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The Top Of The Great Dome

from The Sea Fairies





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.

"I hope you're right, dear. I wouldn't want to bet on Zog's chances
jes' yet, an' at the same time it would be riskin' money to bet on
our chances. Seems to me it's a case of luck which wins."

"Don't worry, friend," said the Queen. "I have a plan to save us.
Let us wait patiently until nightfall." They waited in the Rose
Chamber a long time, talking earnestly together, but the brilliant
light that flooded both the room and the great dome outside did not
fade in the least. After several hours had passed away, the gong
sounded and Tom Atto again appeared, followed by four slaves bearing
many golden dishes upon silver trays. The friendly cook had prepared
a fine dinner, and they were all glad to find that, whatever Zog
intended to do to them, he had no intention of starving them.
Perhaps the magician realized that Aquareine's fairy powers, if put
to the test, would be able to provide food for her companions, but
whatever his object may have been, their enemy had given them
splendid rooms and plenty to eat.

"Isn't it nearly nighttime?" asked the Queen as Tom Atto spread the
table with a cloth of woven seaweed and directed his men to place
the dishes upon it.

"Night!" he exclaimed as if surprised. "There is no night here."

"Doesn't it ever get dark?" inquired Trot.

"Never. We know nothing of the passage of time or of day or night.
The light always shines just as you see it now, and we sleep
whenever we are tired and rise again as soon as we are rested."

"What causes the light?" Princess Clia asked.

"It's magic, your Highness," said the cook solemnly. "It's one of
the curious things Zog is able to do. But you must remember all this
place is a big cave in which the castle stands, so the light is
never seen by anyone except those who live here."

"But why does Zog keep his light going all the time?" asked the
Queen.

"I suppose it is because he himself never sleeps," replied Tom Atto.
"They say the master hasn't slept for hundreds of years, not since
Anko, the sea serpent, defeated him and drove him into this place."

They asked no more questions and began to eat their dinner in
silence. Before long, Cap'n Joe came in to visit his brother and
took a seat at the table with the prisoners. He proved a jolly
fellow, and when he and Cap'n Bill talked about their boyhood days,
the stories were so funny that everybody laughed and for a time
forgot their worries.

When dinner was over, however, and Cap'n Joe had gone back to his
work of sewing on buttons and the servants had carried away the
dishes, the prisoners remembered their troubles and the fate that
awaited them. "I am much disappointed," said the Queen, "to find
there is no night here and that Zog never sleeps. It will make our
escape more difficult. Yet we must make the attempt, and as we are
tired and a great struggle is before us, it will be best for us to
sleep and refresh ourselves."

They agreed to this, for the day had been long and adventurous, so
Cap'n Bill kissed Trot and went in to the Peony Room, where he lay
down upon his spongy couch and fell fast asleep. The mermaids and
Trot followed this example, and I think none of them was much
worried, after all, because they quickly sank into peaceful slumber
and forgot all the dangers that threatened them.





Next: The Queen's Golden Sword

Previous: The Magic Of The Mermaids



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