Underground With Nickelan Wand, Book One: Kid City

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Chapter 26

The various doorways in the Presidential Chamber of the Fun House led to specific sites throughout Kid City and even into the Lands Between and as far away as Thunder World. That explained how Selwyn Harris was able to transport himself speedily throughout the underground world and show up exactly where he was least expected.

The Red Team now used this secret mode of transportation for its own purpose. Some traveled to recruit forces to help battle the coming Maka army. Others went to alert the citizens of Kid City and rally them to the citys defense. Nickelan went to the city square, the site of his parentsimminent execution.

As he made his way through the dark tunnel, Nickelan heard the sounds of demolition behind him. The mechanical men were knocking down the imposing palace and erecting a giant toilet in its place.

There was a ladder that went up to a thin circle of light and Nickelan climbed it. Removing the heavy manhole cover, Nickelans head popped up among the feet of a large crowd.

Hey,Nickelan said, as bare feet trod on his fingers. When he finally managed to stand, he immediately wanted to dive back down through the manhole.

The crowd was jeering and tossing rotten fruits and vegetables at a platform on which stood Nickelans parents. Hands tied behind their backs and black hoods covering their faces, Mr. and Mrs. Wand still looked dignified. Mr. Wands three-piece suit was frayed and muddy, yet it hung from his erect form expressing an unsullied confidence. Mrs. Wand, too, was standing proud beside her husband. She didnt even flinch when a tomato hit her face, sending its juicy guts drooling over her black hood.

Stop it!Nickelan screamed protective of his parents, his family, from this riotous group.

Pushing his way through the unruly crowd, Nickelan pulled himself up onto the platform. Let my people go!he shouted at the small executioner, whose face was partially obscured by a low-hanging black hood.

People?the executioner responded, puzzled. These arent people, theyre grown-ups.

Theyre my parents!Nickelan shouted.

Nickelan?Mr. Wand said. His voice was muffled beneath the hood. Young man, I insist you tell your friends to unhand your mother and me this instant. We have long grown tired of your games.

Yes, Nickelan thought, these are my parents. Hearing his fathers voice again was anticlimactic. Nickelans parents were much more attractive missing than found. A rush of memories flooded Nickelans head and he felt dizzy. It didnt help that the excited spectators were now throwing rotten fruits and vegetables at him.

Let the execution begin!said the executioner, rallying the crowd and raising his double-sided ax. That caused an ovation that almost knocked Nickelan to the ground.

The small executioner kicked Mr. Wand behind the knee, sending him to the ground. Unable to stop his fall with his arms, Mr. Wand landed with his head on the cutting block, his neck exposed for the blade.

Listen!Nickelan addressed the frenzied crowd. The Makas are coming! Kid City is under attack.

No one listened. A rain of rotten fruits and vegetables landed on Nickelan. The crowd laughed, momentarily distracted from the execution, only to return their focus that much more intently on Mr. Wands head on the chopping block.

Nickelan stood with new resolve. He walked calmly over to the executioner, whose ax was raised high above Mr. Wands neck. As it made its swift descent, Nickelan yanked the handle from the hands of the small executioner. The crowd booed and hissed, responding with another rain of rotten fruits and vegetables.

I am the Redeemer!Nickelan announced in a voice deeper than usual. I have come to save Kid City.

The crowd listened. Everyone knew the legend of the Redeemer, and only the Redeemer would do something so dramatic as to disrupt an execution. The rotten fruits and vegetables no longer flew through the air. The shouts for blood were silenced. The crowd was rapt and waited on the Redeemers next statement.

Nickelan didnt know what to say next. He didnt have to say anything. The executioner spoke for him.

Give me back my hammer,said the small executioner.

Its an ax,Nickelan said, his voice carrying to the four corners of the now quiet public square.

No,disagreed the executioner. I think I should know what method of execution Im using.

Its an ax,Nickelan repeated himself. A hammer is a hand tool, with a shaft and a metal head at right angles to it. Its primarily used for driving nails and beating metal, not cutting off someones head.

No,the executioner continued his wrongheaded argument. An ax is something you use to grind. Havent you ever heard the expression: Ive got an ax to grind? Well, Im not grinding off this grown-ups head, am I? No, Im not, smart guy. Im hitting his head, like a hammer on the head of a nail. Right?He addressed the crowd, which look back and forth between the Redeemer and the executioner.

Nit Wit?Nickelan asked. Is that you?

Nickelan?The executioner, who indeed was little Nit Wit, removed his hood. I didnt recognize you underneath all those rotten fruits and vegetables.

Youre an executioner?Nickelan was so surprised to see Nit Wit that he forgot about his father bent over the chopping block, still tied up and blindfolded by the black hood.

Youre the Redeemer?Nit Wit said, well aware of the stories of the savior of Kid City. I thought the Redeemer was a girl.

The crowd was getting restless. No execution was bad enough, now they were being teased about the coming of the Redeemer.

How do we I know youre the Redeemer?asked someone, voicing the growing skepticism of the crowd.

You all know Nit Wit,Nickelan said, assuming they did. Nit Wit, am I the Redeemer?

No,Nit Wit said with confidence. The Redeemer is a girl.

Thats proof enough for me,said someone in the crowd.

Im convinced,said another.

The crowd knew Nit Wit well enough that if he said Nickelan wasnt the Redeemer, then Nickelan was in fact the Redeemer. The crowd dropped its rotten fruits and vegetables and headed out from the city square on the Redeemers command to fortify Kid City from the coming Maka attack.

Nickelan gave Nit Wit his ax back, though he still called it a hammer, and untied the rope around his fathers arms and pulled the black hood off his face.

Hello, son,Mr. Wand said. You look like you need a bath.

Nickelan ignored his father and went over to untie his mother from her bonds. Mr. Wand followed him. He looked uncomfortable. Nickelan had never seen his father in such disarray. Not only was his clothing a mess, his tie was untied, he was missing one glove and his mustache was fighting for dominance on his unshaven and stubbly face.

It was hard to see his father this way, but that wasnt why Nickelan was avoiding his stare. Nickelan was avoiding his father because he feared what he might say to him.

Son,Mrs. Wand said as Nickelan pulled the black hood off her face. She spoke as if making a simple observational statement. Yes, this was her son. There was little emotion in her voice, certainly not what one would consider normal after being rescued from the executioners block. Your fathers right,she said in the same flat tone. You need a bath.

Where can I find a bathroom?Mr. Wand asked Nit Wit, the only person on the platform other than his wife who appeared to take notice of him.

Inside or out?Nit Wit asked.

Excuse me?Mr. Wand said.

We got indoor ones,Nit Wit said. Then there are outdoor ones, but dont worry theyre heated. Did you bring your trunks? Anyway, I think, considering that the Makas are on the warpath, that its not the time for a swim.

Hes talking about a swimming pool, Father,Nickelan said, trying to resolve the confusion on Mr. Wands face. Nit Witwell, hes no font of accuracy.

Thats right,Nit Wit said proudly, misunderstanding as always.

Mr. Wand was still confused. Now addressing his son directly he asked again where he could find a bathroom to wash himself to a semblance of cleanliness and order.

I dont think kids bathe in Kid City,Nickelan said. As if anticipating his fathers next question he added: There is no haberdashery for you to replace your suit or tailor to mend it. There is no drugstore to buy hygienic products. Youll only find candy and play of the messiest variety. If youre hungry, let me recommend the fine dining to be had right beneath your feet, where the roads are paved with caramel. The houses are edible, too. Talk about your childhood wishes.

Childish wishes,Mr. Wand corrected him. Take my hand, young man, we are leaving this madhouse.

Im not leaving,Nickelan said. The Makas are about to attack. Im standing with the kids to defend Kid City.

Defend this, this, this…” Mr. Wand was looking around at the now empty city square. He was speechless. How to describe this place, with its candy-coated streets and moldy gingerbread houses? It was a magnet for disease. Id like to wash it all away!

What are you, a Maka?Nit Wit asked.

Maka,Mr. Wand repeated. Yes, Ive met some of these Makas. A bit rough around the edges, but good people, at least the ones that took your mother and me here.

Who took you underground?Nickelan asked.

There were three,Mr. Wand explained. One had wings, I remember, the other was scaly and there was one with very sharp teeth. A big fellow, what did he call himself? It was something queeryes, thats it: Baber Groan.

Baber Groan has been trying to kill me since I landed here!Nickelan told his father. Hes the Chief Maka. Hes the one leading the Maka troops to invade Kid City.

Well,Mr. Wand said calmly, Im sure hes got his reasons.

How can you side with Baber Groan?Nickelan asked. Hes trying to kill you, too. Didnt he kidnap you and bring you here for execution?

Nickelan,Mrs. Wand said, placing her hand in Mr. Wands gloved one to show her support. Dont speak to your father that way.

Its fine, dear,Mr. Wand said warmly to his wife. Then turning back to Nickelan and addressing him with an authoritative tone, he said, Baber Groan showed up at our house and said he knew where we could find you, Nickelan. Your mother and I were worried sick. Do you know how many days you had gone missing, without a call or even posting a letter?

You saw me get sucked down the drain,Nickelan said. You forced me to take a bath. I told you I didnt want to. I told you I was scared of being sucked down the drain. You didnt listen to me. You dont care about me!

Thats not true, Nickelan,Mr. Wand said, remaining stoic. I love you. You wereyou aredirty and you needed a wash. Its the parentsresponsibility to keep their children well fed, in good health and certainly clean. I was only doing what was best for you.

Best for me,Nickelan had to repeat his fathers last statement to believe he had heard it. I could have drowned!

I will not argue with you,Mr. Wand said. We will wait here until Baber Groan returns and then hell show us how to get back home. You have a lot of explaining to do.

You have a lot of explaining to do!Nickelan lost his temper. Why do you want to wait for the Maka who imprisoned you and almost caused you to lose your head?

I told you,Mr. Wand said. Baber Groan had nothing to do with this unpleasantness. It is this little rogue that is to blame.He was pointing at Nit Wit. Baber Groan and his associates were kind enough to escort your mother and me down to this, this, this…” Again Mr. Wand could not mine his vocabulary for a word sufficient to sum up his disgust with Kid City, but once no longer in the care of the compassionate Makas, we found ourselves incarcerated by this nasty roughneck and his gang of immature scoundrels. They were the ones responsible for the sorry sight you see us in presently.

Nickelan was about to ask Nit Wit if this was true, but the chance of getting a straight answer was slim and there was no time for interrogation.

Nit Wit looked innocent and even smaller than he actually was on the nearly empty platform. He was trying to follow the fight between Nickelan and his parents, but was frankly unable to make heads or tails of it. In truth, Nit Wit wasnt paying close attention to what they were saying. He was still flabbergasted by the fact that Nickelan was the Redeemer. And when he finally spoke, he asked, Are you really the Redeemer?

Nickelan, distracted by more important issues, such as saving Kid City from impending doom or at least getting his parents to believe him, answered peevishly, No, Im not the Redeemer.

Nit Wit was disappointed and shaking his head said, I cant believe a word you say.

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