Wul-Takim also begged to join the party, and so also did King Terribus, who had never before been outside of his own Kingdom of Spor; so Prince Marvel willingly consented.
The fifty-eight reformed thieves, led by Gunder, returned to their cave, where they were living comfortably on the treasure Prince Marvel had given them; and the Gray Men and giants and dwarfs of Spor departed for their own country.
In the morning Prince Marvel led his own gay cavalcade through the hole in the hedge, and they rode merrily away in search of adventure.
By his side were the High Ki, mounted upon twin chestnut ponies that had remarkably slender limbs and graceful, arched necks. The ponies moved with exactly the same steps, and shook their manes and swished their tails at exactly the same time. Behind the prince and the High Ki were King Terribus, riding his great white charger, and Wul-Takim on a stout horse of jet-black color. The two ancient Ki and Nerle, being of lesser rank than the others, brought up the rear.
"When we return to our Land of Twi," said the High Ki, "we shall close up for all time the hole you made in the hedge; for, if we are different from the rest of the world, it is better that we remain in seclusion."
"I think it is right you should do that," replied Prince Marvel. "Yet I do not regret that I cut a hole in your hedge."
"It was the hedge that delayed us in coming more promptly to your assistance," said Terribus; "for we had hard work to find the hole you had made, and so lost much valuable time."
"All is well that ends well!" laughed the prince. "You certainly came in good time to rescue us from our difficulties."
They turned into a path that led to Auriel, which Nerle had heard spoken of as "the Kingdom of the Setting Sun."
Soon the landscape grew very pleasant to look upon, the meadows being broad and green, with groups of handsome trees standing about. The twilight of the Land of Twi was now replaced by bright sunshine, and in the air was the freshness of the near-by sea.
At evening they came to a large farmhouse, where the owner welcomed them hospitably and gave them the best his house afforded.
In answer to their questions about the Kingdom of Auriel, he shook his head sadly and replied:
"It is a rich and beautiful country, but has fallen under great misfortunes. For when the good king died, about two years ago, the kingdom was seized by a fierce and cruel sorcerer, named Kwytoffle, who rules the people with great severity, and makes them bring him all their money and valuable possessions. So every one is now very poor and unhappy, and that is a great pity in a country so fair and fertile."
"But why do not the people rebel?" asked Nerle.
"They dare not rebel," answered the farmer, "because they fear the sorcery of Kwytoffle. If they do not obey him he threatens to change them into grasshoppers and June-bugs."
"Has he ever changed any one into a grasshopper or a June-bug?" asked Prince Marvel.
"No; but the people are too frightened to oppose him, and so he does not get the opportunity. And he has an army of fierce soldiers, who are accustomed to beat the people terribly if they do not carry every bit of their wealth to the sorcerer. So there is no choice but to obey him."
"We certainly ought to hang this wicked creature!" exclaimed Wul-Takim.
"I wish I had brought my Fool-Killer with me," sighed King Terribus; "for I could have kept him quite busy in this kingdom."
"Can not something be done to rescue these poor people from their sad fate?" asked the lovely High Ki, anxiously.
"We will make a call upon this Kwytoffle to-morrow," answered Prince Marvel, "and see what the fellow is like."
"Alas! Alas!" wailed the good farmer, "you will all become grasshoppers and June-bugs--every one of you!"
But none of the party seemed to fear that, and having passed the night comfortably with the farmer they left his house and journeyed on into the Kingdom of Auriel.
Before noon they came upon the edge of a forest, where a poor man was chopping logs into firewood.