When last we left Our Heroes, the villainous Nome King had just transformed the Shaggy Man into a dove, transformed the Rose Princess Ozga into a fiddle (not that anyone really cares), chained up Quox the dragon, and was preparing to force Polychrome to marry him and stay in the underground kingdom forever! How will they escape this dreadful peril?
Pretty quickly, actually. Mr. Baum throws away all possible suspense and tension by just resolving all the problems by magic. Quox reveals that his gaudy rap-singer amulet was enchanted by Tititi-Hoochoo and has neutralized Ruggedo's magic powers. He pops it open and a half a dozen animated eggs emerge. Nomes dread eggs above all else, and the animated eggs drive all of Ruggedo's henchmen out of the throne room before chasing the sinister monarch out of the kingdom altogether. The dragon's amulet also reverses the enchantments wrought by Ruggedo, so that the Shaggy Man is no longer a dove and the Rose Princess Ozga is no longer a fiddle (not that it makes much difference).
Kaliko fetches Betsy and Hank from their hiding place, and then the dragon appoints him to be the new Nome King in place of Ruggedo. The villain is defeated, all is well, so the book must be over, right?
Nope. This odd mid-book climax is sort of a call-back to the original Oz book, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. Most people don't remember (because they're thinking of the movie) but in that novel the Wicked Witch is defeated and the Wizard flies away about two-thirds of the way through the book, and then there's a lot of tedious filler before Dorothy actually gets back to Kansas.
It's hard to figure out why Mr. Baum does that in this story, since it's apparently recycled from the very neatly-plotted Ozma of Oz. One would think that a stage play would put an even greater premium on building to a suspenseful and satisfying climax in the last act.
Anyway, having defeated the villain, Our Heroes go searching for the Shaggy Man's brother and the Army of Oogaboo. Quox, his mission accomplished, slides off back to the other side of the world via the Hollow Tube.
Ex-King Ruggedo inadvertently leads them to the Shaggy Man's brother, because he sneaks back to fill his pockets with jewels in the Metal Forest, a vast underground treasury where SMB is also imprisoned. Polychrome spots him entering via a secret door (Difficulty Class 20, according to my D&D books, but Nomes probably have the same +2 racial bonus to find secret doors that Dwarves have).
Within the Metal Forest, Polychrome, Shaggy, Betsy et al come across the Officer Corps of Oogaboo in the process of roughing up ex-King Ruggedo. Queen Ann and the other Oogabooicans are all tattered because of their long crawl over sharp rocks in the tunnel, and are desperate to find a way out of the Metal Forest, even though it is full of the kind of plunder they went out into the world to acquire by conquest.
Ruggedo is sent off to exile again — this time with his pockets full of jewels, so at least his retirement will be well-financed — and our heroes push onward. They find the Shaggy Man's brother after exactly zero searching and difficulty, but now a new problem arises: the ex-Nome King Ruggedo enchanted him to make him horribly ugly, and thanks to Tititi-Hoochoo's punishment there is no way for that enchantment to be reversed! The poor Ugly One (as the Nomes dubbed him) has to wear a mask to hide his face.
We also get some more recycled material: remember the lunch-box and dinner-pail trees in Ozma of Oz? L. Frank Baum did. One corner of the Metal Forest is a grove of trees bearing Three-Course Nuts, which come in three sections. One part is soup, one part is the entree, and last is the dessert. It was a neat idea the first time, and it's still a neat idea. Baum's description of the trees in Ozma is much more detailed and interesting. That's a problem I keep noticing in this book: Baum is, frankly, phoning it in. Things are told rather than shown, problems are resolved with disappointing quickness, as if he's in a hurry to just get the thing over with.
They stumble across Ruggedo again and he reveals the secret of reversing the uglification enchantment: the kiss of a Mortal Maid who had once been a Fairy, or maybe one who still is a Fairy, or still a Mortal; he can't remember now that he has lost his powers. Fortunately, the team includes Betsy (Mortal Maid), Ozga (Mortal Maid and ex-Fairy), and Polychrome (full-time Fairy with salary and benefits). The third time is the charm, so to speak, so the Ugly One can resume his true identify as The Shaggy Man's Brother.
Good-hearted Kaliko agrees to let Ruggedo stay on as a common Nome, the Rainbow descends nearby and Polychrome rejoins her sisters (no doubt with a reprise of the Daughters of the Rainbow dance number from the first act).
Poor Betsy, Hank, Shaggy, His Brother, Tik-Tok, Ozga, ex-Pfc. Files, Queen Ann, and the Oogaboolitans bemoan the fact that they are stuck in the Nome Kingdom so far from home. Ann in particular is ready to give up conquering the world and wants to return to her little kingdom.
I'm not sure why this is the case. Her campaign has been almost uniformly victorious. Aside from having to crawl through a rocky tunnel and tear up her spiffy uniform, she hasn't really endured any hardship, and the raid on the Nome Kingdom brought her to the Metal Forest, where jewels and precious metals literally grow on trees. Compared to Ann, her predecessor Cecil Rhodes was a failure at imperialism.
Next Time: Wizardry Ex Machina!
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