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Chapter 9 Lady Aurex

  • Lady Aurex led Ozma and Dorothy along a street to a pretty marble house nea_o one edge of the great glass dome that covered the village. She did no_peak to the girls until she had ushered them into a pleasant room, comfortably furnished, nor did any of the solemn people they met on the stree_enture to speak.
  • When they were seated Lady Aurex asked if they were hungry, and finding the_ere summoned a maid and ordered food to be brought.
  • This Lady Aurex looked to be about twenty years old, although in the Land o_z where people have never changed in appearance since the fairies made it _airyland—where no one grows old or dies—it is always difficult to say ho_any years anyone has lived. She had a pleasant, attractive face, even thoug_t was solemn and sad as the faces of all Skeezers seemed to be, and he_ostume was rich and elaborate, as became a lady in waiting upon the Queen.
  • Ozma had observed Lady Aurex closely and now asked her in a gentle tone:
  • "Do you, also, believe me to be an impostor?"
  • "I dare not say," replied Lady Aurex in a low tone.
  • "Why are you afraid to speak freely?" inquired Ozma.
  • "The Queen punishes us if we make remarks that she does not like."
  • "Are we not alone then, in this house?"
  • "The Queen can hear everything that is spoken on this island—even th_lightest whisper," declared Lady Aurex. "She is a wonderful witch, as she ha_old you, and it is folly to criticise her or disobey her commands."
  • Ozma looked into her eyes and saw that she would like to say more if sh_ared. So she drew from her bosom her silver wand, and having muttered a magi_hrase in a strange tongue, she left the room and walked slowly around th_utside of the house, making a complete circle and waving her wand in mysti_urves as she walked. Lady Aurex watched her curiously and, when Ozma ha_gain entered the room and seated herself, she asked:
  • "What have you done?"
  • "I've enchanted this house in such a manner that Queen Coo-ee-oh, with all he_itchcraft, cannot hear one word we speak within the magic circle I hav_ade," replied Ozma. "We may now speak freely and as loudly as we wish, without fear of the Queen's anger."
  • Lady Aurex brightened at this.
  • "Can I trust you?" she asked.
  • "Ev'rybody trusts Ozma," exclaimed Dorothy. "She is true and honest, and you_icked Queen will be sorry she insulted the powerful Ruler of all the Land o_z."
  • "The Queen does not know me yet," said Ozma, "but I want you to know me, Lad_urex, and I want you to tell me why you, and all the Skeezers, are unhappy.
  • Do not fear Coo-ee-oh's anger, for she cannot hear a word we say, I assur_ou."
  • Lady Aurex was thoughtful a moment; then she said: "I shall trust you, Princess Ozma, for I believe you are what you say you are—our supreme Ruler.
  • If you knew the dreadful punishments our Queen inflicts upon us, you would no_onder we are so unhappy. The Skeezers are not bad people; they do not care t_uarrel and fight, even with their enemies the Flatheads; but they are s_owed and fearful of Coo-ee-oh that they obey her slightest word, rather tha_uffer her anger."
  • "Hasn't she any heart, then?" asked Dorothy.
  • "She never displays mercy. She loves no one but herself," asserted Lady Aurex, but she trembled as she said it, as if afraid even yet of her terrible Queen.
  • "That's pretty bad," said Dorothy, shaking her head gravely. "I see you've _ot to do here, Ozma, in this forsaken corner of the Land of Oz. First place, you've got to take the magic away from Queen Coo-ee-oh, and from that awfu_u-dic, too. My idea is that neither of them is fit to rule anybody, 'caus_hey're cruel and hateful. So you'll have to give the Skeezers and Flathead_ew rulers and teach all their people that they're part of the Land of Oz an_ust obey, above all, the lawful Ruler, Ozma of Oz. Then, when you've don_hat, we can go back home again."
  • Ozma smiled at her little friend's earnest counsel, but Lady Aurex said in a_nxious tone:
  • "I am surprised that you suggest these reforms while you are yet prisoners o_his island and in Coo-ee-oh's power. That these things should be done, ther_s no doubt, but just now a dreadful war is likely to break out, and frightfu_hings may happen to us all. Our Queen has such conceit that she thinks sh_an overcome the Su-dic and his people, but it is said Su-dic's magic is ver_owerful, although not as great as that possessed by his wife Rora, befor_oo-ee-oh transformed her into a Golden Pig."
  • "I don't blame her very much for doing that," remarked Dorothy, "for th_latheads were wicked to try to catch your beautiful fish and the Witch Ror_anted to poison all the fishes in the lake."
  • "Do you know the reason?" asked the Lady Aurex.
  • "I don't s'pose there was any reason, 'cept just wickedness," replied Dorothy.
  • "Tell us the reason," said Ozma earnestly.
  • "Well, your Majesty, once—a long time ago—the Flatheads and the Skeezers wer_riendly. They visited our island and we visited their mountain, an_verything was pleasant between the two peoples. At that time the Flathead_ere ruled by three Adepts in Sorcery, beautiful girls who were not Flatheads, but had wandered to the Flat Mountain and made their home there. These thre_depts used their magic only for good, and the mountain people gladly mad_hem their rulers. They taught the Flatheads how to use their canned brain_nd how to work metals into clothing that would never wear out, and many othe_hings that added to their happiness and content.
  • "Coo-ee-oh was our Queen then, as now, but she knew no magic and so ha_othing to be proud of. But the three Adepts were very kind to Coo-ee-oh. The_uilt for us this wonderful dome of glass and our houses of marble and taugh_s to make beautiful clothing and many other things. Coo-ee-oh pretended to b_ery grateful for these favors, but it seems that all the time she was jealou_f the three Adepts and secretly tried to discover their arts of magic. I_his she was more clever than anyone suspected. She invited the three Adept_o a banquet one day, and while they were feasting Coo-ee-oh stole thei_harms and magical instruments and transformed them into three fishes—a gol_ish, a silver fish and a bronze fish. While the poor fishes were gasping an_lopping helplessly on the floor of the banquet room one of them sai_eproachfully: 'You will be punished for this, Coo-ee-oh, for if one of u_ies or is destroyed, you will become shrivelled and helpless, and all you_tolen magic will depart from you.' Frightened by this threat, Coo-ee-oh a_nce caught up the three fish and ran with them to the shore of the lake, where she cast them into the water. This revived the three Adepts and the_wam away and disappeared.
  • "I, myself, witnessed this shocking scene," continued Lady Aurex, "and so di_any other Skeezers. The news was carried to the Flatheads, who then turne_rom friends to enemies. The Su-dic and his wife Rora were the only ones o_he mountain who were glad the three Adepts had been lost to them, and they a_nce became Rulers of the Flatheads and stole their canned brains from other_o make themselves the more powerful. Some of the Adepts' magic tools had bee_eft on the mountain, and these Rora seized and by the use of them she becam_ witch.
  • "The result of Coo-ee-oh's treachery was to make both the Skeezers and th_latheads miserable instead of happy. Not only were the Su-dic and his wif_ruel to their people, but our Queen at once became proud and arrogant an_reated us very unkindly. All the Skeezers knew she had stolen her magi_owers and so she hated us and made us humble ourselves before her and obe_er slightest word. If we disobeyed, or did not please her, or if we talke_bout her when we were in our own homes she would have us dragged to th_hipping post in her palace and lashed with knotted cords. That is why we fea_er so greatly."
  • This story filled Ozma's heart with sorrow and Dorothy's heart wit_ndignation.
  • "I now understand," said Ozma, "why the fishes in the lake have brought abou_ar between the Skeezers and the Flatheads."
  • "Yes," Lady Aurex answered, "now that you know the story it is easy t_nderstand. The Su-dic and his wife came to our lake hoping to catch th_ilver fish, or gold fish, or bronze fish—any one of them would do—and b_estroying it deprive Coo-ee-oh of her magic. Then they could easily conque_er. Also they had another reason for wanting to catch the fish—they feare_hat in some way the three Adepts might regain their proper forms and the_hey would be sure to return to the mountain and punish Rora and the Su-dic.
  • That was why Rora finally tried to poison all the fishes in the lake, at th_ime Coo-ee-oh transformed her into a Golden Pig. Of course this attempt t_estroy the fishes frightened the Queen, for her safety lies in keeping th_hree fishes alive."
  • "I s'pose Coo-ee-oh will fight the Flatheads with all her might," observe_orothy.
  • "And with all her magic," added Ozma, thoughtfully.
  • "I do not see how the Flatheads can get to this island to hurt us," said Lad_urex.
  • "They have bows and arrows, and I guess they mean to shoot the arrows at you_ig dome, and break all the glass in it," suggested Dorothy.
  • But Lady Aurex shook her head with a smile.
  • "They cannot do that," she replied.
  • "Why not?"
  • "I dare not tell you why, but if the Flatheads come to-morrow morning you wil_ourselves see the reason."
  • "I do not think they will attempt to harm the island," Ozma declared. "_elieve they will first attempt to destroy the fishes, by poison or some othe_eans. If they succeed in that, the conquest of the island will not b_ifficult."
  • "They have no boats," said Lady Aurex, "and Coo-ee-oh, who has long expecte_his war, has been preparing for it in many astonishing ways. I almost wis_he Flatheads would conquer us, for then we would be free from our dreadfu_ueen; but I do not wish to see the three transformed fishes destroyed, for i_hem lies our only hope of future happiness."
  • "Ozma will take care of you, whatever happens," Dorothy assured her. But th_ady Aurex, not knowing the extent of Ozma's power—which was, in fact, not s_reat as Dorothy imagined—could not take much comfort in this promise.
  • It was evident there would be exciting times on the morrow, if the Flathead_eally attacked the Skeezers of the Magic Isle.