To make up for not posting the last part in any kind of timely manner, I made sure to get this, the ending of this book, up ASAP. As you recall, last time Stevie and Nancy picked up more traveling companions, and they all got captured first thing once they finally got to Aire. Also, Mr. Pimms got all spiffed up and is on his way with the Music Machine to see the prince.
Chapter XIII - Within the Proper
This chapter begins with Mr. Pimms and the Pudgians being approached by another squadron of Protium (the prince's special guard, you may recall, dressed in red and black). They are his escort into the palace, complete with a special coal black horse just for him. They set up a procession and ride into the capitol city, called The Proper, which the narrator describes as "foreboding," to a great amount of fanfare. The city is covered with stone statues, men, women, children, even animals. Mr. Pimms foreshadowingly imagines a statue of his own among the others, apparently not realizing the true nature of these figures. They reach the castle with is both dirty and ominous, and I can't help but wonder if these descriptions shouldn't be more from Mr. Pimms' perspective. I mean, yes, the castle may be dingy and dirty as opposed to Majesty's castle in Agapeland, but to anyone in Aire, I'm sure it looks quite grand. Anyway, the castle walls are topped by more sculptures, but these ones are made of marble and all of the prince.
Once they reach the castle gates, the rest of the guards fall away and only the commander goes in with Mr. Pimms' and the Pudgians. Inside the courtyard, the members of royalty gather round to watch the entrance, and as Mr. Pimms' approaches the palace's portico, Prince Nakel appears. Now, despite the similarity to his name and the term 'naked,' he is incredibly clothed. He is described as "terribly tall with a slender muscular body" with coal-black hair and a blood-red tunic. Besides his silver mask, he's also wearing many jewels. The narrator pauses to explain the legend of Prince Nakel's mask: as the story goes, the prince has no eyes, just hollow sockets, and anyone who looks into them is so mesmerized that their very soul leaves their body, and only a stone statue remains.
Mr. Pimms bows to the prince and announces to the crowd that he has brought the Music Machine from Agapeland, and calls for the Pudgians to uncover their cargo. In their haste, they make a muddle of things, so Mr. Pimms' takes over, and the thing is finally uncovered. The gathered royalty starts ooh-ing and aah-ing, but Prince Nakel shuts them up so he can crow about how he finally has Agapeland's greatest treasure. He orders the Protium to set the Music Machine up in the center of the courtyard and tells Mr. Pimms that there will be a feast in his honor. He also asks, in a low voice, only to Mr. Pimms, about the Pudgians, and Mr. Pimms insists that they're mostly harmless. The prince promises both Mr. Pimms and the Pudgians their "just reward," and bids them to the top of the portico. He sits in his sinister throne (with arms made of carved serpents and blood-red cushions) and invites Mr. Pimms to sit in the seat next to him. The Pudgians scramble to be closest to the tables with the food, which the prince ignores, instead calling for his dancing girls. Perhaps feeling his previous comment was not foreshadowy enough, he tells Mr. Pimms that he always rewards his faithful servants, all while girls with fans and scarves dance for them. While this is going on, the Pudgians talk amongst themselves about the way things have turned out.
A while later, the prince stands up and everyone halts what they're doing immediately, except for the Pudgians (fighting over food), so Mr. Pimms has to shut them up, while the prince shoots all four of them a distasteful look. Once everything is quiet, the prince addresses the court, announcing that the Music Machine will remake their land, and they have Mr. Pimms to thank for it (he also mispronounces 'pudgians,' which annoys Growdy and Boogwart, but Mr. Pimms tells them to keep quiet). The crowd cheers and applauds, and there are toasts, until Prince Nakel silences them again and tells them that the moment has finally come for Mr. Pimms to start up the Music Machine. It dawns on Mr. Pimms that he never learned how to make the Music Machine work. The prince insists that he make it work, and so Mr. Pimms begins trying anything and everything, getting more and more desperate as the machine sits silent before him. The only thing that saves Mr. Pimms (for the moment) is the arrival of the other Protium, who tell the prince about the spies from Agapeland. The prince orders them brought to him at once. While the guard goes to fetch them, Mr. Pimms goes back to trying to get the Music Machine to work, but the prince just tells him to put a sock in it.
The Protium brings in Stevie and Nancy and the others, and Mr. Pimms is relieved to be saved if only for a moment. The Pudgians just watch to see what will happen. Prince Nakel addresses the group of spies, but Stevie, spying the Music Machine, can't help pointing it out to Nancy. The Prince derives from that they are from Agapeland as the guard said, and he sneers at them, knowing that Agapeland must be dying now. But Stevie does not give him any satisfaction, instead insisting that the Music Machine belongs to Agapeland and they have come to get it. The Prince corrects him, the Music Machine belongs to him now, and asks how it works. Nancy tells him that they will not tell, even if their lives depend on it, which it very well might, as the prince orders them to tell him. Stevie then tells him that they demand it back in the name of Majesty. Hearing this, Prince Nakel shrinks back for a moment, but then he gets over it and towers over the children, shouting at them to never say that name in his presence.
With all the tension, Bundle, that strange creature that lives to lavish affection on others, decides to defuse the situation, despite Nancy's warnings, and bounds over to Prince Nakel and starts cuddling his leg. The prince, in no mood for this, grabs Bundle and flings it (can't say I blame him) all the way across the courtyard until it hits the wall on the other side with a thud. Nancy breaks through the guards and runs to it, but the little Huggit is more dead than alive. For some reason, the group has time to mourn their friend and comfort Nancy before Prince Nakel addresses them again, letting them know that he will get the information he wants. Seeing his cruelty up close, the Agapelanders have no doubt that he'll do whatever it takes to learn their secrets. The prince orders them sent to the dungeons with no food or water, and even goes as far as to warn them that "no one stands in the way of Prince Nakel and his plans!" (and lives, anyway.) He almost takes off his mask, then thinks better of it and just goes back into the castle.
In the dungeon, the Agapelanders are completely discouraged; although they know that Agapeland is done for, for the moment their attention is on Bundle. Nancy tries to comfort the little creature, but after two and a half paragraphs, it gives up the ghost. The others weep, alerting the guards, who come and take Bundle's lifeless body away, while reminding the others that they'll likely join their friend come tomorrow.
Chapter XIV - The Curse
Unlike the last chapter, this one is very short. The entire population of Aire apparently heard about what happened the night before and they're all in the courtyard to watch. Prince Nakel appears, wearing a flowing turquoise robe trimmed with white fur and puts on his crown, all to the applause of the crowd. Once the noise dies down, the prince addresses the crowd, promising to become the greatest ruler of "all the lands," meaning there's more than just Aire and Agapeland in this place, wherever it may be. The prisoners are brought in and the prince once again asks whether they'll tell him how the machine works. Stevie goes forward to answer, but before he can say anything, Prince Nakel falls off his throne. He gets back on, and Stevie tells them they will not tell him. And Prince Nakel is all "Oh yes you will!" and he falls off his throne again. And again. Finally his attendants hold him in place so he can threaten the prisoners with death without falling off his throne. All of the Agapelanders tell him they will never tell, singly, and Stevie again demands the return of the Music Machine. The prince is so outraged at being defied that he forgets all about the whole falling-off-the-throne thing and shakes of his attendants so he can raise his fist in anger at the Agapelanders. And falls off his throne again. He starts to threaten them again from the ground, but notices that he's suddenly broken out in green, itchy bumps all over his body. And so has everyone else, except the Agapelanders. Seeing this, someone in the crowd shouts that the Music Machine has cursed them all! The prince, still unable to stand, manages to drag himself over to Mr. Pimms, and blames the whole thing on him. He starts to threaten bodily harm, but Mr. Pimms takes off running before he can get more than a few words out. As he goes, the prince yells after him that he is banished. The Pudgians, seeing this, take off as well, griping about Mr. Pimms and his plans. And that is the last anyone sees of them. It seems Mr. Pimms was able to shake off the foreshadowing and did not end up a statue after all. Perhaps because he did the foreshadowing himself and not the narrator. But that's neither here nor there.
With much help and scratching, Prince Nakel makes it back to his throne and commands that the Music Machine and the prisoners from Agapeland all be burned at the stake to alleviate the curse. The Agapelanders are tied to the Music Machine in short order and the Protium goes to collect wood. There is no hope for Agapeland, since it is the last day of the festival, and even if they were magically rescued somehow, it would take too long to get back from Aire. The Protium puts the wood in place and lights the fire as the chapter ends.
Chapter XV - The Song of the Sparrow
Back in Agapeland, things are looking bleak. The forest is dead, and the festival will be over in but a few hours, yet everyone has gathered anyway, hoping for a miracle. Meanwhile, in Aire darkness falls, even though it's only noon, and the crowd makes a ton of noise as the group from Agapeland starts to burn at the stake. But over this noise, they hear the singing of three small birds, and Stevie realizes they're singing the same song from their dream back in Chapter 6! When the others hear that the dream was sent from Majesty, they urge Stevie and Nancy to remember what happened in it. It takes some doing, but the kids remember the riddle from the dream ("Remember the song of the sparrow and fly"), and hastily sing what they remember of the song. Then they sing it again and the others join in. The song mentions a breeze, and sure enough, one kicks up, quickly turning into a gusty gale, seriously freaking out all the folks in The Proper. The more the troop sings, the stronger the wind blows, and four "pinwheels of lightning" appear in the sky and start moving toward them. The ground starts shaking, The Proper is being destroyed, but the troop sings on. Suddenly the wind becomes a giant hand that loosens the ropes and sends the troop spinning into the air, toward a giant carriage made of mother-of-pearl and other precious materials (the lightning pinwheels are the wheels) pulled by six pure white, winged horses. Once everyone is safely in the carriage, the wind sends up the Music Machine, and then the carriage takes off at breakneck speed.
The carriage takes them back to Agapeland, right in the middle of the royal meadow where the Music Machine belongs. There is much congratulation and celebration from the gathered Agapelanders, and Mr. Conductor places the sacred writings in the Music Machine, beginning not only the most beautiful music ever to come from the Festival of Dosca, but the rebirth of Agapeland as everything begins to bloom again. Seeing the renewed beauty of Agapeland, Nancy is suddenly struck by the memory of her little friend, but who should be coming toward her right now? Why, it's Bundle! Nancy is grateful to see it, but wonders how it could possibly be alive. Mr. Conductor explains that it's due to a literal Deus ex Machina (i.e. Majesty did it), plus Agapeland is the "home of life." Everyone is singing and dancing to celebrate, and Stevie and Nancy dance with each other, twirling and whirling so fast that everything becomes a blur and they fall over and start rolling...
And we're back with Grandfather, who is still reading the story and reads the last few lines, revealing that the children ended up in Wiley Woods after all. With the story over, he looks down and sees that Stevie and Nancy fell asleep and apparently slept through most of it. This doesn't perturb him at all, but it makes me wonder whether Samuel Wright is doing some lampshading or something. And that's how it all went down.
Nightly Discussion #1235
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