Part 1 out of 3
The Enchanted Island of Yew
Whereon Prince Marvel Encountered the High Ki
of Twi and Other Surprising People
By L. Frank Baum
Author of "The Wizard of Oz,"
"The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus,"
"The Magical Monarch of Mo," Etc.
1. Once On a Time
2. The Enchanted Isle
3. The Fairy Bower
4. Prince Marvel
5. The King of Thieves
6. The Troubles of Nerle
7. The Gray Men
8. The Fool-Killer
9. The Royal Dragon of Spor
10. Prince Marvel Wins His Fight
11. The Cunning of King Terribus
12. The Gift of Beauty
13. The Hidden Kingdom of Twi
14. The Ki and The Ki-Ki
15. The High Ki of Twi
16. The Rebellion of The High Ki
17. The Separation of The High Ki
18. The Rescue of The High Ki
19. The Reunion of The High Ki
20. Kwytoffle, the Tyrant
21. The Wonderful Book of Magic
22. The Queen of Plenta
23. The Red Rogue of Dawna
24. The Enchanted Mirrors
25. The Adventurers Separate
26. The End of the Year
27. A Hundred Years Afterward
1. "Once on a Time"
I am going to tell a story, one of those tales of astonishing
adventures that happened years and years and years ago. Perhaps you
wonder why it is that so many stories are told of "once on a time",
and so few of these days in which we live; but that is easily explained.
In the old days, when the world was young, there were no automobiles
nor flying-machines to make one wonder; nor were there railway trains,
nor telephones, nor mechanical inventions of any sort to keep people
keyed up to a high pitch of excitement. Men and women lived simply and
quietly. They were Nature's children, and breathed fresh air into
their lungs instead of smoke and coal gas; and tramped through green
meadows and deep forests instead of riding in street cars; and went to
bed when it grew dark and rose with the sun--which is vastly different
from the present custom. Having no books to read they told their
adventures to one another and to their little ones; and the stories
were handed down from generation to generation and reverently believed.
Those who peopled the world in the old days, having nothing but their
hands to depend on, were to a certain extent helpless, and so the
fairies were sorry for them and ministered to their wants patiently
and frankly, often showing themselves to those they befriended.
So people knew fairies in those days, my dear, and loved them,
together with all the ryls and knooks and pixies and nymphs and other
beings that belong to the hordes of immortals. And a fairy tale was a
thing to be wondered at and spoken of in awed whispers; for no one
thought of doubting its truth.
To-day the fairies are shy; for so many curious inventions of men have
come into use that the wonders of Fairyland are somewhat tame beside
them, and even the boys and girls can not be so easily interested or
surprised as in the old days. So the sweet and gentle little
immortals perform their tasks unseen and unknown, and live mostly in
their own beautiful realms, where they are almost unthought of by our
busy, bustling world.
Yet when we come to story-telling the marvels of our own age shrink
into insignificance beside the brave deeds and absorbing experiences
of the days when fairies were better known; and so we go back to "once
on a time" for the tales that we most love--and that children have
ever loved since mankind knew that fairies exist.
2. The Enchanted Isle
Once there was an enchanted island in the middle of the sea. It was
called the Isle of Yew. And in it were five important kingdoms ruled
by men, and many woodland dells and forest glades and pleasant meadows
and grim mountains inhabited by fairies.
From the fairies some of the men had learned wonderful secrets, and
had become magicians and sorcerers, with powers so great that the
entire island was reputed to be one of enchantments. Who these men
were the common people did not always know; for while some were kings
and rulers, others lived quietly hidden away in forests or mountains,
and seldom or never showed themselves. Indeed, there were not so many
of these magicians as people thought, only it was so hard to tell them
from common folk that every stranger was regarded with a certain
amount of curiosity and fear.
The island was round--like a mince pie. And it was divided into four
quarters--also like a pie--except that there was a big place in the
center where the fifth kingdom, called Spor, lay in the midst of the
mountains. Spor was ruled by King Terribus, whom no one but his own
subjects had ever seen--and not many of them. For no one was allowed
to enter the Kingdom of Spor, and its king never left his palace. But
the people of Spor had a bad habit of rushing down from their
mountains and stealing the goods of the inhabitants of the other four
kingdoms, and carrying them home with them, without offering any
apologies whatever for such horrid conduct. Sometimes those they
robbed tried to fight them; but they were a terrible people,
consisting of giants with huge clubs, and dwarfs who threw flaming
darts, and the stern Gray Men of Spor, who were most frightful of all.
So, as a rule, every one fled before them, and the people were
thankful that the fierce warriors of Spor seldom came to rob them
oftener than once a year.
It was on this account that all who could afford the expense built
castles to live in, with stone walls so thick that even the giants of
Spor could not batter them down. And the children were not allowed to
stray far from home for fear some roving band of robbers might steal
them and make their parents pay large sums for their safe return.
Yet for all this the people of the Enchanted Isle of Yew were happy and
prosperous. No grass was greener, no forests more cool and delightful,
no skies more sunny, no sea more blue and rippling than theirs.
And the nations of the world envied them, but dared not attempt to
conquer an island abounding in enchantments.
3. The Fairy Bower
That part of the Enchanted Isle which was kissed by the rising sun was
called Dawna; the kingdom that was tinted rose and purple by the
setting sun was known as Auriel, and the southland, where fruits and
flowers abounded, was the kingdom of Plenta. Up at the north lay Heg,
the home of the great barons who feared not even the men of Spor; and
in the Kingdom of Heg our story opens.
Upon a beautiful plain stood the castle of the great Baron
Merd--renowned alike in war and peace, and second in importance only
to the King of Heg. It was a castle of vast extent, built with thick
walls and protected by strong gates. In front of it sloped a pretty
stretch of land with the sea glistening far beyond; and back of it,
but a short distance away, was the edge of the Forest of Lurla.
One fair summer day the custodian of the castle gates opened a wicket
and let down a draw-bridge, when out trooped three pretty girls with
baskets dangling on their arms. One of the maids walked in front of
her companions, as became the only daughter of the mighty Baron Merd.
She was named Seseley, and had yellow hair and red cheeks and big,
blue eyes. Behind her, merry and laughing, yet with a distinct
deference to the high station of their young lady, walked Berna and
Helda--dark brunettes with mischievous eyes and slender, lithe limbs.
Berna was the daughter of the chief archer, and Helda the niece of the
captain of the guard, and they were appointed play-fellows and
comrades of the fair Seseley.
Up the hill to the forest's edge ran the three, and then without
hesitation plunged into the shade of the ancient trees. There was no
sunlight now, but the air was cool and fragrant of nuts and mosses,
and the children skipped along the paths joyously and without fear.
To be sure, the Forest of Lurla was well known as the home of fairies,
but Seseley and her comrades feared nothing from such gentle creatures
and only longed for an interview with the powerful immortals whom they
had been taught to love as the tender guardians of mankind. Nymphs
there were in Lurla, as well, and crooked knooks, it was said; yet for
many years past no person could boast the favor of meeting any one of
the fairy creatures face to face.
So, gathering a few nuts here and a sweet forest flower there, the
three maidens walked farther and farther into the forest until they
came upon a clearing--formed like a circle--with mosses and ferns for
its carpet and great overhanging branches for its roof.
"How pretty!" cried Seseley, gaily. "Let us eat our luncheon in this
So Berna and Helda spread a cloth and brought from their baskets some
golden platters and a store of food. Yet there was little ceremony
over the meal, you may be sure, and within a short space all the
children had satisfied their appetites and were laughing and chatting
as merrily as if they were at home in the great castle. Indeed, it is
certain they were happier in their forest glade than when facing grim
walls of stone, and the three were in such gay spirits that whatever
one chanced to say the others promptly joined in laughing over.
Soon, however, they were startled to hear a silvery peal of laughter
answering their own, and turning to see whence the sound proceeded,
they found seated near them a creature so beautiful that at once the
three pairs of eyes opened to their widest extent, and three hearts
beat much faster than before.
"Well, I must say you DO stare!" exclaimed the newcomer, who was clothed
in soft floating robes of rose and pearl color, and whose eyes shone upon
them like two stars.
"Forgive our impertinence," answered the little Lady Seseley,
trying to appear dignified and unmoved; "but you must acknowledge
that you came among us uninvited, and--and you are certainly rather
odd in appearance."
Again the silvery laughter rang through the glade.
"Uninvited!" echoed the creature, clapping her hands together
delightedly; "uninvited to my own forest home! Why, my dear girls,
you are the uninvited ones--indeed you are--to thus come romping into
our fairy bower."
The children did not open their eyes any wider on hearing this speech,
for they could not; but their faces expressed their amazement fully,
while Helda gasped the words:
"A fairy bower! We are in a fairy bower!"
"Most certainly," was the reply. "And as for being odd in appearance,
let me ask how you could reasonably expect a fairy to appear as mortal
"A fairy!" exclaimed Seseley. "Are you, then, a real fairy?"
"I regret to say I am," returned the other, more soberly, as she
patted a moss-bank with a silver-tipped wand.
Then for a moment there was silence, while the three girls sat very
still and stared at their immortal companion with evident curiosity.
Finally Seseley asked:
"Why do you regret being a fairy? I have always thought them the
happiest creatures in the world."
"Perhaps we ought to be happy," answered the fairy, gravely, "for we
have wonderful powers and do much to assist you helpless mortals. And
I suppose some of us really are happy. But, for my part, I am so
utterly tired of a fairy life that I would do anything to change it."
"That is strange," declared Berna. "You seem very young to be already
discontented with your lot."
Now at this the fairy burst into laughter again, and presently asked:
"How old do you think me?"
"About our own age," said Berna, after a glance at her and a
"Nonsense!" retorted the fairy, sharply. "These trees are hundreds of
years old, yet I remember when they were mere twigs. And I remember
when mortals first came to live upon this island, yes--and when this
island was first created and rose from the sea after a great
earthquake. I remember for many, many centuries, my dears. I have
grown tired of remembering--and of being a fairy continually, without
any change to brighten my life."
"To be sure!" said Seseley, with sympathy. "I never thought of fairy
life in that way before. It must get to be quite tiresome."
"And think of the centuries I must yet live!" exclaimed the fairy in
a dismal voice. "Isn't it an awful thing to look forward to?"
"It is, indeed," agreed Seseley.
"I'd be glad to exchange lives with you," said Helda, looking at the
fairy with intense admiration.
"But you can't do that," answered the little creature quickly.
"Mortals can't become fairies, you know--although I believe there was
once a mortal who was made immortal."
"But fairies can become anything they desire!" cried Berna.
"Oh, no, they can't. You are mistaken if you believe that," was the
reply. "I could change YOU into a fly, or a crocodile, or a bobolink,
if I wanted to; but fairies can't change themselves into anything else."
"How strange!" murmured Seseley, much impressed.
"But YOU can," cried the fairy, jumping up and coming toward them.
"You are mortals, and, by the laws that govern us, a mortal can change
a fairy into anything she pleases."
"Oh!" said Seseley, filled with amazement at the idea.
The fairy fell on her knees before the baron's daughter. "Please--please,
dear Seseley," she pleaded, "change me into a mortal!"
4. Prince Marvel
It is easy to imagine the astonishment of the three girls at
hearing this strange request. They gazed in a bewildered fashion
upon the kneeling fairy, and were at first unable to answer one word.
Then Seseley said--sadly, for she grieved to disappoint the
"We are but mortal children, and have no powers of enchantment at all."
"Ah, that is true, so far as concerns yourselves," replied the fairy,
eagerly; "yet mortals may easily transform fairies into anything
"If that is so, why have we never heard of this power before?"
"Because fairies, as a rule, are content with their lot, and do not
wish to appear in any form but their own. And, knowing that evil or
mischievous mortals can transform them at will, the fairies take great
care to remain invisible, so they can not be interfered with. Have
you ever," she asked, suddenly, "seen a fairy before?"
"Never," replied Seseley.
"Nor would you have seen me to-day, had I not known you were kind and
pure-hearted, or had I not resolved to ask you to exercise your powers
"I must say," remarked Helda, boldly, "that you are foolish to wish to
become anything different from what you are."
"For you are very beautiful NOW," added Berna, admiringly.
"Beautiful!" retorted the fairy, with a little frown; "what does
beauty amount to, if one is to remain invisible?"
"Not much, that is true," agreed Berna, smoothing her own dark locks.
"And as for being foolish," continued the fairy, "I ought to be
allowed to act foolishly if I want to. For centuries past I have not
had a chance to do a single foolish thing."
"Poor dear!" said Helda, softly.
Seseley had listened silently to this conversation. Now she inquired:
"What do you wish to become?"
"A mortal!" answered the fairy, promptly.
"A girl, like ourselves?" questioned the baron's daughter.
"Perhaps," said the fairy, as if undecided.
"Then you would be likely to endure many privations," said Seseley,
gently. "For you would have neither father nor mother to befriend
you, nor any house to live in."
"And if you hired your services to some baron, you would be obliged to
wash dishes all day, or mend clothing, or herd cattle," said Berna.
"But I should travel all over the island," said the fairy, brightly,
"and that is what I long to do. I do not care to work."
"I fear a girl would not be allowed to travel alone," Seseley
remarked, after some further thought. "At least," she added, "I have
never heard of such a thing."
"No," said the fairy, rather bitterly, "your men are the ones that
roam abroad and have adventures of all kinds. Your women are poor,
weak creatures, I remember."
There was no denying this, so the three girls sat silent until
"Why do you wish to become a mortal?"
"To gain exciting experiences," answered the fairy. I'm tired of being
a humdrum fairy year in and year out. Of course, I do not wish to
become a mortal for all time, for that would get monotonous, too; but
to live a short while as the earth people do would amuse me very much."
"If you want variety, you should become a boy," said Helda, with a
laugh, "The life of a boy is one round of excitement."
"Then make me a boy!" exclaimed the fairy eagerly.
"A boy!" they all cried in consternation. And Seseley added:
"Why--you're a GIRL fairy, aren't you?"
"Well--yes; I suppose I am," answered the beautiful creature, smiling;
"but as you are going to change me anyway, I may as well become a boy
as a girl."
"Better!" declared Helda, clapping her hands; "for then you can do as
"But would it be right?" asked Seseley, with hesitation.
"Why not?" retorted the fairy. "I can see nothing wrong in being a
boy. Make me a tall, slender youth, with waving brown hair and dark
eyes. Then I shall be as unlike my own self as possible, and the
adventure will be all the more interesting. Yes; I like the idea of
being a boy very much indeed."
"But I don't know how to transform you; some one will have to show me
the way to do it," protested Seseley, who was getting worried over the
task set her.
"Oh, that will be easy enough," returned the little immortal. "Have
you a wand?"
"Then I'll loan you mine, for I shall not need it. And you must wave
it over my head three times and say: 'By my mortal powers I transform
you into a boy for the space of one year'."
"One year! Isn't that too long?"
"It's a very short time to one who has lived thousands of years
as a fairy."
"That is true," answered the baron's daughter.
"Now, I'll begin by doing a little transforming myself," said the
fairy, getting upon her feet again, "and you can watch and see how I
do it." She brushed a bit of moss from her gauzy skirts and continued:
"If I'm to become a boy I shall need a horse, you know. A handsome,
prancing steed, very fleet of foot."
A moment she stood motionless, as if listening. Then she uttered a
low but shrill whistle.
The three girls, filled with eager interest, watched her intently.
Presently a trampling of footsteps was heard through the brushwood,
and a beautiful deer burst from the forest and fearlessly ran to the
fairy. Without hesitation she waved her wand above the deer's head
"By all my fairy powers I command you to become a war-horse for the
period of one year."
Instantly the deer disappeared, and in its place was a handsome charger,
milk-white in color, with flowing mane and tail. Upon its back was a
saddle sparkling with brilliant gems sewn upon fine dressed leather.
The girls uttered cries of astonishment and delight, and the fairy said:
"You see, these transformations are not at all difficult. I must now
have a sword."
She plucked a twig from a near-by tree and cast it upon the ground at
her feet. Again she waved her wand--and the twig turned to a gleaming
sword, richly engraved, that seemed to the silent watchers to tremble
slightly in its sheath, as if its heart of steel throbbed with hopes
of battles to come.
"And now I must have shield and armor, said the fairy, gaily. "This
will make a shield,"--and she stripped a sheet of loose bark from a
tree-trunk,--"but for armor I must have something better. Will you
give me your cloak?"
This appeal was made to Seseley, and the baron's daughter drew her
white velvet cloak from her shoulders and handed it to the fairy. A
moment later it was transformed into a suit of glittering armor that
seemed fashioned of pure silver inlaid with gold, while the sheet of
bark at the same time became a handsome shield, with the figures of
three girls graven upon it. Seseley recognized the features as those of
herself and her comrades, and noted also that they appeared sitting at
the edge of a forest, the great trees showing plainly in the background.
"I shall be your champion, you see," laughed the fairy, gleefully,
"and maybe I shall be able to repay you for the loss of your cloak."
"I do not mind the cloak," returned the child, who had been greatly
interested in these strange transformations. "But it seems impossible
that a dainty little girl like you can ride this horse and carry these
"I'll not be a girl much longer," said the little creature. "Here,
take my wand, and transform me into a noble youth!"
Again the pretty fairy kneeled before Seseley, her dainty, rounded
limbs of white and rose showing plainly through her gauzy attire. And
the baron's daughter was suddenly inspired to be brave, not wishing to
disappoint the venturous immortal. So she rose and took the magic
wand in her hand, waving it three times above the head of the fairy.
"By my powers as a mortal," she said, marveling even then at the
strange speech, "I command you to become a brave and gallant
youth--handsome, strong, fearless! And such shall you remain for the
space of one year.
As she ceased speaking the fairy was gone, and a slender youth, dark-eyed
and laughing, was holding her hand in his and kissing it gratefully.
"I thank you, most lovely maiden," he said, in a pleasant voice, "for
giving me a place in the world of mortals. I shall ride at once in
search of adventure, but my good sword is ever at your service."
With this he gracefully arose and began to buckle on his magnificent
armor and to fasten the sword to his belt.
Seseley drew a long, sighing breath of amazement at her own powers,
and turning to Berna and Helda she asked:
"Do I see aright? Is the little fairy really transformed to this youth?"
"It certainly seems so," returned Helda, who, being unabashed by the
marvels she had beheld, turned to gaze boldly upon the young knight.
"Do you still remember that a moment ago you were a fairy?" she inquired.
"Yes, indeed," said he, smiling; "and I am really a fairy now, being
but changed in outward form. But no one must know this save
yourselves, until the year has expired and I resume my true station.
Will you promise to guard my secret?"
"Oh, yes!" they exclaimed, in chorus. For they were delighted, as any
children might well be, at having so remarkable a secret to keep and
talk over among themselves.
"I must ask one more favor," continued the youth: "that you give me a
name; for in this island I believe all men bear names of some sort, to
distinguish them one from another."
"True," said Seseley, thoughtfully. "What were you called as a fairy?"
"That does not matter in the least," he answered, hastily. "I must
have an entirely new name."
"Suppose we call him the Silver Knight," suggested Berna, as she eyed
his glistening armor.
"Oh, no!--that is no name at all!" declared Helda. "We might better
call him Baron Strongarm."
"I do not like that, either," said the Lady Seseley, "for we do not
know whether his arm is strong or not. But he has been transformed in
a most astonishing and bewildering manner before our very eyes, and I
think the name of Prince Marvel would suit him very well."
"Excellent!" cried the youth, picking up his richly graven
shield. "The name seems fitting in every way. And for a year I shall
be known to all this island as Prince Marvel!"
5. The King of Thieves
Old Marshelm, the captain of the guard, was much surprised when he saw
the baron's daughter and her playmates approach her father's castle
escorted by a knight in glittering armor.
To be sure it was a rather small knight, but the horse he led by the
bridle was so stately and magnificent in appearance that old Marshelm,
who was an excellent judge of horses, at once decided the stranger
must be a personage of unusual importance.
As they came nearer the captain of the guard also observed the beauty
of the little knight's armor, and caught the glint of jewels set in
the handle of his sword; so he called his men about him and prepared
to receive the knight with the honors doubtless due his high rank.
But to the captain's disappointment the stranger showed no intention
of entering the castle. On the contrary, he kissed the little Lady
Seseley's hand respectfully, waved an adieu to the others, and then
mounted his charger and galloped away over the plains.
The drawbridge was let down to permit the three children to enter, and
the great Baron Merd came himself to question his daughter.
"Who was the little knight?" he asked.
"His name is Prince Marvel," answered Seseley, demurely.
"Prince Marvel?" exclaimed the Baron. "I have never heard of him.
Does he come from the Kingdom of Dawna, or that of Auriel, or Plenta?"
"That I do not know," said Seseley, with truth.
"Where did you meet him?" continued the baron.
"In the forest, my father, and he kindly escorted us home."
"Hm!" muttered the baron, thoughtfully. "Did he say what adventure
brought him to our Kingdom of Heg?"
"No, father. But he mentioned being in search of adventure."
"Oh, he'll find enough to busy him in this wild island, where every
man he meets would rather draw his sword than eat," returned the old
warrior, smiling. "How old may this Prince Marvel be?"
"He looks not over fifteen years of age," said Seseley, uneasy at so
much questioning, for she did not wish to be forced to tell an
untruth. "But it is possible he is much older," she added, beginning
to get confused.
"Well, well; I am sorry he did not pay my castle a visit," declared
the baron. "He is very small and slight to be traveling this dangerous
country alone, and I might have advised him as to his welfare."
Seseley thought that Prince Marvel would need no advice from any one
as to his conduct; but she wisely refrained from speaking this
thought, and the old baron walked away to glance through a slit in the
stone wall at the figure of the now distant knight.
Prince Marvel was riding swiftly toward the brow of the hill, and
shortly his great war-horse mounted the ascent and disappeared on its
The youth's heart was merry and light, and he reflected joyously, as
he rode along, that a whole year of freedom and fascinating adventure
lay before him.
The valley in which he now found himself was very beautiful, the soft
grass beneath his horse's feet being sprinkled with bright flowers,
while clumps of trees stood here and there to break the monotony of
For an hour the prince rode along, rejoicing in the free motion of his
horse and breathing in the perfume-laden air. Then he found he had
crossed the valley and was approaching a series of hills. These were
broken by huge rocks, the ground being cluttered with boulders of
rough stone. His horse speedily found a pathway leading through these
rocks, but was obliged to proceed at a walk, turning first one way and
then another as the path zigzagged up the hill.
Presently, being engaged in deep thought and little noting the way,
Prince Marvel rode between two high walls of rock standing so close
together that horse and rider could scarcely pass between the sides.
Having traversed this narrow space some distance the wall opened
suddenly upon a level plat of ground, where grass and trees grew. It
was not a very big place, but was surely the end of the path, as all
around it stood bare walls so high and steep that neither horse nor
man could climb them. In the side of the rocky wall facing the
entrance the traveler noticed a hollow, like the mouth of a cave,
across which was placed an iron gate. And above the gateway was
painted in red letters on the gray stone the following words:
KING OF THIEVES
HIS TREASURE HOUSE
Prince Marvel laughed on reading this, and after getting down from his
saddle he advanced to the iron gate and peered through its heavy bars.
"I have no idea who this Wul-Takim is," he said, "for I know nothing
at all of the ways of men outside the forest in which I have always
dwelt. But thieves are bad people, I am quite sure, and since
Wul-Takim is the king of thieves he must be by far the worst man on
Then he saw, through the bars of the gate, that a great cavern lay
beyond, in which were stacked treasures of all sorts: rich cloths,
golden dishes and ornaments, gemmed coronets and bracelets, cleverly
forged armor, shields and battle-axes. Also there were casks and
bales of merchandise of every sort.
The gate appeared to have no lock, so Prince Marvel opened it and
walked in. Then he perceived, perched on the very top of a pyramid of
casks, the form of a boy, who sat very still and watched him with a
look of astonishment upon his face.
"What are you doing up there?" asked the prince.
"Nothing," said the boy. "If I moved the least little bit this pile
of casks would topple over, and I should be thrown to the ground."
"Well," returned the prince, "what of it?"
But just then he glanced at the ground and saw why the boy did not
care to tumble down. For in the earth were planted many swords, with
their sharp blades pointing upward, and to fall upon these meant
serious wounds and perhaps death.
"Oh, ho!" cried Marvel; "I begin to understand. You are a prisoner."
"Yes; as you will also be shortly," answered the boy. "And then you
will understand another thing--that you were very reckless ever to
enter this cave."
"Why?" inquired the prince, who really knew little of the world, and
was interested in everything he saw and heard.
"Because it is the stronghold of the robber king, and when you opened
that gate you caused a bell to ring far down on the hillside. So the
robbers are now warned that an enemy is in their cave, and they will
soon arrive to make you a prisoner, even as I am."
"Ah, I see!" said the prince, with a laugh, "It is a rather clever
contrivance; but having been warned in time I should indeed be foolish
to be caught in such a trap."
With this he half drew his sword, but thinking that robbers were not
worthy to be slain with its untarnished steel, he pushed it back into
the jeweled scabbard and looked around for another weapon. A stout
oaken staff lay upon the ground, and this he caught up and ran with it
from the cave, placing himself just beside the narrow opening that led
into this rock-encompassed plain. For he quickly saw that this was
the only way any one could enter or leave the place, and therefore
knew the robbers were coming up the narrow gorge even as he had
Soon they were heard stumbling along at a rapid pace, crying to one
another to make haste and catch the intruder. The first that came
through the opening received so sharp a blow upon the head from Prince
Marvel's oak staff that he fell to the ground and lay still, while the
next was treated in a like manner and fell beside his comrade.
Perhaps the thieves had not expected so sturdy an enemy, for they
continued to rush through the opening in the rocks and to fall beneath
the steady blows of the prince's staff until every one of them lay
senseless before the victor. At first they had piled themselves upon
one another very neatly; but the pile got so high at last that the
prince was obliged to assist the last thieves to leap to the top of
the heap before they completely lost their senses.
I have no doubt our prince, feeling himself yet strange in the new
form he had acquired, and freshly transported from the forest glades
in which he had always lived, was fully as much astonished at his deed
of valor as were the robbers themselves; and if he shuddered a little
when looking upon the heap of senseless thieves you must forgive him
this weakness. For he straightway resolved to steel his heart to such
sights and to be every bit as stern and severe as a mortal knight
would have been.
Throwing down his staff he ran to the cave again, and stepping between
the sword points he approached the pile of casks and held out his arms
to the boy who was perched upon the top.
"The thieves are conquered," he cried. "Jump down!"
"I won't," said the boy.
"Why not?" inquired the prince.
"Can't you see I'm very miserable?" asked the boy, in return;
"don't you understand that every minute I expect to fall upon
those sword points?"
"But I will catch you," cried the prince.
"I don't want you to catch me," said the boy. "I want to be miserable.
It's the first chance I've ever had, and I'm enjoying my misery very much."
This speech so astonished Prince Marvel that for a moment he stood
motionless. Then he retorted, angrily:
"You're a fool!"
"If I wasn't so miserable up here, I'd come down and thrash you for
that," said the boy, with a sigh.
This answer so greatly annoyed Prince Marvel that he gave the central
cask of the pyramid a sudden push, and the next moment the casks were
tumbling in every direction, while the boy fell headlong in their midst.
But Marvel caught him deftly in his arms, and so saved him from the
"There!" he said, standing the boy upon his feet; "now you are
released from your misery."
"And I should be glad to punish you for your interference," declared
the boy, gloomily eying his preserver, "had you not saved my life by
catching me. According to the code of honor of knighthood I can not
harm one who has saved my life until I have returned the obligation.
Therefore, for the present I shall pardon your insulting speeches
"But you have also saved my life," answered Prince Marvel; "for had you
not warned me of the robbers' return they would surely have caught me."
"True," said the boy, brightening up; "therefore our score is now
even. But take care not to affront me again, for hereafter I will
show you no mercy!"
Prince Marvel looked at the boy with wonder. He was about his own
size, yet strong and well formed, and he would have been handsome
except for the expression of discontent upon his face. Yet his manner
and words were so absurd and unnatural that the prince was more amused
than angered by his new acquaintance, and presently laughed in his face.
"If all the people in this island are like you," he said, "I shall
have lots of fun with them. And you are only a boy, after all."
"I'm bigger than you!" declared the other, glaring fiercely at the prince.
"How much bigger?" asked Marvel, his eyes twinkling.
"Oh, ever so much!"
"Then fetch along that coil of rope, and follow me," said Prince Marvel.
"Fetch the rope yourself!" retorted the boy, bluntly. "I'm not your
servant." Then he put his hands in his pockets and coolly walked out
of the cave to look at the pile of senseless robbers.
Prince Marvel made no reply, but taking the coil of rope on his
shoulder he carried it to where the thieves lay and threw it down
beside them. Then he cut lengths from the coil with his sword and
bound the limbs of each robber securely. Within a half-hour he had
laid out a row of thieves extending half way across the grassy plain,
and on counting their number he found he had captured fifty-nine
This task being accomplished and the robbers rendered helpless, Prince
Marvel turned to the boy who stood watching him.
"Get a suit of armor from the cave, and a strong sword, and then
return here," he said, in a stern voice.
"Why should I do that?" asked the boy, rather impudently.
"Because I am going to fight you for disobeying my orders; and if you
do not protect yourself I shall probably kill you."
"That sounds pleasant," said the boy. "But if you should prove my
superior in skill I beg you will not kill me at once, but let me die a
"Why?" asked the prince.
"Because I shall suffer more, and that will be delightful."
"I am not anxious to kill you, nor to make you suffer," said Marvel,
"all that I ask is that you acknowledge me your master."
"I won't!" answered the boy. "I acknowledge no master in all the world!"
"Then you must fight," declared the prince, gravely. "If you win, I
will promise to serve you faithfully; and if I conquer you, then you
must acknowledge me your master, and obey my commands."
"Agreed!" cried the boy, with sudden energy, and he rushed into the
cave and soon returned clad in armor and bearing a sword and shield.
On the shield was pictured a bolt of lightning.
"Lightning will soon strike those three girls whose champion you seem
to be," he said tauntingly.
"The three girls defy your lightning!" returned the prince with a
smile. "I see you are brave enough."
"Brave! Why should I not be?" answered the boy proudly. "I am the
Lord Nerle, the son of Neggar, the chief baron of Heg!"
The other bowed low.
"I am pleased to know your station," he said. "I am called Prince
Marvel, and this is my first adventure."
"And likely to be your last," exclaimed the boy, sneeringly. "For I
am stronger than you, and I have fought many times with full grown men."
"Are you ready?" asked Prince Marvel, for answer.
Then the swords clashed and sparks flew from the blades. But it was
not for long. Suddenly Nerle's sword went flying through the air and
shattered its blade against a wall of rock. He scowled at Prince
Marvel a moment, who smiled back at him. Then the boy rushed into the
cave and returned with another sword.
Scarcely had the weapons crossed again when with a sudden blow Prince
Marvel snapped Nerle's blade in two, and followed this up with a sharp
slap upon his ear with the flat of his own sword that fairly
bewildered the boy, and made him sit down on the grass to think what
had happened to him.
Then Prince Marvel's merry laugh rang far across the hills, and so
delighted was he at the astonished expression upon Nerle's face that
it was many minutes before he could control his merriment and ask his
foeman if he had had enough fight.
"I suppose I have," replied the boy, rubbing his ear tenderly. "That
blow stings most deliciously. But it is a hard thought that the son
of Baron Neggar should serve Prince Marvel!"
"Do not worry about that," said the prince; "for I assure you my rank
is so far above your own that it is no degradation for the son of
Neggar to serve me. But come, we must dispose of these thieves. What
is the proper fate for such men?"
"They are always hanged," answered Nerle, getting upon his feet.
"Well, there are trees handy," remarked the prince, although his
girlish heart insisted on making him shiver in spite of his resolve to
be manly and stern. "Let us get to work and hang them as soon as
possible. And then we can proceed upon our journey."
Nerle now willingly lent his assistance to his new master, and soon
they had placed a rope around the neck of each thief and were ready to
dangle them all from the limbs of the trees.
But at this juncture the thieves began to regain consciousness,
and now Wul-Takim, the big, red-bearded king of the thieves, sat up
"Who is our conqueror?"
"Prince Marvel," answered Nerle.
"And what army assisted him?" inquired Wul-Takim, curiously gazing
upon the prince.
"He conquered you alone and single-handed," said Nerle.
Hearing this, the big king began to weep bitterly, and the tear-drops
ran down his face in such a stream that Prince Marvel ordered Nerle to
wipe them away with his handkerchief, as the thief's hands were tied
behind his back.
"To think!" sobbed Wul-Takim, miserably; "only to think, that after
all my terrible deeds and untold wickedness, I have been captured by a
mere boy! Oh, boo-hoo! boo-hoo! boo-hoo! It is a terrible disgrace!"
"You will not have to bear it long," said the prince, soothingly. "I
am going to hang you in a few minutes."
"Thanks! Thank you very much!" answered the king, ceasing to weep.
"I have always expected to be hanged some day, and I am glad no one
but you two boys will witness me when my feet begin kicking about."
"I shall not kick," declared another of the thieves, who had also
regained his senses. "I shall sing while I am being hanged."
"But you can not, my good Gunder," protested the king; "for the rope
will cut off your breath, and no man can sing without breath."
"Then I shall whistle," said Gunder, composedly.
The king cast at him a look of reproach, and turning to Prince Marvel
"It will be a great task to string up so many thieves. You look
tired. Permit me to assist you to hang the others, and then I will
climb into a tree and hang myself from a strong branch, with as little
bother as possible."
"Oh, I won't think of troubling you," exclaimed Marvel, with a laugh.
"Having conquered you alone, I feel it my duty to hang you without
assistance--save that of my esquire."
"It's no trouble, I assure you; but suit your own convenience," said
the thief, carelessly. Then he cast his eye toward the cave and
asked: "What will you do with all our treasure?"
"Give it to the poor," said Prince Marvel, promptly.
"Oh, the poorest people I can find."
"Will you permit me to advise you in this matter?" asked the king of
"Yes, indeed; for I am a stranger in this land," returned the prince.
"Well, I know a lot of people who are so poor that they have no
possessions whatever, neither food to eat, houses to live in, nor any
clothing but that which covers their bodies. They can call no man
friend, nor will any lift a hand to help them. Indeed, good sir, I
verily believe they will soon perish miserably unless you come to
"Poor creatures!" exclaimed Prince Marvel, with ready sympathy;
"tell me who they are, and I will divide amongst them all your
"They are ourselves," replied the king of thieves, with a sigh.
Marvel looked at him in amazement, and then burst into joyous laughter.
"Yourselves!" he cried, greatly amused.
"Indeed, yes!" said Wul-Takim, sadly. "There are no poorer people in
all the world, for we have ropes about our necks and are soon to be
hanged. To-morrow we shall not have even our flesh left, for the
crows will pick our bones."
"That is true," remarked Marvel, thoughtfully. "But, if I restore to
you the treasure, how will it benefit you, since you are about to die?"
"Must you really hang us?" asked the thief.
"Yes; I have decreed it, and you deserve your fate."
"Because you have wickedly taken from helpless people their property,
and committed many other crimes besides."
"But I have reformed! We have all reformed--have we not, brothers?"
"We have!" answered the other thieves, who, having regained their
senses, were listening to this conversation with much interest.
"And, if you will return to us our treasure, we will promise never to
steal again, but to remain honest men and enjoy our wealth in peace,"
promised the king.
"Honest men could not enjoy treasures they have stolen,"
said Prince Marvel.
"True; but this treasure is now yours, having been won by you in fair
battle. And if you present it to us it will no longer be stolen
treasure, but a generous gift from a mighty prince, which we may enjoy
with clear consciences."
"Yet there remains the fact that I have promised to hang you,"
suggested Prince Marvel, with a smile, for the king amused him greatly.
"Not at all! Not at all!" cried Wul-Takim. "You promised to hang
fifty-nine thieves, and there is no doubt the fifty-nine thieves
deserved to be hung. But, consider! We have all reformed our ways
and become honest men; so it would be a sad and unkindly act to hang
fifty-nine honest men!"
"What think you, Nerle?" asked the Prince, turning to his esquire.
"Why, the rogue seems to speak truth," said Nerle, scratching his head
with a puzzled air, "yet, if he speaks truth, there is little
difference between a rogue and an honest man. Ask him, my master,
what caused them all to reform so suddenly."
"Because we were about to die, and we thought it a good way to save
our lives," replied the robber king.
"That's an honest answer, anyway," said Nerle. "Perhaps, sir, they
have really reformed."
"And if so, I will not have the death of fifty-nine honest men on my
conscience," declared the prince. Then he turned to Wul-Takim and
added: "I will release you and give you the treasure, as you request.
But you owe me allegiance from this time forth, and if I ever hear of your
becoming thieves again, I promise to return and hang every one of you."
"Never fear!" answered Wul-Takim, joyfully. "It is hard work to
steal, and while we have so much treasure it is wholly unnecessary.
Moreover, having accepted from you our lives and our fortunes, we
shall hereafter be your devoted servants, and whenever you need our
services you have but to call upon us, and we will support you loyally
"I accept your service," answered the prince, graciously.
And then he unbound the fifty-nine honest men and took the ropes from
their necks. As nightfall was fast approaching the new servants set
to work to prepare a great feast in honor of their master. It was
laid in the middle of the grassy clearing, that all might sit around
and celebrate the joyous occasion.
"Do you think you can trust these men?" asked Nerle, suspiciously.
"Why not?" replied the prince. "They have been exceedingly wicked, it
is true; but they are now intent upon being exceedingly good. Let us
encourage them in this. If we mistrusted all who have ever done an
evil act there would be fewer honest people in the world. And if it
were as interesting to do a good act as an evil one there is no doubt
every one would choose the good."
6. The Troubles of Nerle
That night Prince Marvel slept within the cave, surrounded by the
fifty-nine reformed thieves, and suffered no harm at their hands. In
the morning, accompanied by his esquire, Nerle, who was mounted upon a
spirited horse brought him by Wul-Takim, he charged the honest men to
remember their promises, bade them good by, and set out in search of
As they left the clearing by the narrow passage that led between the
overhanging rocks, the prince looked back and saw that the sign above
the gate of the cave, which had told of the thieves' treasure house,
had been changed. It now read as follows:
KING OF HONEST MEN
HIS PLEASURE HOUSE
"That is much better," laughed the prince. "I accomplished some good
by my adventure, anyway!"
Nerle did not reply. He seemed especially quiet and thoughtful as he
rode by his master's side, and after they had traveled some distance
in silence Prince Marvel said:
"Tell me how you came to be in the cave of thieves, and perched upon
the casks where I found you."
"It is a sad story," returned Nerle, with a sigh; "but since you
request me to tell it, the tale may serve to relieve the tedium of
"My father is a mighty baron, very wealthy and with a heart so kind
that he has ever taken pleasure in thrusting on me whatever gift he
could think of. I had not a single desire unsatisfied, for before I
could wish for anything it was given me.
"My mother was much like my father. She and her women were always
making jams, jellies, candies, cakes and the like for me to eat; so I
never knew the pleasure of hunger. My clothes were the gayest satins
and velvets, richly made and sewn with gold and silver braid; so it
was impossible to wish for more in the way of apparel. They let me
study my lessons whenever I felt like it and go fishing or hunting as
I pleased; so I could not complain that I was unable to do just as I
wanted to. All the servants obeyed my slightest wish: if I wanted to
sit up late at night no one objected; if I wished to lie in bed till
noon they kept the house quiet so as not to disturb me.
"This condition of affairs, as you may imagine, grew more and more
tedious and exasperating the older I became. Try as I might, I could
find nothing to complain of. I once saw the son of one of our
servants receive a flogging; and my heart grew light. I immediately
begged my father to flog me, by way of variety; and he, who could
refuse me nothing, at once consented. For this reason there was less
satisfaction in the operation than I had expected, although for the
time being it was a distinct novelty.
"Now, no one could expect a high-spirited boy to put up with such a
life as mine. With nothing to desire and no chance of doing anything
that would annoy my parents, my days were dreary indeed."
He paused to wipe the tears from his eyes, and the prince murmured,
sympathetically: "Poor boy! Poor boy!"
"Ah, you may well say that!" continued Nerle. "But one day a stranger
came to my father's castle with tales of many troubles he had met
with. He had been lost in a forest and nearly starved to death. He
had been robbed and beaten and left wounded and sore by the wayside.
He had begged from door to door and been refused food or assistance.
In short, his story was so delightful that it made me envy him, and I
yearned to suffer as he had done. When I could speak with him alone I
said: 'Pray tell me how I can manage to acquire the misfortunes you
have undergone. Here I have everything that I desire, and it makes me
"The stranger laughed at me, at first; and I found some pleasure in
the humiliation I then felt. But it did not last long, for presently
he grew sober and advised me to run away from home and seek adventure.
"'Once away from your father's castle,' said he, 'troubles will fall
upon you thick enough to satisfy even your longings.'
"'That is what I am afraid of!' I answered. 'I don't want to be
satisfied, even with troubles. What I seek is unsatisfied longings.'
"'Nevertheless,' said he, 'I advise you to travel. Everything will
probably go wrong with you, and then you will be happy.'
"I acted upon the stranger's advice and ran away from home the next
day. After journeying a long time I commenced to feel the pangs of
hunger, and was just beginning to enjoy myself when a knight rode by
and gave me a supply of food. At this rebuff I could not restrain my
tears, but while I wept my horse stumbled and threw me over his head.
I hoped at first I had broken my neck, and was just congratulating
myself upon the misfortune, when a witch-woman came along and rubbed
some ointment upon my bruises, in spite of my protests. To my great
grief the pain left me, and I was soon well again. But, as a slight
compensation for my disappointment, my horse had run away; so I began
my journey anew and on foot.
"That afternoon I stepped into a nest of wasps, but the thoughtless
creatures flew away without stinging me. Then I met a fierce tiger,
and my heart grew light and gay. 'Surely this will cause me suffering!'
I cried, and advanced swiftly upon the brute. But the cowardly tiger
turned tail and ran to hide in the bushes, leaving me unhurt!
"Of course, my many disappointments were some consolation; but not
much. That night I slept on the bare ground, and hoped I should catch
a severe cold; but no such joy was to be mine.
"Yet the next afternoon I experienced my first pleasure. The thieves
caught me, stripped off all my fine clothes and jewels and beat me
well. Then they carried me to their cave, dressed me in rags, and
perched me on the top of the casks, where the slightest movement on my
part would send me tumbling among the sword points. This was really
delightful, and I was quite happy until you came and released me.
"I thought then that I might gain some pleasure by provoking you to
anger; and our fight was the result. That blow on the ear was
exquisite, and by forcing me to become your servant you have made me,
for the first time in my life, almost contented. For I hope in your
company to experience a great many griefs and disappointments."
As Nerle concluded his story Prince Marvel turned to him and grasped
"Accept my sympathy!" said he. "I know exactly how you feel, for my
own life during the past few centuries has not been much different."
"The past few centuries!" gasped Nerle. "What do you mean?"
At this the prince blushed, seeing he had nearly disclosed his secret.
But he said, quickly:
"Does it not seem centuries when one is unhappy?"
"It does, indeed!" responded Nerle, earnestly. "But please tell me
"Not now," said Prince Marvel, with a smile. "It will please you to
desire in vain to hear a tale I will not tell. Yet I promise that on
the day we part company I shall inform you who I am."
7. The Gray Men
The adventurers gave no heed to the path they followed after leaving
the cave of the reformed thieves, but their horses accidentally took
the direction of the foot-hills that led into the wild interior
Kingdom of Spor. Therefore the travelers, when they had finished
their conversation and begun to look about them, found themselves in a
rugged, mountainous country that was wholly unlike the green plains of
Heg they had left behind.
Now, as I have before said, the most curious and fearful of the island
people dwelt in this Kingdom of Spor. They held no friendly
communication with their neighbors, and only left their own mountains
to plunder and rob; and so sullen and fierce were they on these
occasions that every one took good care to keep out of their way until
they had gone back home again.
There was much gossip about the unknown king of Spor, who had never
yet been seen by any one except his subjects; and some thought he must
be one of the huge giants of Spor; and others claimed he was a dwarf,
like his tiny but ferocious dart-slingers; and still others imagined
him one of the barbarian tribe, or a fellow to the terrible Gray Men.
But, of course, no one knew positively, and all these guesses were
very wide of the mark. The only certainty about this king was that
his giants, dwarfs, barbarians and Gray Men meekly acknowledged his
rule and obeyed his slightest wish; for though they might be terrible
to others, their king was still more terrible to them.
Into this Kingdom of Spor Prince Marvel and Nerle had now penetrated
and, neither knowing nor caring where they were, continued along the
faintly defined paths the horses had found. Presently, however, they
were startled by a peal of shrill, elfish laughter, and raising their
eyes they beheld a horrid-looking old man seated upon a high rock near by.
"Why do you laugh?" asked Prince Marvel, stopping his horse.
"Have you been invited? Tell me--have you been invited?" demanded the
old man, chuckling to himself as if much amused.
"Invited where?" inquired the prince.
"To Spor, stupid! To the Kingdom of Spor! To the land of King
Terribus!" shrieked the old man, going into violent peals of laughter.
"We go and come as we please," answered Prince Marvel, calmly.
"Go--yes! Go if you will. But you'll never come back--never! never!
never!" The little old man seemed to consider this such a good joke
that he bent nearly double with laughing, and so lost his balance and
toppled off the rock, disappearing from their view; but they could hear
him laugh long after they had passed on and left him far behind them.
"A strange creature!" exclaimed the prince thoughtfully.
"But perhaps he speaks truth," answered Nerle, "if, in fact, we have
been rash enough to enter the Kingdom of Spor. Even my father, the
bravest baron in Heg, has never dared venture within the borders of
Spor. For all men fear its mysterious king."
"In that case," replied Prince Marvel, "it is time some one
investigated this strange kingdom. People have left King Terribus and
his wild subjects too much to themselves; instead of stirring them up
and making them behave themselves."
Nerle smiled at this speech.
"They are the fiercest people on the Enchanted Island," said he, "and
there are thousands upon thousands who obey this unknown king. But if
you think we dare defy them I am willing to go on. Perhaps our
boldness will lead them into torturing me, or starving me to death;
and at the very least I ought to find much trouble and privation in
the Kingdom of Spor."
"Time will determine that," said the prince, cheerfully.
They had now ridden into a narrow defile of the mountains, the pathway
being lined with great fragments of rock. Happening to look over his
shoulder Prince Marvel saw that as they passed these rocks a man
stepped from behind each fragment and followed after them, their
numbers thus constantly increasing until hundreds were silently
treading in the wake of the travelers.
These men were very peculiar in appearance, their skins being as gray
as the rocks themselves, while their only clothing consisted of gray
cloth tunics belted around the waists with bands of gray fox-hide.
They bore no weapons except that each was armed with a fork, having
three sharp tines six inches in length, which the Gray Men carried
stuck through their fox-hide belts.
Nerle also looked back and saw the silent throng following them, and
the sight sent such a cold shiver creeping up his spine that he smiled
with pleasure. There was no way to avoid the Gray Men, for the path
was so narrow that the horsemen could not turn aside; but Prince
Marvel was not disturbed, and seemed not to mind being followed, so
long as no one hindered his advance.
He rode steadily on, Nerle following, and after climbing upward for a
long way the path began to descend, presently leading them into a
valley of wide extent, in the center of which stood an immense castle
with tall domes that glittered as if covered with pure gold. A broad
roadway paved with white marble reached from the mountain pass to the
entrance of this castle, and on each side of this roadway stood lines
of monstrous giants, armed with huge axes thrust into their belts and
thick oak clubs, studded with silver spikes, which were carried over
their left shoulders.
The assembled giants were as silent as the Gray Men, and stood
motionless while Prince Marvel and Nerle rode slowly up the marble
roadway. But all their brows were scowling terribly and their eyes
were red and glaring-- as if they were balls of fire.
"I begin to feel very pleasant," said Nerle, "for surely we shall not
get away from these folks without a vast deal of trouble. They do not
seem to oppose our advance, but it is plain they will not allow us any
chance of retreat."
"We do not wish to retreat," declared the prince.
Nerle cast another glance behind, and saw that the Gray Men had halted
at the edge of the valley, while the giants were closing up as soon as
the horses passed them and now marched in close file in their rear.
"It strikes me," he muttered, softly, "that this is like to prove our
last adventure." But although Prince Marvel might have heard the words
he made no reply, being evidently engaged in deep thought.
As they drew nearer the castle it towered above them like a veritable
mountain, so big and high was it; and the walls cast deep shadows far
around, as if twilight had fallen. They heard the loud blare of a
trumpet sounding far up on the battlements; the portals of the castle
suddenly opened wide, and they entered a vast courtyard paved with
plates of gold. Tiny dwarfs, so crooked that they resembled crabs,
rushed forward and seized the bridles of the horses, while the
strangers slowly dismounted and looked around them.
While the steeds were being led to the stables an old man, clothed in
a flowing robe as white in color as his beard, bowed before Prince
Marvel and said in a soft voice:
The prince stretched his arms, yawned as if tired with his ride, and
then glared upon the old man with an expression of haughty surprise.
"I follow no one!" said he, proudly. "I am Prince Marvel, sirrah, and
if the owner of this castle wishes to see me I shall receive him here,
as befits my rank and station."
The man looked surprised, but only bowed lower than before.
"It is the king's command," he answered.
"Yes; you are in the castle of King Terribus, the lord and ruler of Spor."
"That is different," remarked the prince, lightly. "Still, I will
follow no man. Point out the way and I will go to meet his Majesty."
The old man extended a lean and trembling finger toward an archway.
Prince Marvel strode forward, followed by Nerle, and passing under the
arch he threw open a door at the far end and boldly entered the
throne-room of King Terribus.
8. The Fool-Killer
The room was round, with a dome at the top. The bare walls were of
gray stone, with square, open windows set full twenty feet from the
floor. Rough gray stone also composed the floor, and in the center of
the room stood one great rock with a seat hollowed in its middle.
This was the throne, and round about it stood a swarm of men and women
dressed in rich satins, velvets and brocades, brilliantly ornamented
with gold and precious stones. The men were of many shapes and
sizes--giants and dwarfs being among them. The women all seemed young
Prince Marvel cast but a passing glance at this assemblage, for his
eye quickly sought the rude throne on which was seated King Terribus.
The personal appearance of this monster was doubtless the most hideous
known in that age of the world. His head was large and shaped like an
egg; it was bright scarlet in color and no hair whatever grew upon it.
It had three eyes--one in the center of his face, one on the top of
his head and one in the back. Thus he was always able to see in every
direction at the same time. His nose was shaped like an elephant's
trunk, and swayed constantly from side to side. His mouth was very
wide and had no lips at all, two rows of sharp and white teeth being
always plainly visible beneath the swaying nose.
King Terribus, although surrounded by so splendid a court, wore a
simple robe of gray cloth, with no ornament or other finery, and his
strange and fearful appearance was strongly contrasted with the glittering
raiment of his courtiers and the beauty of his ladies in waiting.
When Prince Marvel, with Nerle marching close behind, entered the
great room, Terribus looked at him sharply a moment, and then bowed.
And when he bowed the eye upon the top of his head also looked sharply
at the intruders.
Then the king spoke, his voice sounding so sweet and agreeable that it
almost shocked Nerle, who had expected to hear a roar like that from a
"Why are you here?" asked Terribus.
"Partly by chance and partly from curiosity," answered Prince Marvel.
"No one in this island, except your own people, had ever seen the king
of Spor; so, finding myself in your country, I decided to come here
and have a look at you."
The faces of the people who stood about the throne wore frightened
looks at the unheard of boldness of this speech to their terrible
monarch. But the king merely nodded and inquired:
"Since you have seen me, what do you think of me?"
"I am sorry you asked that question," returned the prince; "for I must
confess you are a very frightful-looking creature, and not at all
agreeable to gaze upon."
"Ha! you are honest, as well as frank," exclaimed the king. "But
that is the reason I do not leave my kingdom, as you will readily
understand. And that is the reason I never permit strangers to come
here, under penalty of death. So long as no one knows the King of
Spor is a monster people will not gossip about my looks, and I am very
sensitive regarding my personal appearance. You will perhaps
understand that if I could have chosen I should have been born
beautiful instead of ugly."
"I certainly understand that. And permit me to say I wish you
were beautiful. I shall probably dream of you for many nights,"
added the prince.
"Not for many," said King Terribus, quietly. "By coming here you have
chosen death, and the dead do not dream."
"Why should I die?" inquired Prince Marvel, curiously.
"Because you have seen me. Should I allow you to go away you would
tell the world about my ugly face. I do not like to kill you, believe
me; but you must pay the penalty of your rashness--you and the man
Nerle smiled at this; but whether from pride at being called a man or in
pleasurable anticipation of the sufferings to come I leave you to guess.
"Will you allow me to object to being killed?" asked the prince.
"Certainly," answered the king, courteously. "I expect you to object.
It is natural. But it will do you no good."
Then Terribus turned to an attendant and commanded:
"Send hither the Fool-Killer."
At this Prince Marvel laughed outright.
"The Fool-Killer!" he cried; "surely your Majesty does me little
credit. Am I, then, a fool?"
"You entered my kingdom uninvited," retorted the king, "and you tell
me to my face I am ugly. Moreover, you laugh when I condemn you to
death. From this I conclude the Fool-Killer is the proper one to
execute you. Behold!"
Marvel turned quickly, to find a tall, stalwart man standing behind
him. His features were strong but very grave, and the prince caught a
look of compassion in his eye as their gaze met. His skin was fair
and without blemish, a robe of silver cloth fell from his shoulders,
and in his right hand he bore a gleaming sword.
"Well met!" cried Marvel, heartily, as he bowed to the Fool-Killer.
"I have often heard your name mentioned, but 'tis said in the world
that you are a laggard in your duty."
"Had I my way," answered the Fool-Killer, "my blade would always drip.
It is my master, yonder, who thwarts my duty." And he nodded toward
"Then you should exercise your right on him, and cleave the ugly head
from his shoulders," declared the prince.
"Nay, unless I interfered with the Fool-Killer," said the king, "I
should soon have no subjects left to rule; for at one time or another
they all deserve the blade."
"Why, that may be true enough," replied Prince Marvel. "But I think,
under such circumstances, your Fool-Killer is a needless servant. So
I will rid you of him in a few moments."
With that he whipped out his sword and stood calmly confronting the
Fool-Killer, whose grave face never changed in expression as he
advanced menacingly upon his intended victim. The blades clashed
together, and that of the Fool-Killer broke short off at the hilt. He
took a step backward, stumbled and fell prone upon the rocky floor,
while Prince Marvel sprang forward and pressed the point of his sword
against his opponent's breast.
"Hold!" cried the king, starting to his feet. "Would you slay my
Fool-Killer? Think of the harm you would do the world!"
"But he is laggard and unfaithful to his calling!" answered the
"Nevertheless, if he remove but one fool a year he is a benefit to
mankind," declared the king. "Release him, I pray you!"
Then the victor withdrew his sword and stood aside, while the
Fool-Killer slowly got upon his feet and bowed humbly before the king.
"Go!" shouted Terribus, his eye flashing angrily. "You have
humiliated me before my enemy. As an atonement see that you kill me a
fool a day for sixty days."
Hearing this command, many of the people about the throne began to
tremble; but the king paid no attention to their fears, and the
Fool-Killer bowed again before his master and withdrew from the chamber.
9. The Royal Dragon of Spor
"Now," said Terribus, regarding the prince gloomily, "I must dispose
of you in another way."
For a moment he dropped his scarlet head in thought. Then he turned
fiercely upon his attendants.
"Let the Wrestler come forward!" he shouted, as loudly as his mild
voice would carry.
Instantly a tall blackamoor advanced from the throng and cast off his
flowing robe, showing a strong figure clad only in a silver loincloth.
"Crack me this fellow's bones!" commanded Terribus.
"I beg your Majesty will not compel me to touch him," said Prince
Marvel, with a slight shudder; "for his skin is greasy, and will soil
my hands. Here, Nerle!" he continued, turning to his esquire,
"dispose of this black man, and save me the trouble."
Nerle laughed pleasantly. The black was a powerfully built man, and
compared with Nerle and the prince, who had but the stature of boys,
he towered like a very giant in size. Nevertheless, Nerle did not
hesitate to spring upon the Wrestler, who with a quick movement sent
the boy crashing against the stone pavement.
Nerle was much bruised by the fall, and as he painfully raised himself
to his feet a great lump was swelling behind his left ear, where his
head had struck the floor, and he was so dizzy that the room seemed
swimming around him in a circle. But he gave a happy little laugh,
and said to the prince, gratefully:
"Thank you very much, my master! The fall is hurting me delightfully.
I almost feel as if I could cry, and that would be joy indeed!"
"Well," answered the prince, with a sigh, "I see I must get my hands
greased after all"--for the black's body had really been greased to
enable him to elude the grasp of his opponents.
But Marvel made a quick leap and seized the Wrestler firmly around the
waist. The next moment, to the astonishment of all, the black man
flew swiftly into the air, plunged through one of the open windows
high up in the wall, and disappeared from view. When the king and his
people again turned their wondering eyes upon the prince he was wiping
his hands carefully upon a silk handkerchief.
At this sight a pretty young girl, who stood near the throne, laughed
aloud, and the sound of her laughter made King Terribus very angry.
"Come here!" he commanded, sternly. The girl stepped forward, her
face now pale and frightened, while tear-drops trembled upon the
lashes that fringed her downcast eyes. "You have dared to laugh at
the humiliation of your king," said Terribus, his horrid face more
crimson than ever, "and as atonement I command that you drink of the
Instantly a dwarf came near, bearing a beautiful golden goblet in his
"Drink!" he said, an evil leer upon his face.
The girl well knew this goblet contained a vile poison, one drop of
which on her tongue would cause death; so she hesitated, trembling and
shrinking from the ordeal.
Prince Marvel looked into her sweet face with pitying eyes, and
stepping quickly to her side, took her hand in his.
"Now drink!" he said, smiling upon her; "the poison will not hurt you."
She drank obediently, while the dwarf chuckled with awful glee and the
king looked on eagerly, expecting her to fall dead at his feet. But
instead the girl stood upright and pressed Marvel's hand, looking
gratefully into his face.
"You are a fairy!" she whispered, so low that no one else heard her
voice. "I knew that you would save me."
"Keep my secret," whispered the prince in return, and still holding
her hand he led her back to her former place.
King Terribus was almost wild with rage and disappointment, and his
elephant nose twisted and squirmed horribly.
"So you dare to thwart my commands, do you!" he cried, excitedly.
"Well, we shall soon see which of us is the more powerful. I have
decreed your death--and die you shall!"
For a moment his eye roved around the chamber uncertainly. Then he
"Ho, there! Keepers of the royal menagerie--appear!"
Three men entered the room and bowed before the king. They were of
the Gray Men of the mountains, who had followed Prince Marvel and
Nerle through the rocky passes.
"Bring hither the Royal Dragon," cried the king, "and let him consume
these strangers before my very eyes!"
The men withdrew, and presently was heard a distant shouting, followed
by a low rumbling sound, with groans, snorts, roars and a hissing like
steam from the spout of a teakettle.
The noise and shouting drew nearer, while the people huddled together
like frightened sheep; and then suddenly the doors flew open and the
Royal Dragon advanced to the center of the room.
This creature was at once the pride and terror of the Kingdom of Spor.
It was more than thirty feet in length and covered everywhere with
large green scales set with diamonds, making the dragon, when it
moved, a very glittering spectacle. Its eyes were as big as
pie-plates, and its mouth--when wide opened--fully as large as a
bath-tub. Its tail was very long and ended in a golden ball, such as
you see on the top of flagstaffs. Its legs, which were as thick as
those of an elephant, had scales which were set with rubies and
emeralds. It had two monstrous, big ears and two horns of carved
ivory, and its teeth were also carved into various fantastic
shapes--such as castles, horses' heads, chinamen and griffins--so that
if any of them broke it would make an excellent umbrella handle.
The Royal Dragon of Spor came crawling into the throne-room rather
clumsily, groaning and moaning with every step and waving its ears
like two blankets flying from a clothesline.
The king looked on it and frowned.
"Why are you not breathing fire and brimstone?" he demanded, angrily.
"Why, I was caught out in a gale the other night," returned the
Dragon, rubbing the back of its ear with its left front paw, as it
paused and looked at the king, "and the wind put out my fire."
"Then why didn't you light it again?" asked Terribus, turning on
"We--we were out of matches, your Majesty!" stammered the trembling
"So--ho!" yelled the king, and was about to order the keepers
beheaded; but just then Nerle pulled out his match-box, lit one of the
matches, and held it in front of the Dragon's mouth. Instantly the
creature's breath caught fire; and it began to breathe flames a yard
"That's better," sighed the Dragon, contentedly. "I hope your Majesty
is now satisfied."
"No,--I am not satisfied!" declared King Terribus. "Why do you not
lash your tail?"
"Ah, I can't do that!" replied the Dragon. "It's all stiffened up
with rheumatism from the dampness of my cave. It hurts too much to
"Well, then, gnash your teeth!" commanded the king.
"Tut--tut!" answered the Dragon, mildly; "I can't do that, either; for
since you had them so beautifully carved it makes my teeth ache to
"Well, then, what are you good for?" cried the king, in a fury.
"Don't I look awful? Am I not terrible to gaze on?" inquired the
Dragon, proudly, as it breathed out red and yellow flames and made
them curl in circles around its horns. "I guess there's no need for
me to suggest terror to any one that happens to see me," it added,
winking one of the pie-plate eyes at King Terribus.
The king looked at the monster critically, and it really seemed to him
that it was a frightful thing to behold. So he curbed his anger and
said, in his ordinary sweet voice:
"I have called you here to destroy these two strangers."
"How?" asked the Dragon, looking upon Prince Marvel and Nerle
"I am not particular," answered the king. "You may consume them with
your fiery breath, or smash them with your tail, or grind them to
atoms between your teeth, or tear them to pieces with your claws.
Only, do hurry up and get it over with!"
"Hm-m-m!" said the Dragon, thoughtfully, as if it didn't relish the
job; "this one isn't Saint George, is it?"
"No, no!" exclaimed the king, irritably; "it's Prince Marvel. Do get
to work as soon as possible."
"Prince Marvel--Prince Marvel," repeated the Dragon. "Why, there
isn't a prince in the whole world named Marvel! I'm pretty well
posted on the history of royal families, you know. I'm afraid he's
Saint George in disguise."
"Isn't your name Prince Marvel?" inquired the king, turning to the
"It is," answered Marvel.
"Well, it's mighty strange I've never heard of you," persisted the
Dragon. "But tell me, please, how would you prefer to be killed?"
"Oh, I'm not going to be killed at all," replied the prince, laughing.
"Do you hear that, Terribus?" asked the Dragon, turning to the king;
"he says he isn't going to be killed."
"But I say he is!" cried Terribus. "I have decreed his death."
"But do you suppose I'm going to kill a man against his will?"
inquired the Dragon, in a reproachful voice; "and such a small man,
too! Do you take me for a common assassin--or a murderer?"
"Do you intend to obey my orders?" roared the king.
"No, I don't; and that's flat!" returned the Dragon, sharply. "It's
time for me to take my cough medicine; so if you've nothing more to
say I'll go back to my cave."
"Go, go, go!" shrieked the king, stamping his foot in passion.
"You've outlived your usefulness! You're a coward! You're a traitor!
"I'm a dragon and a gentleman!" answered the monster, proudly, as the
king paused for lack of a word; "and I believe I know what's proper
for dragons to do and what isn't. I've learned wisdom from my father,
who got into trouble with Saint George, and if I fought with this
person who calls himself Prince Marvel, I'd deserve to be a victim of
your Fool-Killer. Oh, I know my business, King Terribus; and if you
knew yours, you'd get rid of this pretended prince as soon as possible!"
With this speech he winked at Prince Marvel, turned soberly around and
crawled from the room. One of the keepers got too near and the
Dragon's breath set fire to his robe, the flames being with difficulty
extinguished; and the gold ball on the end of the Dragon's tail struck
a giant upon his shins and made him dance and howl in pain.
But, aside from these slight accidents, the monster managed to leave
the throne-room without undue confusion, and every one, including the
king, seemed glad to be rid of him.
10. Prince Marvel Wins His Fight
When the door had closed on the Royal Dragon, King Terribus turned
again to Prince Marvel, while his crimson face glowed with
embarrassment, and his front eye rolled with baffled rage as he
thought how vain had been all his efforts to kill this impudent
invader of his domains.
But his powers were by no means exhausted. He was a mighty king--the
mightiest of all in the Enchanted Island, he believed--and ways to
destroy his enemies were numerous.
"Send for a hundred of my Gray Men!" he suddenly cried; and a courtier
ran at once to summon them. The Gray Men would obey his orders
without question, he well knew. They were silent, stubborn, quick,
and faithful to their king. Terribus had but to command and his will
would be obeyed.
They entered the room so quietly that Nerle never knew they were there
until he turned and found the hundred gray ones standing close
together in the center of the hall. Then Prince Marvel came to
Nerle's side and whispered something in his ear.
"Will you obey my orders?" they heard the king ask. And the Gray Men,
with their eyes fixed upon their master, nodded all their hundred
heads and put their hands upon the dangerous three-tined forks that
were stuck in every one of the hundred belts.
Prince Marvel handed one end of a coiled rope to Nerle, and then they
both sprang forward and ran around the spot where the hundred Gray Men
stood huddled together. Then they were pulled closer together than
before--closer, and still closer--for the prince and Nerle had
surrounded them with the rope and were tying the two ends together in
a tight knot. The rope cut into the waists of those on the outside,
and they pressed inward against their fellows until there was scarcely
space to stick a knife-blade between any two of them. When the prince
had tied the rope firmly King Terribus, who had been looking on
amazed, saw that his hundred Gray Men were fastened together like a
bundle of kindling-wood, and were unable to stir hand or foot.
And, while he still gazed open-mouthed at the strange sight, Prince
Marvel tilted the bundle of men up on its edge and rolled it out of
the door. It went rolling swiftly through the courtyard and bounded
down the castle steps, where the rope broke and the men fell sprawling
in all directions on the marble walk.
King Terribus sighed, for such treatment of his Gray Men, whom he
dearly loved, made him very unhappy.
But more than ever was he resolved to kill these impudent strangers,
who, in the very heart of his kingdom where thousands bowed to his
will, dared openly defy his power. So, after a moment's thought,
Terribus beckoned to a dwarf who, robed in gay and glittering apparel,
stood near his throne.
"Summon the royal Dart Slingers!" he said, with a scowl.
The little man bowed and hastened away, to return presently with
twenty curiously crooked dwarfs, each armed with a sling and a quiver
full of slender, sharp-pointed darts.
"Slay me these strangers!" exclaimed the king, in his gruffest voice.
Now Nerle, when he beheld these terrible Dart Slingers, of whom he had
heard many tales in his boyhood, began to shiver and shake with
fright, so that his teeth rattled one upon another. And he reflected:
"Soon shall I be content, for these darts will doubtless pierce every
part of my body."
The dwarfs formed a line at one side of the gloomy throne-room, and
Prince Marvel, who had been earnestly regarding them, caught Nerle by
the arm and led him to the opposite wall.
"Stand close behind me and you will be safe," he whispered to his esquire.
Then each dwarf fixed a dart in his sling, and at a word from their
chief they all drew back their arms and launched a shower of the sharp
missiles at the strangers.
Swift and true they sped, each dart intended to pierce the body of the
youthful knight who stood so calm before them. Prince Marvel had
raised his right arm, and in his hand was a small leather sack, with a
wide mouth. As the darts flew near him a strange thing happened: they
each and all swerved from their true course and fell rattling into the
leathern sack, to the wonder of the royal slingers and the dismay of
King Terribus himself.
"Again!" screamed the king, his usually mild voice hoarse with anger.
So again the dwarfs cast their darts, and again the leathern sack
caught them every one. Another flight followed, and yet another, till
the magic sack was packed full of the darts and not a dwarf had one
remaining in his quiver.
Amid the awed silence of the beholders of this feat the merry laughter
of Prince Marvel rang loud and clear; for the sight of the puzzled and
terrified faces about him was very comical. Plucking a dart from the
sack he raised his arm and cried:
"Now it is my turn. You shall have back your darts!"
"Hold!" shouted the king, in great fear. "Do not, I beg you, slay my
faithful servants." And with a wave of his hand he dismissed the
dwarfs, who were glad to rush from the room and escape.
Nerle wiped the tears from his eyes, for he was sorely disappointed at
having again escaped all pain and discomfort; but Prince Marvel seated
himself quietly upon a stool and looked at the scowling face of King
Terribus with real amusement.
The monarch of Spor had never before been so foiled and scorned by any
living creature. Defeated and humbled before his own people, he bowed
his crimson head on his hands and sullenly regarded his foe with his
top eye. Then it was that the idea came to him that no ordinary
mortal could have thwarted him so easily, and he began to fear he was
dealing--perhaps unawares--with some great magician or sorcerer. That
a fairy should have assumed a mortal form he never once considered,
for such a thing was until then unheard of in the Enchanted Island of
Yew. But with the knowledge that he had met his master, whoever he
might prove to be, and that further attempts upon the stranger's life
might lead to his own undoing, King Terribus decided to adopt a new
line of conduct, hoping to accomplish by stratagem what he could not
do by force. To be sure, there remained his regiment of Giants, the
pride of his kingdom; but Terribus dreaded to meet with another
defeat; and he was not at all sure, after what had happened, that the
giants would succeed in conquering or destroying the strangers.
"After all," he thought, "my only object in killing them was to
prevent their carrying news of my monstrous appearance to the outside
world; so if I can but manage to keep them forever in my kingdom it
will answer my purpose equally well."
As the result of this thought he presently raised his head and spoke
to Prince Marvel in a quiet and even cheerful voice.
"Enough of these rude and boisterous games," said he, with a smile
that showed his white teeth in a repulsive manner. "They may have
seemed to my people an ill welcome to my good friend, Prince Marvel;
yet they were only designed to show the powers of the mighty magician
who has become my guest. Nay, do not deny it, Prince; from the first
I guessed your secret, and to prove myself right I called my servants
to oppose you, being sure they could not do you an injury. But no
more of such fooling,--and pray forgive my merry game at your expense.
Henceforth we shall be friends, and you are heartily welcome to the
best my kingdom affords."
With this speech Terribus stepped down from his throne and approached
Prince Marvel with outstretched hand. The prince was not at all
deceived, but he was pleased to see how cunningly the king excused his
attempts to kill him. So he laughed and touched the hand Terribus
extended, for this fairy prince seemed to have no anger against any
mortal who ventured to oppose him.
The strangers were now conducted, with every mark of respect, to a
beautiful suite of apartments in the castle, wherein were soft beds
with velvet spreads, marble baths with perfumed waters, and a variety
of silken and brocaded costumes from which they might select a change
No sooner had they bathed and adorned themselves fittingly than they
were summoned to the king's banquet hall, being escorted thither by
twelve young maidens bearing torches with lavender-colored flames.
The night had fallen upon the mountains outside, but the great banquet
hall was brilliant with the glow of a thousand candles, and seated at
the head of the long table was King Terribus.
Yet here, as in the throne-room, the ruler of Spor was dressed in
simplest garments, and his seat was a rough block of stone. All about
him were lords and ladies in gorgeous array; the walls were hung with
rare embroideries; the table was weighted with gold platters and
richly carved goblets filled with sweet nectars. But the king
himself, with his horrid, ugly head, was like a great blot on a fair
parchment, and even Prince Marvel could not repress a shudder as he
gazed upon him.
Terribus placed his guest upon his right hand and loaded him with
honors. Nerle stood behind the prince's chair and served him
faithfully, as an esquire should. But the other servants treated
Nerle with much deference, noting in him an air of breeding that
marked him the unusual servant of an unusual master.
Indeed, most curious were the looks cast on these marvelous men who
had calmly walked into the castle of mighty Terribus and successfully
defied his anger; for in spite of his youthful appearance and smiling
face every attendant at the banquet feared Prince Marvel even more
than they feared their own fierce king.
11. The Cunning of King Terribus
The days that followed were pleasant ones for Prince Marvel and Nerle,
who were treated as honored guests by both the king and his courtiers.