Sky Island

Page 50

"Never mind," said the Boolooroo, "I'll attend to them in a minute. I'm busy now."

"They are marching on the City," said the frightened messenger. "If you delay, Most High and Mighty One, we shall all be captured. You'd better save your City first and do your patching afterward."

"What!" roared the Boolooroo. "Dare you dictate to me?" But he was impressed by the man's logic. After locking the prisoners, who were still bound, in the Room of the Great Knife, the Ruler hurried away to assemble his soldiers. By this time the Pinkies had advanced halfway to the walls of the City, so the first thing the Boolooroo did was to order all the gates closed and locked, and then he placed a line of soldiers on the wall to prevent any of the Pinkies from climbing over. Therefore, when Cap'n Bill's army reached the wall, he was obliged to halt his ranks until he could find a way to enter the City.

Now when the Boolooroo looked through the blue-steel bars of the main gate and saw the enemy armed with sharp-pointed sticks, he began to tremble; and when he thought how painful it would be to have his body and arms and legs prodded and pricked by such weapons, he groaned aloud and was very miserable. But the thought occurred to him that if he could avoid being caught by the Pinkies, they would be unable to harm him. So he went among his people and reminded them how horrible it would feel to be punched full of holes by the invaders and urged them to fight desperately and drive the Pinkies back into the Fog Bank.

Only a few of the Blueskins were soldiers, and these all belonged to the King's bodyguard, but the citizens realized that they must indeed fight bravely to save themselves from getting hurt, so they promised the Boolooroo to do all they could. They armed themselves with long cords having weights fastened to the ends and practiced throwing these weights in such a manner that the cords would wind around their enemies. Also, they assembled in the streets in small groups and told each other in frightened whispers that all their trouble was due to the Boolooroo's cruel treatment of the Earth people. If he had received them as friends instead of making them slaves, they would never have escaped to the Pinkies and brought an army into the Blue Country that they might be revenged. The Blueskins had not liked their Boolooroo before this, and now they began to hate him, forgetting they had also treated the strangers in a very disagreeable manner.

Meantime, the Six Snubnosed Princesses had seen from their rooms in a tower of the palace the army of the Pinkies marching upon them, and the sight had served to excite them greatly. They had been quarreling bitterly among themselves all morning, and strangely enough this quarrel was all about which of them should marry Ghip-Ghisizzle. They knew that some day the Majordomo would become Boolooroo, and each one of the six had determined to marry him so as to be Queen and thus force her sisters to obey her commands. They paid no attention to the fact that Ghip-Ghisizzle did not want to marry any of them, for they had determined that when it was agreed who should have him, they would ask their father to force the man to marry.

While they quarreled in one room of the palace, Ghip-Ghisizzle was in danger of being patched in another room; but the Six Snubnosed Princesses did not know that. The arrival of the Pinkies gave them something new to talk about, so they hurried downstairs and along the corridors so as to gain the courtyard and take part in the exciting scenes. But as they passed the closed doors of the Room of the Great Knife, they heard a low moan and stopped to listen. The moan was repeated, and being curious, they unlocked the door--the key having been left on the outside--and entered the room.

At once, the Pinkies were forgotten, for there upon the floor, tightly bound, lay Ghip-Ghisizzle, and beside him poor Tiggle, who had uttered the moans.

The six Princesses sat down in a circle facing the captives, and Cerulia said, "Ghip, my dear, we will release you on one condition: That you choose a wife from among us and promise to marry the one selected as soon as the Pinkies are driven back into the Fog Bank."

Ghip-Ghisizzle managed to shake his head.

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