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the powers of a magical sentinel. The four travelers now walked with ease until they came to the other edge of the woods. Before them they saw a disagreeable country, full of morasses and covered with wildly proliferating weeds.

Chapter 24 “The Giant Spider”

It was difficult to walk through the quagmire without falling into muddy holes, for here the weeds were so thick that they hid the holes from sight. Normally, Dorothy wasn’t averse to hiking, but now, terrified of the possibility of stepping into deadly quicksand, she silently cursed their antediluvian mode of travel. But by carefully picking their way, they got safely along until they reached solid ground.

Now the country grew wilder with every step they took. The downward devolution seemed to cast a pall over the proceedings, and their expressions grew increasingly saturnine as they continued onward. Dorothy had an uneasy presentiment that more adversity lay just ahead. Then suddenly they entered another forest, where the trees were bigger and older than any they had ever seen.

“This forest is perfectly delightful!” emoted the Lion, obviously overcome by the majesty of the august trees. “Never have I seen a more beautiful place. I’d like to live here all my life.”

They started walking through it, and before they had gone very far, they heard a loud rumbling sound. When they came to a clearing, they saw hundreds of beasts of every kind. There were tigers, bears, wolves, foxes, and all the others of the animal kingdom, and for a moment Dorothy was afraid. But the Lion explained that the animals were holding a meeting. He judged by their snarling and growling that they were in the midst of some kind of internecine feud.

The beasts suddenly caught sight of him and were at once hushed by his puissant presence. The largest of the tigers approached the Lion and bowed, saying, “Welcome, O King of Beasts! You have opportunely arrived to bring peace to our strife-ridden forest once more.”

“What’s the trouble?” asked the Lion with genuine concern.

“We’re all threatened,” answered the tiger, “by an enemy who is the blight of our existence. It’s a most tremendous monster, like a gigantic spider, with a body as big as an elephant’s and eight legs as long as tree trunks. As this behemoth crawls through the forest, it seizes its prey with a leg and drags it to its mouth, where it slowly and mercilessly masticates it. Like most spiders, it’s omnivorous, so both flora and fauna are at risk. We don’t know where this beast comes from, but it’s certainly not indigenous to this or any other nearby areas. Not one of us is safe while the creature is alive. Our normally cohesive group seems to have become polarized, and I fear our partisan conflicts will vitiate our ability to defend ourselves. We were at loggerheads and just debating what to do, rather loudly, I’m afraid, when you most propitiously came along.”

The Lion thought for a moment while he studied the

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