Kiki Aru didn't know much about Oz and didn't know much about the beasts wh_ived there, but the old Nome's plan seemed to him to be quite reasonable. H_ad a faint suspicion that Ruggedo meant to get the best of him in some way,
and he resolved to keep a close watch on his fellow-conspirator. As long as h_ept to himself the secret word of the transformations, Ruggedo would not dar_o harm him, and he promised himself that as soon as they had conquered Oz, h_ould transform the old Nome into a marble statue and keep him in that for_orever.
Ruggedo, on his part, decided that he could, by careful watching an_istening, surprise the boy's secret, and when he had learned the magic wor_e would transform Kiki Aru into a bundle of faggots and burn him up and so b_id of him.
This is always the way with wicked people. They cannot be trusted even by on_nother. Ruggedo thought he was fooling Kiki, and Kiki thought he was foolin_uggedo; so both were pleased.
"It's a long way across the Desert," remarked the boy, "and the sands are ho_nd send up poisonous vapors. Let us wait until evening and then fly across i_he night when it will be cooler."
The former Nome King agreed to this, and the two spent the rest of that day i_alking over their plans. When evening came they paid the inn-keeper an_alked out to a little grove of trees that stood near by.
"Remain here for a few minutes and I'll soon be back," said Kiki, and walkin_wiftly away, he left the Nome standing in the grove. Ruggedo wondered wher_e had gone, but stood quietly in his place until, all of a sudden, his for_hanged to that of a great eagle, and he uttered a piercing cry o_stonishment and flapped his wings in a sort of panic. At once his eagle cr_as answered from beyond the grove, and another eagle, even larger and mor_owerful than the transformed Ruggedo, came sailing through the trees an_lighted beside him.
"Now we are ready for the start," said the voice of Kiki, coming from th_agle.
Ruggedo realized that this time he had been outwitted. He had thought Kik_ould utter the magic word in his presence, and so he would learn what it was,
but the boy had been too shrewd for that.
As the two eagles mounted high into the air and began their flight across th_reat Desert that separates the Land of Oz from all the rest of the world, th_ome said:
"When I was King of the Nomes I had a magic way of working transformation_hat I thought was good, but it could not compare with your secret word. I ha_o have certain tools and make passes and say a lot of mystic words before _ould transform anybody."
"What became of your magic tools?" inquired Kiki.
"The Oz people took them all away from me—that horrid girl, Dorothy, and tha_errible fairy, Ozma, the Ruler of Oz—at the time they took away m_nderground kingdom and kicked me upstairs into the cold, heartless world."
"Why did you let them do that?" asked the boy.
"Well," said Ruggedo, "I couldn't help it. They rolled eggs a_e—EGGS—dreadful eggs!—and if an egg even touches a Nome, he is ruined fo_ife."
"Is any kind of an egg dangerous to a Nome?"
"Any kind and every kind. An egg is the only thing I'm afraid of."