When General Guph returned to the cavern of the Nome King his Majesty asked:
"Well, what luck? Will the Whimsies join us?"
"They will," answered the General. "They will fight for us with all their strength and cunning."
"Good!" exclaimed the King. "What reward did you promise them?"
"Your Majesty is to use the Magic Belt to give each Whimsie a large, fine head, in place of the small one he is now obliged to wear."
"I agree to that," said the King. "This is good news, Guph, and it makes me feel more certain of the conquest of Oz."
"But I have other news for you," announced the General.
"Good or bad?"
"Good, your Majesty."
"Then I will hear it," said the King, with interest.
"The Growleywogs will join us."
"No!" cried the astonished King.
"Yes, indeed," said the General. "I have their promise."
"But what reward do they demand?" inquired the King, suspiciously, for he knew how greedy the Growleywogs were.
"They are to take a few of the Oz people for their slaves," replied Guph. He did not think it necessary to tell Roquat that the Growleywogs demanded twenty thousand slaves. It would be time enough for that when Oz was conquered.
"A very reasonable request, I'm sure," remarked the King. "I must congratulate you, Guph, upon the wonderful success of your journey."
"But that is not all," said the General, proudly.
The King seemed astonished. "Speak out, sir!" he commanded.
"I have seen the First and Foremost Phanfasm of the Mountain of Phantastico, and he will bring his people to assist us."
"What!" cried the King. "The Phanfasms! You don't mean it, Guph!"
"It is true," declared the General, proudly.
The King became thoughtful, and his brows wrinkled.
"I'm afraid, Guph," he said rather anxiously, "that the First and Foremost may prove as dangerous to us as to the Oz people. If he and his terrible band come down from the mountain they may take the notion to conquer the Nomes!"
"Pah! That is a foolish idea," retorted Guph, irritably, but he knew in his heart that the King was right. "The First and Foremost is a particular friend of mine, and will do us no harm. Why, when I was there, he even invited me into his house."
The General neglected to tell the King how he had been jerked into the hut of the First and Foremost by means of the brass hoop. So Roquat the Red looked at his General admiringly and said:
"You are a wonderful Nome, Guph. I'm sorry I did not make you my General before. But what reward did the First and Foremost demand?"
"Nothing at all," answered Guph. "Even the Magic Belt itself could not add to his powers of sorcery. All the Phanfasms wish is to destroy the Oz people, who are good and happy. This pleasure will amply repay them for assisting us."
"When will they come?" asked Roquat, half fearfully.
"When the tunnel is completed," said the General.
"We are nearly halfway under the desert now," announced the King; "and that is fast work, because the tunnel has to be drilled through solid rock. But after we have passed the desert it will not take us long to extend the tunnel to the walls of the Emerald City."
"Well, whenever you are ready, we shall be joined by the Whimsies, the Growleywogs and the Phanfasms," said Guph; "so the conquest of Oz is assured without a doubt."
Again, the King seemed thoughtful.
"I'm almost sorry we did not undertake the conquest alone," said he. "All of these allies are dangerous people, and they may demand more than you have promised them. It might have been better to have conquered Oz without any outside assistance."
"We could not do it," said the General, positively.
"Why not, Guph?"
"You know very well. You have had one experience with the Oz people, and they defeated you."
"That was because they rolled eggs at us," replied the King, with a shudder. "My Nomes cannot stand eggs, any more than I can myself. They are poison to all who live underground."
"That is true enough," agreed Guph.
"But we might have taken the Oz people by surprise, and conquered them before they had a chance to get any eggs. Our former defeat was due to the fact that the girl Dorothy had a Yellow Hen with her. I do not know what ever became of that hen, but I believe there are no hens at all in the Land of Oz, and so there could be no eggs there."
"On the contrary," said Guph, "there are now hundreds of chickens in Oz, and they lay heaps of those dangerous eggs. I met a goshawk on my way home, and the bird informed me that he had lately been to Oz to capture and devour some of the young chickens. But they are protected by magic, so the hawk did not get a single one of them."
"That is a very bad report," said the King, nervously. "Very bad, indeed. My Nomes are willing to fight, but they simply can't face hen's eggs--and I don't blame them."
"They won't need to face them," replied Guph. "I'm afraid of eggs myself, and don't propose to take any chances of being poisoned by them. My plan is to send the Whimsies through the tunnel first, and then the Growleywogs and the Phanfasms. By the time we Nomes get there the eggs will all be used up, and we may then pursue and capture the inhabitants at our leisure."
"Perhaps you are right," returned the King, with a dismal sigh. "But I want it distinctly understood that I claim Ozma and Dorothy as my own prisoners. They are rather nice girls, and I do not intend to let any of those dreadful creatures hurt them, or make them their slaves. When I have captured them I will bring them here and transform them into china ornaments to stand on my mantle. They will look very pretty--Dorothy on one end of the mantle and Ozma on the other--and I shall take great care to see they are not broken when the maids dust them."
"Very well, your Majesty. Do what you will with the girls for all I care. Now that our plans are arranged, and we have the three most powerful bands of evil spirits in the world to assist us, let us make haste to get the tunnel finished as soon as possible."
"It will be ready in three days," promised the King, and hurried away to inspect the work and see that the Nomes kept busy.