The Nome King was in an angry mood, and at such times he was very disagreeable. Every one kept away from him, even his Chief Steward Kaliko.
Therefore the King stormed and raved all by himself, walking up and down in his jewel-studded cavern and getting angrier all the time. Then he remembered that it was no fun being angry unless he had some one to frighten and make miserable, and he rushed to his big gong and made it clatter as loud as he could.
In came the Chief Steward, trying not to show the Nome King how frightened he was.
"Send the Chief Counselor here!" shouted the angry monarch.
Kaliko ran out as fast as his spindle legs could carry his fat, round body, and soon the Chief Counselor entered the cavern. The King scowled and said to him:
"I'm in great trouble over the loss of my Magic Belt. Every little while I want to do something magical, and find I can't because the Belt is gone. That makes me angry, and when I'm angry I can't have a good time. Now, what do you advise?"
"Some people," said the Chief Counselor, "enjoy getting angry."
"But not all the time," declared the King. "To be angry once in a while is really good fun, because it makes others so miserable. But to be angry morning, noon and night, as I am, grows monotonous and prevents my gaining any other pleasure in life. Now what do you advise?"
"Why, if you are angry because you want to do magical things and can't, and if you don't want to get angry at all, my advice is not to want to do magical things."
Hearing this, the King glared at his Counselor with a furious expression and tugged at his own long white whiskers until he pulled them so hard that he yelled with pain.
"You are a fool!" he exclaimed.
"I share that honor with your Majesty," said the Chief Counselor.
The King roared with rage and stamped his foot.
"Ho, there, my guards!" he cried. "Ho" is a royal way of saying, "Come here." So, when the guards had hoed, the King said to them:
"Take this Chief Counselor and throw him away."
Then the guards took the Chief Counselor, and bound him with chains to prevent his struggling, and threw him away. And the King paced up and down his cavern more angry than before.
Finally he rushed to his big gong and made it clatter like a fire alarm. Kaliko appeared again, trembling and white with fear.
"Fetch my pipe!" yelled the King.
"Your pipe is already here, your Majesty," replied Kaliko.
"Then get my tobacco!" roared the King.
"The tobacco is in your pipe, your Majesty," returned the Steward.
"Then bring a live coal from the furnace!" commanded the King.
"The tobacco is lighted, and your Majesty is already smoking your pipe," answered the Steward.
"Why, so I am!" said the King, who had forgotten this fact; "but you are very rude to remind me of it."
"I am a lowborn, miserable villain," declared the Chief Steward, humbly.
The Nome King could think of nothing to say next, so he puffed away at his pipe and paced up and down the room. Finally, he remembered how angry he was, and cried out:
"What do you mean, Kaliko, by being so contented when your monarch is unhappy?"
"What makes you unhappy?" asked the Steward.
"I've lost my Magic Belt. A little girl named Dorothy, who was here with Ozma of Oz, stole my Belt and carried it away with her," said the King, grinding his teeth with rage.
"She captured it in a fair fight," Kaliko ventured to say.
"But I want it! I must have it! Half my power is gone with that Belt!" roared the King.
"You will have to go to the Land of Oz to recover it, and your Majesty can't get to the Land of Oz in any possible way," said the Steward, yawning because he had been on duty ninety-six hours, and was sleepy.
"Why not?" asked the King.
"Because there is a deadly desert all around that fairy country, which no one is able to cross. You know that fact as well as I do, your Majesty. Never mind the lost Belt. You have plenty of power left, for you rule this underground kingdom like a tyrant, and thousands of Nomes obey your commands. I advise you to drink a glass of melted silver, to quiet your nerves, and then go to bed."
The King grabbed a big ruby and threw it at Kaliko's head. The Steward ducked to escape the heavy jewel, which crashed against the door just over his left ear.
"Get out of my sight! Vanish! Go away--and send General Blug here," screamed the Nome King.
Kaliko hastily withdrew, and the Nome King stamped up and down until the General of his armies appeared.
This Nome was known far and wide as a terrible fighter and a cruel, desperate commander. He had fifty thousand Nome soldiers, all well drilled, who feared nothing but their stern master. Yet General Blug was a trifle uneasy when he arrived and saw how angry the Nome King was.
"Ha! So you're here!" cried the King.
"So I am," said the General.
"March your army at once to the Land of Oz, capture and destroy the Emerald City, and bring back to me my Magic Belt!" roared the King.
"You're crazy," calmly remarked the General.
"What's that? What's that? What's that?" And the Nome King danced around on his pointed toes, he was so enraged.
"You don't know what you're talking about," continued the General, seating himself upon a large cut diamond. "I advise you to stand in a corner and count sixty before you speak again. By that time you may be more sensible."
The King looked around for something to throw at General Blug, but as nothing was handy he began to consider that perhaps the man was right and he had been talking foolishly. So he merely threw himself into his glittering throne and tipped his crown over his ear and curled his feet up under him and glared wickedly at Blug.
"In the first place," said the General, "we cannot march across the deadly desert to the Land of Oz. And if we could, the Ruler of that country, Princess Ozma, has certain fairy powers that would render my army helpless. Had you not lost your Magic Belt we might have some chance of defeating Ozma; but the Belt is gone."
"I want it!" screamed the King. "I must have it."
"Well, then, let us try in a sensible way to get it," replied the General. "The Belt was captured by a little girl named Dorothy, who lives in Kansas, in the United States of America."
"But she left it in the Emerald City, with Ozma," declared the King.
"How do you know that?" asked the General.
"One of my spies, who is a Blackbird, flew over the desert to the Land of Oz, and saw the Magic Belt in Ozma's palace," replied the King with a groan.
"Now that gives me an idea," said General Blug, thoughtfully. "There are two ways to get to the Land of Oz without traveling across the sandy desert."
"What are they?" demanded the King, eagerly.
"One way is OVER the desert, through the air; and the other way is UNDER the desert, through the earth."
Hearing this the Nome King uttered a yell of joy and leaped from his throne, to resume his wild walk up and down the cavern.
"That's it, Blug!" he shouted. "That's the idea, General! I'm King of the Under World, and my subjects are all miners. I'll make a secret tunnel under the desert to the Land of Oz--yes! right up to the Emerald City--and you will march your armies there and capture the whole country!"
"Softly, softly, your Majesty. Don't go too fast," warned the General. "My Nomes are good fighters, but they are not strong enough to conquer the Emerald City."
"Are you sure?" asked the King.
"Absolutely certain, your Majesty."
"Then what am I to do?"
"Give up the idea and mind your own business," advised the General. "You have plenty to do trying to rule your underground kingdom."
"But I want the Magic Belt--and I'm going to have it!" roared the Nome King.
"I'd like to see you get it," replied the General, laughing maliciously.
The King was by this time so exasperated that he picked up his scepter, which had a heavy ball, made from a sapphire, at the end of it, and threw it with all his force at General Blug. The sapphire hit the General upon his forehead and knocked him flat upon the ground, where he lay motionless. Then the King rang his gong and told his guards to drag out the General and throw him away; which they did.
This Nome King was named Roquat the Red, and no one loved him. He was a bad man and a powerful monarch, and he had resolved to destroy the Land of Oz and its magnificent Emerald City, to enslave Princess Ozma and little Dorothy and all the Oz people, and recover his Magic Belt. This same Belt had once enabled Roquat the Red to carry out many wicked plans; but that was before Ozma and her people marched to the underground cavern and captured it. The Nome King could not forgive Dorothy or Princess Ozma, and he had determined to be revenged upon them.
But they, for their part, did not know they had so dangerous an enemy. Indeed, Ozma and Dorothy had both almost forgotten that such a person as the Nome King yet lived under the mountains of the Land of Ev--which lay just across the deadly desert to the south of the Land of Oz.
An unsuspected enemy is doubly dangerous.