The great dragon still had his eyes closed and was even snoring in a manne_hat resembled distant thunder; but Polychrome was now desperate, because an_urther delay meant the destruction of her friends. She seized the pear_ecklace, to which was attached the great locket, and jerked it with all he_trength.
The result was encouraging. Quox stopped snoring and his eyelids flickered. S_olychrome jerked again—and again—till slowly the great lids raised and th_ragon looked at her steadily. Said he, in a sleepy tone:
"What's the matter, little Rainbow?"
"Come quick!" exclaimed Polychrome. "Ruggedo has captured all our friends an_s about to destroy them."
"Well, well," said Quox, "I suspected that would happen. Step a little out o_y path, my dear, and I'll make a rush for the Nome King's cavern."
She fell back a few steps and Quox raised himself on his stout legs, whiske_is long tail and in an instant had slid down the rocks and made a div_hrough the entrance.
Along the passage he swept, nearly filling it with his immense body, and no_e poked his head into the jeweled cavern of Ruggedo.
But the King had long since made arrangements to capture the dragon, wheneve_e might appear. No sooner did Quox stick his head into the room than a thic_hain fell from above and encircled his neck. Then the ends of the chain wer_rawn tight—for in an adjoining cavern a thousand nomes were pulling o_hem—and so the dragon could advance no further toward the King. He could no_se his teeth or his claws and as his body was still in the passage he had no_ven room to strike his foes with his terrible tail.
Ruggedo was delighted with the success of his stratagem. He had jus_ransformed the Rose Princess into a fiddle and was about to transform File_nto a fiddle bow, when the dragon appeared to interrupt him. So he calle_ut:
"Welcome, my dear Quox, to my royal entertainment. Since you are here, yo_hall witness some very neat magic, and after I have finished with Files an_ik-Tok I mean to transform you into a tiny lizard—one of the chameleo_ort—and you shall live in my cavern and amuse me."
"Pardon me for contradicting Your Majesty," returned Quox in a quiet voice,
"but I don't believe you'll perform any more magic."
"Eh? Why not?" asked the King in surprise.
"There's a reason," said Quox. "Do you see this ribbon around my neck?"
"Yes; and I'm astonished that a dignified dragon should wear such a sill_hing."
"Do you see it plainly?" persisted the dragon, with a little chuckle o_musement.
"I do," declared Ruggedo.
"Then you no longer possess any magical powers, and are as helpless as _lam," asserted Quox. "My great master, Tititi-Hoochoo, the Jinjin, enchante_his ribbon in such a way that whenever Your Majesty looked upon it al_nowledge of magic would desert you instantly, nor will any magical formul_ou can remember ever perform your bidding."
"Pooh! I don't believe a word of it!" cried Ruggedo, half frightened,
nevertheless. Then he turned toward Files and tried to transform him into _iddle bow. But he could not remember the right words or the right pass of th_ands and after several trials he finally gave up the attempt.
By this time the Nome King was so alarmed that he was secretly shaking in hi_hoes.
"I told you not to anger Tititi-Hoochoo," grumbled Kaliko, "and now you se_he result of your disobedience."
Ruggedo promptly threw his sceptre at his Royal Chamberlain, who dodged i_ith his usual cleverness, and then he said with an attempt to swagger:
"Never mind; I don't need magic to enable me to destroy these invaders; fir_nd the sword will do the business and I am still King of the Nomes and lor_nd master of my Underground Kingdom!"
"Again I beg to differ with Your Majesty," said Quox. "The Great Jinji_ommands you to depart instantly from this Kingdom and seek the earth'_urface, where you will wander for all time to come, without a home o_ountry, without a friend or follower, and without any more riches than yo_an carry with you in your pockets. The Great Jinjin is so generous that h_ill allow you to fill your pockets with jewels or gold, but you must tak_othing more."
Ruggedo now stared at the dragon in amazement.
"Does Tititi-Hoochoo condemn me to such a fate?" he asked in a hoarse voice.
"He does," said Quox.
"And just for throwing a few strangers down the Forbidden Tube?"
"Just for that," repeated Quox in a stern, gruff voice.
"Well, I won't do it. And your crazy old Jinjin can't make me do it, either!"
declared Ruggedo. "I intend to remain here, King of the Nomes, until the en_f the world, and I defy your Tititi-Hoochoo and all his fairies—as well a_is clumsy messenger, whom I have been obliged to chain up!"
The dragon smiled again, but it was not the sort of smile that made Rugged_eel very happy. Instead, there was something so cold and merciless in th_ragon's expression that the condemned Nome King trembled and was sick a_eart.
There was little comfort for Ruggedo in the fact that the dragon was no_hained, although he had boasted of it. He glared at the immense head of Quo_s if fascinated and there was fear in the old King's eyes as he watched hi_nemy's movements.
For the dragon was now moving; not abruptly, but as if he had something to d_nd was about to do it. Very deliberately he raised one claw, touched th_atch of the great jeweled locket that was suspended around his neck, and a_nce it opened wide.
Nothing much happened at first; half a dozen hen's eggs rolled out upon th_loor and then the locket closed with a sharp click. But the effect upon th_omes of this simple thing was astounding. General Guph, Kaliko, Pang and hi_and of executioners were all standing close to the door that led to the vas_eries of underground caverns which constituted the dominions of the nomes,
and as soon as they saw the eggs they raised a chorus of frantic screams an_ushed through the door, slamming it in Ruggedo's face and placing a heav_ronze bar across it.
Ruggedo, dancing with terror and uttering loud cries, now leaped upon the sea_f his throne to escape the eggs, which had rolled steadily toward him.
Perhaps these eggs, sent by the wise and crafty Tititi-Hoochoo, were in som_ay enchanted, for they all rolled directly after Ruggedo and when the_eached the throne where he had taken refuge they began rolling up the legs t_he seat.
This was too much for the King to bear. His horror of eggs was real an_bsolute and he made a leap from the throne to the center of the room and the_an to a far corner.
The eggs followed, rolling slowly but steadily in his direction. Ruggedo thre_is sceptre at them, and then his ruby crown, and then he drew off his heav_olden sandals and hurled these at the advancing eggs. But the eggs dodge_very missile and continued to draw nearer. The King stood trembling, his eye_taring in terror, until they were but half a yard distant; then with an agil_eap he jumped clear over them and made a rush for the passage that led to th_uter entrance.
Of course the dragon was in his way, being chained in the passage with hi_ead in the cavern, but when he saw the King making toward him he crouched a_ow as he could and dropped his chin to the floor, leaving a small spac_etween his body and the roof of the passage.
Ruggedo did not hesitate an instant. Impelled by fear, he leaped to th_ragon's nose and then scrambled to his back, where he succeeded in squeezin_imself through the opening. After the head was passed there was more room an_e slid along the dragon's scales to his tail and then ran as fast as his leg_ould carry him to the entrance. Not pausing here, so great was his fright,
the King dashed on down the mountain path, but before he had gone very far h_tumbled and fell.
When he picked himself up he observed that no one was following him, and whil_e recovered his breath he happened to think of the decree of the Jinjin—tha_e should be driven from his Kingdom and made a wanderer on the face of th_arth. Well, here he was, driven from his cavern in truth; driven by thos_readful eggs; but he would go back and defy them; he would not submit t_osing his precious Kingdom and his tyrannical powers, all because Tititi-
Hoochoo had said he must.
So, although still afraid, Ruggedo nerved himself to creep back along the pat_o the entrance, and when he arrived there he saw the six eggs lying in a ro_ust before the arched opening.
At first he paused a safe distance away to consider the case, for the egg_ere now motionless. While he was wondering what could be done, he remembere_here was a magical charm which would destroy eggs and render them harmless t_omes. There were nine passes to be made and six verses of incantation to b_ecited; but Ruggedo knew them all. Now that he had ample time to be exact, h_arefully went through the entire ceremony.
But nothing happened. The eggs did not disappear, as he had expected; so h_epeated the charm a second time. When that also failed, he remembered, with _oan of despair, that his magic power had been taken away from him and in th_uture he could do no more than any common mortal.
And there were the eggs, forever barring him from the Kingdom which he ha_uled so long with absolute sway! He threw rocks at them, but could not hit _ingle egg. He raved and scolded and tore his hair and beard, and danced i_elpless passion, but that did nothing to avert the just judgment of th_injin, which Ruggedo's own evil deeds had brought upon him.
From this time on he was an outcast—a wanderer upon the face of the earth—an_e had even forgotten to fill his pockets with gold and jewels before he fle_rom his former Kingdom!