Art by Michael Herring for the Del Rey cover of The Gnome King of Oz

By Nathan M. DeHoff

(Updated Version: 2/2015)


Part I: The Nome and the Wizard


The Nome King was in an angry mood. He became angry whenever he thought about the loss of his Magic Belt, and the resulting loss of all of his magical powers. Some months earlier, the King, whose name had been Roquat, had attempted to conquer the Land of Oz and retrieve the Belt, but Queen Ozma of Oz had forced him to drink of the Water of Oblivion, causing him to forget everything that he had ever known. It had taken him some time to regain his memory, and even then, he still had trouble remembering himself. The Nome King's subjects called their ruler by the name Ruggedo.

King Ruggedo used his ruby-tipped scepter to ring a gong that stood near his ruby throne. Kaliko, the nervous Head Chamberlain of the Nome Kingdom, rushed into the Throne Room from behind a golden curtain.

“Bring my Chief Counselor here!” ordered Ruggedo.

“Um, Your Majesty, you don't have a Chief Counselor. You just threw your last one away an hour ago.”

“I did? Oh, yes. He was just like all the others. He had no idea how I could get my magic back. What's the use of having a Counselor if they don't have any ideas?”

“Why do you need magic? You already have the most powerful army and the greatest riches of any ruler in fairyland. Besides, you have a Royal Wizard.”

“Oh, that old fool. Well, since I don't have anything better to do, I may as well see what useless thing he's working on. Send for the wizard!”

Kaliko ran out of the room, an activity which was constantly becoming easier for him, due to his loss in weight. Ruggedo's servant had once been as fat as his nearly round master, but the stress of his job had caused him to grow unnaturally thin.  Five minutes later, Potaroo, the Nome King's ancient Royal Wizard, hobbled into Rug's chamber, using his magical staff as a walking stick.

“So, what have you been working on?” inquired the King.

“I'm creating a new telescope,” replied Potaroo. “Its features include a lens that can see through rock, a device for locating things, a—”

“Enough! Why can't you come up with any useful magic? You know, magic that can transform useless people into ornaments, magic for transporting my army to battle sites. You know, the kind of magic that my Belt could do.”

“I am only a fifth-rate wizard, Your Highness. I cannot do those kinds of things. Even my old master could only make the Belt with jewels from the sorceress Bel-sor-t.  If you really want that kind of power, you should study magic yourself.”

Now, the lazy Nome King had studied very little in his long life, and Potaroo's suggestion caused Ruggedo to reach for his sceptre, which he intended to throw at the wizard. However, the King thought for a while, and he decided that Potaroo may have given him a solution to his problems. So, instead of hurling the sceptre, he used it to ring his gong.

“Fetch me the list of schools of magic from the Royal Library,” Ruggedo told Kaliko, who had entered the room. The Chamberlain rushed down a corridor to the Royal Library. Twenty-two minutes afterward, he came back to the Throne Room, with a scroll under his left arm.

“Do you have the list?” asked Ruggedo.

Kaliko handed the scroll to his ruler. The King unrolled the scroll, and studied the list of schools for some time. Finally, he said, “Eastern Evian University’s magic program looks like it might be a good choice.”

“I have heard of that school,” stated Potaroo. “The Wizard of Ev studied there, and it is supposed to have one of the greatest faculties of any magic school in fairyland.”

“Then I'll go there!” declared Rug. “But I can't go there looking like myself. Somebody might recognize me.”

“I have a magical robe that might help. Not only will it cover your body, but it will also alter your voice and your scent.”

“Just the thing!” exclaimed Ruggedo, who was slightly happy for the first time in years.

Meanwhile, in the Emerald City of Oz, the famous Wizard of Oz was demonstrating some new spells that he had perfected. Ozma, Dorothy, and Glinda, who were watching him, were amazed at how this man had changed from a humbug magician to a real magician in a relatively short amount of time.

“You're doing extremely well, Wizard,” approved Glinda. “And when you’re ready to become a real licensed wizard, you will obtain a degree from a qualified school of magic.”

“Have you any thoughts as to where I can find one of these schools?” asked the Wizard of Oz.

“Well, as far as I know, there are none left in Oz,” replied Ozma. “They were all dissolved by my royal edict. There might be some in the Land of Ev, though.”

“Yes, there are some in Ev. In fact, I was going to suggest that the Wizard attend Eastern Evian University,” added Glinda. “The Wizard of Ev also got his degree there.”

            “There’s a Wizard of Ev?” inquired the Wizard of Oz.

            “Yes, I actually trained him years ago. He’s rather reclusive these days, but I’m sure you’ll meet him eventually. Anyway, since you've already studied under my tutelage for so long, you need only attend for a single semester.”

The Wizard agreed to this plan, and went off to his rooms in the company of Glinda. Once they were alone, he asked, “What was it that convinced you to train me in magic? You know I fooled the whole country and gave Ozma to Mombi, even if I didn’t quite realize what I was doing. I’d think I would be the last person you’d want to have practicing magic.”

“Yes, I really wish you had come to me earlier, so we could have worked out a different way to handle the Wicked Witches. Still, I knew you were a good man when you first came to Oz, which is why I helped you back then. And I knew you had a lot of potential. After all, you who helped to keep the Witches in check for years. Besides, once you’re a real wizard, you’ll have the capability to do good deeds to make up for your questionable ones in the past.”

“Did you ever attend a magic school?”

“Let’s just say that I learned magic from many different places, but it was actually only after Dorothy’s first visit that I applied for official licensure as a sorceress. Before that, I was a witch, which doesn’t require a license.”

“So a sorceress is more powerful than a witch?”

“I’d say more respected is a better way to phrase that. While I might well have the most raw power of any magic-worker in Oz, there are certainly things I cannot do that some witches can. I never learned much about transformations, for instance, which is how even Mombi was able to throw me off Ozma’s trail for so many years.”

“So what about a wizard?”

“There are certainly some wizards who could have become sorcerers if they had gone through the correct channels. Many magicians just choose their own titles anyway. You’re already so well-known as a wizard that it would make sense for you to take on that title officially.”


Part II: Trouble Under Ev


So, two months later, Ozma used the Magic Belt to transport him to the Eastern Evian University of Magic. The Belt had been having some trouble since Ozma’s use of it to transport the Whimsies, Growleywogs, and Phanfasms back to their homelands, but it still worked well enough most of the time. The magician spoke with the Dean of Magic, who had heard of the Wizard of Oz and was surprised to hear that this former ruler of Oz was not a full-fledged wizard. "It will be quite an honor to have such a distinguished personage as yourself attending our school," stated the old man as he pulled a bell-cord, summoning a horned dwarf.

“Show the Wizard of Oz to a dormitory," ordered the Master. "Wizard, report to Room Eighty-Five of the North Building at eight o'clock tomorrow morning.”

So, after a good night's sleep in a comfortable dormitory and a magically produced breakfast of eggs and bacon, the Wizard began his classes at the University. There were many odd students in his classes, including several goblins, a two-headed sorcerer, an ogre with four arms, and a giant rat. Some also dressed in robes that covered their entire bodies, including one who seemed somehow familiar. He was about four feet tall and wore all gray. At lunchtime in the dining hall, the robed being ate mostly soup and crackers. He seemed to shrink away in terror from eggs. One night, on the week before final examinations, the Wizard was working on a new spell, and he realized that he lacked a necessary wand. He knew that the kind of wand that he needed was kept in Room Forty of the North Building. So he grabbed his Black Bag and set out to this building, where a janitor let him in. The magician reached Room Forty, which was never locked, and noticed, by looking through the keyhole, that the cloaked figure was in the room. Not knowing if this strange being would be friend or foe, the Wizard cast a spell that made him invisible. Then, by means of a chant, he passed through the door without opening it.

The mysterious man removed a vent from a wall and entered the heating duct. The Wizard's curiosity got the better of him, and he followed the being through a series of tunnels, finally coming to the outside of the building. With the Wizard in close pursuit, the cloaked figure then hurried to his dormitory. The robed being entered his room, and the magician walked through the door with the same incantation that he had used to enter Room Forty. On the west wall was a picture in a golden frame portraying a man who, based on his features and poor skin condition, appeared to be from the small kingdom of Rash. The cloaked figure removed this picture, revealing a button, which in turn opened a trapdoor in the floor. The Wizard of Oz continued to follow the curious figure through the trapdoor, which led into a long tunnel leading underground. The tunnel led to one of the many corridors of the Nome Kingdom, where the Nomes who worked the night shift were busily mining for precious stones. The figure removed his hood, revealing that he was none other than the Nome King himself. As soon as the miners saw their King, they fell to the ground and banged their heads on it. After passing through many more corridors, Ruggedo reached his Throne Room. Once there, he plopped down on the throne, removed his robe, and rang for Kaliko.

“You're late,” stated the Chamberlain, when he had entered the Throne Room.

“I know, I know,” replied the King. “Just get me a tall glass of melted silver, and be quick about it.”

“The Nome King!” thought the Wizard, as Kaliko hurried from the cavern. “No wonder he seemed familiar! He must be trying to learn magic to compensate for his loss of the Magic Belt.”

Kaliko soon ran back into the room, carrying a glass of melted silver. Unfortunately for the Chamberlain, the Wizard was standing right in his way, and Kaliko ran into the magician, causing both of them, as well as the glass, to fall to the floor. Of course, the glass broke into many tiny pieces.

“What did you do that for, you incompetent fool?” demanded the Nome King.

“I ran into something,” answered Kaliko humbly.

“What do you mean? I don't see anything that you could have run into, you idiot!”

“Then it's invisible, because it's there, and I ran into it.”

As fate would have it, the Wizard's invisibility spell wore off at that very moment. When Ruggedo noticed the magician, he immediately forgot about the glass, and yelled, “It's the Wizard of Oz! Guards! Get in here and capture this Ozian intruder!”

The Nome guards did just that, tying the necromancer up with a rope. Ruggedo then said, “So you've been spying on me, have you? What should I do with this meddling Wizard?”

“Throw him in the dungeon!” shouted one guard.

“Have the executioners torture him!” yelled another.

“Tie a rock to his leg and drop him in the Magma River!” was a third guard's idea.

“Why don't you just let him off with a warning?" advised Kaliko nervously. "If you do anything to harm him, Ozma will probably punish you severely. She has the Magic Belt that once belonged to you, remember?”

“I hate it when you're right, Kaliko!” grumbled the King.

“But wait a minute. The Magic Belt won't work on wood, will it? Why don't you turn this Ozite into a block of wood?” suggested the leader of the guards.

“An excellent idea, Grenkle! Kaliko, fetch my malungia herbs and my Book of Spells. Kaliko did as he was told, even though he thought Ruggedo was being foolish. When he returned, he was carrying a thick volume, as well as a box of herbs.

“No, not THOSE herbs!” shouted the King. “The malungia herbs! You know, those star-shaped blue ones.”

During this time, the Wizard had been struggling to get away from the guards. The Nome guards were excellent at tying ropes, however, and the magician could not even get a single hand free. So he quit moving altogether, and calmly awaited his fate. When Kaliko came back, this time with a box of malungia herbs, the Nome King stepped down from his throne and snatched the box and the Book of Magic from his Chamberlain. He then paged through the book, eventually finding the spell that he wanted.

“And now, my fine Wizard, you're going to be turned into a wooden image of yourself. Any last words?”

“Well, you're already aware that Ozma will probably penalize you for your wickedness,” replied the Wizard. “So I just won't say anything.”

“Very well, then. It's time for the transformation.” Ruggedo took an herb from the box, crushed it into powder, and dropped this powder on the Wizard's bald head. He repeated this process with two more herbs, and then raised his right hand and shouted, "Hilgilstu ogriptik!" The Wizard slowly changed from flesh and blood to wood.

“Now, what should we do with this wooden Wizard?” questioned King Ruggedo.

“I say we burn him!” yelled a guard.

“Why don't we feed him to termites?” suggested a second guard.

“No, no,” said the leader. “Let's set him up in a cavern, and we can all throw stones at him.”

“Once again, Grenkle, you've come up with a wonderful idea,” approved the King. “Guards, take this Wizard to the Central Cavern. And you, Kaliko, announce to the Kingdom that we have the Wizard of Oz as a prisoner!”


Part III: The Power of the Magic Belt


Unbeknownst to Ruggedo, the Scarecrow was watching all of this in the Magic Picture at this very moment, having tuned in right when the Nome King was enchanting the Wizard. As the Nomes were taking their departure from the Throne Room, the Scarecrow ran down Ozma's private hallway, yelling, “Ozma! Ozma! Wake up, Ozma! The Wizard's been turned into wood!”

Ozma, hearing the Scarecrow's shouts, jumped out of her golden four-poster bed and slipped into an emerald green robe and golden slippers. She then entered the hallway and asked the Scarecrow, “What happened? What's wrong?”

“It's the Wizard!” shouted the stuffed man. “The Nome King, he turned the Wiz into a wooden statue!”

“The Nome King? But I thought he lost all his magical powers when Dorothy took the Magic Belt from him.”

“So did I. But he obviously hasn't! Just come into the sitting room and look at the Magic Picture!”

The Queen of Oz did just that. By this time, the Nomes had already placed the statue of the Wizard in the middle of the Central Cavern. Ruggedo entered the room to examine his new decoration. Grenkle asked his King a question, and Rug nodded. The leader of the guards picked up a rock and tossed it at the statue. It hit the Wizard right in the nose, causing all of the Nomes to cheer.

“This is terrible! Scarecrow, get the Magic Belt right away!” ordered Ozma.

“But, Your Highness, the Magic Belt won't work on wood, remember?” objected the Scarecrow.

“Hmmm, it did once. But that must be why Ruggedo chose that form. Well, get it anyway, Scarecrow. If it doesn’t, we'll use it to go to Glinda's, and see if she can help the Wizard.”

While the Scarecrow ran off to fetch the Belt, Ozma returned to her room, where she dressed in a white gown and green pumps. She then grabbed her wand and returned to the hallway. Soon, the Scarecrow ran up to his Queen with the Magic Belt. Ozma put on the Belt and wished it to bring the Wizard to her. Nothing happened.

“Very well,” Ozma said before wishing herself and the Scarecrow to Glinda's Palace. The two Ozites soon materialized in front of Glinda's beautiful castle. A single girl soldier stood in front of the door. Ozma said to this soldier, “We have to see Glinda immediately! It's an emergency!”

“Yes, Your Majesty,” said the soldier, who did not dare argue with the Ruler of all Oz. Ozma and the Scarecrow entered the Palace and followed the soldier to Glinda's bedroom. The guard knocked on the door, and a sleepy Glinda asked, “What do you need?”

“Queen Ozma and the Scarecrow are here to see you,” replied the soldier. “They say it's an emergency.”

“I'll be right out.”

When Glinda, who was dressed in a ruby red robe and red slippers, opened the door, the Scarecrow stated, “The Nome King turned the Wizard into a wooden statue, and now the Nomes are throwing rocks at him! We used the Magic Belt to get here, and now we need your help!”

“Couldn't you have used the Magic Belt to wish the Wizard back to Oz?” asked Glinda, who was in a slightly irritable mood.

“The Belt doesn't work on wood,” was the Scarecrow's reply.

“Oh, yes. I planned to study the Belt, and see why it didn't affect wood, but I haven't had a chance yet. I guess this would be a good time to do just that.”

“It worked on wood one time,” Ozma recalled, “back when the Wicked Witch of the South got hold of it in Valynn’s enchanted apple orchard and transformed Dorothy into a wooden statue.”

“Angra’s powers were formidable,” Glinda replied. “And she had a strong will.  I would not be surprised if she mixed her witchcraft with that of the Belt’s.  Besides there's much about the Belt we don't yet know.  Turning something into wood may not be same, magically, as affecting something that's naturally made of wood.”

Ozma removed the Belt from her waist, and the Scarecrow took it to hand to Glinda. In his clumsiness, however, the straw man dropped it on the floor, causing something to shatter. Upon inspection, the Royal Ruler of Oz found that it appeared to be a diamond.

“But a diamond wouldn’t break from that,” objected the Scarecrow. “It’s the hardest mineral there is.”

            “That’s quite correct, my friend. That makes me suspect it isn’t a diamond at all.” Examining the Belt, the Sorceress announced, “It looks to be glass.”

“I wonder if that has something to do with its not working on wood.”

“It might, at that.”

“So could you replace it with a real diamond?”

“That in and of itself wouldn’t be much of a problem. I have many diamonds here in my palace. What might be an issue is that these aren’t ordinary jewels, but unusual ones produced by rare jewel magic. Still, it might be worth trying.”

The Scarecrow awakened Glinda's jeweler and explained the Good Witch's plan. After the craftswoman had replaced the false diamond with a real one, Glinda and Ozma waved their wands over the Belt, while reciting a spell from one of Glinda's scrolls. After the magic-workers had finished with the incantation, the Queen of Oz put on the Magic Belt. She then stated, “I command the Wizard of Oz to appear before me.”

At this time in the Nome Kingdom, a crowd of Nomes, including General Guph and several other army officers, had gathered to throw rocks at the Wizard. Ruggedo himself was holding a large emerald, and began to wind up for a pitch. Suddenly, the statue in the center of the cave disappeared.

“What happened?" demanded the Nome King. "It must be Ozma's fault. I'll get even with that goody-goody Queen someday!”

Since the King of the Nomes had used a rather weak spell, it only took about a minute for Glinda to disenchant the Wizard. Ozma then used the Magic Belt to retrieve the Wizard's Black Bag, which was lying on the floor of Ruggedo's Throne Room. Ozma, Glinda, the Wizard, and the jeweler then went to sleep, while the Scarecrow read from Glinda's Great Book of Records.

When the Dean of Magic at Eastern Evian University of Magic heard that Ruggedo had misused his powers, he expelled the Nome King from the school, and refilled Rug's secret tunnel with dirt and rocks. The Wizard took his examinations, and passed every one with flying colors. The Dean presented the Wizard of Oz with a Wizard's Degree at a ceremony attended by Ozma, Glinda, Dorothy, the Scarecrow, and many other famous Ozites.

After graduation, Ozma and the Wizard confronted Ruggedo, who promised to be good from then on. The Ozites knew by this time that they might not be able to trust him, but as he knew the extent of their powers, he would likely not try any more mischief at least for a time. The two kingdoms became friendlier after this, at least until the Queen of Oogaboo’s attempt to conquer the world, and the Wizard would soon send Tik-Tok to the Nome Kingdom to procure some new springs. While the Belt did work on wood after Glinda’s jewel replacement, it was still somewhat unreliable in that respect. For that matter, it seemed to malfunction fairly often, so Ozma did not use it all that much except for protection and occasional transportation. Fortunately, the Wizard’s magic was able to do much of what the Ruler had previously done with the Belt.




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