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Chapter 16 The Rebellion of the High Ki

  • The bold speech of Nerle's made the two damsels laugh at the same time, an_heir sweet laughter sounded like rippling strains of harmonious music. Bu_he two Ki-Ki frowned angrily, and the two Ki looked at the boy in surprise,
  • as if wondering at his temerity.
  • "Who are these strangers?" asked the pretty High Ki, speaking together as al_he twins of Twi did; "and why are they not mates, but only half of eac_ther?"
  • "These questions, your Supreme Highnesses," said the blond-haired pair of Ki-
  • Ki, "we are unable to answer."
  • "Perhaps, then, the strangers can answer themselves," said the little maids,
  • smiling first upon the Ki-Ki and then upon the prisoners.
  • Prince Marvel bowed.
  • "I am from the great outside world," said he, "and my name is Prince Marvel.
  • Until now I have never seen people that live in pairs, and speak in unison,
  • and act in the same way and think the same thoughts. My world is much bigge_han your world, and in it every person is proud to think and act for himself.
  • You say I am only a 'half,' but that is not so. I am perfect, without _ounterpart; my friend Nerle is perfect without a counterpart, and it i_ourselves who are halved. For in the Land of Twi no person is complete o_erfect without its other half, and it seems to take two of you to make on_an—or one maid."
  • The sweet faces of the twin High Ki grew thoughtful at this speech, and the_aid:
  • "Indeed, it may be you are right. But it is our custom in Twi to do everythin_ouble and to live double." Then, turning to the Ki, they asked: "Why have yo_rought these strangers here?"
  • "To ask your Supreme Highnesses to permit them to return again to the worl_rom whence they came," answered the Ki, both of them regarding their suprem_ulers earnestly.
  • But here the Ki-Ki spoke up quickly in their mild voices, saying:
  • "That is not our idea, your Highnesses. We, the Ki-Ki of Twi, think it bes_he strangers should be put to death. And we pray your Supreme Highnesses t_avor our wish."
  • The two little maids looked from the Ki to the Ki-Ki, and frowned and poute_heir rosy lips in evident perplexity.
  • But Nerle whispered to Prince Marvel:
  • "It's all up with us! I know very well why her royal doublets always favor_he Ki-Ki. It's because they are young and handsome, while the Ki are old an_gly. Both of her will condemn us to death—you see if she don't!"
  • This seemed somewhat mixed, but Nerle was in earnest, and Prince Marvel, wh_ad not forgotten his fairy lore, began to weave a silent spell over the hea_f the nearest twin High Ki. But just as it was completed, and before he ha_ime to work the spell on the other twin, the Ki-Ki grew impatient, an_xclaimed:
  • "We beg your Highnesses not to keep us waiting. Let us have your decision a_nce!"
  • And the twin maidens raised their fair heads and replied. But the reply was o_uch a nature that both the old Ki and both the young Ki-Ki staggered backwar_n amazement. For one of the twin High Ki said:
  • "They shall die!"
  • And the other twin High Ki said at the same instant:
  • "They shall NOT die!"
  • Had twin thunderbolts fallen through the twin roofs of the twin palaces an_truck the twin Ki and the twin Ki-Ki upon their twin heads it would hav_reated no more stupendous a sensation than did this remark. Never before ha_ny two halves of a twin of the Land of Twi thought differently or spoke_ifferently. Indeed, it startled the two maidens themselves as much as it di_heir hearers, for each one turned her head toward the other and, for th_irst time in her life, looked into the other's face!
  • This act was fully as strange as their speech, and a sudden horrible though_ame into the startled heads of the twin Ki and the twin Ki-Ki: THE HIGH KI O_WI WAS NO LONGER ONE, BUT TWO. AND THESE TWO WERE THINKING AND ACTING EAC_NDEPENDENT OF THE OTHER!
  • It is no wonder the shock rendered them speechless for a time, and they stoo_waying their four bodies, with their eight eyes bulging out like those o_ishes and their four mouths wide open, as if the two pairs had become on_uartet.
  • The faces of the two maids flushed as they gazed upon each other.
  • "How DARE you contradict me?" asked one.
  • "How dare you contradict ME?" demanded the other, and not only were thes_uestions asked separately, but the accent on the words was different. An_heir twin minds seemed to get farther apart every moment.
  • "I'm the High Ki of Twi!" said one.
  • "You're not! I'M the High Ki!" retorted the other.
  • "The strangers shall die!" snapped one.
  • "They shall live!" cried the other. "My will is supreme."
  • "It's not! MY will is supreme," returned the other twin.
  • The bald heads of the ancient Ki were bobbing in amazement, first to one mai_nd then toward the other. The blond hairs of the two Ki-Ki were standin_lmost on end, and their eyes stared straight before them as if stupefied wit_stonishment. Nerle was bellowing with rude laughter and holding his sides t_eep from getting a stitch in them, while Prince Marvel stood quietl_ttentive and smiling with genuine amusement. For he alone understood what ha_appened to separate the twin High Ki.
  • The girls did not seem to know how to act under their altered conditions.
  • After a time one of them said:
  • "We will leave our dispute to be settled by the Ki and the Ki-Ki."
  • "Very well," agreed the other.
  • "Then I say your half is right," declared the Ki-Ki, both their righ_orefingers pointing to the maiden who had condemned the strangers to death.
  • "And I decide that your half is right," exclaimed the Ki, both their tremblin_orefingers pointing to the maiden who had said the strangers should live.
  • "Well?" said one girl.
  • "Well?" said the other.
  • "The powers of the Ki and the Ki-Ki are equal," said the first. "We are n_earer a settlement of our dispute than we were before."
  • "My dear young ladies," said Prince Marvel, politely, "I beg you will tak_ime to think the matter over, and see if you can not come to an agreement. W_re in no hurry."
  • "Very well," decided the twins, speaking both together this time. "We comman_ou all to remain in the palace until we have settled our own strange dispute.
  • The servants will care for you, and when we are ready to announce our decisio_e shall again send for you."
  • Every one bowed at this command and retired from the room; but Nerle looke_ver his shoulder as he went through the doorway, and saw that the two High K_ad turned in their seats and were facing each other, and that both thei_aces wore angry and determined expressions.