No, you aren’t,” objected the Soldier with Green Whiskers. “You know very well that the Great Jinjin removed you from the throne of this nation.”

“He condemned you to be a wanderer on the face of the Earth, but I forgave you and allowed you to stay here, and with a generous pension,” said Kaliko, in a voice both sad and angry. “You couldn’t be content with that, however, and instead insisted on trying to steal back the kingdom, so I have no choice but to see the Great Jinjin’s decree carried out.”

            “But you have to let me take as many jewels as I can carry with me!” objected Ruggedo.

            “And so we shall.” Kaliko promptly ordered the pockets of the former king’s robe reinforced with unbreakable diamond thread, and Ruggedo filled them with jewels.  Then, in disgrace, he left the Nome Kingdom to become a homeless wanderer.  The two Water Nymphs returned home, but Ozma invited them to visit Oz whenever they liked. Very little was decided at the summit meeting, which took place as originally planned but with the addition of the Ozites who had recently transported there.  Ozma agreed to keep some watch over the Nome Kingdom, and Kaliko agreed not to invade Oz.  Also, the Ozites confiscated most of Ruggedo’s old magical tools, destroying many of them, but taking others back to the Emerald City for further study.

            “I wonder if we’ll ever see old Ruggedo again,” said Dorothy, as the meeting was drawing to a close.

            “I wouldn’t be at all surprised,” stated Kaliko. “Hopefully, though, being a wanderer on the surface will humble him somewhat.  Perhaps someday he will be fit to become a good citizen of this kingdom once more.”

            “I wouldn’t count on that,” declared the Soldier with Green Whiskers.  And, some more reluctantly than others, the Ozites and Nomes all agreed with this.




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