Then the green-robed High Ki walked up to the one in yellow and laughed in her face, saying:
"You now see which of us is the most powerful, and therefore the most worthy to rule. Had you remained faithful to our handsome Ki-Ki, as I did, you would not now be defeated and disgraced."
"There is no disgrace in losing one battle," returned the other girl, proudly. "You are mistaken if you think you have conquered me, and you are wrong to insult one who is, for the time being, your captive."
The maiden in green looked for an instant confused and ashamed; then she tossed her pretty head and walked away.
They led all the prisoners out into the garden and then through the broken wall, and up and down the silver steps, into the great square of the cities of Twi. And here all the population crowded around them, for this was the first time any of them had seen their High Ki, or even known that they were girls; and the news of their quarrel and separation had aroused a great deal of excitement.
"Let the executioners come forward!" cried the Ki-Ki, gleefully, and in answer to the command the twin executioners stepped up to the prisoners.
They were big men, these executioners, each having a squint in one eye and a scar on the left cheek. They polished their axes a moment on their coat-sleeves, and then said to Prince Marvel and Nerle, who were to be the first victims:
"Don't dodge, please, or our axes may not strike the right place. And do not be afraid, for the blows will only hurt you an instant. In the Land of Twi it is usually considered a pleasure to be executed by us, we are so exceedingly skillful."
"I can well believe that," replied Nerle, although his teeth were chattering.
But at this instant a loud shout was heard, and the twin people of Twi all turned their heads to find themselves surrounded by throngs of fierce enemies.
Prince Marvel smiled, for he saw among the new-comers the giants and dwarfs and the stern Gray Men of King Terribus, with their monarch calmly directing their movements; and on the other side of the circle were the jolly faces and bushy whiskers of the fifty-nine reformed thieves, with burly Wul-Takim at their head.
19. The Reunion of the High Ki
The twins of Twi were too startled and amazed to offer to fight with the odd people surrounding them. Even the executioners allowed their axes to fall harmlessly to the ground, and the double people, soldiers and citizens alike, turned to stare at the strangers in wonder.
"We're here, Prince!" yelled Wul-Takim, his bristly beard showing over the heads of those who stood between.
"Thank you," answered Prince Marvel.
"And the men of Spor are here!" added King Terribus, who was mounted on a fine milk-white charger, richly caparisoned.
"I thank the men of Spor," returned Prince Marvel, graciously.
"Shall we cut your foes into small pieces, or would you prefer to hang them?" questioned the King of the Reformed Thieves, loudly enough to set most of his hearers shivering.
But now the little maid in yellow stepped up to Prince Marvel and, regarding the youthful knight with considerable awe, said sweetly:
"I beg you will pardon my people and spare them. They are usually good and loyal subjects, and if they fought against me--their lawful High Ki--it was only because they were misled by my separation from my other half."
"That is true," replied the prince; "and as you are still the lawful High Ki of Twi, I will leave you to deal with your own people as you see fit. For those who have conquered your people are but your own allies, and are still under your orders, as I am myself."
Hearing this, the green High Ki walked up to her twin High Ki and said, boldly:
"I am your prisoner. It is now your turn. Do with me as you will."
"I forgive you," replied her sister, in kindly tones.
Then the little maid who had met with defeat gave a sob and turned away weeping, for she had expected anything but forgiveness.
And now the Ki-Ki came forward and, bowing their handsome blond heads before the High Ki, demanded: "Are we forgiven also?"
"Yes," said the girl, "but you are no longer fit to be rulers of my people.