But the four were still unharmed. The marble, being unable to touch them, was diverted from its course, and when the roar of the great crash had died away, Zog saw his intended victims standing quietly in their places and smiling scornfully at his weak attempts to destroy them.
THE TOP OF THE GREAT DOME
Cap'n Bill's heart was beating pretty vast, but he did not let Zog know that. Trot was so sure of the protection of the fairy mermaids that she would not allow herself to become frightened. Aquareine and Clia were as calm as if nothing had happened.
"Please excuse this little interruption," said Zog. "I knew very well the marble blocks would not hurt you. But the play is over for a time. You may now retire to your rooms, and when I again invite you to my presence, I shall have found some better ways to entertain you."
Without reply to this threat, they turned and followed Sacho from the hall, and the boy led them straight back to their own rooms.
"Zog is making a great mistake," said Sacho with a laugh. "He has no time for vengeance, but the great magician does not know that."
"What is he trying to do, anyway?" asked Trot.
"He does not tell me all his secrets, but I've an idea he wants to kill you," replied Sacho. "How absurd it is to be plotting such a thing when he might spend his time in laughing and being jolly! Isn't it, now?"
"Zog is a wicked, wicked creature!" exclaimed Trot.
"But he had his good points," replied Sacho cheerfully. "There is no one about in the world so bad that there is nothing good about him."
"I'm not so sure of that," said Cap'n Bill. "What are Zog's good points?"
"All his slaves were saved from drowning, and he is kind to them," said Sacho.
"That is merely the kindness of selfishness," said Aquareine. "Tell me, my lad, is the opening in the great dome outside guarded?"
"Yes indeed," was the reply. "You cannot hope to escape in that way, for the prince of the sea devils, who is the largest and fiercest of his race, lies crouched over the opening night and day, and none can pass his network of curling legs."
"Is there no avenue that is not guarded?" continued Aquareine.
"None at all, your Majesty. Zog is always careful to be well guarded, for he fears the approach of an enemy. What this enemy can be to terrify the great magician I do not know, but Zog is always afraid and never leaves an entrance unguarded. Besides, it is an enchanted castle, you know, and none in the ocean can see it unless Zog wishes him to. So it will be very hard for his enemy to find him."
"We wish to escape," said Clia. "Will you help us, Sacho?"
"In any way I can," replied the boy.
"If we succeed, we will take you with us," continued the Princess.
But Sacho shook his head and laughed. "I would indeed like to see you escape Zog's vengeance," said he, "for vengeance is wrong, and you are too pretty and too good to be destroyed. But I am happy here and have no wish to go away, having no other home or friends other than my fellow slaves."
Then he left them, and when they were again alone, Aquareine said, "We were able to escape Zog's attacks today, but I am quite sure he will plan more powerful ways to destroy us. He has shown that he knows some clever magic, and perhaps I shall not be able to foil it. So it will be well for us to escape tonight if possible."
"Can you fight and conquer the big sea devil up in the dome?" asked Trot.
The queen was thoughtful, and did not reply to this question at once. But Cap'n Bill said uneasily, "I can't abide them devil critters, an' I hopes, for my part, we won't be called on to tackle 'em. You see, Trot, we're in consider'ble of a bad mess, an' if we ever live to tell the tale--"
"Why not, Cap'n?" asked the child. "We're safe enough so far. Can't you trust our good friend, the queen?"
"She don't seem plumb sure o' things herself," remarked the sailor. "The mermaids is all right an' friendly, mate, but this 'ere magic maker, ol' Zog, is a bad one, out 'n' out, an' means to kill us if he can."
"But he can't!" cried Trot bravely.