Betsy Bobbin et al appear before Tititi-Hoochoo the next morning to hear his decision. Fortunately for them, the Jinjin is a Reasonable Authority Figure and thus is willing to overlook their involuntary passage through the forbidden Hollow Tube. (Why an all-powerful Jinjin never thought of simply closing the Tube, or piling up some logs and old mattresses to block the passage, is never explained.)
Tititi-Hoochoo declares that Ruggedo the Nome King is ultimately responsible and therefore must be punished. The punishment is pretty severe: Tititi-Hoochoo is going to send the unwilling visitors back through the Tube, accompanied by an Instrument of Vengeance, who will take away the Nome King's magic powers and drive him out of his underground kingdom to wander the surface of the earth, homeless and powerless.
That's a pretty severe punishment for dropping some trespassers into a tube.
Queen Ann Soforth is a little unhappy about being sent home without getting the chance to conquer Tititi-Hoochoo's kingdom, but is prudent enough not to force the issue.
The Instrument of Vengeance Tititi-Hoochoo has chosen is Quox, a young dragon who has gotten in trouble for being disrespectful to his ancestor, the Original Dragon who is venerated by everyone in the land beyond the Tube. Despite being a young dragon, Quox is already impressively large — large enough to carry all the travellers back through the tube in seats strapped to his back. He also, amusingly, carries an electric light on the end of his tail.
I suspect Mr. Baum imagined that Quox would be played by a piece of stage furniture — some kind of big rolling platform with a puppet head at the front. As we shall see, the Instrument of Vengeance spends a lot of time off-stage and leaves most of the avenging to his passengers.
Geek Note: according to my indispensable Dungeons & Dragons Monster Manual, a Young dragon could be a Large-sized creature, about 16 feet long from nose to the base of his tail. That's kind of small for a 24-seater. If, on the other hand, we assume Quox is a Young Adult dragon (and he is 3,056 years old) then he could be a comfortable 32 feet long, giving the travelers at least as much leg room as Southwest Airlines. (The only problem with the Young Adult dragon hypothesis is that Tik-Tok of Oz is not a Young Adult Novel. We know this because there's no pointless dystopian elements or angsty teen sex.)
With everyone aboard, Quox slides back through the Tube. But the Nome King once again has advance notice, courtesy of his servant The Long-Eared Hearer, whose abilities seem pretty obvious to the reader. Ruggedo also has a Magic Spyglass, which allows his chamberlain Kaliko to see that a Young Adult dragon is coming.
But since they can neither see nor hear any eggs, the Nome King is not afraid. All Nomes are apparently fireproof, so as long as they can chain up Quox he'll be harmless. He orders General Guph (who sadly doesn't get any spotlight time in this book) to surround the Tube entrance and wait in ambush for the dragon.
Along the way the Shaggy Man explains to Betsy how they can pass through the center of the Earth, and his explanation is entirely accurate. I really do think Mr. Baum must have consulted with a physicist about the Tube because of what the Shaggy Man says next:
"All the magic isn't in fairyland," he said gravely. "There's lots of magic in all Nature, and you may see it as well in the United States, where you and I once lived, as you can here."
We need to talk about the Shaggy Man. He first appears in The Road to Oz, stealing apples from the tree in Dorothy's front yard and trying to avoid the town of Butterfield, Kansas, and now he confirms that he is indeed a U.S. citizen. So why doesn't he have a name? Most people in the U.S. have names. None of us are known simply by adjectives. I'm James L. Cambias, not The Somewhat Above Average Height Balding Man. It would be hell to get all that onto my checks.
He has a brother, whose legal name is apparently The Shaggy Man's Brother, which is pretty hard, and shows some real lack of imagination (or too much) on the part of their parents.
There is one possibility I'd like to raise: that perhaps The Shaggy Man and His Brother actually have the surname Rogers. I suggest this because "Norville Rogers" is the given name of another famous Shaggy Man — well, Shaggy Teen, anyway — who is equally given to wandering about with strange companions and talking animals, and running afoul of magical enemies.
Back to our story. The Nome ambush fails because Quox shoots out of the Tube with such speed that he lands on a mountainside high above them. The Nomes launch a volley of spears which have no effect on the Dragon's impenetrable scales (evidently the Nomes don't have a helpful thrush to point out vulnerable spots). When that fails, Queen Ann sends her Army — or at least Tik-Tok, the only actual combatant — after them and the Nomes retreat underground.
Emboldened by this, Ann decides to invade the Nome Kingdom without Quox's help, and tells him he can go back to Tititi-Hoochoo right away, for the Nomes are as good as conquered already. Quox settles down for a nap instead, just in case he's needed after all.
Next time: pitfalls!
For two stories with large reptilian creatures in them, buy my new ebook!