Kiki turned around and saw a queer old man standing near. He didn't stan_traight, for he was crooked. He had a fat body and thin legs and arms. He ha_ big, round face with bushy, white whiskers that came to a point below hi_aist, and white hair that came to a point on top of his head. He wore dull- gray clothes that were tight fitting, and his pockets were all bunched out a_f stuffed full of something.
"I didn't know you were here," said Kiki.
"I didn't come until after you did," said the queer old man.
"Who are you?" asked Kiki.
"My name's Ruggedo. I used to be the Nome King; but I got kicked out of m_ountry, and now I'm a wanderer."
"What made them kick you out?" inquired the Hyup boy.
"Well, it's the fashion to kick kings nowadays. I was a pretty good King—t_yself—but those dreadful Oz people wouldn't let me alone. So I had t_bdicate."
"What does that mean?"
"It means to be kicked out. But let's talk about something pleasant. Who ar_ou and where did you come from?"
"I'm called Kiki Aru. I used to live on Mount Munch in the Land of Oz, but no_'m a wanderer like yourself."
The Nome King gave him a shrewd look.
"I heard that bird say that you transformed yourself into a magpie and bac_gain. Is that true?"
Kiki hesitated, but saw no reason to deny it. He felt that it would make hi_ppear more important.
"Well—yes," he said.
"Then you're a wizard?"
"No; I only understand transformations," he admitted.
"Well, that's pretty good magic, anyhow," declared old Ruggedo. "I used t_ave some very fine magic, myself, but my enemies took it all away from me.
Where are you going now?"
"I'm going into the inn, to get some supper and a bed," said Kiki.
"Have you the money to pay for it?" asked the Nome.
"I have one gold piece."
"Which you stole. Very good. And you're glad that you're wicked. Better yet. _ike you, young man, and I'll go to the inn with you if you'll promise not t_at eggs for supper."
"Don't you like eggs?" asked Kiki.
"I'm afraid of 'em; they're dangerous!" said Ruggedo, with a shudder.
"All right," agreed Kiki; "I won't ask for eggs."
"Then come along," said the Nome.
When they entered the inn, the landlord scowled at Kiki and said:
"I told you I would not feed you unless you had money."
Kiki showed him the gold piece.
"And how about you?" asked the landlord, turning to Ruggedo. "Have you money?"
"I've something better," answered the old Nome, and taking a bag from one o_is pockets he poured from it upon the table a mass of glitterin_ems—diamonds, rubies and emeralds.
The landlord was very polite to the strangers after that. He served them a_xcellent supper, and while they ate it, the Hyup boy asked his companion:
"Where did you get so many jewels?"
"Well, I'll tell you," answered the Nome. "When those Oz people took m_ingdom away from me—just because it was my kingdom and I wanted to run it t_uit myself— they said I could take as many precious stones as I could carry.
So I had a lot of pockets made in my clothes and loaded them all up. Jewel_re fine things to have with you when you travel; you can trade them fo_nything."
"Are they better than gold pieces?" asked Kiki.
"The smallest of these jewels is worth a hundred gold pieces such as you stol_rom the old man."
"Don't talk so loud," begged Kiki, uneasily. "Some one else might hear wha_ou are saying."
After supper they took a walk together, and the former Nome King said:
"Do you know the Shaggy Man, and the Scarecrow, and the Tin Woodman, an_orothy, and Ozma and all the other Oz people?"
"No," replied the boy, "I have never been away from Mount Munch until I fle_ver the Deadly Desert the other day in the shape of a hawk."
"Then you've never seen the Emerald City of Oz?"
"Well," said the Nome, "I knew all the Oz people, and you can guess I do no_ove them. All during my wanderings I have brooded on how I can be revenged o_hem. Now that I've met you I can see a way to conquer the Land of Oz and b_ing there myself, which is better than being King of the Nomes."
"How can you do that?" inquired Kiki Aru, wonderingly.
"Never mind how. In the first place, I'll make a bargain with you. Tell me th_ecret of how to perform transformations and I will give you a pocketful o_ewels, the biggest and finest that I possess."
"No," said Kiki, who realized that to share his power with another would b_angerous to himself.
"I'll give you TWO pocketsful of jewels," said the Nome.
"No," answered Kiki.
"I'll give you every jewel I possess."
"No, no, no!" said Kiki, who was beginning to be frightened.
"Then," said the Nome, with a wicked look at the boy, "I'll tell the inn- keeper that you stole that gold piece and he will have you put in prison."
Kiki laughed at the threat.
"Before he can do that," said he, "I will transform myself into a lion an_ear him to pieces, or into a bear and eat him up, or into a fly and fly awa_here he could not find me."
"Can you really do such wonderful transformations?" asked the old Nome, looking at him curiously.
"Of course," declared Kiki. I can transform you into a stick of wood, in _lash, or into a stone, and leave you here by the roadside."
"The wicked Nome shivered a little when he heard that, but it made him lon_ore than ever to possess the great secret. After a while he said:
"I'll tell you what I'll do. If you will help me to conquer Oz and t_ransform the Oz people, who are my enemies, into sticks or stones, by tellin_e your secret, I'll agree to make YOU the Ruler of all Oz, and I will be you_rime Minister and see that your orders are obeyed."
"I'll help do that," said Kiki, "but I won't tell you my secret."
The Nome was so furious at this refusal that he jumped up and down with rag_nd spluttered and choked for a long time before he could control his passion.
But the boy was not at all frightened. He laughed at the wicked old Nome, which made him more furious than ever.
"Let's give up the idea," he proposed, when Ruggedo had quieted somewhat. "_on't know the Oz people you mention and so they are not my enemies. I_hey've kicked you out of your kingdom, that's your affair—not mine."
"Wouldn't you like to be king of that splendid fairyland?" asked Ruggedo.
"Yes, I would," replied Kiki Aru; "but you want to be king yourself, and w_ould quarrel over it."
"No," said the Nome, trying to deceive him. "I don't care to be King of Oz, come to think it over. I don't even care to live in that country. What I wan_irst is revenge. If we can conquer Oz, I'll get enough magic then to conque_y own Kingdom of the Nomes, and I'll go back and live in my undergroun_averns, which are more home-like than the top of the earth. So here's m_roposition: Help me conquer Oz and get revenge, and help me get the magi_way from Glinda and the Wizard, and I'll let you be King of Oz foreve_fterward."
"I'll think it over," answered Kiki, and that is all he would say tha_vening.
In the night when all in the Inn were asleep but himself, old Ruggedo the Nom_ose softly from his couch and went into the room of Kiki Aru the Hyup, an_earched everywhere for the magic tool that performed his transformations. O_ourse, there was no such tool, and although Ruggedo searched in all the boy'_ockets, he found nothing magical whatever. So he went back to his bed an_egan to doubt that Kiki could perform transformations.
Next morning he said:
"Which way do you travel to-day?"
"I think I shall visit the Rose Kingdom," answered the boy.
"That is a long journey," declared the Nome.
"I shall transform myself into a bird," said Kiki, "and so fly to the Ros_ingdom in an hour."
"Then transform me, also, into a bird, and I will go with you," suggeste_uggedo. "But, in that case, let us fly together to the Land of Oz, and se_hat it looks like."
Kiki thought this over. Pleasant as were the countries he had visited, h_eard everywhere that the Land of Oz was more beautiful and delightful. Th_and of Oz was his own country, too, and if there was any possibility of hi_ecoming its King, he must know something about it.
While Kiki the Hyup thought, Ruggedo the Nome was also thinking. This bo_ossessed a marvelous power, and although very simple in some ways, he wa_etermined not to part with his secret. However, if Ruggedo could get him t_ransport the wily old Nome to Oz, which he could reach in no other way, h_ight then induce the boy to follow his advice and enter into the plot fo_evenge, which he had already planned in his wicked heart.
"There are wizards and magicians in Oz," remarked Kiki, after a time. "The_ight discover us, in spite of our transformations."
"Not if we are careful," Ruggedo assured him. "Ozma has a Magic Picture, i_hich she can see whatever she wishes to see; but Ozma will know nothing o_ur going to Oz, and so she will not command her Magic Picture to show wher_e are or what we are doing. Glinda the Good has a Great Book called the Boo_f Records, in which is magically written everything that people do in th_and of Oz, just the instant they do it."
"Then," said Kiki, "there is no use our attempting to conquer the country, fo_linda would read in her book all that we do, and as her magic is greater tha_ine, she would soon put a stop to our plans."
"I said 'people,' didn't I?" retorted the Nome. "The book doesn't make _ecord of what birds do, or beasts. It only tells the doings of people. So, i_e fly into the country as birds, Glinda won't know anything about it."
"Two birds couldn't conquer the Land of Oz," asserted the boy, scornfully.
"No; that's true," admitted Ruggedo, and then he rubbed his forehead an_troked his long pointed beard and thought some more.
"Ah, now I have the idea!" he declared. "I suppose you can transform us int_easts as well as birds?"
"And can you make a bird a beast, and a beast a bird again, without taking _uman form in between?"
"Certainly," said Kiki. "I can transform myself or others into anything tha_an talk. There's a magic word that must be spoken in connection with th_ransformations, and as beasts and birds and dragons and fishes can talk i_z, we may become any of these we desire to. However, if I transformed mysel_nto a tree, I would always remain a tree, because then I could not utter th_agic word to change the transformation."
"I see; I see," said Ruggedo, nodding his bushy, white head until the point o_is hair waved back and forth like a pendulum. "That fits in with my idea, exactly. Now, listen, and I'll explain to you my plan. We'll fly to Oz a_irds and settle in one of the thick forests in the Gillikin Country. Ther_ou will transform us into powerful beasts, and as Glinda doesn't keep an_rack of the doings of beasts we can act without being discovered."
"But how can two beasts raise an army to conquer the powerful people of Oz?"
"That's easy. But not an army of PEOPLE, mind you. That would be quickl_iscovered. And while we are in Oz you and I will never resume our human form_ntil we've conquered the country and destroyed Glinda, and Ozma, and th_izard, and Dorothy, and all the rest, and so have nothing more to fear fro_hem."
"It is impossible to kill anyone in the Land of Oz," declared Kiki.
"It isn't necessary to kill the Oz people," rejoined Ruggedo.
"I'm afraid I don't understand you," objected the boy. "What will happen t_he Oz people, and what sort of an army could we get together, except o_eople?"
"I'll tell you. The forests of Oz are full of beasts. Some of them, in th_ar-away places, are savage and cruel, and would gladly follow a leader a_avage as themselves. They have never troubled the Oz people much, becaus_hey had no leader to urge them on, but we will tell them to help us conque_z and as a reward we will transform all the beasts into men and women, an_et them live in the houses and enjoy all the good things; and we wil_ransform all the people of Oz into beasts of various sorts, and send them t_ive in the forests and the jungles. That is a splendid idea, you must admit, and it's so easy that we won't have any trouble at all to carry it through t_uccess."
"Will the beasts consent, do you think?" asked the boy.
"To be sure they will. We can get every beast in Oz on our side—except a fe_ho live in Ozma's palace, and they won't count."