BETSY BOBBIN IN YARTRALIA
An Oz Tale
by Nathan M. DeHoff
(Revised and expanded version: 8/6/15)
"Friends, we are gathered here today to unite Prince Zaln and Lady Betsy Bobbin in matrimony."
The Justice of the Peace, an old man in a white wig and a red robe that reached past his feet, addressed a large group of Quadling nobles. The bride, who was dressed in a white lace dress with a long train held by a female hobgoblin, looked indignant, but also frightened. The groom was crying, and they were not tears of joy. However, the groom's parents, the King and Queen of the country, were exceedingly happy that their son was marrying such an important person. Betsy, as you may know, is a good friend of Queen Ozma of Oz. She was currently regretting the time that she had been bored.
In order to understand Betsy's situation, I must tell of the aforementioned time. It was twelve forty-one on a Thursday afternoon, and the residents of Ozma's Palace had just finished eating lunch. Everyone was returning to work or play. Everyone, that is, except for Betsy Bobbin. Betsy was in one of those bored moods. She did not feel like playing a game, or reading a book, or drawing a picture, or doing anything, for that matter. She decided to take a walk around the Emerald City, and see if she could find anything interesting to do. Betsy went to her splendid rooms, and put on a hat and some comfortable shoes. Then, after rushing through the beautiful halls of the Emerald Palace, she exited the building through the wide-open front doorway. The expansive palace grounds were filled with people playing croquet, shuttle-cock, tennis, ozball, and many other outdoor games, but Betsy did not feel like participating in any of these. The young lady left the courtyard, and continued on down Strawberry Street, where strawberries grew on either side of the road. Many people were out on the streets, pushing their purchases around in shopping carts.
After waving to Jenny Jump and Number Nine, who were sitting on the patio of Jenny's famous Style Shop, Betsy turned onto Banana Boulevard. The Emerald City Opera House was on this street, and a sign outside of this building made it known that the Munchkin opera Lurline and Enilrul was playing on that night. Betsy Bobbin strolled around the city for another hour and forty minutes, and saw the Public Library of Oz, the Emerald City Arcade, the Ozmapolitan Building, Pancake Park, the Emerald City Art Museum, the Really Big Green Arch, the Great Crystal Banquet Hall, and Nothing But Pens, among other sights. Finally, she came to a small café, and decided she might want a bite to eat.
Betsy entered this shop, and she noticed that her old friend Carter Green was talking to a group of about twenty interested Ozites. Carter was telling about the time when he had been a traveling vegetable vendor. During these years, Carter had eaten many vegetables, and had eventually turned into an odd being with a potato body, a head, a turnip nose, and corn ears. He then decided to live in the Emerald City, and he rarely left the beautiful capital of Oz.
“And then,” the Vegetable Man was saying, “the King bought all five hundred of my cabbages. Ah, those were the days.”
“Hello, Carter,” said Betsy.
“Hello, Betsy. And how are you today?”
“Actually, I'm rather bored. But your story gave me an idea of something to do. Maybe we could travel through Oz and sell vegetables for a while.”
“That's an excellent idea, my dear. I haven’t made any rounds in years. I suppose we wouldn’t really be doing any selling, but we could certainly distribute them to people who live places where they don't grow so readily. When should we leave?”
“Well, you'll need to get some vegetables.”
“I can get them from my personal garden at the Palace.”
“And where are we going to go to distribute them?”
“I’ll tell ya where you should go,” said the small and unusual-looking man behind the counter, who bore orange skin and horns. “My old home, Yartralia, in the Quadling Country, to try to talk some sense into the King. It used to be a fine place for our kind, but now they’re all slaves.”
“Slavery’s outlawed in Oz!” exclaimed Betsy.
“Perhaps it's all just a misunderstanding," said Carter. "We'll straighten it out, and while we’re talking to the King we can distribute some vegetables in his court.”
“That sounds like a good plan," said Betsy. "But if this king is playing dirty, Ozma will hear of it! Why don't you go get the vegetables now, and then meet me back here? I'll have a bite to eat.”
Carter agreed to this plan, and set out for the Emerald Palace. Betsy Bobbin ordered a cup of tea and a jelly doughnut from the orange proprietor, and waited for the Vegetable Man's return. Betsy wanted to ask what kind of being he was, but the shop was busy this morning, and soon enough Carter came back with a cart full of cabbages, tomatoes, carrots, potatoes, apples, radishes, and various other vegetables, all from his garden.
“Well, shall we go?” inquired the girl, as she finished her cup of tea.
“All right. Where is this Yartralia, anyway?”
“Down on the Quadling River, near Green Mountain,” answered the goblin, handing over two cups of tea and muffins to a bipedal fox and his mate visiting the Emerald City.
“Wait,” stated the girl, as Carter Green began exiting the shop. “We should probably let Ozma know where we're going to be?”
“I told the Glass Cat about our journey when I met her in the hall, and Ozma can always use the Magic Picture to find us.”
So Betsy and the Vegetable Man walked out of the doughnut shop, and on to the south gate of the Emerald City. It did not take long to get there, since the café was in the southern part of town. When they did, the Guardian of the Gates asked where the two travelers were headed.
“We're going to distribute vegetables in the Quadling Country,” replied Carter.
“Have a good time, and come back soon.” And the Guardian opened the large portals of the City gate.
There was a road of yellow brick leading toward the south, and the girl and the Vegetable Man followed this through the pleasant green country surrounding the City of Emeralds. Not too far down the road was a red archway, and just beyond this was the famous red Quadling Nation of Oz. Turning off the main road at the path to Story-Blossom Mountain, they then took a trail around the Quadling Forest. By evening, they could see Green Mountain, a somewhat odd sight in the mostly red land, in the distance. They spent the night with a friendly forester in the area, who gladly accepted some of Carter’s vegetables as trade. In the morning, the travelers soon came to a signpost, with arrows pointing in many different directions, each one indicating the way to some small Quadling realm. One road did indeed lead to Yartralia, and it was straight and level, with various types of trees and flowers growing on either side. When the two were only two miles from their destination, a sign relayed this information. And on top of the sign-post was a half-asleep red bird.
“Good afternoon,” said Carter to the bird.
The bird promptly awakened the rest of the way. When it noticed the Vegetable Man, it gave a loud squawk and, pointing at Carter with its right wing, asked, “What in Oz are you?”
“I'm a Vegetable Man.”
“A Vegetable Man? A Vegetable Man made of vegetables? What an odd being!” And the bird began to laugh loudly, in its squawking voice.
“Don't laugh!” said Betsy sternly. “Carter may be odd, but he's a good friend of mine. Besides, it's not polite to laugh at someone different than you.”
The creature, much chagrined by this, quickly calmed down, and said, “I guess you're right. After all, I'm rather peculiar myself.”
“You seem like an ordinary Quadling bird to me.”
“Oh, but I'm not.” And the bird stretched out its neck, until its head easily reached the ground. It then grew an extra leg, and turned its feathers from red to golden yellow. The bird's left eye circled around its right eye, and came to rest on the top of its head. “How's this for peculiar?” it asked.
“How in the Land of Oz did you do that?” asked Carter, as soon as he was able to speak.
“It's easy,” replied the odd bird, “if you're the former subject of a wicked witch's experiment.”
“Which witch experimented on you?” inquired Betsy.
“A witch named Gharna the Two-Eyed, who used to live in these parts,” replied the creature, as it returned its neck to its original size.
“Two-eyed? Aren’t most people two-eyed?”
“Yes, but Gharna was different. She was born with three eyes, and lost one of them.”
“And is she still around here?”
“No, my lady. Not for a long time. She somehow fell into a river, and that was the end of her. By the way, I haven't introduced myself. My name is Qualf, and I was originally a regular Quadling redbird, but that witch's magic gave me my powers. What are your names?”
“I'm Carter Green,” answered the Vegetable Man.
“And I'm Betsy Bobbin,” stated the girl. “We're both from the Emerald City. Well, I’m orig’nally from Oklahoma, and Carter is from the Winkie Country, but we’ve lived in the city for years.”
“Yes,” began Carter. “I was originally an ordinary Winkie vegetable man, but, after eating a great deal of my produce, I turned into my current self. I really have quite a convenient form. I can live on sunlight and water, and I never need to sleep.”
“How curious,” said the bird, unsure about his tale. “I consider my current form a definite improvement over my former one, as well. With my magical powers, I can accomplish a great deal of tasks that an ordinary bird cannot.” As Qualf changed the color of his feathers back to red, he asked, “Where are you two headed, anyway?”
“We were going to Yartralia,” answered Betsy.
“Yartralia, eh? Well, I've never actually been there, myself. I've flown over it a few times, however, and it doesn't seem too different than most Quadling Kingdoms, except for the goblins that walk the streets. They’re the slaves of the human inhabitants.”
“Goblins?” shuddered Betsy.
“Do you know anything about the Ruler of Yartralia and why they made these goblins their slaves?” questioned Carter.
“No, except for the fact that he lives in a stone castle about a mile out of town.”
“Well, then, I suppose we'll be on our way. It was nice meeting you, Qualf.”
“Wait a minute. Do you think I could journey with you? My powers could help you out if you get into a dangerous situation.”
“We'd be glad to have you come along, Qualf,” said Betsy.
So Qualf, who by now had reverted to his original form, flew along beside the Emerald City-ites. During the journey, the girl and the Vegetable Man told the red-bird about life in the capital of Oz.
“Well, I'll have to visit the City someday,” stated Qualf. “Hey! We're in Yartralia!”
Sure enough, the travelers had crossed a white line painted on the red ground, and were now within the limits of Yartralia. There were many red stone buildings along the street, and people, dressed in plain red clothes, were entering and exiting these buildings, just as in most towns.
“Excuse me, Sir,” said Carter to a man. “Could you tell us the way to the Royal Castle?”
“The Royal Castle?” said the man, in a surprised tone. "Why would you want to go there?”
“I would like to inform your Rulers that we’ll be distributing some of my fine produce,” replied Carter, as he waved a hand over his cart.
“Well, suit yourself, but most of us stay away from the Castle, and I would advise you to do the same.”
“Why?” asked Betsy Bobbin. “Are your Rulers unpleasant?”
“It's not that. It's just that our King and Queen are very class-minded. The poor folk live in this area, and the rich live farther up the road, near the Castle. I'm not sure how the nobles would react to peddlers in their part of town.”
“They don't sound very nice," said the bird.
"Well, in any case we're not peddlers," explained the Vegetable Man. "We're close personal friends of Ozma of Oz.”
“In that case, the nobles might be a little more interested in your wares. Just keep going up this road, and you'll reach the Castle of our King.”
Carter thanked the man, and the merchant, the young lady, and the bird continued down the road. Soon, the stone buildings became larger and more magnificent, and the clothes of the people became trimmed with gold and silver. In addition to people, goblins could be seen on the streets. The goblins dressed in rags, and they were usually carrying things for the humans. Betsy noticed that they looked like the proprietor from the shop where she ate he doughnut.
"So, that's why he sent us here," she said. "I hope this wasn't a mistake coming here. Goblins are dangerous creatures."
“There's the castle,” declared Qualf, as he used a wing to point to the building at the end of the road.
Now, Betsy and Carter had lived in the Emerald Palace for many years, and their companion had seen the Yartralian castle before, so none of the three visitors were extremely impressed with the red stone building that stood in front of them. However, they did believe that it was a fine castle for a small kingdom of which few outsiders had ever heard.
While the Vegetable Man, the girl, and the bird were approaching the royal dwelling, the King of Yartralia was engaged in a conversation with his Chief Advisor. The Ruler wanted to marry his son to a rich and important lady of Oz, but had been having several problems with this plan.
“I cannot believe my rebellious son would even think of marrying a goblin,” stated the King. “He knows full well that the traditions must be maintained, and that he must marry a noblewoman.”
“He must be taunting you,” said the Advisor. “Everyone knows goblins are nasty creatures incapable of love. Besides, the marriage to an important noblewoman will give the Kingdom a more important place in the Land of Oz.”
“Yet my son refuses. Truth be told, I’ve failed in finding a suitable wife for him.”
“Well, we cannot expect a foreign noblewoman to simply walk into the castle door.”
At that moment, a knock could be heard at the front door of the castle, which was not far from the Advisor's room. The Advisor, closely followed by the King, walked out into the parlor. Neither of these men was expecting any visitors, and the two certainly did not expect what met their eyes when a goblin servant opened the front door. A pretty but dusty young girl with red-blonde hair, a redbird, and what appeared to be a walking salad with a vegetable cart walked into the palace.
“What are you peasants doing in my castle?” demanded the King.
“How dare you!” cried Betsy.
“They are rude,” said the bird.
“We're not peasants,” replied Carter Green.
“Then what are you?” questioned the Advisor.
“I am a Vegetable Man, who has distributed vegetables to some of the most important Rulers in Oz. I am also a friend of our beloved Queen, Ozma of Oz.”
“If you say so,” stated the Advisor, in a rather indifferent and disbelieving tone. “We’re not interested in purchasing your wares here. Now go away!”
“We’re not salespeople!” said Betsy, growing annoyed. “There’s hardly any money in Oz anyway. We’re just here to distribute vegetables to your people.”
“And who is this impertinent little girl?”
“This impertinent girl is Betsy Bobbin,” replied that person. “And who exactly are you?”
When the Advisor heard this, he became very excited, and he ushered the King back into his room. He then closed and locked the door, and breathlessly addressed his sovereign.
“Don’t you know who that girl is?” asked the counsellor.
“Someone of low birth, clearly,” was the King's irritated reply “What does it matter to us?”
“She is Betsy Bobbin, an honorary princess and one of the close personal friends of Queen Ozma. If your son married her, it could start a new period of prosperity in Yartralia.”
“By Lurline, that is wonderful! And you just said that a foreign noblewoman wouldn't just walk in the door.”
“Well, I can't always be right. No one can, except, of course, Your Majesty.”
“Wisely spoken. Come along, Naltronius, and we shall make the necessary wedding arrangements.”
“But what if Betsy refuses?” inquired Naltronius, who had just thought of this possibility.
“Why would she refuse? I'll make her a generous offer.”
With that, the King stepped back out into the parlor, where the visitors had been waiting patiently. The Ruler of Yartralia walked up to Betsy, and asked, “Princess Betsy, would you marry my son, Prince Zaln?”
“Marry your son?" echoed Betsy, in disbelief. "I only just got here, and I don't know you or your son!”
“You'll meet him soon enough,” said the monarch carelessly.
“I don't wish to marry anyone, let alone your son! And I’m too young anyway!”
“You’re about the same age I was when I got married. And this would be a wonderful opportunity for you. My son is an outstanding young man, and I would give you twenty goblin slaves for a wedding present.”
“Slaves!” exclaimed Betsy, but the king was no longer listening. She was beginning to feel uneasy. She had encountered many sovereigns in the past, but none of them had asked her to marry a complete stranger, or offered her living beings as presents. So Betsy walked up to the King, opened the castle door, and said with barely constrained indignation, “Thank you for your offer, but I refuse. And I really must be going now. Goodbye, Your Majesty.”
Now, the King of Yartralia, like many other monarchs, had a short temper; and Betsy's refusal made him quite angry. He called for his guards, and several large pig-headed orcs, each dressed in silver armor, rushed into the room.
“Seize the girl!” commanded the sovereign.
“Odds Goblins!” shouted Qualf, as the guards rushed toward the party of visitors. “Is this how you treat all your guests?” And the bird's head promptly turned around in several full circles.
“The bird is possessed!” exclaimed Naltronius.
“No, I'm just bewitched,” said the redbird, laughing, as he began pecking at the faces of the orc guards. Carter followed Qualf's example, and started throwing vegetables at the soldiers. However, the orcs eventually overcame the visitors.
“Keep the girl in a safe place, take the bird to the Royal Exorcist, and throw the fighting salad in prison!” ordered the King of Yartralia.
As the guards hurried off to obey their Ruler's orders, the King himself rushed to the Royal Chambers, so that he could tell his wife and son of the upcoming marriage. Naltronius returned to his room, and drank a cup of strong Quadling tea.
Betsy was placed in a seldom-used room of the castle. This chamber was elegantly furnished, with red rugs and golden tables and chairs. There was a fireplace on one side of the room, and the other three walls contained tightly locked doors. The girl considered trying to climb out through the chimney, but she realized that this would be extremely difficult and dangerous if she well, so she decided it was wisest to wait for something to happen. There were several books on a shelf of red wood, and Betsy read from one of these.
About an hour later, an orc opened one of the doors of the room. This orc was escorting a young man with reddish-brown hair and a red crown. The guard announced, “Since you two are going to be married tomorrow, the King thought that you should get to know each other. Have fun.”
With that, the orc guard pushed the boy into the chamber, and slammed the door shut. The young man asked, “Are you Princess Betsy Bobbin of Oz?”
“Well, yes,” replied Betsy, “but you can just call me Betsy. Ozma made me an honorary princess, but I don’t use the title much.”
“Well, I’m sorry, but I don't want to marry you!”
“You don't?” asked Betsy, who was surprised at this remark.
“No! My father wants me to marry you, just because you're rich and important.”
Now, Betsy Bobbin was rich and important, but she did not often think of herself as such. Therefore, she told the Prince, “I suppose I am, but I don't see what that has to do with anything.”
“Father thinks that marrying me to an Ozian celebrity will increase the importance of his Kingdom. He doesn't care how I feel about it.”
“He doesn't sound like a very good father.”
“Oh, no. He's usually a wonderful father, and a good ruler, too. It's just that he's so set on making Yartralia well-known.”
“A good ruler doesn’t enslave his people,” she retorted. “Why didn't he just send an ambassador to Ozma? If he’d comply with the law, I'm sure she’d do what she could to make this Kingdom more famous.”
“Actually, that's not the only reason father wants me to marry you. He also doesn't think Litra is a proper match for me.”
“Who is Litra?”
“She's the one I truly love. When father said I had to marry, I immediately told him I would ask Litra. But he refused.”
“Because she's a peasant, and she’s part goblin. Father doesn’t want me to marry a peasant, and thinks the goblins aren’t worth of anything other than the labor they give us.”
“Hold on a minute. What are goblins doing in Oz anyway? Aren’t they usually violent or serving some evil overlord?”
“Not the ones living here, not most anyway. As far as I know, and that’s all from Yartralia’s history books, these goblins are an offshoot of their more vicious cousins, most of whom were wiped out ages ago. They survived because their governor sought out a better path for them, and being granted clemency from a fairy, were sent to Oz, where they settled here. My father says they’re doing penance for their ancient crimes and that it’s a kindness that we’re allowing them to serve us.”
“Well, that's ridiculous.”
“I think so too, but both of my parents are kind of snobbish, and don't seem to like the lower classes.”
“There are no lower classes in Oz! There are no classes at all. It's no wonder your kingdom is so ill-regarded if you and your people don’t know that.”
“Well, you didn’t know there was such a thing as good goblins. I've known that for years.”
Betsy paused to look at him. “Yeah, I guess you have a point. Alright, how ‘bout a truce?”
“Truce,” the boy echoed.
“Good. Well, as soon as I can get out of here, I'm going back to the Emerald City to tell Ozma about this situation and the way your father treats the goblins.”
“You’ll have to do it soon. We're supposed to be married tomorrow!”
Before Betsy could reply, an orc opened a door, rushed into the room, and grabbed the Prince. A smaller goblin, who was carrying a tray of food, also entered. The goblin set the tray on a golden table, and both servants bowed, and left the chamber.
“I certainly hope Carter and Qualf will find some way out of this Kingdom,” thought Betsy, as she started to eat the food that the goblin had left. “Ozma can always look in the Magic Picture and bring me back, but I don’t know what she’s doing now.”
The guards had immediately taken Qualf to a room in the back of the castle, where the Royal Exorcist lived and worked. This man, who wore a white wig, spent most of his time reading books about demonic possession, and studying ways to drive away demons. However, he rarely had a chance to practice what he learned. Therefore, the Royal Exorcist was quite thrilled when an orc guard opened the door of his room, and said, “Here's a possessed bird for you. Do whatever it is you do with him.”
“So, you're a possessed bird?” questioned the Exorcist, clapping on his spectacles to get a good look at Qualf.
“No! I don't know what it is with you people,” replied the bird. Once again, Qualf's head spun around in a circle.
“Oh, you're certainly possessed.”
“No, I'm not.”
“I know a possessed bird when I see one, and you are one, whether you want to admit it or not. Head-spinning is a sure sign of demonic possession.”
“I'm not possessed, just bewitched,” insisted Qualf.
“Same difference! And another sure sign of demonic possession is denying that one is possessed.”
“There's just no convincing you, is there?” asked the redbird, as he spun one eye around the other. “All right, suppose I am possessed. What do you do with possessed birds?”
“Why, drive the demons out, of course.”
“And how do you drive demons out?”
“First, I'll drill a hole in your head,” said the Royal Exorcist, as he opened a drawer.
“Oh no, you’re not! You're as nutty as a squirrel’s stash!”
“Ah, here we are,” stated the Exorcist, who had paid no attention to the bird's comment. “A holy drill, blessed by the fairies. Now, don't move, and this won't hurt very much. Or maybe it will. I haven’t tested it on anyone before.”
Now, wounds to Qualf's flesh would heal quite rapidly, because of the bird's strange powers. However, the redbird did not relish the idea of a hole being drilled in his head, so he stretched his right leg, opened a window, and flew out of the castle.
“Come back here, you possessed bird!” shouted the Exorcist, as he waved his drill in the air. “Help! Someone! There's a possessed bird loose in Yartralia!”
“Now, where are Betsy and Carter?” pondered Qualf, as soon as he was safely away from the castle. “That King told his guards to put Betsy in a safe place and Carter in prison. I don't know what that safe place might be, but I can probably find the prison.”
Although Yartralia is not a very big Kingdom, it took all night and most of the next morning for Qualf to locate the prison. When he reached it, two orcs were leading a man into the old stone building. They led him to the cell that contained Carter Green, threw him in, and locked the door.
“What are you in for?” asked Carter.
“I'm a debtor,” was the Yartralian's reply. “And a half-goblin debtor, at that. What about you?”
“I'm not really sure. I went into the castle to let the King know I’d be distributing vegetables to the Kingdom. He asked my friend Betsy if she wanted to marry his son. When she refused, he had his guards attack us. They threw me in here.”
“Is Betsy rich and powerful?”
“Well, I suppose you could say that. She's a good friend of Queen Ozma's. Why do you ask?”
“Prince Zaln, the King's son, once told me he wanted to marry my daughter Litra. I accepted, but the Prince returned the next day, and told me that the King would never let him marry my daughter, as she was a peasant and a filthy goblin. She’s only a quarter goblin, but that’s enough for him. The King wants his son to marry someone rich and powerful, which is probably why he asked this Betsy.”
“I don't know what kind of a King would throw someone in prison because his friend refused to marry the Prince. He reminds me of that Pasha of Rash. Now, there was an unpleasant monarch.” Carter explained to him a short version of their adventures of long ago.
“Our King’s laws are quite strict, but he’s always claimed he didn’t write them. I don’t think that’s true, though. My great grandfather, a full-blooded goblin, was an official at the court of his grandfather, King Zallary. When King Zalron took the throne, though, he was removed from the court and forced to work as a carpenter. All of the goblins were threatened with exile or worse if they didn’t submit to the King. Some rebelled. It was a bad time for our people, as we had renounced violence before we’d come to Oz. In the end Zalron prevailed.”
“That’s quite unfortunate. This King sounds more like the rulers of the outside world that I’d heard of. I promise you that as soon as Betsy and I get back to the Emerald City, we'll tell Ozma about your King.”
“Are you sure you'll ever get back?”
“I don't know,” answered Carter Green, as he sat dejectedly on a bench. “I checked this entire room, and couldn't find a way out of here. By the way, do you want some bread? The guard left bread and water in here last night, but I don't need to eat. It seems a little stale, though.”
“That’s all right. I like it a little stale. My goblin stomach and all.”
As the debtor began to eat the bread, Qualf flew quietly through a barred window. It was an easy task for the bewitched bird to squeeze through the bars, and he was soon hovering in front of the Vegetable Man.
“Qualf!” exclaimed Carter, trying to keep his voice as quiet as possible. “How did you get in here?”
“The King's guards took me to some loony Exorcist,” was the bird's answer. “I escaped when he was about to drill a hole in my head. Then I flew around town, looking for the prison, and I finally found it.”
“But how did you get through the bars?” questioned the Vegetable Man's cellmate.
“Who are you?” inquired Qualf.
“I'm Tremnus, son of Trarf, a carpenter. When I couldn't pay my bills, the King had me thrown in here.”
“Pay your bill!” said the bird, astounded. “The only bills in Oz are the ones on duck’s heads.”
“And there’s a Cap’n Bill too,” offered the Vegetable Man.
“This king is certainly a looney,” said Qualf. “Tremnus, since you’ve confided in me, I will tell you that I was the test subject of a wicked witch. Among the powers she gave me was the ability to squeeze through bars.”
“So if you can get out, then we can escape!” said the Vegetable Man excitedly.
“But we can't just rush out without a plan. The King would just have his orcs throw you in here again.”
“We could go to the Emerald City and get help from Ozma.”
“But what about your friend Betsy?” asked Tremnus.
“Ozma will be able to help her, too.”
“By the time you reach Queen Ozma, it may be too late. Last night, a messenger told the townspeople that Prince Zaln would be married on this very afternoon. Despite your friend's refusal, the King is probably going to marry his son to Betsy.”
“Then we must stop the wedding!” shouted Qualf.
“How will we do that?” inquired Carter.
“I'm not sure yet, but I'll think of something. You have not yet seen the full extent of my powers.”
With that, the redbird squeezed through the bars at the front of the cell, and examined the lock. He then found a guard, snatched this orc's keys, and flew back to the cell. Qualf unlocked the door, and Carter pushed it open. The bird led the Vegetable Man and the carpenter to the front door of the prison, knocking down all of the guards with his strong beak. Fortunately, the prison was not as heavily guarded as the castle.
“Now, where would they hold the wedding?” inquired Qualf, as soon as the prisoners had escaped.
“Probably in the chapel next to the castle,” replied Tremnus. “My grandfather and father helped build it years ago.”
So Qualf and Carter followed the carpenter to the chapel. The orc prison guards had been unable to spread the alarm, so no one attempted to hinder the two men and the bird. When they finally reached the small building, they hurried through the double-doors, and into the chapel, where a great wedding was being held.
Since there were no beds in the room in which Betsy had been locked, the girl slept on a rug. In the morning, she awoke to find herself surrounded by inhabitants of the castle. They were all eager to meet the lady who would soon be Princess of Yartralia. A few artists were attempting to paint pictures of her, and complained when she moved. A maid rushed up to Betsy Bobbin, with a tape-measure in her hands.
“Let me measure you for your wedding dress, my dear,” said the castle maid.
“Isn't she going to wear my dress?” questioned the Queen.
“I want to make sure it will fit her,” replied the maid, as she made various measurements. “Yes, it will. I'll get it down from the attic, and help you try it on, dear.”
“Here's your breakfast, Lady Betsy,” stated the same goblin who had served the girl's dinner, as he placed a tray covered with the full complement of the breakfast tree in front of Betsy.
She decided to hold her tongue and look for a way out. Soon after she’d finished her breakfast, the castle's inhabitants left the room, securely locking the doors after themselves. An hour later, the maid who had measured Betsy ran into the room, carrying a white lace dress, which she handed to the girl from the Emerald City. The maid was a young, red-haired woman with somewhat pointed ears and a hint of orange to her skin, and Betsy didn’t blame her for doing her job, but remained incensed and unmoving no less.
“Just see if it fits—why whatever’s the matter, dear?” asked the maid, after seeing the stony look on Betsy’ face.
“I have no intention of marrying your Prince,” replied Betsy, firmly, “and for what it’s worth he doesn't want to marry me either. Yet your King insists.”
The maid looked around and lowered her voice to a whisper. “King Zalron is like that. He’d always insisted on having his own way. Sometimes he goes too far. I don't see why he had to lock you in this room.”
“Can you get me out? I must reach my friend Ozma and let her know what’s been happening here, not just to me, but to your people. There should be no slaves in Oz!”
The maid looked around again and sighed, nodding her head. “Come on. I can’t promise you anything, but I'll take you to the servants' quarters and introduce you to my friends. Maybe they’ll have an idea”
The maid led Betsy to a room where many female servants, both human and hobgoblin, and many apparently a mix, were chatting in low tones about the upcoming wedding. When they saw the lady who was to marry the Prince, they all stopped talking, and with anxious looks, curtseyed, and said, “Good morning, Your Highness.”
“No need for that. Just call me Betsy. I’m only an honorary princess anyway, and before that I was just a girl from outside world.”
“Well, you'll soon be a Princess of Yartralia,” stated one of the hobgoblin maidens.
“Actually, she won’t. She refuses to marry Prince Zaln,” said the maid who had led Betsy to the servants' quarters.
“King Zalron didn't want to marry Queen Elenna, either,” declared an old woman, “but they seem to get along fairly well.”
“The Prince wishes to marry someone else, too,” said Betsy.
“Well, I don't see how you can get out of it,” stated a hobgoblin. “If the King discovered that we were even having this conversation… well, we would all be in great trouble, you as milady.”
“Is there no secret way out of the castle? There’s usually some way out.”
“Several of our people have tried. We discovered in some books how the rest of Oz lives, and knew then that the King had been lying to us. But there’s no way out. His orc guards have been trained by his father, and are more like our wicked ancestors whose ways we escaped. They won’t hesitate to stop you if they catch you. I’m sorry, your highness, besides the front door there is no way out of Yartralia.”
Betsy looked forlorn, but refused to give up. “Perhaps Carter and Qualf will find a way to get me out before the wedding.”
“Who are they?”
So Betsy Bobbin told the maids about her journey to Yartralia. When she had finished, one of the women wanted to know more about the Vegetable Man, so the Emerald Cityite told of Carter's known origins, and how she had met the odd man on the streets of the capital and their journey to Rash together. She then explained how she had first come to Oz, after a shipwreck with Hank the Mule and an adventure in the Nome Kingdom. While she was describing Tititi-Hoochoo's Fairyland, which she had visited on her first major journey, a goblin brought luncheon for the maids. Betsy also ate some of the food, and when the ladies had finished eating, the goblin returned to collect the dishes. It was then that he notified Betsy and the maids that the wedding was about to begin.
Betsy nearly collapsed, but she held on, refusing to cry or give in to despair. One way or another she would gain back her freedom. When the maidens reached the chapel, they saw that it was already filled with Yartralian nobles. The maids took Betsy to a room in the back of the chapel, where the girl from the Emerald City was helped on with her lace dress, and two maids styled her hair. Nizka, the first maid whom Betsy had met, helped the bride-to-be into some intricate red shoes. A hobgoblin then lifted Betsy's train, and just like that, the girl began to walk down the aisle. Zaln soon appeared at her side, if anything looking even paler. He eyed Betsy, as if to say he was sorry. The would-be bride and groom were soon in front of the altar. Betsy looked around in hope that something would happen to stop this, that someone would come in to prevent this miscarriage of her and Zaln’s rights, but she looked in vain.
No one was coming.
The Justice of the Peace asked Prince Zaln if he would take Betsy to be his lawfully wedded wife, but as the boy began to stammer an “I do,” the doors of the chapel burst open, and Carter Green, Qualf, and Tremnus entered the room. To everyone’s shock, the three rushed up to the altar, and Carter grabbed Betsy.
“It's the peddling salad!” shouted King Zalron, as he jumped out of his seat. “How did he get out of prison?”
“I helped him,” replied Qualf.
“The possessed bird! I see my exorcist failed at his task.”
“Well, seeing that I was never possessed, I suppose he couldn’t help it.”
“These two do not want to be married,” announced Carter, indicated Betsy and Zaln.
“You cannot give such orders!" objected the King. "I am the King of Yartralia, and I demand that these two marry! Justice, continue the ceremony. Guards, throw those rebels in prison and chop up the talking salad. We shall have it for our fourth course!”
As the orc guards arose to obey their king, the guests at the wedding all stood up as one, forming a barrier between the guards and the young betrothed. “We heard your story,” one of them said to Betsy. “And we will not allow you to become another slave.”
“Thank you,” Betsy said. They seemed like such faint words for the sacrifice these people were making. “I won’t forget your plight.”
At this, the redbird caused his body to grow to an enormous size. With one claw, he placed Zaln, Betsy, Tremnus, and Carter on his back, opened the double-doors, and flew out of the chapel.
“It's a good thing those doors were big enough,” stated the bird, as he soared through the air. “Otherwise, I would have had to break a wall. Not that that King doesn't deserve to have every one of his walls broken to pieces.”
“Where are we going?” inquired Betsy.
“To the Emerald City, if you'll show me the way. Now, excuse me if I don't talk for a while.”
Although Betsy and Carter did not know exactly where the Emerald City lay in regards to Yartralia, they managed to guide Qualf to the capital. Once there, the bird landed outside Ozma's Palace, removed his passengers from his back, and returned to his normal size.
“I don't like to do that, because it takes a lot out of me,” explained Qualf, “but it seemed like the only thing to do in that particular situation.”
While Qualf rested, Betsy, Carter, Tremnus, and Zaln hurried into the Emerald Palace, through the halls, up a flight of stairs, through more halls, and into the Throne Room, where Ozma was discussing affairs in Perhaps City with Peer Haps and the Scarecrow. Betsy hated to interrupt, but she couldn’t wait politely for the conversation to end while others might be suffering. Ozma, noting the anxious look on her face, invited her up to the throne.
“Betsy! What's wrong?” inquired Ozma.
The girl told of her adventures in Yartralia. She introduced Prince Zaln when she came to his part in the story, but Carter had to introduce Tremnus to both Betsy and Ozma. When the tale was finished, Ozma immediately went to get the powerful Magic Belt from its hidden safe, and used it to summon King Zalron to her presence.
“Where am I?” questioned the King, who had just then been declaring his punishment of the goblin people.
“You are in my Throne Room,” was Queen Ozma's reply.
“You're—you're—“ said the King breathlessly.
“I am Ozma, Queen of Oz. I have been told that you tried to force my friend, Betsy Bobbin, to marry against her will.”
“I just wanted to bring prestige to my Kingdom,” said Zalron, who was trembling.
“Well, your Kingdom's famous now, but probably not in the way you wanted,” stated the Cowardly Lion, who was seated beside Queen Ozma's Throne.
“Please forgive me, Your Majesty! I was only following the traditions of my Kingdom.”
“Is it traditional in your Kingdom to force strangers to marry?” asked Ozma.
“No, but arranged marriages are traditional.”
“If I understand correctly, your son wanted to marry someone else. Is this true?”
“He said he wanted to marry some peasant girl.”
“Why did you refuse to let him?”
“She wasn't worthy of him. She was a peasant.”
“So you think that only the rich and well-born have any worth, King Zalron?”
“It isn’t just that. She’s also part goblin. And you know what they’re like.”
“No, why don’t you tell me why you’ve enslaved an entire race in my kingdom?”
“They have no hearts! They can’t feel love!”
“I beg your pardon, Your Majesty,” stated Tremnus, “but as half goblin myself I must dispel that notion. Goblin hearts are different from human hearts, so they don’t have the strong feelings of infatuation that come with love, but they’re still capable of kindness and devotion. And while it’s not typical for them to mate for life, my sire did, and he and mother were quite happy. We are not the same as our ancient ancestors of old. There was one who sought to bring us out from the bondage of hate and violence…”
“Yes, I know well the Governor of Goblins. I know too that several goblins had settled in Oz long ago, and never has there been word of their being troublesome.”
“Back in Your Majesty’s father’s day, some goblins were high-ranking officials in Yartralia. What do you have against us, anyway?” This, he addressed to King Zalron.
Furious, the King turned to him. “Your lot captured and enslaved me for years! When I finally escaped, I knew I had no choice and I’d do to your people what you did to me. You are lucky to have found yourselves in Oz. Many would have done far worse!”
“So there are some wicked goblins in the countries outside of Oz, and perhaps some hiding even here. But why punish all of them because the few who mistreated you? It’s not like there aren’t any bad humans.”
While Zalron was trying to think of reply to this, Ozma asked Prince Zaln if he wanted to marry Litra. The Prince replied affirmatively, and the Queen magically summoned the carpenter's daughter to the Throne Room. Litra had been crying about her father, who had been thrown into prison. When the young lady noticed the Queen of Oz, she exclaimed, “You're Queen Ozma, aren't you?”
“I am, Litra. I have summoned you here to ask you a question. Do you want to marry Prince Zaln?”
“Oh, yes, Your Majesty!”
“Then the wedding will be held at once.”
When the King began to protest, Ozma turned her full attention to him. “You knew full well that I would not approve of slavery in my realm, and yet you continued in that practice anyway. For my part, I am glad that you have finally been discovered. Your rule of Yartralia is at an end. From this moment on, your son will rule in your stead. I will leave your fate in his hands.”
With the power of the Magic Belt, Ozma transported the guests at the Yartralian wedding to her Throne Room. The noise made by the astonished guests led many of the people and creatures of the palace to the Throne Room, and the chamber was soon quite full. The Yartralian Justice of the Peace, at Ozma's order, promptly married Zaln and Litra. A great celebration was then held.
After the celebration, Ozma sent most of the Yartralians back to Yartralia. She had a conference with the new King Zaln and Queen Litra, who out the kindness of their hearts allowed the former King Zalron and Queen Elenna to sit in on. Many of the Yartralian laws were repealed or revised. The kingdom would gain some prominence due to trading on the Quadling River, which was greatly expanded due to deals with nearby countries.
“Father, Mother, I understand your fears and concerns. But if you can live by these new laws, I would glad keep you in our kingdom, as well as in our hearts.”
“For my part," said Queen Litra, “I forgive you as well. I have heard of what happened to you in your youth. I understand.”
The former king didn’t speak. His head was kept down, whether out of shame or anger, none but his wife knew. “We will consider what you have said and offered. Perhaps you might give us some time.”
Ozma then met Qualf, who was by that time fully rested. Since the bird had no permanent home, the Queen of Oz let him stay in the Emerald City for as long as he wished. Today, his official home is still in the capital, but Qualf enjoys flying throughout Oz, and has adventures with many of the nation's most famous inhabitants.
For Synopsis and Continuity notes, go here