So the easiest way for us to compass our escape was to take away his reason for detaining us. Thus I conquered the king in my own way, and at the same time gained his gratitude and friendship."
"Will he allow us to depart in the morning?" inquired Nerle.
"I think so," said Marvel.
It was late when they rose from their slumbers; but, having breakfasted, the prince's first act was to seek the king.
"We wish to leave your kingdom," said he. "Will you let us go?"
Terribus grasped the hand of his guest and pressed it with fervor, while tears of gratitude stood in his eyes.
"I should prefer that you remain with me always, and be my friend," he answered. "But if you choose to leave me I shall not interfere in any way with your wishes."
Prince Marvel looked at him thoughtfully, and then said: "My time on this island is short. In a few months Prince Marvel will have passed out of the knowledge of men, and his name will be forgotten. Before then I hope to visit the Kingdoms of Dawna and Auriel and Plenta; so I must not delay, but beg you will permit me to depart at once."
"Very well," answered Terribus. "Come with me, and I shall show you the way."
He led the prince and Nerle to a high wall of rock, and placing his hand upon its rough surface, touched a hidden spring. Instantly an immense block of stone began to swing backward, disclosing a passage large enough for a man on horseback to ride through.
"This is the one road that leads out of my kingdom," said Terribus. "The others all begin and end at the castle. So that unless you know the secret of this passage you could never escape from Spor."
"But where does this road lead?" asked Marvel.
"To the Kingdom of Auriel, which you desire to visit. It is not a straight road, for it winds around the Land of Twi, so it will carry you a little out of your way."
"What is the Land of Twi?" inquired the prince.
"A small country hidden from the view of all travelers," said Terribus. "No one has ever yet found a way to enter the land of Twi; yet there is a rumor that it is ruled by a mighty personage called the High Ki."
"And does the rumor state what the High Ki of Twi is like?"
"No, indeed," returned the king, smiling, "so it will do you no good to be curious. And now farewell, and may good luck attend you. Yet bear in mind the fact that King Terribus of Spor owes you a mighty debt of gratitude; and if you ever need my services, you have but to call on me, and I shall gladly come to your assistance."
"I thank you," said Marvel, "but there is small chance of my needing help. Farewell, and may your future life be pleasant and happy!"
With this he sprang to the saddle of his prancing charger and, followed by Nerle, rode slowly through the stone arch. The courtiers and ladies had flocked from the palace to witness their departure, and the giants and dwarfs and Gray Men were drawn up in long lines to speed the king's guests. So it was a brilliant sight that Marvel and Nerle looked back on; but once they were clear of the arch, the great stone rolled back into its place, shutting them out completely from the Kingdom of Spor, with its turreted castle and transformed king.
13. The Hidden Kingdom of Twi
Knowing that at last they were free to roam according to their desire, the travelers rode gaily along the paths, taking but scant heed of their way.
"Our faces are set toward new adventures," remarked the prince. "Let us hope they will prove more pleasant than the last."
"To be sure!" responded Nerle. "Let us hope, at any rate, that we shall suffer more privations and encounter more trouble than we did in that mountainous Kingdom of Spor." Then he added: "For one reason, I regret you are my master."
"What is that reason?" asked the prince, turning to smile upon his esquire.
"You have a way of overcoming all difficulties without any trouble whatsoever, and that deprives me of any chance of coming to harm while in your company."
"Cheer up, my boy!" cried Marvel. "Did I not say there are new adventures before us? We may not come through them so easily as we came through the others."
"That is true," replied Nerle; "it is always best to hope." And then he inquired: "Why do you stop here, in the middle of the path?"
"Because the path has ended rather suddenly," answered Marvel.