A little thought must convince us that such an opening is bound to exist, for otherwise the water confined within the dome would not be fresh or clear."
"Then if we could escape from this castle, we could swim up to the hole in the dome and get free!" exclaimed Trot.
"Why, Zog has probably ordered the opening well guarded, as he has all the other outlets," responded the Queen. "Yet it may be worth while for us to make the attempt to get back into the broad ocean this way. The night would be the best time, when all are asleep, and surely it will be quicker to reach the ocean through this hole in the roof than by means of the long, winding passages by which we entered."
"But we will have to break out of the castle in some way," observed Cap'n Bill.
"That will not be difficult," answered Aquareine. "It will be no trouble for me to shatter one of these panes of glass, allowing us to pass out and swim straight up to the top of the dome."
"Let's do it now!" said Trot eagerly.
"No, my dear, we must wait for a good opportunity when we are not watched closely. We do not wish the terrible Zog to thwart our plan," answered the Queen gently.
Presently two sailor boys entered bearing trays of food, which they placed upon a large table. They were cheery-faced young fellows with gills at their throats, but had laughing eyes, and Trot was astonished not to find any of the slaves of Zog weeping or miserable. Instead, they were as jolly and good-natured as could be and seemed to like their life under the water. Cap'n Bill asked one of the boys how many slaves were in the castle, and the youth replied that he would try to count them and let him know.
Tom Atto had, they found, prepared for them an excellent meal, and they ate heartily because they were really hungry. After luncheon Cap'n Bill smoked his pipe contentedly, and they renewed their conversation, planning various ways to outwit Zog and make their escape. While thus engaged, the gong at the door sounded and Sacho entered.
"My diabolical master commands you to attend him," said the boy.
"When?" asked Aquareine.
"At once, your Majesty."
"Very well, we will follow you," she said. So they swam down the corridors following Sacho until they again reached the golden-domed room they had formerly visited. Here sat Zog just as they had left him, seemingly, but when his prisoners entered, the magician arose and stood upon his cloven feet and then silently walked to a curtained archway.
Sacho commanded the prisoners to follow, and beyond the archway they found a vast chamber that occupied the center of the castle and was as big as a ballroom. Zog, who seemed to walk with much difficulty because his ungainly body swayed back and forth, did not go far beyond the arched entrance. A golden throne was set nearby, and in this the monster seated himself. At one side of the throne stood a group of slaves. They were men, women and children. All had broad gold bands clasped around their ankles as a badge of servitude, and at each throat were the fish's gills that enabled them to breathe and live under water. Yet every face was smiling and serene, even in the presence of their dread master. In parts of the big hall were groups of other slaves.
Sacho ranged the prisoners in a circle before Zog's throne, and slowly the magician turned his eyes, glowing like live coals, upon the four. "Captives," said he, speaking in his clear, sweet voice, "in our first interview you defied me, and both the mermaid queen and the princess declared they could not die. But if that is a true statement, as I have yet to discover, there are various ways to make you miserable and unhappy, and this I propose to do in order to amuse myself at your expense. You have been brought here to undergo the first trial of strength between us." None of the prisoners replied to this speech, so Zog turned to one of his slaves and said, "Rivivi, bring in the Yell-Maker."
Rivivi was a big fellow, brown of skin and with flashing, black eyes. He bowed to his master and left the room by an archway covered with heavy draperies.