The Guardian and the Goblin King by Overhill
Summary: "Too Late!" The Guardian reaches the Goblin Village, and runs out of time. Story summary: Jareth the Goblin King is Summoned to St. Mungo's. Labyrinth/Harry Potter, featuring original characters Richard Goodfellow, Chaucer the House-elf and the children of St. Mungo's.
Categories: Cross Overs Characters: None
Genres: Mystery/suspense
Warnings: None
Challenges:
Series: Magical cross-overs, featuring Richard Goodfellow
Chapters: 21 Completed: No Word count: 37769 Read: 37561 Published: 10/02/2008 Updated: 12/08/2012
Story Notes:
The fanfiction The Guardian and the Goblin King is based on the Jim Henson movie Labyrinth and not any book, game, etc. that came after it.

Richard Goodfellow & Co. are Overhill's original characters in the Harry Potterverse.

Adiana Dumbledore, Neville, Frank and Alice Longbottom are Harry Potter canon characters.

Prof. Kirke is from C.S. Lewis's Chronicles of Narnia.

Major Tom was created by David Bowie, but you knew that.

Hieronymus Bosch was a real person and artist--Goggle him.

The Baum Institute is a shout-out to The Wizard of Oz.

So to it sum up, all publicly recognizable characters and settings are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the author, Overhill. No money is being made from this work. No copyright infringement is intended.

1. The King Arrives by Overhill

2. The Guardian at Bay by Overhill

3. The Goblins' Task by Overhill

4. The King's Quest by Overhill

5. The Lost Runner by Overhill

6. The Guide to Cross-Universe Travel by Overhill

7. The Healer at Work by Overhill

8. The Problems With Waiting by Overhill

9. The Guardian Off Guard by Overhill

11. The Boys in the Labyrinth by Overhill

11. The Guardian at the Gate by Overhill

12. Grief and Rain by Overhill

13. Time and Major Tom by Overhill

14. The Dump, the Bog and the Garden by Overhill

15. Decisions, Decisions by Overhill

16. Findings by Overhill

17. Temptations by Overhill

18. At The Crystal Ballroom by Overhill

19. Alice's Secret by Overhill

20. "Too Late!" by Overhill

21. Resolutions by Overhill

The King Arrives by Overhill
Author's Notes:
Now why would an owl be outside a window at St. Mungo's?
Chapter 1 - The King Arrives




Richard Goodfellow, off-duty Healer, was seated by a bright lamp in a well-padded armchair, his feet up. He had a plate of biscuits on the small table next to him and was skimming through The Daily Prophet. Outside, the storm lashed at the windows, making the Comfortable Room feel all the more cozy. The room was part of the Community Building, where a number of Healers and their families lived, and the building was part of the complex of St Mungo’s Hospital for Magical Maladies and Injuries.


He counted himself fortunate to be the Guardian of the Day (a fancy name for "baby-sitter") to a handful of pre-Hogwarts children, instead of attending a naming ceremony under a lake in Wales. Gillyweed did taste pretty awful, and he was not partial to the freezing temperatures in the wet air. Most of the other adults were at the ceremony, or at work. He, of course, wasn’t a parent to any of the children, which was a definite bonus when it came his turn to supervise them.


The boys were sitting and kneeling at a low table, engaged in a tight game of Sticks. It was similar to the Muggle game of Jackstraws, only the sticks had to be pulled out without touching them, using wandless magic. Bruce was ahead, but Owen was catching up. Lenny was trying not to make himself look foolish as he kept slipping up. Wilf had given up, so he had taken one of his sticks and waved it around like a wand until his brother, Bruce, hissed at him to stop. Bruce was the boss, and was headed to Hogwarts on the next September's train. He was obeyed instantly, though begrudgingly.

Leia was five years old, the youngest child, the only girl, and the only one whose parents were not Healers. Her parents had dropped her off to play with her cousin, Owen, who promptly banished her to play by herself. Leia and Owen argued for a bit, but they didn't want to embarrass themselves in front of the others, so they kept the volume down. The fight ended with Owen muttering under his breath and her pouting until Richard's house-elf, Chaucer, showed up wearing a gold sparkling Regency-styled outfit, complete with shiny boots. Chaucer was the same height as Leia, and looked rather gallant in it. (Richard wondered where his house-elf had "borrowed" it from but decided that if it made her happy he wasn't going to pry.)

Owen ignored him but Leia was delighted to play dress-up with the elf. She found a big puffy dress from the dress-up box in the children's play area and some sparkly plastic jewelry (including a tiara) and, after showing it off to Richard (she had a bit of a crush on him), she and the house-elf were silently puttering around. Richard suspected some under-age magic was the cause of the silence, but since everyone seemed satisfied and quietly busy (and leaving him alone), he wasn't going to bother enforcing any Ministry of Magic edicts, or any other inconvenient bans.

He was enjoying munching on what remained of the biscuits while working out a logic puzzle in the newspaper. The wind and the rain pounded louder on the windows, drowning out the boys' soft conversation.

“Hey, Healer G!” Lenny shouted at him.

Annoyed at the noise, Richard peered over to where the boys were sitting.

"There's an owl trying to get in." The boy pointed to an upper window.

A gold-colored owl was outside the glass. It's not time for the mail, Richard thought. The owl looked at him and ruffled its feathers. The grey sky was pouring rain, and the unfamiliar bird looked at him expectantly.

He decided to let it in. Maybe one of the parents forgot something, he reasoned to himself.

As soon as the window was opened, the bird flew in and transformed into a tall, thin blond man, dressed in very tight pants and shirt, with a high collared cape over the whole outfit; by wizard standards, the outfit was what one would wear to a garden party, if one was the grand over-dresser Gilderoy Lockhart. The man's eyebrows were not quite human, yet his eyes sparkled mischievously.

Oh, walnuts, Richard seethed, an Animagus. And a really freaky one at that. He reached for his wand, hoping that the shape-shifter wouldn't do the same.

The man smirked. "I see you, and you can't do a thing to me with that stick," he remarked in a musical voice, tilting his head to one side as he disdainfully looked at the Healer. "Cross-universe magic cancellation!"







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"Thanks" to my beta Somigliana, and to jessicadamien for her help.
The Guardian at Bay by Overhill
Author's Notes:
The Goblin King identifies himself.
Chapter 2 - The Guardian at Bay




Richard picked up his wand and stepped between the boys and the stranger.

If I can't use magic against him, then he can't use magic against me, he thought, remembering the Law of Cross-Universe Cancelation. It did not make him feel any less tense. The stranger was taller than he by a few inches and had a wiry appearance, but Richard was broader in the shoulders, and more muscular. While he could not stun the stranger, there were other ways he might magically restrain him, if necessary. And there was no telling what sort of magic the stranger might employ. What if he's lying? What if he is from here? he wondered. While he knew of other universes, he knew very little about them. (They had been discussed in his sixth year at Hogwarts, in a History of Magic class ten years earlier, and were not on the final exams.)

"You are in the private residence area of St. Mungo's Hospital. If you need assistance, my house-elf can escort you to the proper entrance," he said firmly.

"I need no assistance," the stranger said confidently.

"Then my house-elf can escort you to where you belong. If you are from another universe, the closest Connection is over in Kensington." He wished that the stranger would quit smirking and leave. The boys were silent. From the corner of his eye, he could see Leia: She was still in the other room, moving silently about. Around the walls, the people in the various paintings and portraits were absent, apparently having walked out of their scenes to go who knew where. And Chaucer seemed to have disappeared. Where is help when I need it? he silently fumed.

"Are you from another universe?" Wilf piped up. "Which one?"

The stranger moved his head gracefully. "The Underground," he answered proudly.

The boys burst out into laughter.

"We were just there," Lenny jeered. "Got to ride the Tube."

"Field trip. Last week. We certainly didn't see you there," Bruce said with a snigger in his tone.

"Of course we didn't go everywhere. Maybe you were on another Tube route?"

"Wait, I know, Piccadilly Circus. Like clowns."

"Or Jubilee, like a party."

Richard was annoyed at the boy's rudeness - they were not helping matters any. The stranger's eyes had turned steely, but there was something else about them that caught his attention. They were uneven, as if a Glamour had gone wrong or there had been problems with a Polyjuice Potion. He knew that Polyjuice would wear off, and that Glamours could be counter-cursed. He'd heard of a few people - magical and not - who lived in the London Underground. But what if the visitor really is from another universe, and not just some weird Tube-rat? he wondered.

He turned and glared at the boys, instantly silencing them, but when he turned back to the stranger, he could hear them giggling and snickering, as they started pushing each other.

"Why are you here?" he asked the stranger as politely as he could, while forcing himself to ignore the noise.

"Wait!" Wilf shouted. "Lucy told me about the Underground! She said that in the Underground there were a whole bunch of goblins...."

"Of course there's goblins underground," Lenny said. "Gringotts Bank is underground. Everyone knows -"

Richard interrupted. "Who is Lucy?"

Wilf ignored him. "...and there was a big maze..."

"The Labyrinth," the stranger said.

"Which one?" Lenny said, "There's a dozen in England. We just visited the Lincolnshire one last month."

"Do you mean Lucy Graves?" Owen asked.

The stranger blinked, but stayed silent.

"And there was music..." Wilf continued.

"Certainly," the stranger said with a proud smirk.

"And the fairies were like ours, only they bite. And lots of goblins and talking things, and there were tunnels, and dead ends, and a stinky swamp..."

"Shut up, Wilf," Bruce ordered.

"A fen of foul odours?" Owen suggested with an exaggerated roll of the eyes.

"A fen of foul fumes," Lenny corrected him.

"The Bog of Eternal Stench," the stranger retorted.

"I said, 'Shut up,'" Bruce shouted and he pounced on his brother, pushing him down. The other two boys expertly separated them. "SHUT UP," he roared as he tried to break free of his friends.

Wilf would not be stopped. "I know who you are--you're the king of the goblins!"

"The Goblin King," the stranger corrected him.

Bruce broke free of his friends and pushed his brother over onto his stomach, and held his head down while the other two broke out laughing. Richard dashed over to pull the older boy to his feet.

"The Goblin King! Do the goblins know that?" Lenny shouted.

"No goblin would EVER dress like that." Owen pointed at the man.

"No goblin would have hair like that!"

"Goblins don't have hair!"

"Goblins don't have kings!"

Bruce tried to twist out of Richard's grip.

Wilf got up to his feet. "You are, aren't you? Tell them you are! Prove it!"

The stranger stood in regal silence, his arms folded. The boys' laughter subsided, with hiccups and giggles. Richard checked Wilf--his mouth was bleeding, and the Healer quickly stanched it. He looked back at the other man--the stranger seemed slightly amused.

Could a goblin use Polyjuice Potion, to appear human? Richard wondered. He hadn't heard of it being done before; he didn't know it was possible.

"So you're King of the Goblins," Lenny said sarcastically. "Where are your minions, Your Highness? Your servants? Bodyguards? Witty joker? Side-kick?" The boy looked disdainfully around, his nose up in the air.

The stranger's composure broke and he regained it in less than a second. Richard glanced around the room. There were no other beings. The doors were all open except one, and that one was supposed to be locked. They all looked at it at the same time. Odd muffled sounds could barely be heard above the sound of the outside rainstorm.

"Translumos!" Richard shouted as he pointed his wand at the door. The door and the wall went transparent, glowing with light, but there was a translucent material that looked like swirling watercolours on the inside of the wall. As they watched, dark shapes appeared instantly, then disappeared. The boys rushed to the wall to peer through it, each finding a peephole or a place where the color wasn't so thick. The stranger was there instantly--Richard hurried over, and again put himself between the stranger and the boys.

The room was the children's Anti-Grav room, where they played in zero gravity as they acted out their favorite outer space stories. The room had been spelled by the Baum Institute and was one of few known to exist in Europe.

The boys shouted when they realized that their territory had been invaded and shouted louder when they saw what the stuff was on the wall. The handful of beings inside were short and rotund, and looked like goblins. They were covered completely in the colourful fluid, and were bouncing all over the room, their arms and legs windmilling uselessly. Only one had found a handhold--none of them were in the flight-control suits. Richard saw one vomit in mid-flight, and it changed course immediately, hit another, and then both flew away from each other.

"You've got to clean that up!" Bruce shouted at the stranger. "They're your people; it's your mess. Clean it up NOW!"

The stranger was still staring into the room. A little glob drifted by, and Richard recognized it as a vomit-covered Major Tom action figure. Looking inside, he saw a lot of other little globs--the goblins had somehow emptied the play ship and all of the children's toys were loose and floating or ricocheting around the place. (He fervently hoped that Healer Smyth's precious Hieronymus Bosch figurines were safe on their shelf and had not been "borrowed" again by the boys.) The mess was almost enough to raise the Healer's gorge. Wilf threw up, and Owen followed his example.

"WILF!" Bruce shouted at his brother. "Stop that! See what you've done, you big creep!" he shouted at the stranger. "I hate you! Get away from here, NOW!"

"Scrougify!" Richard cleaned the two boys up and grabbed Bruce's collar before he could attack the stranger.

The stranger ignored the boy, and walked away from the window and to the doorway that led to the hospital. "Sorg," he called out.

Richard kept his tight grip on the boy with one hand. He quickly conjured two cups of water for Owen and Wilf, and a third for Lenny before he could complain.

A disheveled little goblin, about the size of a fat house-elf, appeared. It looked oddly familiar, and it had dark-coloured armor, but it was dressed carelessly. Richard wondered about its large red eyes and dripping small round nose. It waddled over to the stranger. "Yes, your highness?" it asked.

The king gave it the barest of glances. "Sorg, get the others back to the castle."

"And then?" it whimpered, wiping its nose on the back of its hand.

"Come back," the king said quietly. "We are not done here."


-------------------------------------------------------

beta-ing by Gelsey. Special thanks to jessicadamien!
The Goblins' Task by Overhill
Author's Notes:
The Goblin King inspects the room and waits for the goblins to do their job.
Beta-ed by Gelsey, final edit by jessicadamien


Chapter 3 - The Goblins' Task



The king ignored Sorg as the goblin scampered over to Richard.

"Please," it said as it choked back its tears. "Please let them down."

Richard checked the room. The boys were standing together, muttering. The king was standing at the doorway, looking down the hallway.

He went to the boys. "Don't touch either of them," he warned them in a low voice. "We really don't know what we're dealing with here."

"You mean we could get a disease?" Lenny asked, skeptically.

"Worse," Richard said darkly. "We don't know how his and our magic interact; we don't know why he's here. Use some sense and stay away from him." He looked over at the king. The other man was leaning against the doorjamb, still looking down the hallway. He glanced over at Richard and the boys and then looked around the room in a bored fashion.

Richard knew that there were safeguards on the door, which were to prevent children from leaving the common area, and suspected that the stranger--the king--was in no hurry to leave. There was the danger of under-age magic being affected by magic from another universe. (St. Mungo's rules forbade casting spells on pre-Hogwarts children to avoid the possibility of damaging their growing abilities.) Of course, there was no telling how raw, untamed children's magic might affect the stranger, either.

Richard returned to the Anti-Grav door and touched the wall with the palm of his hand. Sorge stood nearby, its face pressed against the wall, looking in. The controls slowly appeared as etchings on the wall. The Baum Institute had its own way of magical operations: Richard carefully stroked the panel that increased the floor's gravity field while also touching the one that reduced the fields of the ceiling and walls. When the goblins hit the floor, they didn't bounce as high as they did before, and in a minute, they were sprawled on the messy floor, the fluid dripping down the walls and ceiling. One very small goblin was still clinging to a handle that was in the ceiling, its legs kicking uselessly, until its grip slipped and it fell onto one of its associates. Richard decided not to open the door. He couldn't tell if anyone was injured, and, not knowing anything about the intruders, he thought it best to let them sort themselves on their own. The Healer in him felt a pang of guilt, which the rest of him resisted.

When he looked back at the king, he saw that he had left the doorway and was walking around the perimeter of the room in such a way that Richard wondered if he would slide his gloved fingers on the top of the fireplace mantle and check for dust. As the king walked by the table where the boys had been playing Sticks, his foot kicked two Gobstones, which rolled towards the boys. Wilf immediately pounced on them, and Lenny then pounced on Wilf and took them from him, pocketing them. The king watched the event but did not change his bored expression.

Richard turned back to the room, but the goblins were gone, leaving the mess.

Annoyed but not surprised, he turned back to see the king checking the Community's bulletin board. On it were take-out menus ("Dinty's Pizzeria - Our food is magical!"), the previous year's Hufflepuff Alumni Association's calendar of events, the upcoming schedule of the Tutshill Tornadoes Quidditch games (Richard had season tickets), the schedule of the Hogwart's Quidditch games (there was no hope for the Ravenclaw team this upcoming year), a poster advertising the Hufflepuff Alumni Association's next Charity Ball (Richard planned to work that night), the calendar of the Wizarding Acadamy of the Dramatic Arts (the hospital had group tickets), an invitation to the children's music recital (which the boys should have been practicing for), a poster for the Cedric Diggory Memorial Broomstick Race (Richard volunteered to be on the medical team), some thank you letters, lost and found cards, the notice of the naming ceremony taking place that day, and the month's meal menus for the Community dining room, the Tea Room and the Cafeteria.

The king was running his fingers over the safety poster. "What to do in the Event of Invasion of Dark Creatures," he read out loud. "What to do in the Event of Muggle Invasion. What to do if Burning at Stake. What to do if Steaks are Burning." He turned to the boys. "A bit of a wag?" he asked with a smirk. "And what are these pictures of? Pink dogs?"

"Ponies," Owen said. The king turned to him, his eyebrow lifted in a questioning way. He blushed. "My cousin, she drew them. She likes ponies."

The king gave a look of cool sympathy. "Odd, how magical girls like ponies, and non-magical like unicorns. I wonder why that is."

Owen shrugged but had no answer. Bruce glared at the king, and Lenny and Wilf looked over to the room where Leia was partly hidden behind the doorjamb.

The king glanced over but apparently could not see Leia from the angle he was at. He looked at the window: The dark rain was still lashing against the glass. He took the comfortable seat that had been Richard's and stretched out his long legs and pressed his back into its depths, his gloved hands on the armrests. Richard felt a bit insulted.

He went over to the area, and put himself again between the boys and the king, his wand at the ready.

"Why are you here?" he asked in a firm tone.

The king looked up and him and chuckled. "Ask the children. Apparently Lucy Graves has told them everything."

"I'm asking you."

The stranger smirked. "At the moment, I belong here. I was Summoned to collect a baby in this very room. The babysitter said the magical words, and here I am. And as soon as my goblins have completed their task, I will be free to fulfill my quest, and then I and my goblins will be gone, leaving you to your amusements." He picked up the newspaper and took a look at it. "By the way, the answer to fourteen is 'sycophant' and to sixteen, 'chaos'." He glanced at the game. "And do not take any of the green sticks, or the whole thing will collapse."

"If you would notice, there are no babies in this room," Richard said dryly. "You, sir, are obviously in the wrong universe."

The boys had hurried over to the game and checked it and started back on it. Richard glanced over at Leia's room. He saw Chaucer peeking out, the side of his head and one eye barely visible.

At least Chaucer can report if anything goes bad, Richard thought, as he turned his attention back to the king, wondering how to get him out of the chair and back on the road.

The king was still looking over the paper. "Chudley Cannons, still in the league. Hope springs eternal." He put the paper down and then brushed his hands together as if dusting them off. Between the palms of his hands, a small glass globe appeared, about the size of his fist. He smoothly moved it from one hand to another and then moved his hands so that they were palms down. The globe seemed to flow over the backs of his hands, and he moved it back and forth in a mesmerizing fashion.

"Squib trick," Bruce said with a fake yawn.

"My uncle does that at parties," Lenny retorted. "He's not a Squib."

"You can buy it at Weasley's. It comes with instructions," Owen said, pretending not to watch.

"Can you teach me how to do it?" Wilf asked the king, his eyes shining.

As annoyed as he was at Wilf, Richard kept his attention on getting rid of the stranger. "I never said anything that would summon the likes of you," Richard said. "I wasn't even talking."

"Healer G is not a babysitter," Bruce said loudly, annoyed that anyone would suggest that he needed looking after.

"He's the guardian today," Wilf added. "And anyway, we don't have any babies here."

"You're a baby," Owen said, pushing him.

"Don't push my brother." Bruce cuffed Owen on the back of the head, and Owen pushed back, and then ran to the room where Leia was sitting on the floor, playing with some toys, and slammed the door behind him.

"It looks like you got the wrong directions," Richard said.

"No; I think that it is a bit more complicated that that." The stranger had the globe in the palm of his hand, and gave a slight push up. The globe floated up.

A bomb? A trap? A Baum transport? he wondered. He threw a Shield Charm around it, hoping to contain it. The globe stayed steady, and did not move. He felt a bit foolish, as the next thing he thought of was the Summer street faire at Diagon Alley, and the floating balls of the glass artists. Better safe than sorry, he reflected.

The stranger stared up at the globe. "I was Summoned, and the baby is here," he said, with a hint of annoyance in his voice.

Shouting could be heard in the other room. The door was flung open, and Leia flounced out, her plastic tiara flopping backwards on her head, her hands in fists.

"Healer G, Owen's being mean to me. He's calling me names and he says...."

What he called her was instantly forgotten as she stopped to stare at the visitor. She then started to jump up and down and squeal with happiness. "It's Jareth! It's Jareth! Just like Lucy said!"

Richard quickly considered another Shield Charm, to prevent her from running to him, but she ran back to the room instead.

"Jareth's here! He's really here!" she shouted at her cousin. "Don't go away!" she shouted back at the king, as Owen dragged her into the room and then slammed the door. Her laughter and Owen's shouting were quickly muffled behind the closed door.

"What does Lucy Graves have to do with any of this?" Richard was about ready to rip off heads, starting with the one in his chair.

The stranger pursed his lips as he frowned at the door. The floating globe vanished.

"Lucy went to the Underground!" Wilf volunteered. "She told me all about it, and how great it was! She didn't want to leave. And how you took--" Bruce tackled his brother again. Richard forced himself to ignore them, while Lenny tried to step between them and gave up.

"That doesn't make any sense," the king replied with a slight frown. He watched the two boys tussled on the floor and Lenny swiped a blue stick from the table and stood next to Richard, brandishing the stick as if it were a wand. "She took forever in the Labyrinth, she fell into the bog, she stepped on my toes at the dance, she failed the logic test, she almost failed everything, and...." He looked over at Bruce. "Wait," he said, and the king sat up in the chair and leaned forward. "I thought you looked familiar, Biter," he said with a smirk. "She was about to leave you there on purpose, wasn't she?"

Richard collared Bruce just in time to keep him from attacking the king.

The door opened again, and Leia ran out, her arms covered with plastic bangles and bracelets, rings on her fingers and strands of plastic beads draped around her neck. Her tiara was askew. "I'm ready to go, Jareth!"

"Get back here, Leia! Your mom said I'm the boss of you. Get back here, NOW!" Owen shouted at he ran after her.

Richard threw up a Blocking Charm in front of Leia and her cousin, stopping them from getting any closer to the king.

"GET OUT OF HERE!" Bruce shouted. He was so angry, he lost control and flailed away at Richard.

"Chaucer!" Richard shouted.

The house-elf immediately appeared.

"Here, take Bruce, and don't let him out until he's calmed down."

Chaucer Apparated with Bruce. The door was slammed shut, and Bruce's angry voice could still be heard as he pounded on the door.

Leia was dancing on her tip-toes at the blocking barrier, staring up at the globe. "Lucy said you can do tricks. Can you do one now?"

The king was ignoring her. "What was your house-elf wearing?" he asked Richard, giving him a penetrating stare. "It looked like clothes."

Leia laughed. "He was! He had on boots, and a little cape, and lots of buttons!"

Owen had a hold of Leia's arm and was trying to yank her back to the room. The king stood up from his chair and went over to the closed door.

"Soldat," he said, "get me the house-elf."

Walnuts! How many other invisible goblins are here? Richard fumed as he looked around the room.

Bruce shouted again. "There's a goblin in here!" Suddenly the loud noises stopped and there was hushed mumbling. The door opened.

There stood Chaucer and a goblin. The goblin was the same size as the elf and had extremely large pointed ears. They stood inside the doorway, both tilting their heads back to look up at the king. Bruce stood behind them, sullenly watching.

The king studied Chaucer for a moment. "Soldat," he said. "How long has this house-elf been wearing my clothes?"

"Erm," Soldat replied.

"Has he been in my wardrobe? Does he have any other outfits of mine?"

"Erm, no," the goblin said, shifting his weight uneasily from foot to foot. "No...."

The king stared down at Chaucer.

Chaucer stared back and blinked. "Chaucer traded for clothes," he said. "Chaucer fried twenty banana and peanut butter sandwiches, fourteen with mayonnaise."

Richard felt his arteries harden. The goblin looked a bit scared.

The king continued to stare at the house-elf. "You traded one of my Brummell originals for a Presley snack?"

Chaucer seemed offended. "Chaucer cooks good Memphis food. Would you like a sandwich? You need a knife and fork to eat it."

"Hungry?" Soldat squeaked as it wrung its hands. He looked up at the king with a pleading look on his face.

"Memphis? You did not go to Memphis," the king said in a scolding tone. He then gave an exasperated sigh. "Soldat, where is the baby?"

Soldat looked around, as if he expected to find it lying on the floor. "Erm."

Richard started to speak. "Look, obviously...."

Soldat pointed at Owen. "There is the babysitter," he squealed. "He said the words. The parent told him to watch the girl. He said she was a baby."

Owen suddenly threw himself in front of Leia.

"I'm not a baby!" she shouted, pushing her cousin down. Owen sprawled on the floor. "And I still get to go. Lucy and Bruce went, so I get to go too!"

Owen jumped up and grabbed Leia's arm. "You can't go! It's too dangerous."

"It is too dangerous," the king said, silencing the children with a wave of his hand. "Especially for goblins. Biter here was really bad, and we almost made Lucy cheat to get rid of him."

"DID NOT!" Bruce yelled. He stood still, his hands balled into fists.

"Well, well," the king said. "What an unfortunate happenstance. It looks like Biter's temper hasn't changed."

"My name is Bruce," the boy shouted.

"And we have a false babysitter, and no baby."

"See, Jareth says I'm not a baby." Leia pushed Owen again. He didn't fall down but he looked very scared.

"So you and your goblins are leaving now? Empty-handed?" Richard asked. He saw the first one standing outside the door, near Lenny, who was still holding the blue stick.

"Empty-handed? Oh, no, no. I have my quest. And I believe Sorg is ready to assist me."

.
The King's Quest by Overhill
Author's Notes:
The king recalls another Runner.
Chapter 4 - The King's Quest


Richard quickly looked around the room, his wand at the ready. For having lived there almost all of his life, he never noticed before how many doors there were. There was the library's, the two classrooms', the music room's (where Leia had been), the doors to the dining and kitchen area, the anti-grav room door (still lit and still filthy), the exit door to the atrium and gardens, and the double door to the hospital's employee corridor. Are goblins hidden behind each one? he wondered, and glanced down at Chaucer.

The house-elf didn't seemed to be concerned. "Before leaving, would Goblin King like refreshment?" he politely asked.

The king sat back down in Richard's chair, and smirked when he saw the horrified expression on Richard's face. He ignored the children, who were continuing to shove each other. Bruce tried to pull himself out of the small melee, but to no lasting success.

"No, not at this time," the king replied. "I would appreciate an escort," he added, looking back at Chaucer.

"Chaucer is not available, as Chaucer is escorting Princess Leia." The elf blinked at the king.

Leia stopped pounding on her cousin long enough to beam at the king. Her tiara was hanging down by her ear and she pushed it back up to a less crooked position.

"You're not going anywhere," Owen snarled. "I'm the boss."

"Absolutely not," the king said with a lofty tone. "That outfit does look rather dashing on you, especially the boots," he told the elf. "Perhaps I will punish Soldat only a little."

Soldat stuffed his fist into his mouth, unsuccessfully stifling a whimper.

Richard wished that there was some way to summon someone, without unduly upsetting the hospital's routine. He was a responsible adult, a well-trained wizard; he should be able to handle a small invasion. He decided it was time to get some help, but he was stuck. How is it that all the portraits are missing? he fumed. The only house-elf available to him was standing in front of him, chatting with a goblin who looked like he was suffering from an acute case of anxiety. The rest of the off-duty staff was not going to be back for another hour. He wasn't going to let any of the children out of his sight. Maybe there's a ghost in the corridor who would deliver a message, he hoped. (Ghosts at St. Mungo's are restricted to the ancient Roman baths and the corridors that were under the hospital.) But how can I get into the corridor without alerting this idiot? he fumed. He didn't have much hope in having a ghost do anything, as they generally ignored the living, but he was getting a bit desperate; the king looked very comfortable, as if the "quest" was to select furniture for his kingdom.

"Why don't you go already?" Owen shouted at the king.

"Don't talk like that to Jareth," Leia shot back.

The game table got knocked over, and the Sticks fell all over the floor.

"See what you did? I was winning," Lenny whined as he grabbed up some of Sticks.

"Liar," Bruce snarled.

The king gave Richard a mockingly sympathetic look. "It would be more peaceful here, if I took them all. I could have them dropped into the Bog of Eternal Stench. Perhaps run them around in front of the Cleaners?"

Leia immediately got out of the fight and ran to Richard. "Can I go to the dance? Please?" she begged.

"No!" Richard replied. "Chaucer, round this lot up and take them to the library. Make sure that there aren't any goblins in there. And close the door. And if they won't go quietly, take them."

The king brought up another glass orb and rolled it around his fingers and palm, and Transfigured it into a small red creature, bright and furry with fiery eyes. It scampered down to the floor. Bruce stomped on it and it disappeared. The king stared at Bruce, and Richard grabbed the boy's shoulder to prevent him from getting any closer to him, and gave him a shove toward the library. Richard also glanced at the floor, to see if there was anything left of the creature; there wasn't.

"Come on, Bruce," Lenny said, as Wilf sat on Owen. "You don't want Chaucer having to treat you like a baby."

"I'm not a baby," Bruce protested, as Lenny and Wilf dragged Owen with them.

"Then act like someone who's going to Hogwarts," Richard ordered him. "You too," he told Leia.

Leia burst into tears and stomped her feet. "I hate you!" she told him.

"Well, that makes you pretty much like almost all the girls who went to Hogwarts," he told her. "Now get in there."

"Like all the girls he's ever dated," Bruce said. "Gwen was smart to dump you."

"To the library," he told them both.

Bruce yanked his arm away from the approaching house-elf and stomped off to the library and slammed the door, leaving Chaucer and Leia outside the room. Leia struggled to get the door open--the boys were holding the door-knob--until Chaucer came to her rescue and she stomped in. Chaucer held the door for a moment, and gave the two men a brief nod of his head before he disappeared and the door closed shut. Only two doors were shut now.

Richard gave the room another glance-over, and turned his full attention back the man who had his chair, and his two goblin goons.

"Good luck on your quest, your majesty," he said coolly. "Would you prefer to leave by the window or the door?"

"My quest is here," the king said, drawing up another crystal sphere and slowly spinning it around on his fingertips. "I am missing one of my Runners. She has forgotten me. They live, they die, but rarely do they forget me. And I have come to find out why." The sphere disappeared. He looked up at Richard, his face serious. "I think you may know her and you may know why."

"I have no idea what you are talking about. I know nothing of your universe, nor do I want to," Richard said with formal politeness. "If Lucy Graves is--"

"Lucy has nothing to do with this quest. She does not know the missing Runner."

"But you know Lucy," Richard retorted.

"Lucy has her rewards," the king said coolly. "All of my Runners are accounted for, but one. And as she has forgotten me, the Labyrinth and her friends, her name is lost. Sorg is disconsolate and has been for decades of your time." The goblin was curled up on the floor, a miserable ball of skin and armour. Soldat stood a distance away, and looked uncomfortable.

"So why look now?" Richard said, forcing his voice from sounding impatient.

"Because I cannot go where I have not been Summoned," the king said, as if teaching a tiresome child.

"Then why not ask one of your other Runners?"

"The Runners do not know each other, unless they meet in their own universes, and only if they reveal themselves to each other."

"Well, your being Summoned here was a mistake, and I do apologise for Owen's unfortunate actions, but he has never been a Runner. Unless there's something more that you are not telling me."

The king's expression was one of shielded anger. The uneven eyes caught Richard's and held them. "I am explaining as fast as your mind will comprehend," he said. "Do not mock me."

Richard glared back. "I have no idea who this person may be," he said. "I had no idea that Lucy Graves had ever entered your world, and the only reason why I know her is from school, and that she was years ahead of me, and that she is Bruce's cousin, and she lives in Shropshire and always has. Give me a description, or a photograph or something and perhaps I can help you. But what will you do once you find your Runner? Maybe I should not help you, especially if it causes harm."

"Harm has already been done, but not by me," the king said in a low voice. "Something terrible had to have happened for her to live and not remember."

Sorg was sobbing.

For her to live and not remember. The words hit Richard like a blow: His own mother did not know her name, having been spell damaged before his birth.

He paused, and looked away from the king, to prevent him from reading his mind. And in the pause, the king took note.

"She was blond, with blue eyes."

"Well, that describes half the women in England," Richard replied, studying the distant bulletin board. Including my mum.

"She loved rock music, and flowers, and she had a sweetness about her," the king said, slipping into his memories. "She was brilliant in the logic test, and she slipped through the dangers. She made peace in the village and made so many friends."

Sorg bawled.

"She was beguiling in the dance. She broke my heart with a touch of her finger. If I could, I would have sent the baby back and kept her. And if I'd ever suspected her of forgetting us...."

Sorg wailed as Soldat clumsily patted its shoulder.

Richard felt a stab of worry. He could not picture his mother doing anything but being his mother. She was working in the tea room, on the fifth floor of the hospital. How can I be certain that this visit will be harmless? If they saw each other, maybe she will remember who she is. But I'm sure she would never have had anything to do with this joker. And what if he takes her to his universe--will she ever return?

The king stood up, his cloak swirling in as if in a breeze. "We will search this place and find her."

Sorg took out a big blue handkerchief and stuffed it in its mouth, stopping the noise except for a few sniffing sounds.

"IF you find her. Will this mess be cleaned up before or after you go? And what makes you think that she's here?" Richard frowned at the anti-grav Room. He was pretty sure that there were cross-universe rules about not leaving a mess. There's a book somewhere, he thought, trying to remember when and where he saw Professor Kirke's Guide to Cross-Universe Travel. Maybe cleaning it will keep him here for a bit longer, until I can contact her, let her know what's going on.

He turned back to the king, but the king and the goblins were gone. He was alone in the room, and the doors to the hospital corridor were closed.

.
End Notes:
Thanks to jessicadamien for punctuation polishing!
The Lost Runner by Overhill
Author's Notes:
The missing Runner is found--but is still lost.
beta-ed by Gelsey and jessicadamien. For story credits and disclaimers, please go to my profile page.

The Lost Runner


Richard hesitated for a moment, then ran to the library door. The children and Chaucer were standing around the room, clutching chess pieces in their hands and pulling books off of the shelf.

"Stay here," he said. "I'll be right back. Chaucer, don't let any of them out of the room."

"I need to use the loo," Wilf said.

Richard paused, then fled to the corridor doors and pulled one open. The corridor was lit, but he could still see a couple of ghosts down near the hospital entrance. There was no noise from the gymnasium complex. He ran down to the other door.

"People could ask us to move," one of them grumbled as Richard passed through.

Richard stopped and turned. "Excuse me; I should have asked first. But, have you seen a tall man with two short goblins go by?"

"All goblins are short: It's part of what makes them goblins."

"Yes, but did you see them?"

"I suppose so. Tall man, sort of spidery?"

"I didn't think he looked spidery," the other said. "With that hair, he looked like a bird. A big bird, like a vulture or something."

Richard tried to interrupt and gave up.

"Rude," one of the ghosts said. "Doesn't stick around to list--" The door closed before Richard could hear the rest.

The corridor came to a four way intersection. To the left was the lift; to the fore, the stairs and an exit. To the right, another corridor with closed doors. Richard looked down each way and wondered which way the others had gone. The indicator wheel on the lift showed that it was going from the fourth to the third floor. There was no way to get the lift up to the fourth floor in the amount of time he'd spent. He listened, but heard no sound of footsteps on the stairs. Maybe he flew? Maybe the goblins Apparated? he wondered. It did not seem possible that the strangers would have gone down the one on the right, as the security wards prohibited all but staff and registered visitors. There isn't any reason why he'd go that way, he thought, glancing at the art work that graced the doors. But something nagged at him, that this was the way. He looked at the lettering on the door. "Adriana Dumbledore Memorial Wing". Was she the missing Runner? he wondered. No, she's dead; he said that the Runner was alive.

He paused a moment longer. There will be portraits in there, he thought, I can send a message to Mum.

But there are also pictures in the stairwell, he argued.

These are closer, he reasoned, and pushed past the doors. Besides, maybe someone here can help me stop him or go keep check on the children, he hoped. Chaucer had his limits--he imagined the house-elf reaching them rather quickly.

He looked down the empty hallway. It was softly lit, and he could hear voices. He quickly walked down past the closed doors of the residents on the right and the housekeeping and guest flats on the left. A door to one of the residents' flats was ajar, and he stood and looked inside.

His mother was seated at a small table, with another woman and two men. The woman he knew at once--Alice Longbottom, a long-time patient of the hospital, and her son, Neville, who had been a year behind him in school. The other man was a stranger and had his back to the door. From where he could see, the man seemed to be well-groomed and was wearing formal business robes.

"Richard," his mother said. "We're just having a late tea. Alice has a visitor--Mr. Jareth says that you've met."

The stranger turned, and Richard instantly recognized the mismatched eyes and the smirk. "Hello, Healer Goodfellow," he said. "I trust that the children are well-taken care of?"

Richard noticed the man was wearing black gloves. Did he have those on earlier? he wondered. There were days he did not trust his own memory.

Neville effortlessly conjured a chair for Richard. "Do sit down," he said. "Mr. Jareth has been telling us about Mother."

Alice rocked gently in her chair, her eyes unfocused. She was wearing comfortable clothes and was holding a soft toy that Richard did not recognize. Richard looked at Alice and suddenly realized who the missing Runner was. Shocked, he almost missed the seat of the chair and clumsily righted himself. Another glance at the toy, and he saw that it was similar to the red creature that Bruce had stomped on. Looking around the room, he saw the two goblins, dressed as for Gringotts Bank. Soldat was talking to the attendant who was taking care of Alice's husband in the bedroom while Sorg stood at the bedroom door, watching Alice while tears streamed down its face.

"I hope you don't mind if we continue the conversation," the king said. "I do like how the living quarters are here." He gestured to the large windows that looked out to the hospital's conservatory. "My compliments to the decorator," he added. "I like the choice of colours on the walls--unfortunately most hospitals just have things so colourless and flat, with no privacy."

Richard glanced around the room. The walls were a soft green, and there were flowers and Celtic designs painted on the ceiling and around the door frames. He didn't care much for the design, but it was nicely done. He tried not to stare at the Goblin King, but he kept glancing at him out of the corner of his eye.

"It was terrible before the War," Neville said. "Mum and Da were kept in a large room, with just curtains and the walls were just white, and it was so noisy, and no privacy. No windows." He shuddered. "Some friends of mine did the fund-raising, and I got the design--I wanted them to have fresh air, have things more normal for them. And there were other patients who were there too, so we have it this way. Mum and Da can go out to the garden there, get taken on walks, and sometimes there's an amusement for them. I stay here sometimes, too, for short visits."

"I am sorry about the war, and for what happened to your parents," the king said to Neville. And then to Alice he said, "I knew things were bad here. But when I lost contact with you, I had no idea what had happened."

Alice continued to rock back and forth.

"Your painting that you did, the very large one of a labyrinth and a castle, is it around?" he asked Alice.

"None of the stuff in my parents' house was left," Neville said. "The Lestranges destroyed everything while they were torturing my parents. Gran had taken me for the day out in the country, or I probably would have been killed."

"Good for Gran! So the thugs left nothing, not even her library? It was quite the collection."

"Not a thing," Neville said firmly. "The house was torn down afterwards, and I'm not sure what's there now. So how did you know Mum?"

"She came to visit me," the king said airily.

Richard had taken a tea-cup, and, startled, spilled the tea on his leg. He quickly waved his hand over the spot, making it disappear, and hoped no one noticed.

Almost everyone politely ignored his actions. The king smirked.

"Are you sure it wasn't the other way around?" he asked the king, giving him a deadly glare.

"You were in your teens," he said to Alice. "You had your hair down to you waist and an infectious giggle. You danced everywhere, as if your every thought was music." His eyes softened as he watched the unresponsive woman. "Your paintings were so lifelife, they needed no charms to Viviate them. When you left, it was as if the sun had gone behind storm clouds." He sighed. "It has not been the same since. Frank is a very fortunate man to have you."

Richard glanced over at Frank, who was now by the window, propped up and seat-belted in a wheelchair. Fortunate was not a word to describe the Longbottoms.

"And when you no longer asked for Heldig, and your little friend could not find you..."

The sad goblin stuffed a handkerchief in its mouth.

"...then Heldig became Sorg, and has been ever since."

Grief-stricken, the goblin sat on the floor. Neville went over to it and squatted next to it. "Pardon me, but won't you have a seat?"

It shook its head and looked up at Neville. "I remember when you were a ba-ba-baby," it croaked. "Y-y-you held my finger." It leaned against Neville's knee and sobbed.

"Here, come sit on the sofa," Neville gently ordered and led the small being over and helped get it adjusted.

"Sh-she, Fr-Frank cheated the mon-mon-monster thr-three times," it wailed. "It was gone! Gone! And they hurt her so b-bad." The goblin could not be consoled. Neville, Richard and the others looked at each other, helpless. Alice turned her head in the direction of the noise and kept rocking.

"Sorg, would you rather go back to the castle now?" the king asked in a stern fashion.

Sorg shook its head and stuffed a small sofa pillow against its face, stopping the noise, but its body continued to shake.

Soldat looked nervous but continued to visit with Frank's attendant, who dabbed at the drool at Frank's face.

"So there are no mementos of Alice's childhood or youth?" the king asked. "Nothing that might remind her of earlier times?"

"For all their talk of 'pure-bloods', the Death Eaters killed a very large number of them," Neville said bitterly. "Mum and Da had her parents' house; she'd inherited it from them, so all of her stuff was there. I have a photo of them, that a friend of mine made a copy of, and some of their classmates sent me photos when this wing was built. Gran has a few photos of when they married and when I was born, so it's not like it was a total loss, but that's about it."

"Do you have any of the photos here? Or perhaps a photo album?" the king asked.

"No, they're scattered around. I should do it, I suppose. Or maybe Gran has one--I'll ask her."

"It would be helpful to have an album," Richard's mother said. "Then when guests are here, it would be nice to go over them, and maybe Frank and Alice would be cheered up a bit to see them."

Frank was pounding on the window. The attendant moved him so he could not reach it. "He gets excited about the rain," the attendant apologised. "I think that there's a bird loose in there, that's flapping around."

"I'll look," Neville volunteered. He went to the window and put the palm of his hand on it. A door formed, and he opened it, and stepped out into the conservatory, his wand ready. "Accio bird!"

He brought back a little bird in his hand and showed it to Frank, who ignored it. "It's out of the aviary. I'll just put it back." He went out in the conservatory, and to the aviary. Richard could see the light from the library and wondered how Chaucer and the children were doing.

The king turned his full attention to the woman. "Alice, I will be leaving now. Is there anything you would like me to send you? I could have Sorg bring back anything you wish. Flowers from the gardens, stinkweed from the bog? Silk? Music? Sun-warmed stones? Sweet peaches?" He put his hand out to her cheek, but she only turned away. "Alice? Alice?" he whispered. He drew up another glass orb and held in front of her. "Your memories of your visit?" he quietly asked. He put it on the table in front of her, and she gazed at it for a moment. There was no recognition, no focus.

Richard and his mother looked at each other. Is anyone looking for my mum? he wondered.

Neville returned and closed the door behind him, and it disappeared.

"Mr. Longbottom, thank you very much for your time. Thank you." The king graciously nodded to Richard's mother and the other attendant. "I've enjoyed our visit."

"Alice." He knelt down by her chair. She stopped rocking and looked in his direction. He carefully took her hand and held it by his cheek before gently kissing it and laying it back down on her lap. She started humming, but the sound was tuneless, and she resumed rocking. The clear glass globe sat on the table. Neville looked at it and then at the king, a puzzled expression on his face. "There is nothing there that will harm anyone," the king said softly.

"Healer Goodfellow, may I have the pleasure of your company? Good day, and thank you again." The king left the room, Soldat following in his wake. Sorg stood and looked at Alice for a moment longer, hiccuped and fled, following its companions.

Richard looked back at the others. Neville, his mother and the other attendant were staring at him.

"Well...." Richard didn't know how to explain, or where to start and remembered that his conversation with the king was not finished. "Talk to you later," he said, and went out the door.

.
The Guide to Cross-Universe Travel by Overhill
Author's Notes:
The Guide is on sale now at bookstores everywhere in the wizarding world. Ten percent discount if you mention this story.
beta-ed by Gelsey

The Guide to Cross-Universe Travel


"Try for that one over there, the red one," Lenny said, pointing to the top shelf. "I can't see the title on it."

Bruce was standing on an upside-down small rubbish bin that was on the seat of a chair that was on a table that was pushed next to the library stack. The make-shift pillar swayed as he stretched his arm over to a small red book.

"Get down; you're going to fall down," Owen snarled.

"You know, it would help if you would just remember what she said," Bruce retorted before he jumped off the small bin and onto the table top. The chair tipped over and there was a loud noise. Everyone looked at the door, but no one was there.

"It would help, too, if you'd just get it down, Chaucer," Bruce said with a sacrastic tone. For him, being left under the supervision of a house-elf was as humiliating as being stuck with a baby-sitter.

Chaucer blinked but said nothing. He was sitting on a chair, watching the children as if they were in a pantomime. The floor was littered with rubish from the bin, but because the children made the mess, the Community rule was that the children had to clean it up.

Owen was on the floor, on his stomach, looking at the book spines. "Just look for 'cross-universe' in the title. That's what the he said. And Lucy wouldn't have her books here anyway."

"Are you sure Lucy read it in a book? That someone didn't tell her?" Bruce said as he pushed the table over a few more feet and picked up the bin.

"Didn't she tell you?" Owen replied. "She told me all about what a stupid baby you were--"

"Shut up, Owen, or I'll take your Major Tom and--"

"It's ruined anyway. I'll bet it never gets cleaned. Whose idea was it to go get Healer S's stuff? She's going be really mad when she finds out."

"Some of them looked like space monsters," Lenny said. "I didn't tell those goblins to come here."

"Some of the goblins looked like Healer S's stuff," Bruce said. "Maybe they are? Maybe the room can enlarge stuff. Maybe it's all fake. Maybe the so-called 'king' is a liar."

"I want the horse thing," Leia said, as she tried to pull a chess piece from her cousin's back pocket.

"No!" Owen shouted. "Can't you leave anything alone?"

"I've got all the little people, and they need a horse," she said.

Owen rolled over to protect his knight and hurt his bum as a result.

"It's all your fault," he told Leia. "If you weren't such a big baby."

"I'm not a baby," she said. "Jareth said so."

"Jareth is not going to take you to any stupid dance, or underground, or anything else. And neither is Healer G, so you can just quit being an idiot around them."

"I am not an idiot! You are!" She swung her purse full of chess pawns at him and hit him on the knee.

"I wish the goblins would come back and take you away," Owen snapped as he pulled the knight out of his pocket.

"Found it," Lenny said. "It's a grey cover. That's the problem."

"Looks kinda new to me," Bruce said as he looked at the small paperback book. Professor Kirke's Guide to Cross-Universe Travel had different fonts for the lettering, and a small illustration of an owl pointing to the words. The book looked as if it had just been purchased recently. The back was still smooth, and the covers were stiff. "Are you sure this is it?"

Lenny shrugged. "Let's look."

He and Bruce sat down together, ignoring the slap fight that was going on. Owen stuffed the knight into the front of his shirt and sat down on the floor on the other side of Lenny. Leia, not wanting to be left out, sat down too.

"Let me look," Bruce said, making a grab for the book.

"I found it," Lenny said, avoiding Bruce. "I think I found it. It's in the back here. 'Underground. Mostly harmless. Small contained kingdom primarily occupied by beings referred to as 'goblins', height ranging from 0.25 to 2.0 metres and other non-human creatures. Ruled by king, presumed immortal, named "Jareth". Appearance is described as "a beautiful man with mismatched eyes." Key geographic features are bog, castle, city, city dump, gardens, labyrinth or maze, oubliettes...."

"What's that?" Wilf interrupted.

"...sewer, slums, walls. Entrance to universe strictly controlled by king: No other way known. Primary reference information by Kezia Pennington, age 115, and Olive Bones, age 92, each claimed to have been there in her youth. Other accounts discovered in estate diaries, some of Muggle origin. See appendices. See also: goblins, logic games, music, orbs (crystal), owls, tests of character." Finished, Lenny looked up at the others.

"That's it? Let me see," Bruce said, successfully taking the book away from him. "Anyone can fake that. Let's see what it says about cleaning up. I bet he has to."

"Chaucer, can I go to the loo?" Wilf whined.

Chaucer got off the table. "Everyone come with Chaucer and Wilf," he said firmly. With some grumbling, the small group left the library and went to the washroom that was inside the closest classroom.

As the younger children took turns using the small room, Bruce asked Chaucer, "I'll bet you think that this whole thing is really stupid. I'll bet that I end up having to clean the Anti-Grav room. I'll bet that Jareth is just a clown Lucy met and she made the whole thing up. I wish she'd left me out of it."

Chaucer waited until Bruce finished his turn. The other children had gone back to the library and were playing with the chess pieces, using books to make walls and towers. "But Lucy Graves did not make it up," Chaucer said as the two went to join the others.

"How do you know?" Bruce said.

"Because Chaucer went there," he said. "Chaucer met Soldat at cross-universe convention. That's where Chaucer got clothes."

Bruce looked at the outfit Chaucer had on. "You mean that...that idiot wore those?"

Chaucer looked pleased with himself. "Chaucer made clothes fit. Goblin King said Chaucer looked good. Where was Bruce when Goblin King said so?"

"You mean you know how to get there?" Bruce said loudly. The other children stopped their play and looked up.

"Chaucer knows," the house-elf said. "Chaucer Apparated with Soldat."

"Can I go?" Leia begged.

"Then how do we get there?" Lenny asked.

"We are NOT going there," Bruce shouted. "Don't tell him, Chaucer!"

Chaucer blinked. "Lenny would get to Underground if Lenny was babysitting and said to baby, 'I wish the goblins would come and take you away, right now.'"

Goblins jumped in from nowhere. They seized the children and disappeared.

Chaucer stood alone in silent room, blinked and then Apparated.

.
The Healer at Work by Overhill
Author's Notes:
The Goblin King has questions. A goblin suffers from sorrow.
beta-ed by Gelsey and jessicadamien



The Healer at Work




The king was waiting for him out in the hallway.

"Lovely woman, your mother. Too bad about Alice's attendant being called away," he said. "I would have liked to have met her."

Richard hesitated a moment before answering, not sure of what to say. "Let's step into the office here," he said, opening a door by the hallway's exit. "Have a seat."

The room was primarily used for house-keeping; its secondary use was as a make-shift office. There was a small table, some chairs and a kitchenette with a potions supply cabinet that was warded against all but a few selected Healers.

Inside the cabinet was a small jar of sliced Murtlap, useful for Healers and attendants' protection against wandless hexes that the residents sometimes threw. Out of habit, Richard quickly got the jar, took out a slice and washed it down with a swallow of water. "Excuse me," he said to the king and his attendants. "Would you like a drink of water?" He filled a small tumbler with water and held it up for them to see.

"No, thank you," the king said, eyeing him suspiciously. Soldat looked around at their surroundings. Sorg sat and hiccuped and blew its nose on what little was clean on its handkerchief.

Richard sat at the table, it and the tumbler of water as buffers between him and the strangers. "You said that our conversation wasn't finished," he said. "What more needs to be said?"

The king studied Richard. "I would like to know what happened to the painting; it belongs with her and should be hanging up in her suite. I do not believe that it was destroyed, as it was carefully and thoroughly spelled to last for millennia. There appears to be some lack in Alice's care, and I want to remedy it. She was a successful Runner and is still entitled to the friendship of my subjects; I want that association to resume." Sorg hiccuped and had a pleading expression on its face as it stared up at Richard.

Richard got up from the table and got another tumbler of water and a box of tissues and put them in front of Sorg. Soldat looked as if he were counting the bedsheets stacked on the far wall.

"I don't know what happened to it--I was only a toddler myself when Alice was brought here. Whatever personal effects she had, Mrs. Longbottom--her mother-in-law--probably took. And if Neville says that there were none, I believe him."

"What if the painting was not in the house?" the king said. "Where would it be then?"

"Your guess is as good as mine. In fact, your guesses would probably be better, as you seem to know far more about Alice's past than I."

"Your mother is one of her other regular attendants," the king said.

"Interesting, that you should know so much about my mother. Was she one of your Runners too?"

The king looked a bit surprised. "No. I met her for the first time today. She probably would have been an adequate one, if that sets your mind at ease."

Richard decided not to comment.

"As to Alice and Frank's care," the Healer continued, "the primary responsibility rests with their son, Neville, and Frank's mother. We here at the hospital follow their orders. Whatever further treatments you might be considering have to go through them. Healer Thompson is their primary Healer, not I. Perhaps you should be having this conversation with him. He will be back on duty tomorrow at 9 a.m. Or maybe you should go back to the room and talk to Neville." Richard took another sip of water.

The king said nothing. Sorg hiccuped again. The silence became oppressive.

"I do have a question. What happens to your unsuccessful Runners? What was that about Bite--I mean Bruce being left behind?"

"Lucy succeeded, and Bruce is here in your universe. That is all you need to know," the king said coolly. Soldat looked very nervous. Sorg wiped its eyes. A small mound of used tissues was building up on the table.

"I think not," Richard replied. "You apparently came at Owen's bequest and would have taken Leia. You know about my 'universe', but I don't know anything about yours. You know enough about this 'universe' to use an owl form to trick me into opening the window; otherwise you and your associates would not be here now. Your little 'army' invaded and made a mess of the Anti-Grav room, which is rather a difficult place to tidy up. And I'm a bit suspicious of where the 'army' went after it left. You and your two associates went through the protection wards of this wing, which are in place for the benefit of the residents. I don't even know how to address you: Goblin King? King Jareth? Hey, you? So where should we start?"

The king smirked. "Anything else, Healer Goodfellow? As for addressing me, that is not a problem; I am here."

Richard decided to ignore the comment. "You wish for me to advocate for you to Healer Thompson? To Neville? To Mrs. Longbottom? I have to have something to tell them. After all, Lucy Graves is not a member of the staff, and I'm not aware of any other so-called Runners. If there's anything you and I can agree on, it's that Lucy is not the best example of a character witness." Richard leaned back in his chair, in his best Healer Thompson imitation, and waited, his eyes focused on his opponent's mismatched ones.

"The wards allow only select hospital staff, family and friends of the residents, do they not?" the king asked.

Richard gave a slow nod of consent.

"Then they testify as to our place in Alice's world. There are other Runners who may vouch for me, but I am not at liberty to identify them to you."

"But you are to someone else?" Richard asked.

"Not to you," he repeated.

There was a pause again. Half of the mound of tissues fell to the floor. The goblin noisily got off of its chair and carried them to the bin and returned to its seat. The two men ignored it.

"There is something else," the king said with a slight frown. "Sorg here obviously needs help. As you are a Healer, perhaps you may be able to do so."

Sorg looked up at the Healer.

Richard inwardly sighed and ruefully thought, No matter what, a Healer is always on call. "I'm afraid I'm not the expert on goblins, but Sorg, I agree, you do seem to need help." He glanced at the king and Soldat. "And I suppose that there won't be any privacy for me to interview you."

"Of course not," the king replied, but he moved his chair away from Sorg.

Richard went to the sink and washed his hands, giving his mind a moment to change its attitude. What if it Apparates while I'm touching it? he silently worried. He decided to risk it.

He sat next to the goblin and asked it, "May I?" before he took carefully its small wrist in his fingers. The pulse felt strong. With the other hand, he carefully checked its eyes. "How long have you been crying, Sorg?" the Healer gently asked. He knew that answer.

"Ev-ev-er since she for-forgot me," it wept.

"That's been a long time. Have you any other pains? Headaches? Allergies?"

The goblin shook its head, spraying its tears and snot.

"You really miss her, don't you?" he asked, giving the goblin another tissue. "What do you do in your world?"

"Cry a lot," Soldat interrupted. The king shot him a withering stare.

"Anything else?"

"No," it sobbed.

"Is there any--" the Healer tried to remember what had been said about the other world. "Is there any music?"

Sorg nodded.

"Do you sing?"

"Not-not since..." the goblin didn't finish.

"Well, I think you should sing. For ten minutes a day. Just sing songs. Silly songs. Go outside or someplace and sing. And sing really, really loud. Take big, deep breaths so that you can sing your loudest. Is there dancing there?"

The goblin nodded.

"And the last time you danced was...."

The goblin got another tissue. "Bef-before."

"Well, I think you should dance." Exercise, he thought. "I think you should dance to ten, no, five songs a day. Start with one today, and one tomorrow, and then five. And then do ten. I'll bet you are a good dancer. Are there any flowers there?"

It nodded.

"When was the last time you looked at the flowers? With all of your tears, are you able to smell the flowers?"

It shook its head.

"Every day, go outside and look at one flower. If you feel like it, look at another one. But do look at one a day. It doesn't have to be the same one, even if it's raining outside." Get some fresh air, he mentally ordered.

"Do those things every day--sing, dance, go out and look at flowers. You'll feel better. Promise?" the Healer quietly asked.

Sorg nodded and sniffed quietly.

The Healer looked up at the king. "There won't be a problem with the regimen, will there?"

The king looks annoyed. "Of course not. We have been trying to get Sorg to do all that for years."

"We have?" Soldat asked.

The king gave the goblin a look of doom before he turned back to the Healer. "Is there not a suitable potion or pill?"

Richard was back to business. "As I said, I'm not an expert on goblins. I don't know what effects certain ingredients may have on the goblins in this universe, let alone yours." He went back to the sink and washed his hands again.

What are the children doing now? he wondered. Chaucer is probably just barely keeping them from killing each other -- the library is going to be a mess. When they get through with me, I'm going to be Doxy droppings. He thought about taking some more Murtlap to protect himself from any underage spells but decided against it.

"Pardon me, but don't you have a kingdom to run?" he asked as he dried his hands.

The king made a slightly wry face. "I trust that you will personally escort me out the way I came in." He stood up and went to the door, which Soldat opened. Richard gave the box of tissues to Sorg to take with him.

Out in the hallway, the king paused and looked down the hallway to the Longbottom's suite. Richard made no comment as they all stood in the hallway for a minute, Sorg quietly sniffling. Wordlessly the king turned and marched down the hallway of the Ariana Dumbledore wing, Richard and the goblins following after him. Only Sorg looked back as they passed through the doors.

.
The Problems With Waiting by Overhill
Author's Notes:
While the king is away, the goblins will obey.
beta-ed by Gelsey

The Problems With Waiting



The children stood in the middle of a large room that was walled with rough stone. Frameless, glassless windows were in the wall, there were ledges around the perimeter, and there was one--and only one--piece of furniture that might have been a chair by the wall opposite an opening to a large hallway. Odd creatures, a few looking like Gringotts goblins and others less so, were sitting on the ledges and standing around the children. Chickens strutted around the room and birds flew in and out of the window.

Otherwise, the place was silent as the two groups studied each other.

Finally, one of the goblins spoke up. "Where's the king?"

"Dunno. I thought he was with you," Bruce said.

There was another silence.

"Where's the baby?" a different one asked, looking behind them as if there was one hidden behind them.

"We're not babies," Bruce sullenly replied. "At least, I'm not." Lenny and Owen, who were standing at his sides, punched him.

While the boys tussled, Leia marched over to the chair and perched herself on it. "I'm the Princess, so what I say goes."

"What's a 'princess'?" one of the goblins asked.

"I'm the boss," she replied, her nose in the air and her feet swinging. She straightened her tiara.

"You are not the boss," one of the goblins retorted. "Get off the throne." He reached out to grab her but jumped back in pain, holding his arm. "That hurt!"

Leia looked worried. "Did it?" Her expression changed instantly. "Good!"

"And you're going to hurt more if you try to touch her again," Owen warned. "She's a witch. And we're wizards. We've got loads of magic. And that's Chaucer. And you have to do what we say."

Chaucer gave a small wave from his side of the room.

The goblins grumbled among themselves. The boys were tired of standing and sat down on a vacant area of a ledge opposite of Leia.

And everyone waited. The boys looked out the different windows and saw the labyrinth, gardens, farms, a village ("That must be the Goblin City," Owen guessed), a huge dump and what looked like a swamp with big trees.

"What is that? The Fen of Foul Fumes?" Lenny asked a grouchy-looking goblin.

"It's the Bog of Eternal Stench. It's where we're all going to end up if the guard made a mistake."

"What mistake?"

"Bringing you lot here," he grumbled. "It was supposed to be a baby."

"We're not babies," Lenny replied.

"We can see that," the goblin snarled as he stomped away in his hob-nailed boots.

The Goblin King did not arrive.

Most of the goblins left the room, two or three at a time. The boys moped around, with Wilf checking where the chickens had been sitting to see if there were any eggs. Leia turned the dark feathers on a chicken into pink fluff, causing the goblins to eye her with a deepening suspicion. Chaucer stood with a couple of goblins, having a quiet conversation.

The Goblin King still did not arrive.

"I'm bored," Owen complained. "Lucy said that there was music here."

"I want a dance," Leia added.

"We don't do it for free," a goblin grumbled. "And you don't have anything we want."

Leia took off a bracelet and dangled it in her hand. "I can pay."

The goblins eyed it but made no move.

"It's plastic," Owen said.

Chaos erupted. The goblins started jumping up and down, and music came from the walls.

"Dance, dance, dance," the goblins sang. Chaucer stepped over to Leia's side and watched.

"There's nothing to do but dance. The dinner is done, the grog is gone, the time is now to dance! Dance! Dance! Dance!"

The music continued and the goblins kept jumping around. Leia clapped her hands and laughed.

"This is so stupid," Bruce growled. "I wish we were out of here."

"I do too," a near-by goblin agreed. "I don't like you. And the king makes much better songs."

"Where does Bruce want to go?" Chaucer asked.

"Anywhere but here."

"Me too," Owen added. "She's just going to get bossier."

"Me three," Lenny muttered.

"Yeah," Wilf said loyally.

Goblins seized the boys and disappeared.

A second later the boys were on a slight--and quiet--hillside. The goblins were gone. Everywhere behind and around them looked like a giant moor, and the labyrinth, the city, and the castle lay before them. Far off to the side were some rough area, to the other, gardens. They could not see what was beyond the castle. Chaucer Apparated next to them.

"I didn't mean here," Bruce snarled. "Why didn't they take us back to the library? Take us back to the library. Please."

"Bruce did not ask for the library. Chaucer can go back and forth, but cannot take anyone. Goblin King is the only one who can have humans go back and forth. Bruce heard Lenny read that in the book. Goblin King is not here."

"That idiot?" Bruce snorted. "Where is he?"

"Chaucer does not know. But to go back to St. Mungo's, boys will have to ask Goblin King."

"And where will we find the king?"

"Try the castle. Goblin King rules there."

"But we were just there," Lenny protested. "Ow! Something bit me."

"Looks like a weird Doxy," Owen said.

"Not Doxy--a fairy," Chaucer said. "Fairy bites hurt, but won't harm," he informed them. Nevertheless, the two boys started waving their arms around, to frighten off the few fairies that were hovering near them. Wilf ran after one, trying to catch it.

Bruce ignored them and turned to the house-elf. "But you said that he's not here."

"Does Bruce see Goblin King standing here?" Chaucer asked. "Bruce needs logic lessons before Bruce goes to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry."

Owen snorted. Bruce swung a punch at him and missed him.

"What about Healer G?" Lenny asked.

"Richard Goodfellow cannot enter here without Goblin King's permission," Chaucer replied.

"Well, that counts him out," the boy grumbled. "He's probably sitting back, reading a newspaper, waiting for us to show up."

"He's probably on another box of biscuits," Wilf added.

"I need to go back to Leia," Owen shouted. "I'm her cousin--I'm supposed to be watching for her."

"Owen can get back to the castle on his own," Chaucer said calmly. "Owen wants to, to tell Lucy how easy it is. Chaucer heard Owen say so. Goblins cannot take boys anywhere now, until or unless Goblin King says so. Chaucer needs to go back to castle now. Chaucer watching for Leia, just as Owen ordered. Good-bye." And he Apparated away.

"Well, that's just great. Thanks a lot, Chaucer," Lenny said, sneering at the absent being. "I never said I wanted to do this."

"Yes, you did. In the library, before we found that stupid book. That's why you were looking for it. That's why you got Chaucer to say the stupid words," Bruce retorted.

"Lucy liked being here," Owen said. "She wanted to come back."

"Yeah, right. Maybe she'll trade us places," Bruce said in a bored way. "Well, if our stupid cousin could make it to the castle, we can. Easy."

They studied out the landscape in front of them. There was a wall of brick surrounding more walls of brick, stone, and plants. A village could be seen in the distance, and beyond it, the castle. The distance to the castle, as the crow flies, was probably not more than three miles.

"I see some big doors over there," Lenny said, pointing far to the right, where a set of great gates were set into the outer wall.

"That way, over the wall, looks shorter," Owen said, pointing over to the left, where the wall seemed to dip down. "We could climb it and walk on the wall tops to get to the castle."

They went down the low hill and started scrambling up the wall.

"Ow!" Lenny said. "Wait, I've got these stupid Sticks in my pocket." He threw the blue game pieces down on the ground, but left the two Gobstones in his other pocket.

He and the others easily found toe-holds and made their way to the top of the wall.

They walked easily on its wide flat top for a while, but the wall had a break on the top, and they had to go on the inside. When they were down the ground, they discovered little plants that grew from the wall. The plants grew together in clumps of stalks that had round ball-like ends that seemed to have eyelids. They were not unlike the newt and frog eyes and optic nerves that were stored in jars in the hospital's apothecary and which the boys had to fetch at times in their chores. They picked up sticks from the ground and poked at them. The eyes closed up, and the stalks shrank until the plants were almost hiding in the cracks in the wall.

The boys waited for the eyes to reopen, and then they blew dust on them, forcing them to close. Bored, the boys started walking again. Down the row, whenever others of the eye-like plants sensed them coming, they closed up and drew back to the walls.

After another five minutes of walking (which seemed like an hour to the boys), Wilf threw himself down and whined, "I'm tired. And I'm hungry."

"Well, why don't you come in for some tea?" a voice said.

The boys looked around, but didn't see anybody else.

"I'm down 'ere. I'm a worm," the voice said.

The boys stared down at it. It was furry, like a caterpillar, and had a scarf around its neck.

"We're busy," Bruce said. "We're trying to get to the castle."

The little creature blinked at him. "It's easy. Just go through that opening, turn left and go straight. You'll be right there."

The wall looked solid, but they were used to hidden openings at the hospital. The boys walked through without hesitation, looked down to the left to where there was a far away turn in the passage, and then looked at each other. "It's too easy," Owen said. "It probably goes right to that stinking swamp."

"Have you been there before?" Lenny asked the worm.

"Me? No," it answered.

"Why not?"

"I can't go there. I'm just a worm," it answered. "Would you like some tea?" it asked again.

"Can I have some tea?" Wilf asked.

Bruce hesitated. He didn't trust the worm to be giving directions, but he didn't want Wilf whining around him.

"Sure, go ahead, but we'll be going this way." He pointed to the right. "Hurry up and catch up, okay?"

"Come on in, meet the missus," the worm said invitingly to Wilf.

So Wilf went in and met the missus while the other three took the right hand turn and went on without him.

.
The Guardian Off Guard by Overhill
Author's Notes:
The ghosts of Runners past greet the Goblin King.
beta-ed by Gelsey

The Guardian Off Guard



Outside the doors, the king stopped. He was now wearing a very fashionable, though casual, set of robes. The goblins stayed in their Gringotts-styled outfits but wandered away a few paces to watch the indicator for the lift.

"That was an interesting toy Alice had. Did you just give that to her?" Richard asked with studied politeness.

"Yes." The king chuckled. "She had quite a time with the real things. She took their eyes and made a necklace of them."

Richard was speechless.

The king continued. "Alice's son seems to be a personable young man. How would I contact him?"

Richard thought for a moment about privacy issues. "Why not go back down there and make your appointment with him while he's still visiting his parents?"

The king gave a slight frown as he looked through a window on a door. "I think not. I have taken enough time from them today."

Richard was trying to come up with a retort about the king taking time from him, when the other's attention suddenly shifted.

"This looks rather new," the king said as he touched the golden letters on the wing's doors.

"It is," Richard said. "It was built about five years ago."

"Where were the Longbottoms before?"

"In a different part of the hospital," Richard said curtly. That's all you need to know, he mentally added. The Longbottoms had been in the Janus Thickey Ward, but when casualties from the Second War grew in number and threatened to overcrowd the hospital, the Longbottoms had been moved into an office to protect their privacy. When the hospital was besieged, they were hidden behind a wall in the hospital library to protect them from possible Death Eaters attacks. Fortunately the Death Eaters did not take the hospital, and after the war, the Longbottoms had been returned to the dismal conditions of the large and plain room. Richard was relieved when the new wing was built.

The king continued to look at the doors.

"Dumbledore. The name is familiar. Was this Ariana a famous Healer?"

"No," Richard answered.

"Did she donate the money for this wing?"

"No. It's a bit complicated."

"Then these are all of her friends?"

"No, these are the donors." Richard took a deep breath as he looked at the hundreds of names that swirled around in a large Celtic knot that graced the doors. "There's my name." He wished he'd kept quiet; he sounded braggy. He paused again to collect his thoughts. "She...she died. Years ago, a long time before I was born, and her story only came to light a few years ago." There was no simple answer. "There's a book about her, what happened to her, in the library. The money from the sales helped--helps to fund this wing."

"I would be most interested in reading it," the king said.

Richard recognized the statement as a request. "I'll loan it to you when we get back there, and you can bring it back on Monday."

"And you will be where on Monday." It was not a question.

"I'll be at work. It's Healer Thompson you need to talk to."

The king studied him for a moment. "Do you have a specialty, Healer Goodfellow?"

"Potions," he answered simply.

"And you started your apprenticeship after you went to Hogwarts?"

What is this, an interview?
Richard wondered. "No, I started here. Before I went to Hogwarts."

"It seems that you have lived here at this hospital almost all of your life." He gave Richard a look that might have been one of pity. "Is there not something else you would rather be doing? Someplace else you'd rather be?"

Richard felt his ire rise. "I'd rather not be having personal conversations in public places." Especially with a stranger, he mentally added. "This way," he said, leading the way.

Just before they got to the door of the other corridor, the king asked in an off-handed manner, "By the way, who is Gwen?"

The question was unexpected and touched a raw spot, as Richard was still hurt from her rejection. He shot him a look and saw the smirk. He's mocking me, he silently fumed. He refused to answer the question. He drew his wand. "Alohamora," he said. The security wards recognized him and the doors opened.

A cold breeze blew out of the corridor. That doesn't make any sense. It wasn't that cold when.... he wondered. And then he saw that there were dozens of ghosts in the passage, and they were all looking at him. Or rather, at the man next to him.

"Jareth!" they squealed.

Jareth didn't hesitate but stepped right into the noisy ghosts and continued walking, albeit as a slightly slower pace. He smiled and murmured as the female specters floated to him and through him. "Ladies, good to see you. How are you. Yes, I remember you. You look radiant. How kind of you." The goblins followed and seemed ill at ease and a bit jumpy.

He KNEW they were here, that they'd be here, Richard bitterly realized. That's why he asked about her. And if she was here she'd be drooling all over him too.

One (Roman era) was from St. Mungo's. He recognized a few of them from London (two from the plague, one from the fire, one who had been chopped into pieces), some from Lincolnshire (murdered peasants), and one from Hogwarts (the shepherdess from the north courtyard). Is this the lot, or is this just the beginning? he grimly wondered, not recognizing the rest. He shuddered as some of the ghosts passed through him to drape themselves around his associate. The corridor felt like a walk-in freezer. Walnuts! How many are there? he jealously fumed.

Richard spotted the two ghosts he'd run through earlier and gave them a wide margin as he passed by them.

"Now that's manners," one of male spectres said with a haughty sniff. "Not like some people."

Some of the king's admirers were patting the goblins on their heads and chatting with them--or rather at them--by the time the small party got to the other end. Soldat looked to terrified to speak and Sorg kept wiping its tears and blowing its nose, leaving a trail of tissues behind him. One more thing for me to clean up, Ricard fumed as he Vanished them. The ghosts could not pass through the door frame, and it was with a certain gratitude that he shut the door firmly behind them and hoped that they would go away immediately. The room felt very warm and inviting. Richard looked forward to sitting back in his chair, Summoning another plate of biscuits and forgetting that the whole afternoon ever happened. Only I'll need to tell Thompson, he realized. And the parents. And explain to Mum and Neville. He inwardly sighed. I'll probably also have to write a report for the Ministry and the hospital administration and security. It just keeps getting better and better, he thought sarcastically. The boys and Leia will never let me live this down.

The king was still smirking while the goblins stood by him and all three were looking at Richard. The king was now wearing a large black travelling robe, its large collar turned up as though to protect his neck from the wind and the rain that could be heard from outside, and the goblins had changed back into their original outfits. There was nothing to be said. Richard looked over at the still messy Anit-Grav room and inwardly sighed. I'll be so glad to get rid of him--no use trying to force him into a clean-up.

"You mentioned a book?" the king prodded.

"Sure, I'll get it." Richard suddenly realized that he had questions he wanted to ask, about cross-universe travel and what his place was like, but the stranger was leaving; he doubted that he would ever have to deal with him again. He was surprised to feel a small twinge of regret. "When you come back to see Healer Thompson, you can leave it with him." He opened the library door. "Chaucer, would you please get me--"

The room was a mess, and the children and the house-elf were gone.

Richard stood in shock, then turned and saw that the king was looming behind him. The Goblin King's cloak swam around him like a shredded shroud caught in a wind, and the air about him had the odd sparkle of raw magic. An unfathomable look was in his mismatched eyes as he looked down at him. Richard gave a loud shout as he grabbed at him, his hands closing on wisps of shadow. Angrily, he charged forward and fell into a patch of sandy dirt.

"You did not have to do that," the king said reprovingly. "You could have walked. Or waited."

Richard was sprawled at the the other's black booted feet. He pushed himself up on his elbow and spat out the grit that was on his teeth and used his hand to wipe the dust from his face. He sat up slowly, checking for any aches. The sky was cloudy daylight, and there was a breeze that caused the king's cloak to continue to swirl. The air smelled of gorse. He looked around. He couldn't see what was behind the king, as he was in the way, but to the sides and behind him, it seemed as though they were on a bare area of land, like a moor, that had one or two trees and short rough grass. He had just narrowly missed landing on a rock. The two goblins were gone.

.
The Boys in the Labyrinth by Overhill
Author's Notes:
Wilfe, Bruce, Lenny and Owen get separated from each other. Underage magic has its uses.
beta-ed by Gelsey

The Boys in the Labyrinth



"Why are all of these branches here?" Bruce grumbled as he kicked one aside.

The other two had no answer--after all, there were no trees to be seen, though scrubby shrubs and patches of moss poked out from the brick from time to time. The place needed a gardener, but none of the boys wanted to volunteer. Lenny picked up a stick and dragged it along the side, finding other hidden passages and hitting the odd little plants as he went, even though they had closed up and shrunk back to the brick wall.

The stick left a mark all along the wall. They trudged on for a while, stopping every so often to see if Wilf was following them. They tried back-tracking a couple of times but found more walls where there had been passages and passages where there had been walls. They followed the trail that the stick had blazed, but it disappeared entirely where the wall took a sharp left turn. Lenny dropped the stick and helped Bruce boost Owen up to the top of a wall; he then pulled them up. The wall's top was narrow and a bit crumbly. They sat on it and looked toward the castle.

"I suppose we should go back for Wilf," Bruce said, doubtfully.

"We need to get to Leia," Owen retorted.

"Chaucer is with her," Lenny reminded him. "She's probably turned all of the chickens into calio cats or something really stupid by now."

"Yeah, you're right," Owen said. "And we can't go home until we get back to the castle."

"We could send Chaucer back to find Wilf. The sooner we get to the castle, the faster we'll get him," Bruce declared.

They tried to walk on top of the wall again, but it was too narrow. They jumped down and went a bit further. The bricks walls gave way to large squared stones, which were harder to climb as there were fewer handholds. They got back on top, but it was difficult going, as the tops were decorated with oblisks and spheres, spaced out at irregular intervals. They sat on a wall and looked around and they could hear, very faintly, music from the castle.

"Sounds like Leia's getting her way," Owen grumbled. "She always does." He pulled a chess piece out of his shirt. It was the knight he and his cousin had fought over.

"A lot of good that will do us." Lenny said, watching it wave its tiny sword around.

Owen put it next to him and they watched the knight prance around until it fell over the edge. After it hit the ground, it picked itself off and trotted off. "I'll get it," Owen said. He jumped down off of the wall and chased after it. It went around a corner and out of sight. Owen followed after it.

The other two boys sat and waited for Owen to reappear.

He didn't.

"He should've been back by now," Lenny remarked.

"Hey, Owen, come back now!" Bruce shouted. "If you're hiding, it's not funny."

~@~


Owen couldn't hear them. Just as he had grabbed the chess piece, the stone under his feet vanished and he fell into a small pit. The walls around him had huge grey hands that grabbed him. He shouted and fought and tore at the hands. "Let go of me," he screamed. He was dropped. A second later he sprawled out on a hard and lumpy surface. The hole he had fallen though vanished and with it, the light. All was dark and he was afraid he was blind. "Hello? hello?" he called out. "Is anyone here?"

There was no answer.

"I wish I had a light," he muttered.

If felt as if he'd fallen on a rock. A hard, squirming rock. He rolled over, and light appeared on the walls and ceiling, reflected from the floor.

He rolled back and the light disappeared. He sat up and saw that the light was coming from the knight, which he had landed on. The light increased, throwing more shadows on the walls and Owen saw that he was in a small prison. Chains were on the wall, and there were bones and refuse lying about. The place had a bad odor, but it was faint. He was able to breathe as there was a tiny draft. The knight wandered around the room as Owen explored the walls and floors and saw for himself that there was no way out. There were some glittery rocks in the wall, and he prised them out, but they were just flakes of common mica. He tried talking to the small figure but it made no reply. He had no sense of time--he only knew he was tired--and finally, the boy fell asleep, clutching the glowing knight for comfort.


~@~


"Owen! Owen!" the boys called as they walked down the passages, turning left, then left, then right, and another left.

"He's probably halfway there by now," Bruce muttered. "I'll bet Lucy told him how to get through."

"Maybe we should have done what the worm said," Lenny replied. "Maybe the quickest way is through the stinky swamp."

"No, we're better off this way. You can see the castle from here." Bruce pointed.

The path had odd artwork of abstract geometric and bas relief along the walls. Flower planters show up from time to time, giving it a feel of habitation, though they saw no one. They could hear the music in the distance--it sounded like something Leia would have composed, so the boys were in no hurry to finish their journey.

The two boys rounded a sharp corner and found themselves standing in front of two tall doors, each had a shield with an armor-wearing being behind it. The beings had two heads, one on top (where one would expect to see one), and the other hanging down between the legs.

"What's this about?" Bruce demanded.

"You have to try one of these doors. One of these leads to the castle, the other leads to certain death," the bottom heads replied.

"That's stupid," Bruce told Lenny.

"How did you know my name?" one of the top heads demanded.

"I figured it out," Bruce retorted.

"So which door do we pick?" Lenny asked.

"Why bother? We'll go around them."

"You can't do that!" one of the top heads shouted.

"Stop!" the other three ordered.

"Walnuts up your nose!" Bruce jeered back.

He boosted the younger boy to the top of the wall, and Lenny pulled him up. The talking heads sputtered and shouted but the boys ignored them.

They walked along until the stone gave away to tall shrubbery and they were forced back to the ground.

"I wonder if those guard guys sounded an alarm," Lenny remarked.

"We're wizards; we can deal with them. I've fought off a Muggle before," Bruce said. "After all, if Lucy went through all of this, it should be a piece of cake."

"You fought off a Muggle?" Lenny asked.

"Yeah, some guy tried to grab me when I was running around the city, and I burned his hands. Kinda like what Leia did in the castle."

They looked around, checking for Muggles and goblins. There were some stone statues around, and most of the shrubbery had been shaped into topiary, but they didn't see any other beings. The music from the castle continued, but it sounded different now. They thought they heard footsteps but decided it was probably some other noise caused by fairies that they couldn't see that might have been playing in the bushes. The noises went away.

They sat and rested for a while. Lenny fished around in his pockets and rediscovered the Gobstones.

"Lot of good those will do us," Bruce grumbled.

Lenny thought for a bit. "The idiot used balls for magic." (Bruce interrupted with a rude snort.) "Maybe that's what works here." He looked at Bruce, who rolled his eyes in disbelief. Lenny put the whole one on the ground. It wobbled for a while, and then started to roll away. Lenny jumped up and followed, while Bruce dragged himself behind, muttering and grumbling. The ball rolled around as if following a set course. Past the closest bush, it turned left, went down a ways, and to the right, then straight and then right. Once it got caught in a crack and Lenny had to put it back on flat ground, and it rolled straight again.

"Hey," Bruce said, "I hear voices." He stopped to look around.

Lenny heard them too, but the ball kept rolling on a straight course so Lenny kept following.

"Lenny!" Bruce called after him, and he started to run after him. A goblin soldier appeared from nowhere, blocking the way between the boys, and facing Bruce. In the distance, he could see Lenny taking a turn. Bruce tried to run past the soldier, but more appeared. "Out of my way!" The boy was quickly surrounded by a ring of small ugly pink creatures that gnashed their big teeth at him. He could see the helmets of the goblins behind the monsters. "Lenny!" he shouted. "Lenny!"

Lenny turned back immediately and saw the goblins and their long lances surrounding Bruce.

Panicking, he pulled out the broken Gobstone. "Help me!!" he cried. Instantly it swelled up and enveloped him. He could see through a crack that the goblins were shoving Bruce. He trotted back to the area, but Bruce and the goblins disappeared from his vision. He turned back to the way he came, but he couldn't find the other Gobstone. He ran around in circles for a while, then sat down, still inside the Gobstone. He was tired of walking, his friends were gone, he was lost, he was getting hungry and he was envious of Wilf having tea, until he wondered what worms ate. He wondered if Owen had found a short-cut to the castle. He was scared, and he didn't think he could escape goblin guards any better than Bruce had. He thought for a while about what had happened with the Gobstones and decided to try something else: "Carry me," he said.

The giant Gobstone rolled over, and Lenny rolled with it until he was lying on the bottom of the broken sphere. He sat up and found he could see over the jagged edges. It lifted and floated above the hedges. "Carry me to the castle," he said.

It slowly began to drift in obedience. The music in the air sounded louder.

.
The Guardian at the Gate by Overhill
Author's Notes:
Will no one have tea with the worm?
beta-ed by Gelsey

The Guardian at the Gate


Richard slowly got to his feet and looked around, careful to keep sight of the king out of the corner of his eye. He seemed to be missing his wand but did not want to alert his foe that he was weaponless. There was now a scent of pines in the air, and a touch of rain. He checked for aches as he dusted himself off.

"It would appear that only your dignity was bruised," the king said as he moved aside, allowing him to see into the valley.

Richard wasn't so sure, but he made no reply as he examined the view below him.

At the bottom of the slope was sandy soil, neglected gardens and weedy fountains. Stone obelisks stood around, as if they were tombstones or giant warning fingers. On the other side was a tall, thick wall running from his left to his right, in which was set a large double gate, and beyond that lay what had to be the Labyrinth. It was a series of mazes, some of stone, some of hedges, some of buildings. He'd been at corn mazes and some of the society families he'd visited had mazes of shrubbery for security around the grounds or as garden features. There had been one at Hogwarts when he was in his fifth year; it held no pleasant memories.

That was then; this is now, he reminded himself as he forced his focus back into the present.

At the far end of the mazes rose a castle that had scaffolding around an unfinished tower.

"I've seen this before," Richard remarked. "In a painting, in Smyth's office. Only I think that there was a tall tower there. And some other stuff."

"Alice's painting is in the hospital?" the king asked.

Richard shook his head. "It's an original Hermious Bosche. Looks like he was here, too." He made a quick calculation. "Some, what, five hundred years ago?" He noticed movement. One or two inside walls had moved, changing the path. As he watched, different walls continued to change until there was the suggestion of a face. A few more movements, and the Goblin's King's likeness lay before him.

"So this is a bunch of mazes?" Richard asked, ignoring the image.

"It is the Labyrinth," the king coolly replied as he casually produced a clear orb and studied it.

Richard learned years ago that a key difference between a maze and a labyrinth was that the latter was a single narrow path winding around to its center, and that a maze had multiple choices and dead ends. He suspected that he would do well not to provoke his opponent by discussing it.

"Where are the children?" he asked.

"Did you not tell your house-elf to look after them? They are with him," came the reply. "You have thirteen hours to complete the Labyrinth. Do not finish it empty-handed." He tossed the orb carelessly into the air-it vanished.

"Thirteen hours, relative to what?" Richard asked as he looked away to see if there was a clock or a sundial nearby. "Is time the same here as at St. Mungo's?"

There was no answer. The king had disappeared.

"Walnuts!" Richard swore. He grabbed for his wand, but it was missing. He searched himself and then the ground around him and tried a Summoning charm but to no avail. He looked back at the Labyrinth to see if the king was anywhere in sight. The walls inside were shifting again. They stopped and before him was a another visage. He didn't stop to study it.

Angrily he strode to the wall, passing through clouds of small flying creatures. He caught one and saw that it looked like a bald Doxy or a fairy. Doxy, he thought when it bit him on the hand. He threw it down and kept going, sucking out any possible venom from the wound and swatting the rest of them away. He noticed that they were clustered near the fountain pools, so he made a wide path past them.

The waters smell fetid, but the small lilies that grew wild in the grasses around the fountains had a pleasing aroma. The odor of the dried nettles by the wall reminded him of his school's potions class. He reached the wall and was still some distance to the gate. He followed a path along the wall but stopped when something on the ground caught his eye: blue Sticks.

He went down on one knee to pick them up and study them. On a couple of them he could see the faint lettering of the manufacturer and the small touch of green paint that marked them as belonging to the toy collection of the Common Room. He looked around and noticed that the plants at the base had been crushed, the lichen on the wall had been scraped and the top of the wall was damaged.

Richard knew then that the children were inside the Labyrinth. He considered calling for Chaucer but decided against it; he had ordered the elf to stay with the children. He would not risk their safety.

Quickly he went to the gates and stood outside them, not certain if he should knock or yell.

The gates opened and a cloud of glittering dust spilled out.

He hesitated a moment and then strode forward, desperately wishing that he had his wand.

The gates swung closed behind him.


___......___



"Just go through that doorway there, turn left, and it'll take you right to the castle," the worm said.

"Thank you again for the tea," Wilf said. "Good-bye!" And he walked through the opening, turned left, and walked a short while down the passage between the brick walls. The passage turned right and straight ahead of him, about a mile away stood the gates to the Goblin City and the castle it protected.

___......___



Owen woke up, uncertain of how long he'd slept. The little knight still glowed. Owen didn't move but studied the room from where he lay. As far as he could see, every surface was covered with sparkles. Some were moving around, and one was moving near his hand. Slowly he focused on it and discovered it was a small clear spider. He wasn't afraid of it (wizarding people are immune to the poisons of all small spiders) so he picked it up to look at it.

It ran over the back of his hand, let itself down its silk, and scampered up a wall. There was something that looked like a ball sitting on a ledge, and Owen picked it up. It was a small skull. It didn't look like any skull he'd ever seen before (the hospital has a small collection from the Camden Catacombs, another story in itself), and he wondered if it were one of the sugar ones sold at Honeydukes. It looked rather dusty, so he decided not to taste it.

He carried it around for a while as he continued to explore the small room he was in. He could see no way out-even the hole in the ceiling had vanished.

He sat down, bored and frustrated, and threw the skull at the opposite wall.

Instead of shattering, the skull went into the wall, like a pebble in a pond. A hole appeared in the wall, and the walls rippled like waves, outward from the opening. Daylight spilled in.

Owen gasped, then jumped up and threw himself into the hole. The walls rippled to their boundary, and flowed back again, filling the hole. The ripples echoed faintly on the surface, and then the wall was still. Owen had fallen on the ground and jumped quickly up. He was still clutching the knight.

He didn't wait to see what the wall did after he was out. He stood still for a minute, getting his eyes adjusted to the daylight. He was in a wide area, like a small quarry. He'd scraped his arm when he fell on the ground, and he whimpered a bit from the pain.

"Danger, danger," a deep voice warned him.

Owen looked around and saw nothing but rock walls and pillars.

"Who's there?" he shouted, trying to sound brave.

There was a silence, and then from down-slope, he heard someone mumbling. "You tell him."

"No, you; you're closer." another deep voice growled.

"Can you see him?"

"No, but he's still up there."

There was a short pause.

"He's waiting for an answer."

"I don't know what to say."

"Say something."

Someone else cleared his throat. "We're, ah, over here," it said in a deep toned voice.

Another sarcastically grumbled, "That was well done."

"You should have said it then," the other voice muttered.

Owen decided not see who was "over here" and fled in the other direction. He could see at the end of his straight path a rectangular opening to the sky.

___......___



Lenny tried to move around, but the giant Gobstone wobbled dangerously. He was able to lean back and crane his neck around. The partial sphere floated at the top of the hedges, then lifted slowly over the wall of the Goblin City.

For a while no one noticed him and he was able to spy into the windows of upper rooms. No one seemed to be at home, though the streets seemed busy enough. Somewhere below he heard a shout, then more shouting. Spears were hitting the surface of the Gobstone, making it rock. Lenny started to panic.

"Go to that window," he shouted, pointing to one high on the castle wall. Goblins started peering out of the lower windows. "Go to the broken tower," he ordered it. It drifted over to where the scaffolding surrounded the unfinished walls. Goblins ran out of the castle and into the streets.

He didn't know where to go, but he needed to get back to Chaucer. Only he had no idea where the house-elf was.

___......___



Bruce was terrified of the ugly pink monsters on the spears: they looked like pig fetuses, with big mouths filled with teeth. He'd seen such things in the apothecary, but they had been pickled and in jars on the shelves. Here they looked as if they could eat him. He dared to turn his back on the goblins and their horrid weapons and blindly fled.

He ran through the hedges, until he tripped and fell onto the flagstones. The stones crumbled beneath him, and he fell into a dark pit and landed on a flat surface on which he slid. The goblins did not follow but jeered at him. He tried to stop himself but found himself falling faster and faster through what seemed to be a tunnel.

There was light ahead. He grabbed at the surfaces around him, but he could not slow down. Screaming, he shot out of the darkness into broad daylight. Helpless, he flew through the air and fell into the Bog of Eternal Stench.


___......___



Jareth, the Goblin King, found his throne room deserted and his castle, empty.

.
Grief and Rain by Overhill
Author's Notes:
The return of the king.
beta-ed by Gelsey

Grief and Rain


The silence in the throne room waited for his orders. Jareth sat on his chair in his own silence, pondering what he had learned in his visit to St. Mungo's and wondered for a while about what to do with the Guardian.

Where were the children? Doubtless they were now in his kingdom. They were not part of his plan; they did not belong in the Labyrinth-they were too old to become goblins, too young to be Runners, their dreams too simple to harvest. He would be glad to be rid of them, but-and this was a new thought-not before he could use them as leverage.

He got up and wandered over to the window that looked down on the village. He was a bit surprised to see the place decorated with scraps of colorful cloth and plants that looks as if they'd been yanked from the gardens. The girl and the so-called house-elf were leading a parade, she on a sedan that was carried by four goblins, the others cheerfully flinging flowers and crushed egg shells at her, while the "elf" marched next to her. Wizards can be so stupid, he thought bitterly as he left the window and went to another one. House-elves do not cross universes.

From there he could see the imperfect sphere floating over what had been the north tower and in it, the head of the boy whom he privately nick-named Scavenger. Well, that is a good place for him, he mused. Now, where are Biter and Cousin? he wondered.

A glance over his land showed nothing, so he brought out a crystal to look through the Eyes of the Walls and saw darkness.

He tried to look for the other man but that was dark too. After a bit more searching, he found that there were a few places where the Eyes saw, but very dimly.

It is the dust, he rationalized. It is the dust, he thought with sorrow. I have let the place become dusty. It was not so when Alice was here.

He held out the crystal at arm's length. "Rain," he commanded, breaking the silence. "Rain as if it were my own tears." He cradled the small orb in his hands as he returned to the throne and sat, thinking of Alice, his head bowed in sorrow. The castle resonated with a soft, low minor chord, and then the slow melody of his grief started to haltingly play.

Outside the castle, the wind gusted up, blowing dust into the eyes of the revelers, knocking down banners and other decorations. Most goblins scrambled for their houses; a few ran to the castle and found the doors locked. They tried pounding on them, but the doors were locked. Wailing, they ran away and disappeared.

...

Leia had been dumped from the sedan and stood in the street, shocked and angry. Big drops of rain hit her, making mud of the dust on her dress. "This isn't fair!" she shouted, stamping her feet. "Chaucer, make it stop," she ordered.

Chaucer gave her a slight bow. "Impossible even for Chaucer. Chaucer knows where Soldat's house is, Leia and Chaucer will stay there," he informed her. Without looking back, he headed down a village street to a small building that was near the castle. The child ran to a castle door and then ran to Chaucer. "The king has returned. Subjects will be punished for leaving posts," he informed her.

The rain became a down-pour. Scowling, Leia dragged herself along, the bottom of her dress getting dirtier as it trailed in the mud. Her tiara dangled from her tresses on the back of her head. She still had an armful of plastic bangles and bracelets, two necklaces hung around her neck.

...

The music from the castle suddenly stopped. Lenny wondered what had happened. He could hear shouts and cheering from the village and considered going over to it to see what the commotion was about, when the wind hit him. The force caused the giant Gobstone to rock, but it did not drift from where Lenny had ordered it. The rain started, and Lenny worried what would happen if it filled up. Would it sink? he wondered. One thing for sure was he would be wet and sitting in water. He hoped that it wouldn't look like he wet his pants. He examined the eaves of the castle but could see that there was not enough room to offer any protection.

He looked around for shelter and spied some tall trees that had a bog on one side and what looked to be a dump on the other. Steam or smoke rose nearby from some dark area. Maybe this could fit under them? he wondered. "Go over there," he ordered the Gobstone.

Slowly it drifted over to the small forest. Lenny tried in vain to scrape a hole in the shell to let the water out and ended up bailing it with his hands.

Music started from the castle, sounding low and mournful. The boy shivered, feeling very cold and alone.

...

Owen had almost reached the opening at the top of the stoney incline when the rain poured down. The dust became a slurry, making it impossible for him to gain traction and he slipped, falling into the small stream of water that came from the walls of the small cleft of rock he was in. He fought against the current, but it was stronger and pushed him down, forcing him back the way he came and beyond, to where the voices had sounded, to where he feared that the speakers lay in wait for him.

He cried for help, but there was no answer as the flood waters carried him to the bottom of the slope, the odd little skull bobbing in the water beside him, his white knight still clutched in his hand, his other grabbing in vain for rescue.

...

Bruce sat huddled in a small, shallow cave, miserable and angry as he watched the rain fall into the Bog of Eternal Stench. The rain kept the smell down. He could not see his way out. There was a small bridge where stood a small sentry, but beyond that was foul water. Why have a bridge that goes nowhere? he wondered. He didn't notice it when he floundered around in the muck or when he crawled into the cave.

Lucy Graves had told him about the bog whenever she wanted to boss him around. "I'm going to call the Goblin King and have him take you there," she'd threatened.

Well, here I am, he thought bitterly, no thanks to her or Owen or Lenny or that stupid house-elf. Stupid Leia. I'll bet that she's really happy. The boy wondered where else Chaucer had gone and if Richard would rescue him or if he was still at the Common Room and if the army got Lenny. He wondered where the others were and remembered other stuff that Lucy had told him about the place. He wondered if he would stink forever. He tried to stop thinking. The ceiling started to drip. It was very annoying and like everything else about the place, there was nothing he could do about it. Tears of frustration, grief and exhaustion slid down his face. He buried his head in his arms and wept.

...

Richard followed the outer wall, almost running the half a mile, stepping over roots and dodging around dead tree limbs to where he thought that the children might have climbed over. He found the place, the bricks and bracken broken in a vertical trail, white fungus-like plants of stems with large round ends were trampled, thick glittery cobwebs broken, dust disturbed. Some tree limbs had been tossed into a small pile. Where did the tree limbs come from? he wondered, not seeing any trees around. He dismissed the thought. The trail was easy to follow: In some places plants had been torn from the wall, the cobwebs dragged into strings, branches broken.

It started to rain, washing what there was of footprints away. The rain fell heavily, blinding him to his surroundings. It had a tang of the sea about it. Richard opened his mouth, catching a few drops and tasting salt. I don't remember seeing any coast, he thought. This can't be good for plants.

He leaned against the wall, his face to it as the rain poured. A moment later, he felt something staring at him. He looked and saw that he was three inches from eye level with a greenish bug-eyed hairy caterpillar that had a red flap of skin around its neck. Its mouth was opening and closing. The din of the rain was loud. He looked around and saw others like it, all in sheltering crevasses, all staring at him.

Well, as they say, the worms will come out in the rain, he thought. He wondered of what use they might be in a potion.

The rain lessened. He walked a bit further and noticed that the white plants were not disturbed, that the cobwebs were whole. He went back a few more paces and found an opening in the wall and saw that there was a blaze from a stick on the bricks and more broken plants. Richard followed down the path in the rain. He hoped to find them soon, that Chaucer was with them, that he would find everyone in time and get back to St. Mungo's as fast as possible.

...

The plants shuddered as they were watered and washed free of the dust. The Eyes carefully blinked, wary of any more of the rude intruders. Another approached. They shut and shrank from the lone Runner, afraid of that this one would also treat them as the others had, unknowingly keeping the king blind to the happenings in the Labyrinth.

.
Time and Major Tom by Overhill
Author's Notes:
Some lessons learned in cross-universe travel.
beta-ed by Gelsey

Time and Major Tom


The rain died down, but the sky remained gray. The castle slowly moved through a series of low major and minor chords, with an occasional diminish that sounded through the air like soft chimes.

Jareth watched the crystal, seeing a young woman with long blond hair. The music of the castle went hesitantly to a wistful tune that was Alice's song while she had been there. He allowed a few more moments of watching the girl who had graced his past before he bent his will to the present. The young girl faded and her image was replaced by the older woman who looked at him without seeing him, heard his voice without remembering him. He frowned slightly, forcing his will through the Eyes of the Labyrinth. Some areas had had their views return, but not one Eye showed him the children or the man. A gentle squeeze and the crystal vanished.

He returned to the window that looked over the Goblin City. Below him, the streets were muddy, the once brave and cheerful scraps were now wet and dull. A few goblins peered out of their doors; some carefully, quietly hurried to their posts outside the castle.

Walking up a street to the castle was the youngest boy. Biter's brother, he thought. Brother. That name will do, for now. He's a friendly, likable boy. This one could possibly stay. After all, he asked to be taught; he would be easy to train, the king mused. The boy was dry and wearing a leaf on his head as he trotted up the road to the castle, using the Red Brick Route from the outer wall. Where are the others? the king wondered. The boy had the unmistakable look of naive confidence and a bit of glitter magic about him, and more important, he seemed to be by himself.

A slight, bitter smile replaced the frown as Jareth drew up a crystal and looked through it to the boy and saw a worm. So that's where he's been, he thought, amused. The predatory smirk became bigger as the boy came closer and was just a few yards from the castle door. "Open," the king commanded the doors, but his smile disappeared when the house-elf suddenly appeared at the boy's side and ushered him out of sight.

...

"Hello Chaucer," Wilf said. "Where is everybody?" he asked as he took him by the arm and hurried him through the city.

"Wilf come with Chaucer, get some food and talk to Leia."

"Isn't Leia in the castle?" Wilf asked as he looked up at its walls.

"Leia is at Soldat's house, right here," replied Chaucer. He pushed the door open. The small house had everything together in the same room, with a few cupboards on the walls. A picture of Soldat, Chaucer and some other pointy-eared beings graced one wall, with postcards and a poster of Las Vegas around it.

Leia was standing by a window, looking as if she'd thrown a temper tantrum, with steam rising off of her skin and her clothing. "It's not fair," she complained to Wilf. "We were having a parade and it rained and everybody ran away. I'm hungry."

"I had some tea with some worms," Wilf said. "They had lacewing fly wings and some biscuits, but I'm hungry now."

"Soldat not have much food," Chaucer commented as he went through the cupboards, peering into half-empty jars and opening wrappers. "Chaucer find bread with mint jelly."

"I hate peppermint," Leia sulked.

"What kind of bread? I'll have some bread," Wilf said.

"Fluxweed bread," Chaucer answered, dividing up the loaf.

Leia watched Wilf eat some bread, then she had some too.

"I didn't get wet," Wilf announced. "I put this leaf on for a hat and it kept me dry."

"I made everyone dance," she bragged.

Chaucer was rummaging through a wardrobe.

"Wilf and Leia and Chaucer need to dress like goblins."

"I don't want to dress like a goblin," Leia scowled. "I'm a princess."

"Leia will be a warrior goblin princess," Chaucer said. "Very powerful."

"Can I be powerful too?" Wilf asked.

"I'm more powerful," Leia said.

The two children argued while Chaucer laid out their clothes.

...

Richard followed the blaze of the trail as the brick walls became dressed yellow sandstone. Suddenly the trail ended at a dead-end. He tried to climb the wall but could not find a hand hold. He went back the other way, and took a different turn, one that he hoped would lead him to the boys. One way led to another, each further from the boys' last track. He started to feel tired and realized he was still wet from the rain. He found some stairs and decided to sit and rest for a moment.

He wished himself dry, grateful that not all of his magic was in his missing wand. It took the wish a few minutes to be fulfilled, but while he waited, he tried to remember his History of Magic class, and the few things that had been discussed about other universes. He remembered one of his school mates had been forced into a defective Vanishing Cabinet, disappeared into another universe and came out the worse for wear. He couldn't remember anything more about it except that he spent a long time in the school's hospital wing under a quarantine and refused to talk to the St. Mungo's staff of where he had been.

He sighed and forced himself to relax, forced himself to remember the history classroom, remember the teacher, Professor Binns, and what he had taught in a lesson in Richard's sixth year.

The professor had a dry, reedy voice (he was, after all, a ghost). The chalk wrote by itself of the black board a word: Time. "In some universes, time moved fast; in others, slow," the professor said.

"Exits and entrances to other universes are not necessarily the same. Sometimes the way back is the same as the way in, but not often," the professor droned on. Richard relaxed a bit, pleased that he could remember as much as he had, annoyed that there was something he was forgetting. He sighed and picked himself up. "Back to work, Healer G," he told himself and marched up the stairs to the next level of stony passage ways.

...

The rain stopped, but Lenny was now waist deep in water. He could see what looked like well-tended fires below him, but he couldn't see who had built the fires. "Go down," he ordered the Gobstone.

It slowly lowered itself until Lenny was able to scramble out of it, causing it to tip and spill water that flooded out the closest fire. His teeth were chattering, so it was with some difficulty he said, "Go ahead and empty yourself out."

It tilted over, pouring out the rain water and flooding the closest two fires.

He hiked over to the next fire and warmed himself. He'd just gotten to the point that he had stopped shivering and was feeling comfortable when he heard high voices approaching from a distance. He ran back to the Gobstone and climbed in. "Go up," he shouted, not waiting to sit properly down. He almost fell out but quickly caught his balance. He was peering over the edge to see to whom the voices belonged when something large and hard with a soft fur hit his head and fell into his lap. It was hairy, and he turned it over and screamed: It was a round red head with round fiery eyes and a grinning mouth. It laughed when it saw him, and he threw it out immediately. "Get out of here!" he shouted. The Gobstone drifted up. He looked down and saw strange beings taking their heads off and throwing them up at him and falling short.

Shaken, he looked over to where the Gobstone was floating to, and he caught a whiff of stench. "It's the stinky place," he said to the Gobstone. "We can't go there."

He looked around and saw that the castle was now some distance behind him. He couldn't see much of the Goblin City from where he sat, and very little of the Labyrinth. He wondered where his friends were and worried if he would ever get home.

...

From his cave, Bruce watched the giant Gobstone float through the sky disappear behind some trees and then float off again. "Lenny," he mutttered. "If you don't bring that thing over here and get me out, so help me. Or at least send me the other one."

The Gobstone slowly drifted away.

Bruce watched the sentry below as he built at fire in a small pit by the bridge and started to heat up a pot of soup and unwrap some bread. He realized that he was starving. The place still stank, but his appetite was keen. If he was to eat, he would have to get food from the sentry. Stealing was out of the question. The only way he could get something was to ask, or maybe trade. He had nothing in his pockets and he was afraid that if he begged, the sentry would laugh at him. He thought of how he could talk the sentry into giving him something to eat, when he remembered a story of someone else who had had the same problem.

Hope it works, he thought to himself as he boldly forced himself to march out of his cave and to the sentry.

The sentry was a goblin, a few inches shorter than he, with long furry arms and a round head with a helmet on it. His back was to the boy, and he did not hear him until Bruce was a few feet from him. The goblin jumped up, drawing his small sword and tripping over his cooking fire at the same time.

"Hello. I'm Major Tom," Bruce lied. "I come in peace."

...

The castle slowly played a succession of major chords. The castle doors remained open. A few goblins took heart and sneaked back in to their posts, the door guards pretended that they had never left. Jareth watched them with a bored, displeased look on his face. He rolled up a crystal and let it float aloft. "Soldat, returned," he softly commanded.

.
The Dump, the Bog and the Garden by Overhill
Author's Notes:
The young wizards explore more locations in the Labyrinth.
Happy birthday, Gelsey!

The Dump, the Bog and the Garden


Richard continued to hurry through the sandstone passages.

On some walls were petroglyphs or graffiti of what looked like bulls eyes or ripples from a pond, at some intersections were carvings of hands that pointed to dead-ends. He wished he had a flyable broom or his old skateboard from school-anything to get him through the Labyrinth faster. He saw no sign of the children. Frustrated and worried, he tried to remember what it he was forgetting about being in another universe.

A stone tilted under his foot. He picked it up and was amazed to discover a small room underneath, with small tunnels going to and from it. The room was obviously lived in; there was a small sofa, squashy-looking easy chairs, an oriental carpet and pictures on the walls, but no one was home. Puzzled, he replaced the stone. It's too small for a goblin; what could live there? he wondered.

As he straightened up, he noticed a face in the surface of the rough wall. He moved his head to one side and it disappeared, moved back slowly the other way and it appeared and disappeared. A trick of the light? he silently guessed as he centered on it. It seemed that an illusion of the goblin king stared back at him.

...

Soldat carefully crept into the throne room.

The king sat alone as he examined a crystal. "Soldat," he said without taking his eyes from the orb, "go into the Labyrinth and ask our guest, Guardian Goodfellow, how he fares. See, here he is." He held out the crystal.

Soldat looked into it and recognized the petroglyph behind the man.

"And then report back," he ordered.

...

The Gobstone floated around the woods beyond the city wall and over a few orchards near what looked to be a dump. A few goblins were wandering in the trash. Lenny could see that there was fruit on the trees and he felt hungry. "Let's go over there," he said as he pointed to the other side of the trees. Each tree seemed to have a different kind of fruit on it, each was out of his reach.

He looked over to the dump and decided that the goblins couldn't run through the garbage and get to him if he hurried. Lenny had the Gobstone lower itself at the boundary between the dump and a fruit tree. He climbed out and started grabbing oranges off a tree. After he had half a dozen oranges, he sat in the Gobstone, eating oranges and tossing the peels on the ground. He looked over the dump-the area looked like a dead sea with grey, glittering cobwebs covering everything.

He saw books, stuffed toy animals, brooms, buckets, paintings, a kitchen sink, a piano, a dresser with a mirror, carousel horses still on their posts and a dead rubber plant, still in its pot. The more he looked, the more he saw.

Something moved in the stuff-it was small golden ball that had wings on it, fluttering like a wounded butterfly.

Lenny had always wanted his own Snitch. "Put me down there," he said, pointing to a flat area. He climbed out and carefully stepped over a broken school desk and an empty trunk to get to it. It fluttered just out of his grasp. He went further into the dump until he was some distance from the Gobstone when he caught it. He was heading back when he saw a Major Tom comic book lying on the ground. He picked it up, then saw a small "Ship of Fools" figurine lying on top of a toy bicorn. He picked both up, and was surprised and pleased to see that the bicorn had real horns on it. Lenny found a torn Hogwarts book bag that he put into a cloth Diagon Alley's Apothecary bag and then piled his findings into it. He found a skateboard that was covered with stickers, but decided that it was too big to carry. A strip of purple fabric caught his eye and he tugged on it, but it was stuck to something so he gave it up and went to pick up another Major Tom comic book that he saw on the other side of a table leg.

Forgotten, the giant Gobstone drifted.

...

"Major Tom" and the goblin Vagt shared the kettle of knotgrass stew, belching as loud as they could from time to time, sounding like the mud-pots in the bog. The stench seemed to have lessened over time. The goblin eagerly listened to the adventures of his new friend, unaware that they were the stuff of comic books and the Moving Picture Network.

"How long will you stay?" Vagt asked.

"I don't know," was his honest answer.

"Can I go with you?" the awestruck goblin asked.

He shook his head. "The spaceship doesn't have enough suits to go around. And you need one so that you don't float away and get lost," he lied.

Vagt was crestfallen. "I never get to go anywhere, " he whined. "There was a big party today. I could hear the cheering all the way over here, and then it got quiet real quick," he said. "The music changed. It sounds like he's thinking now."

Bruce lifted his head and listened to a far-off melody that sounded like it was being improvised. As he did, he saw the top of the Gobstone was visible and it seemed to be moving slightly.

"Get over here," he commanded, holding out his arm to it. He was relieved when the Gobstone slowly rose and drifted over the trees and stopped above him.

Vagt stood by the bridge, his eyes hungrily fastened on the scene. He was so mesmerized that he was not aware that the soup kettle had fallen over and that the leftover bread was in the fire.

Bruce reached for it in vain. "Lenny! Hey, Lenny!" he called.

There was no answer. Bruce's heart froze.

"It that the name of your ship?" Vagt asked.

...

Owen was muddy and soaking wet. He picked himself up, picked up the small skull and put the knight into his pocket and grimly started the hike back up the slope. At the top he found himself in a garden, glittering with raindrops. Around him was a box hedge that now made up the walls of passages. He looked behind him for the stony wall he had exited from, to climb up it to see over the hedge but it had disappeared. The plants were too dense to walk through-he had to follow the path.

He heard voices that sounded like an argument of a small group of people. Carefully he peered around a topiary of a giant frog and saw a half dozen of goblins, dressed in flouncy gowns and old-fashioned dress suits, surrounding a table and shouting at each other. The table looked like it was set for a banquet, with platters of food and a giant four-tiered cake. Owen realized he was very hungry. He pondered how he could steal a plate or find out if there was more food stashed nearby.

"What is THAT?" someone shouted, and all the goblins stopped and stared at him. Owen turned to run but he was tackled from behind by another goblin.

"What are you?" one of them asked. "You're too small to be a Runner, and you are too ugly to be a goblin."

"He's also too ugly to be a dwarf, too big to be an imp."

"I'm a boy," Owen said.

"I've seen buoys before," one of them growled. "You're not fooling me."

"My name is Owen," he cried out.

"What is your name owing?"

"It's Owen."

"What does it owe?"

"I'm a wizard!" he shouted.

"Now you're changing your story?" another asked.

"What's a wizard?" someone else asked.

"How can we believe anything you say when you've already lied to us?"

"I'll give you a present if you let me go," Owen pleaded as he help up the small skull.

The goblins eyes grew big with greed.

"It's my birthday; it's mine!" one of the goblins wearing a big billowy dress shouted. "Let him up!"

Owen staggered to his feet and held out the skull. It was immediately snatched from his hand. The others sulked.

"Well, it can't come to the party," one of them simpered. "It's not dressed right."

Owen looked over at the loaded serving dishes: He was starving.

"Go away," one of the goblins ordered him.

"What if I sing?" he asked, desperate to be fed.

"Sing what?" one of them said.

"Um, a happy birthday song?" he suggested.

"He's all muddy," someone groused.

Everyone looked at him expectantly.

He took a deep breath and started singing, changed some words to a song he already knew, stopping and starting as he figured out rhymes:

"Here we are, around the sun so far-
A year from where, uh, we were.
You have learned, um, more than you knew.
You have done what you did do,
And now to you, uh,
We give our due, and our affections.
May you never suffer from, um, afflictions
That may be in the way,
Of each day,
Of our flight around the sun, um, um, um,
So have a happy birthday"


The song ended and he waited for the applause.

The goblins looked at each other. "Is it over?" someone asked.

"Uh, yes." Owen said, shuffling his feet uncomfortably. "Do you want another song?"

"NO! Sit down. Over there," the birthday goblin ordered him.

He sat on a near-by bench and waited impatiently while the goblins ate and afterward was handed a plate of left-overs: boiled greens, leeches and and a slice of birthday cake.

He ate the cake first, and then the greens and then, still hungry, the leeches. He'd eaten them before on a dare. Now in the Labyrinth, he discovered they were rather tasty.

"May I have some more, please?" he politely asked.

...

Soldat found Richard easily enough. The man was standing still, his hand to his ear, looking around.

The goblin started his speech. "Greetings, Guardian, the king sends-"

"Shh," Richard replied, motioning him to be silent. "Do you hear that? I think it's coming from over there," he said, leading the way, carefully turning from side to side to better hear.

A few moments more, and the two were standing in front of the Doors of Doom. The strange two-headed guards were whimpering in pain from the walnuts up their noses.

.
Decisions, Decisions by Overhill
Author's Notes:
Jareth spies out his kingdom. What is behind the Door of Certain Death?
beta-ed by Gelsey

Decisions, Decisions


Richard turned to the small goblin. "What is it that you wanted to tell me?"

Soldat stared at the guards, shuffling from one foot to the other. "The Goblin King Jareth sends his regards and asks if you, um, need anything."

Richard looked back at the guards. "I need to know where the children are," he answered. "They came here, didn't they?" he asked the guards.

The guards waved their heads around as they whimpered.

He was about to ask more questions but realized that he had to get the walnuts out first. "Go get me a bucket, an empty basin, an ewer of clean water and a clean cloth," he ordered the Soldat. "The sooner the better."

The goblin gone, Richard sighed and went over to the guards to assess how far in the walnuts went in and how many there were in each nose. This would be so much easier if I had my wand, he thought with some bitterness.

...

Jareth had moved to the window and was looking out at the kingdom through a crystal.

"He sends his greetings," Soldat lied, "and requests some stuff, like a bucket, a basin, some water, a cloth." He omitted the question about the children.

Jareth looked away for a moment, as if in thought. "Granted," he said.

Soldat hurried and was back at the Doors of Doom before Richard had wandlessly Summoned out the first walnut.

...

Soldat wanted to vomit. The walnuts were covered with mucus and blood and the guards continued to whimper and wail as they were removed. The Healer was gentle in his work, dropping the walnuts into the pail and washing each guard's nose as he went. The bottom heads were able to trade places with the top heads, which made the job far easier that Richard thought it would be. The job took time, though. As he worked he wondered how much time he had left, where the children were, if Chaucer was with them, what it was he was trying to remember and what the whole business was about. Of his concerns, though, he said nothing to the goblin.

...

Jareth spied the Gobstone floating near the dump. He looked back into his crystal, focusing his thought on the place. If any of the dump attendants would have noticed, they would have seen his visage slowly appearing and disappearing in the broken mirrors and polished surfaces around them. Like a cloud's shadow, the image rippled through the place and stopped only when facing a human boy sitting on the ground, reading a comic book. Two towers of collected items sat on either side of Lenny, and in front of him was a stack of more comic books. Good place for him, Jareth thought with some satisfaction, he will never leave.

The next place that the goblin king decided to look at was the orchards. The fungus-like Eyes were working there. They saw no one but the goblins that tended the place.

It was easy to go from there to the Bog of Eternal Stench. He slid across the surfaces of the mud pots and then up to the shadows of the trees. The branches rustled slightly as they formed into a representation of his face.

Bog-covered Bruce was at the bridge, facing Vorg, waving his arms around-he looked like he was shouting. Jareth grinned at the irony of "Biter" being exactly where he didn't want to be and facing one of his most stubborn goblins. He thought about waiting to see how long it would be before Vorg threw him back into the mess but decided instead to look for the others.

He swept through the walls, starting at the gates. The Eyes there were still not working. The rough surface of the bricks reformed to show his cold fury when he saw what the boys had done to the delicate fungi. He would have to send goblins to heal the Eyes, but not yet-he needed to find only one more boy. He swept through the stone walls, stopping only to see that the Guardian was busy with the Doors of Doom and that Soldat was sitting on the ground, his head between his knees.

He slid down into the oubliette to find the skull. It wasn't where he'd left it. So the boy has been here, he mused. Blind for a bit, he searched for it until he was able to put his eyes to its empty eye sockets and look out.

He was surprised to find cloudy daylight and the goblin Jasmin in front of him. She was wearing a party dress and eating cake. It is her party, he remembered with a groan. He'd forgotten to get her a present, and he knew he would never hear the end of it. She reached out her hand and suddenly the whole picture shifted and he saw Owen sitting on a bench, looking like something from the compost pile. The goblins will take care of him, he thought with grim pleasure.

Back at the castle, he put his crystal down for a moment and looked into the village. Two were down there, with the house-elf. He frowned again and wondered, Which would be more valuable, the children or the house-elf? Do they know what Chaucer really was? Did Chaucer?

...

Chaucer hurried the goblin-armored children through the city and stopped at the back gate. A goblin was on duty.

"Princess Leia wishes to reward the faithful guard for his obedient duty," Chaucer announced. "She will give him a bracelet of pure plastic."

Awed, the guard bowed low to the girl.

Leia beamed and handed the guard her least favorite bracelet. While the goblin eagerly tried it on, the three slipped out of the gate and Chaucer led them to the Back Lands. The Back Lands had more moors and a sea beyond them with a small quay. On their right side were acres of vegetable gardens, and on the left, the dump.

"Children and Chaucer go there," he pointed to the dump. "Find more treasure."

The two hurried without protest, each wanting more treasure than the other.

...

Richard finished the job and rinsed his hands with what was left of the water and wiped them on the now partly-used cloth. The guards looked very grateful and a bit exhausted. Soldat had fainted.

He studied the four guards as they tested their noses. Two wore blue trimmed armor and shared a shield that had a four-sided figure in the center, the other two wore red and had a shield that appeared to have an orb inside a circle. A glance at the top of the walls and he realized that the four-sided figure was the top of an obelisk. What does it symbolize? he wondered as he looked around him. He doubted if the guards knew. He felt them staring at him and turned to them.

"Now tell me," Richard ordered. "What happened here?"

"We can't answer that," the top-side guard with the orb on his shield said.

"We can only answer one question," his bottom companion informed him.

"And we've already answered that," the bottom obelisk bearer answered.

The fourth gazed up at the sky, glancing quickly at Richard, then back up again, as if very suddenly it was very interested in the weather. The only sound was a bird's song and the low sustained notes from the castle.

Richard gave the top guard who had the orb shield a withering look. "You've just answered a second one, just now. Let's try for three: What are behind your doors?"

It cringed. "The way to the castle," it said, trying to not be obvious as it pointed to itself and failing. "Or to Certain Death," it said with a side-ways nod of his head to the guardians with the obelisk on its shield.

The other one shook its head no, while blood and snot continued to drip. Richard ripped up the cloth and carefully plugged the nose, much to the relief of the lower head. He took a step back, looking at the two doors and then reached out and pulled open the one behind the obelisk guards.

"No! Don't go!" the guards cried out. "They didn't go in there!"

He didn't enter the chamber but braced himself at the doorway, ignoring the blubbering guards. The passage was a dead-end, and had a tree growing in the middle of a patch of grass and wildflowers. There was no sign of the boys. Richard took his time, studying the tree. He saw something moving in it, and then more movement, even though there wasn't a breeze. A small bird fluttered by and was snatched by something in the tree. He felt something by his leg and looked down. Soldat was by him. The goblin looked in and then turned and fled. Richard looked around on the ground and saw something glistening by the door. Without letting go of the door or stepping into the chamber, he touched his toe to a piece of dried, almost transparent snake skin.

The leaves on the tree rustled. Something lowered itself from a branch: it was a very long, slender brown snake, with a green snake wrapped around it.

"Boomslangs!" he shouted. He jumped back, pulling the door shut against the poisonous reptiles while stumbling backwards. He knocked over the basin of slimy walnuts.

The guards "oohed" and snickered and then were suddenly silent. All four looked straight ahead, as if Richard did not exist. Puzzled, he almost started to speak when the guard closest to him glanced beyond him and then back to attention.

He turned and saw the goblin king, leaning against the stone wall behind him with a unfathomable look on his face. He had a crystal in his hands that he spun over and under one of his hands. Soldat whimpered and scampered away.

"That is cheating," the goblin king told Richard.

"Those are boomslang snakes; highly poisonous, even for wizards," he snarled back. "And I don't have my wand. What if the children had gotten in there?"

The king's eyes glittered and a smirk crossed his face. "We would be having a completely different conversation," he said airily as he spun the small orb on the tips of his fingers.

Richard glared at him. "I don't want to be having this talk. I want the children and I want to go back to St. Mungo's." It took all of his self-control not to snatch the orb away.

Jareth was very pleased with the man's words. He smiled as he caught the orb in his hand. "Then it would meet with your approval if the house-elf stays?"

.
Findings by Overhill
Author's Notes:
Using under-age magic, the children cause damage.
beta-ed by Gelsey

Findings


From the back door, Chaucer found the stables. For a few plastic bracelets, they were on biped mounts, trotting down a narrow lane. Leia changed her mind from wanting a pink ponies party and wanted a magenta bipeds one instead. Wilf wanted a biped that didn't sway from side to side like his did.

Soon they were at the dump. Both children decided that they didn't like the place as it was so messy and everything was covered with glittery, sticky cobwebs.

"Who are those," Leia asked, pointing to a some sad looking beings who carried large packs of stuff on their backs.

"Runners who failed," Chaucer replied. "Leave them alone; do not talk to them."

"Why?" Wilf asked.

"It will make the sad ones sadder and the angry ones angrier," he replied. "Lenny is over there."

Their mounts picked their way through a long winding path through various odds and ends until they reached Lenny. He was trying to take an age-restriction off of a copy of Professor Vindictus Viridian's Favorite Love Poems. A copy of Potions for Dunderheads by Professor Vindictus Viridian lay next to him, on top of a large copy of Professor Kirke's Atlas of Cross-over Universes.

"Hey," he shouted to them, "Look what I got!" He held up the Ship of Fools. "Healer S. will like this! It's a real Hieronymus Bosch."

"Yeah, especially as you lost her other one," Wilf said.

"What's that?" Leia asked, pointing to his pocket.

"A bicorn. Want it? It has real horns," Lenny said, offering it to her.

"No," Leia said. "It looks dirty."

Lenny shrugged and tossed it away but kept the Ship of Fools.

Chaucer picked up the atlas and gave it an appraising look-over before he shrunk it and pocketed it.

"Are you going to take those?" Wilf asked, pointing to the stack of comic books.

"I read them all. I'm hungry. Got anything to eat?"

"Lenny eat when we get back to Goblin City," Chaucer said. "How did Lenny get here?"

"In the Gobstone." He noticed it was missing. "Hey! Gobstone!"

The Gobstone floated over to him. In a matter of minutes the three children and Chaucer were crowded into the Gobstone, which slowly enlarged itself until they felt comfortable. The mounts wandered away.

"Now we have to find Bruce and Owen," Lenny said. "Any ideas, Chaucer?"

"Gobstone knows where to go," Chaucer said. "Someone has Summoned it."

"Where is the space ship going?" Vorg asked as it drifted up and away.

Bruce had no answer for him. "Hey! Get back here!" When the Gobstone drifted over the trees and out of sight, Bruce stomped around in anger around the edge of the bog until his foot went through a weak spot and he fell again into the muck.

"Walnuts!" he cursed as he floundered.

"Do you want me to get you some?" Vorg asked, looking confused.

"No, I'm mad because I keep falling into this stupid bog." Vorg pulled him up to the land, where Bruce sat in a dejected heap.

"Haven't you fallen into stuff before, Major Tom?" Vorg asked. "I do it all the time," he said as he sat next to him. "I like walnuts. They're pretty crunchy. Don't like that stuff in the middle; it tastes weird."

"I can't go to Hogwarts, not stinking like this," he mumbled, his hair and clothes dripping with fresh green slime. "And the smell is going to last forever. Lucy Graves said so."

"Is Hogwarts another planet?" Vorg asked, hoping for another story.

"It may as well be now," Bruce said with a self-pitying sigh. "I can't go anywhere now. Got any more food?"

The two of them were chewing on fluxweed bread and cold knotgrass and leeches stew when the Gobstone reappeared.

"Hey, Bruce!" Lenny yelled down to him.

"Who's that?" Vorg asked, looking around.

"Bruce is, uh, my last name. I'm Major Tom Bruce, but my friends call me Bruce. You can too," Bruce said quickly. "Remember, call me Bruce. Always call me Bruce."

"Okay, Major Tom," Vorg said happily.

"What's that smell?" Leia asked.

"You look awful," Wilf said.

"Did you fall in?" Lenny asked. "You know it's the Stinky Swamp That Smells Forever."

"You can't go to Hogwarts smelling like that," Wilf said.

"He's not going with us anywhere," Lenny said.

"Pee-you," Leia said in a very loud voice.

"Can you clean it off him, Chaucer?" Wilf asked.

"Bruce can clean himself," the house-elf calmly replied.

"I looked in that atlas," Lenny announced. "It said that whoever even puts a toenail in it will stink forever."

"But Bruce can't clean up then," Wilf said in a worried voice.

"Not if he's a Squib," Lenny said.

"I thing mum wouldn't like it if he were a Squib. Then he couldn't go to Hogwarts," Wilf said earnestly.

"I am not a Squib," Bruce fumed.

"Are too. And a stinking one at that. You're like that king said. Your name should be Stinker," Lenny replied. "We're going to go now and leave you to your Fen or Foul Fumes or whatever that is."

"It's the Bog of Eternal Stench," Vorg said helpfully.

"Stinker! Stinker!" Leia sang out. "Bruce is a stinker!"

"Don't go!" Bruce angrily ordered. "Get down here."

"Shan't," Lenny said. "Whatever it's called, you have a new citizen," Lenny told the goblin. "Take good care of him, but he cheats at games."

"I DO NOT! Get BACK here!" Bruce roared as he flared with rage, setting the nearby swamp grass on fire.

"Wow! Is that a solar flare?" shouted Vorg as the bush by him caught fire. A swarm of lacewings rose up like a cloud.

"You're in trou-ble no-ow," Leia sang.

"Get in! Get in!" Wilf cried.

Bruce helped boost Vorg into the Gobstone, which increased its size accordingly. Bruce was hauled in by Chaucer and Lenny while the fire spread to shrubs by the woods.

"Get us out of here!" Lenny shouted to the Gobstone. "Walnuts, you didn't have to pitch a fit," he yelled at Bruce.

"It wasn't my fault," Bruce yelled back. "No one can control under-age magic. You know that!" The tree behind him blazed up. The Gobstone was in the center of a sea of smoke and steam and lacewings as it sped upwards away from the bog.

Vorg peered out of the Gobstone and held onto the edge, hoping that the whole thing wouldn't tip and spill them out. Mudpots exploded below him. Flames danced across the surface of the bog.

Chaucer eyed the goblin but said nothing. A flock of birds flew up, narrowly missing the Gobstone; Leia and Wilf tried to grab at them as they went past. A cloud of smoke filled the Gobstone.

"I'm telling," Wilf whined. "My nose hurts."

"My eyes hurt," Leia cried. "I can't smell anything."

"We're out of the smoke now," Bruce announced.

Terrified, Vorg whimpered, "I don't want to go into outer space."

"I'll bet that king gets mad," Lenny said watching the forest fire.

Bruce shoved him.

"I'll bet Healer G. never takes you on another field trip," Lenny said with a shove back.

"You made me!" Bruce yelled at he shoved again.

The Gobstone swayed.

"I did not!" Lenny pushed Bruce back. "You're the Squib who couldn't figure out what to do. Even Lucy Graves got out of the bog better than you."

"I got a spider," Wilf said, holding it by its silvery thread.

Wilf put the spider on Leia, who took it and put it on Vorg.

Vorg started to weep. "I...I...don't feel so g...g...good," he stuttered.

"Walnuts. He's going to puke," Lenny shouted.

"Chaucer will not clean that up," the house-elf stated.

The boys immediately stopped shoving. "Put us down over there," Lenny commanded, pointing to a place outside the bog.

"No, over there," Bruce said, pointing to place further away.

The Gobstone stayed in one place.

"There's not a fire under us, is there?" Lenny asked, peering down through the smoke and floating ash. "Wouldn't this be a good place?"

Volg lay curled up on the bottom of the Gobstone, his eyes shut, while the others looked over the side.

"Hey, there's Owen!" Wilf shouted, pointing to a closed-in dark area. Small fires were burning and strange orange headless bodies were running around. Owen sat in a tree with about a dozen of eye-less orange fur-covered heads hanging from the branches. He waved at them.

Vorg was forgotten for the moment. "Over there!" Leia shouted.

The Gobstone drifted until it reached Owen. The other children scrambled to the side, causing it to tilt. Vorg whimpered.

"Oh, yeah, him," Bruce said.

Vorg peeped over the edge and cried louder. "Not there, not in the Fire Gang pit!"

"Walnuts, all right," Bruce grumbled at the goblin. "We won't land there."

"He's your friend; take care of him," Lenny groused. "We'll be right back, Owen," he shouted.

Owen waved again but didn't seem upset.

"There," Bruce said, pointing to a space beyond the wall. The Gobstone set itself down and Chaucer helped Vorg crawl out. In the wall there were two doors, one with a ring in its mouth, the other with a ring in its ears. Vorg yanked open the door with the ear ring and fled. The door slammed behind him.

"So rude," the door said with a sniff. The other door mumbled in agreement.

"Let's go get Owen," Wilf said.

The Gobstone rose again. "Cheaters!" the one door yelled as the children drifted above him. The other door mumbled loudly.

Fortunately for both doors, children didn't hear them as they had spotted Owen and were shouting at him.

Carefully, they had the Gobstone drift near Owen. He threw the heads in before he reached over and was pulled into the strange craft. Chaucer took the heads and piled them neatly together.

"Walnuts! Took you guys long enough. Look what I got!" He reached down his front and pulled out some solid white orbs that looked like small onions. One fell and everyone could see that it was an eyeball.

"What were you doing there, Owen?" Leia asked.

"Goblins threw me in there. Took my white knight. You still have your pawns?" he asked.

She shook her head.

"Well, here, have some eyes," he said as he handed some out to her.

"I'm starving," Lenny said. "Does anyone have anything to eat?"

"We just had some bread," Wilf said in a complaining tone.

"Gobstone, go to Goblin City," Chaucer commanded.

The Gobstone obeyed and drifted toward the city.

.
End Notes:
For more information on Professor Vindictus Viridian, please see my story posted at Lumos and at Occlumency: Professor Vindictus Viridian Edits a Book
Temptations by Overhill
Author's Notes:
Peaches, anyone? A lesson on The Persephone Principle.
beta-ed by Gelsey

Temptations


Richard noticed that he could smell the contents of the basin, the sweat and body odors of the guards and Soldat, and even the stone and the plants growing in the cracks but not the Goblin King. He wasn't sure what to make of it.

Jareth continued to stare at him for a few moments. Richard felt as if he were covered in grit and goblin snot. He could see how neat the king's Byron-styled clothes were and knew his own to be travel stained with red brick mud stains and sweat. His tall black boots were spotless, while Richard's shoes were old and worn and now covered in dirt and splatters of mud and blood. The king's hair was perfectly groomed; Richard hadn't combed his all day. Well, I've always been a slob; so what's new? he thought defensively as he twitched his fingers for his wand and was again reminded of its absence.

He patiently waited a moment longer and then turned and headed to the door with the orb on it. A glass spider scampered across its top, spinning out a glittering strand as it went. Far off, the castle played a simple, unfamiliar melody.

Jareth broke his silence. "You chose the door to Certain Death," he said in an accusatory tone. He Vanished the orb and folded his arms as he leaned against the wall behind him.

Richard then noticed the bias relief of boomslang curled on the left-hand door. The other door had what looked like a twisted ribbon or road. Dunderhead, he silently chided himself. He turned back to him with a shrug of his shoulders and answered him a wry smile, "I'm mortal, so every door I choose leads to certain death."

Jareth continued to stare at him. "What if you are not? Your father could be anywhere, from any universe. Any girl could be your sister; any man, your brother. Do not give me that look-I am not your father." He gave a dramatic wave of his black-gloved hand. "You are not even aware of what your house-elf is."

Richard refrained from a small snort. "And I suppose you know? Granted, Chaucer is a bit unusual, but he was raised in a factory, not a house."

Jareth looked at him darkly and started to pace the flagstones. His black boots made no sound. "Chaucer is to a house-elf what a Keazle is to a house cat; he is a kobold. I have a place for him in my kingdom. He would be treated kindly and have far more opportunities than what there is in your universe."

Richard thought of the king as a cat about to pounce. His fingers twitched for his wand, and he cursed himself for being without it.

His expression changed to an almost smile. "Tell him to stay with me, and I will give you everything you have wanted to know about your father-if he is alive, who he is, where he is. And as for your mother-finding him may even restore her memory. Perhaps there may even be a happy reunion." He stopped pacing. His mismatched eyes sparkled, but there was an opaqueness behind them.

Richard said nothing as he sensed that there was more to the bargain than he was hearing.

The goblin king looked kindly upon him. "And as you would know your father, you would no longer be a Merlin and all the problems that are inherent with the title." He raised his inhuman eyebrows. "And you have experienced many of them, I am sure. No more possessions, no more blood stealing, no more attempts on your life." He gave a little sweet-sounding sigh. "And you would know if you have siblings, especially who your sister or sisters would be. It would make the 'dating' process-such an odd word-much more easier, much more pleasant," he said with a slight leer.

Richard felt a tightness in his jaw and in his chest as the other probed at his fears; he forced himself not to change his expression or his posture.

The goblin king smiled at him. "Perhaps Chaucer would rather be here. Summon him and ask."

Richard folded his arms and stood his ground. "Chaucer is with the children, or so you said," Richard said evenly. "I understand I am under a time constraint; unless that has changed, I would rather be on my way. You haven't seen my wand lying about, have you?"

"You could stay here, in this universe," the goblin king said, ignoring the question as he stepped past the man. He waved at his surroundings. "There is plenty for you to do, a whole new world to explore, and there would be many rewards for your work," he said smoothly. He walked around him until he caught Richard's eye. "I can guarantee you that in this universe, you have no siblings." He finished with a smirk, his eyes glittering.

"And Alice Longbottom would be short one Healer," Richard responded in a carefully casual tone.

The smirk disappeared as Jareth's cheek muscle twitched. "Yes. Then you had best be on your way." He started to walk away from Richard and toward a blank wall but stopped and turned. "Forgive me; I have been a thoughtless host," he said in a no-nonsense tone of voice. "Sorg is not here to remind me of my duties," he said with a sigh and a slight shake of his head. "It has been hours since you arrived-I am sure you are quite starved." He tossed the orb up into the air and caught it; it had turned into a peach. He held it out to Richard, who took it with some reluctance.

Other than the fact that he didn't trust the giver, peaches gave him gastric reflux. It gave him some odd comfort though, that the peach felt real, smelled real; unfortunately, it also reminded him that the last thing he'd eaten was sour-tasting murtlap. "Thank you," he said politely, hoping to get rid of it without the king's knowledge.

The king gave a regal smile and then gave a slight frown as he looked behind the man. "Are you going to leave that mess?" he asked pointedly.

Richard glanced back and saw the basin of walnuts and blood sitting where he had left them. He turned to reply, but the king was gone.

He sighed as he ran his hand through his hair. When will I learn? he wondered. His lungs hurt, as if he'd been holding his breath for a long time. "Soldat, if I had my wand, I could take care of this, but as I don't-you wouldn't know where it would happen to be, do you?"

Soldat shook his head no.

"Well, would you please take care of this?" he asked.

The goblin, looking very green, trudged forward and picked up the basin and the ewer.

"Thanks. And here's a peach for your troubles," Richard said. Just as he said it, he realized that the goblin's hands were full.

Soldat looked helplessly at the wizard.

"I'll...I'll just leave it here," he added as he carefully placed it on the ground. "Any ideas or suggestions on how I can get through faster?" he asked.

Soldat shook his head "no" as if he were terrified.

Richard studied Soldat for a moment longer but the other just stared back. "Well, thanks," Richard said and turned back to the doors. "Any last words?" he asked them.

"Uh, thank you?" one of the heads said. The others nodded their agreement. "Bad luck," one with an obelisk said, but Richard decided to take it as a "good speed" wish.

"You're welcome," he replied as he pulled open the door with the orb on it open and passed through and into another sandstone passage which went into what seemed to be a large industrial area.

Goblins of various sizes and colors were busy at work, making armor for biped animals and themselves, carts, weapons and household items. Every where he looked he saw something else to fascinate him. He tried with little success not to stare, even though many stopped what they were doing to stare at him. (Richard tried waving back at them when he realized it, but he felt silly doing so.) Some goblins reminded him of ones he knew in Yorkshire. (He'd visited them and got their version of the goblin and wizard wars, whose accounts made his school papers very interesting but lowered his grade.) He could smell the wood of the buildings, the dung of the animals and the sweat and leather of the goblins. Even iron and copper had their tangy scents in the air.

He wondered if he should ask for directions to the castle but decided against it as he didn't know if they'd been ordered to steer him wrong. The castle played a marching tune which made the traveling easier. He could smell cooking fires and saw some goblins standing around a food stand. He realized that he was very hungry and thought about the peach again.

Suddenly he remembered something and stopped in his tracks to focus his thoughts: He imagined himself back in his "History of Magic" class. Dust motes danced in the sunbeams that made Professor Binns disappear as he drifted back and forth through them in the otherwise dark classroom.

"Do not eat nor drink anything while in another universe, that is from that universe" the ghostly professor said as the chalk on the board wrote: The Persephone Principle.

"At best, you will simply get a bite to eat, or curb your thirst. However, in many cases, the traveler is tied to that universe and may not be able to leave unless somehow rescued, if then. Or, having left, must, like Persephone, to Hades, return. At worse, there are poisons that may even be fatal. The few exceptions to the Persephone Principle are not worth mentioning. Further information will be awaiting those who are recruited to becoming Unmentionables by the Ministry of Magic. Interesting enough," he continued in his reedy monotonous voice, "what is now known as the Rip Van Wrinkle Effect..."

The children! he thought, horrified. Would Chaucer know not to feed them?

He almost called the house-elf but feared to do so. Chaucer knows what to do, he thought, trying to convince himself not to panic.

A few goblins walked by and peered up at him but said nothing.

The damage may have already been done, he thought ruefully as he started to walk and then hurried through the place.

...

High on a ridge over-looking the industrial district, the Goblin King stood with his minion, watching Richard go through the maze of buildings and warehouses. He had three orbs spinning in one hand while while from the other he released a third into the air. He looked down at the goblin who was still holding the peach.

"Go," he ordered mercilessly.

...

Richard could see a cart road ahead and beyond, the walls of what he suspected to be the walls of the Goblin City. The overcast sky had changed color beyond it into a dark smokey gray.

As he hurried he heard a familiar voice shout, "Guardian! Guardian!"

What does Soldat want now? he wondered, stopping to look around.

The little squat goblin huffed and puffed as he ran out from behind a shed.

"The king gave this to you, not me. I'll get in trouble if I eat it. He'll think I stole it," Soldat whined, handing him the peach.

"I can't eat that," Richard said.

"Don't they have peaches where you come from?" Soldat asked, continuing to whine. "What's wrong with eating this?"

The tone set Richard's teeth on edge. "Yes, they do have peaches there, and I don't eat them there, either."

The little goblin's eyes looked at him in shock. "Are they poisonous? Do they taste bad? Is it forbidden?"

Walnuts! I've got to get away from him! Richard fumed silently. A small crowd was starting to circle them, all staring at him. He got very uncomfortable.

"No, they're actually very good, it's just that I-"

"Then eat the peach!" the goblin screamed. He jumped up and pulled the man down, forcing the fruit into his mouth, causing its flesh to scrape again his teeth.

Stunned at first, Richard tried to fight him off, but Soldat had grabbed his hair and pulled his head back. The peach juice dripped down the back of his throat and out of the sides of his mouth. He started to choke, but Soldat pushed harder and then grabbed his thoat. Reflexes kicked in, and he swallowed. He could feel his Adam's apple against the goblin's open hand. He swallowed again, and the goblin released his grip and jumped back. Richard went weak and collapsed to his hands and knees. There was a familiar bitter after-taste. He saw the ring of goblins peering at him as if through a rainbow-hued sheet of glass and far-away, Soldat's voice snarl, "Back to work, everyone. King's orders."

Where did that come from? Richard wondered at Soldat's sudden change. He tried to wipe the peach slime from his face, but his hand missed his head. He collapsed onto the ground. He found himself slipping into a memory of a long-ago potions class. The black-haired Potions Master stood before him, staring down at him with his fathomless eyes, waiting for an answer.

"Ingredients for The Draught of Living Death, Professor, sir, include asphodel in an infusion of wormwood; valerian roots, freshly chopped; the juice of a sopophorous bean that was crushed by the blade of a silver dagger..."

The professor's beaky nose and crooked teeth became bigger while his eyes and forehead and long black hair shrank back. He could see he was talking but he couldn't understand what he was saying-he sounded like an underwater merman. His vision blurred to shimmering rainbow swirls. Richard felt as if he were slowly falling forward and then he felt lighter as if he were rising and then he felt and saw nothing at all.

.
At The Crystal Ballroom by Overhill
Author's Notes:
A fantasy, wherein the Goblin King sings.
At The Crystal Ballroom





The bar was a cozy set-up with a few bar stools, tables and chairs, some paintings on the wall and a light haze of cigarette smoke wafting about. The shelves were well-stocked with various wines, spirits and liquors (including some casks of Hudson Valley and Amontillado) along with the usual assortment of beers and ales. A bartender and a barmaid were visiting with patrons while they poured and distributed drinks.

Richard subtlety admired his reflection in the bar’s large mirror. Not a hair was out of place; the dark blue eye mask fit smoothly. The suit was well-tailored, the shirt was crisp, and the knot in his tie was perfect. He reflectively shrugged his shoulders and shot his cuffs. The music was in full swing, and it was time to meet the ladies. He took a deep breath and anticipated the sweet scent of the ultimate aphrodisiac--female pheromones. He smirked as he turned to the ballroom; the night was young, his bar tab was well in the black, tips had been distributed, and there were women waiting: it would be a perfect night.

Across dance floor a small band was performing in bright light on the stage. Richard thought he recognized the blond-haired singer in the light blue suit—his voice sounded very familiar—but he didn’t give another thought about the man. There were sofas and love seats around the perimeter of the floor; he wondered how long it would be before he and some lucky lass would be sharing one.

He looked around at his future competition and conquests. There seemed to be some casual pairing, one or two couples, but otherwise, it looked as if the ladies were approachable. The dancing had already begun, and there were a number of couples on the floor. “We’ll have this night for romance, so dance, dance, dance!” the singer cheerfully sang.

He wandered through the perimeter crowd, looking about him like a shopper at a market, and enjoyed the views that the evening gowns offered: Bare shoulders, bare backs, swan-like necks and low fronts. He discovered it was a bit difficult to make eye contact when every one was wearing a mask, so he went on his way single for the time being as he thought about how to make a selection.

He fought a small peach-flavored belch. He suddenly felt awkward, and decided to go back to the bar, traveling through the other half of the ballroom, looking for familiar faces and finding none. How did I get in here? What happens when the dance is over?

He returned to the bar, put in his order, and then sat at a table. At the base of the small lamp, he puzzled while he toyed with a cigarette lighter and ashtray, both stamped with “The Crystal Ballroom.” The barmaid brought over a plate of appetizers and a small glass of wine. He nodded his thanks, and then ignored both while he stared at the large landscape painting that hung a few feet away from him. What is this place? Shouldn’t I be someplace else? he wondered. He looked critically at the appetizers. Can't smell them; they must be stone cold.

The music shifted again. “Stilettos and silk; be with me tonight,” the voice crooned. “Crinoline and satin….”

Richard stopped worrying for the moment. He studied the women sitting at the next table, and decided to ask one of them for the next dance. He stood up from the table, his wine and food forgotten.

Which one, which one? he wondered. The women were looking back at him, subtlety preening. One wore a mask made of peacock feathers and a strapless dress. She turned to him when he came over to the table, as if she was ready to join him. He decided to ask her.

The music shifted as he put his arm around her and began to skillfully lead her through the steps. “You dance divinely,” she said. “I haven’t seen you here before; where do you usually go?”

He tasted peach in his mouth again, and swallowed it back down. That is not romantic, he chided himself. “At Dinty’s,” he answered. “Every Thursday night there’s a dance there. It’s rather casual, though. And it’s not as fancy as this,” he said, frowning slightly as he tried to remember. She's not wearing any perfume; that's different, he thought. No pheromones. Odd

“Satin and silk, sweet fabric of love,” the singer’s voice reached out to him. “Be mine tonight.”

“So where is this Dinty’s?” she asked, tilting her head back.

He forgot the question as his thought shifted to the woman in front of him. “Hm?” he asked, pulling her closer to him.

She didn’t ask him any more questions.



___.......___



The songs drifted through what had once been Richard's brain. It was all he could do to stay on the dance floor. He had no idea how long he had been dancing; the music never stopped. He had had countless partners, each woman had seamlessly stepped in and taken a turn with him, each woman had been beautiful, and each made his blood run like quicksilver. His current partner wore black raven feathers in her hair, on her mask, and around her very low neckline.

He felt the reflux come up again, and it burned his throat on its journey into his mouth. I’ve had enough of this, he thought to himself. I’ve got to get rid of it, or it’ll ruin the rest of the night.

“I’m going to the bar for a moment, and I’ll be right back,” he promised as he led his partner to a sofa, where she gracefully sat and smiled up at him.

Richard kissed the back of her hand, and then, careful not to swallow, made his way through the crowd and the smoke to the bar. He picked up a napkin and discreetly spat into it, and then carefully folded it up. The air seemed to clear up around him, and he took a deep breath. He motioned the bartender over. “Do you have a bin where I can put this?” he asked. “And may I have a glass of water?”

“Water of Lethe?” he asked, while holding up an empty bin.

“Just water. And thanks, just what I needed,” he said as he got rid of the napkin.

The bartender eyed him as he started to fill a glass. “Half a glass,” Richard said. I need to rinse out my mouth and get this out; it tastes like Living Death, he thought to himself. I wish I knew what I ate that had peaches in it; I know better. He took the glass, and turned his back to the room. Carefully, he took a large sip of water, swished it around his tongue and teeth, and spit it back into the glass. No wonder I haven’t had any luck tonight, what with that on my breath, he thought with a bit of annoyance.

“Thank you, and sorry about that,” he said, handing back the glass with a grimace. “You know, if it wasn’t for the music, I should have stayed home tonight,” he said, seating himself at the bar.

“What do you mean, governor?” the bartender asked him as he handed him a fresh glass of water, a worried look on his face. A couple of bar stools over, another man smoked a cigarette, coloring the air blue.

“The music is very good, the singer is great, but coming here without a date was a big mistake. I’m surprised I haven’t run into Gwen and her latest boyfriend,” he complained. “I haven’t met anyone new tonight, and it’s getting rather tiresome watching everyone else have a good time. I should have already gone home, or maybe gone to Dinty’s for a round of darts." Frustrated, he inhaled deeply, expecting the scent of tobacco. That's odd he thought, as he watched the man stub out his cigarette. Why can't I smell that? Something's not right, but what?

He turned around on the stool and glared at the now familiar painting. “As it is, I’m getting a bit sick of love songs; it’s like rubbing salt into the wound.” He loosened his tie as he inhaled again, expecting to smell the usual aromas of a ballroom--perfumes, sweat, musk and pheromones--but sensed nothing. Am I getting sick? he wondered. Am I forgetting something?

He glanced back at the dance floor and saw a woman in a red dress, wearing a black mask standing out in the crowd, looking towards him, but some people passed between them, and she was gone. She's probably waiting for someone, he ruefully thought. I'm not going back out there again. He slid the knot further down the tie and unbuttoned his top button. Great, now I can breathe. He ran his hand through his hair as he spotted his reflection again. Back to my slovenly normal self; what else is new? He inhaled deeply, but still smelled nothing.

“Do you have any way to get to St. Mungo’s from here? I’d call Chaucer to come and get me, only he’s already with the....” Walnuts! No wonder I can't smell a thing! Richard’s face went ashen white and he tore off his mask. He stared around the room, and then ran through to the stage, pushing dancers and by-standers out of his way. People started screaming, but he kept running.

The music stopped. Richard jumped up on the stage and faced the goblin king. The king glared at him, his microphone in hand, while the other band members ran backstage.

“Where are the children?” Richard demanded. “Where are they?”

There was a rushing noise around him. Richard turned and saw the room imploding. His body was pulled off the stage, and he fell into nothingness.


___.......___



The void became filled with smoky gray clouds. The air was lukewarm, and he had the oddly calming sensation of slowly falling. He looked below him to a gray sea and white foam, which reached up and swallowed him down into its briny depths.

.
Alice's Secret by Overhill
Author's Notes:
Thank you to my beta, gelsey!
Alice’s Secret




Jareth studied the glass globe he had perched on the tips of his fingers and watched as the tiny man inside fell slowly through grey mists and into the Goblin Sea with a splash. There was nothing more to be seen. He sighed slightly in disappointment as he gave the glass a gentle toss into nothingness and settled back into his throne.

“Sire?” a small goblin asked. “This…where would you like it to go?” The goblin pointed to the blue suit, which was held up by a column of three short goblins standing on each other’s shoulders, tilting slightly to the right. A tall goblin stood by the side, holding up the necktie and the still crisp white shirt. Another goblin on the other side was playing with a glass spider. Each had a slightly worried expression on his face.

The king fingered the lace cravat at his throat while he pondered. “It’s an Armani,” he explained to them.

“Told you so,” one of them mumbled to the other.

“Did not,” was the retort. “You never said it was an arm on a knee.”

“And as such, is unimaginative and too low brow for every day wear.” Their king continued. “Put it next to the tan leisure suit. The white shirt, though, can stay, but the tie…” He shuddered. “It goes into the dump. It’s not even fit to be turned into seaweed.”

“Thought so,” another affirmed.

He watched the goblins scamper off, with the spider trailing them. The room had a couple of chickens pecking around the floor and one guarding the window, but otherwise, he was alone. He allowed himself time to think. This had been a different ball—it was a pleasant change not to be the center of it, and it wasn’t often that he was able to get though a power ballad without being interrupted, let alone most of a song list.

The castle walls sang out a slow dance melody and continued to hum as Jareth remembered a different ball. He leaned back and quietly sang, “Lost love of my heart, sing to me tonight,” as he remembered Alice and how she had surprised him, getting through the Labyrinth before he had even returned to his castle, and the day they had spent together and danced at her disco ball, while the goblins took care of her small charge. He thought about the baby girl, who had died of dragon pox in her childhood, and then Alice again, and her beautiful paintings that he had made special trips to see.

Alice never told anyone about what she painted, and now she, can never tell anyone about being here, he thought to himself. “Rain,” he commanded the sky. “Weep for me, weep for Alice and the baby.” It pained him not to remember the baby’s name. He was sitting still, with his eyes closed; his head back, listening to the rain, when Soldat tiptoed in.

The stocky goblin cleared his throat and shuffled his feet. “Sire? The children are here.”

The rain stopped.


~~~~~~~~~~~~




Richard shot up out of the water. The salty sea was pleasantly warm and the waves were calmer than what he was used to. The distance to the land was about twice the length of the swimming pool at St. Mungo’s. The ground to the faraway castle looked like farmland, but the bright psychedelic pink and purples and orange colors of the fields looked garish and strange. He put his head back into the water, ready to swim, and then heard mermaids singing. His heart froze. Walnuts! He silently swore. Not now! Not here! They’ll drown me! he thought, pushing down his panic. I don’t have my wand! No gillyweed, no friends! Help!

He fled to the shore, keeping his head out of the water. He felt his shoes go off his feet, and kicked harder.

His hands and feet hit the bottom, and he staggered out of the water and stumbled up the shore a ways, past the glittering strand, and he threw himself on the sea grass, narrowly missing rocks and drift wood and little scampering glass spiders. He sat up, panting, as he watched the mermaids toss his shoes back and forth between them, until a goblin ran out from behind him, and, splashing into the water, shouted something at the mermaids. They snarled something back, threw the shoes at him, and, swishing their tails, went back into the sea.

The goblin was Sorg. It retrieved the shoes and huffed back to where Richard was now standing and handed it to him.

“Thank you,” Richard said, uncertain of what was going on. He turned around and saw the castle was as far away from him as it was when he first arrived.

He almost asked the goblin a question and then thought differently of it. He’d already been tricked by the king and Soldat; he wasn’t going to risk another try with Sorg.

Sorg had gone back to the water and was throwing rocks in it, ignoring him.

Richard started put his shoes back on but then realized how wet and cold he was. Concentrating, his eyes closed, using his own magic to steam off the water and drying himself in a few moments. (One of the few things he was able to do without a wand, it was a skill practiced during rainy summers working by the North Sea.)

The mermaids had slimed the inside of one of his shoes.

He used his shirt tail to wipe it out. He felt like he’d crawled out from the bottom of a cartload of dead flobberworms, but there wasn’t anything that could be done to improve the situation.

And then it started to rain.

As he put his shoes on, he tried to remember how he got into the sea but the last thing he remembered was choking on the peach in the work yard. Then he remembered spitting out peach-flavored phlegm, and then he remembered the dance and the girl he’d left on the love seat, and then the bar, and then the suddenly familiar painting on the wall. He inwardly groaned as he turned his head and looked at the same scene, though now a dark smoky cloud hung over where the orchard should have been and whole had a grey sheen from the rain.

Healer Smyth has Alice’s painting in her flat. She got it at a junk sale. The Goblin King spelled it to last a thousand years; no wonder it never did anything or worked with other paintings. Now what do I do? he wondered as the rain stopped. He steamed himself dry again.

“Sorg,” he said.

There was just the sound of the waves splashing on the shore.

“Sorg!” he called.

There was no answer.

He turned to look at the sea and then back at the castle and sighed. He had no idea how much longer he had, and he wondered where the children were.

As he watched, the bright blue hedges that bordered and divided the acres slowly moved. There was no straight way to the castle. He turned to walk further along the strand and almost tripped over Sorg.

“Where did you come from?” Richard asked, relieved and frustrated at the same time.

“I’ve been here the whole time,” it said with a snuff, while wiping its nose on its filthy sleeve.

“Sorry,” Richard said, as he tried to keep the impatience out of his voice. “Can you tell me how to get to the castle, or to your king?”

The goblin stared up at him, a shocked look on its face. “You don’t know? You’re a wizard; you went to Hogwarts and you don’t know? She knew; she figured it out right after she got here! She went everywhere and anywhere we wanted to.” It waved its hands around. “And you don’t even know how to walk over to the castle.” The little creature began to sob. “Figure it out for yourself, Taber.”

Richard stood still, puzzled at the word. “Taber? What does that mean?”

“Loser!” the goblin shrieked as it ran away into a thicket of tall shrubs a short distance away. The shrubs shook for a moment and then were still.

“Sorg? Sorg! I know where the painting is,” he called as he tried to follow. The purple shrubs were unyielding. He started to give up, but then he wondered why the shrubs were there, isolated, when the rest of the land was cultivated. He walked around them and saw that there was a pipe, draining water. It was too small for him to walk through, but for a small goblin, it could be a passageway. There were some things that looked terribly familiar in the glittery gravel at the mouth of the pipe. Carefully, he picked up some plastic beads and a small plastic bracelet.

It was part of Leia’s treasure.

This must have washed down with the rain, he thought. What if this goes straight to the castle? He wondered as he studied the landscape some more. Water flows downhill, usually. Pipes are straight, usually. If I had my wand, I could sense it underground. But I don’t have my wand. What did they use before wands? Suddenly, he remembered something from his History of Magic class. I’ll just have to use the old ways, he thought. I’ll make a rod, a dowsing rod.

He looked at the shrubs and saw a forked branch, which he pulled off of off a limb and quickly stripped off the leaves. He took the tops of the fork in his hands and pointed the fork down to the water and slowly moved it from side to side, hoping that the sea was not interfering, hoping that the rod would work. He felt a slight tug when it passed over the small trickle of water and gave a sigh of relief. He climbed up the slope that went over the pipe and was pleased to continue to feel the tug. He went up a short distance and found a tall hedge in his way.

Frustrated, he sat on the ground and groaned. How did Alice do it? She did something. There’s a riddle or a puzzle or something that she solved—what could it be? He lay on his back and looked up at the grey, cloudy sky. What am I missing? He thought about Alice,and noticed the flowers next to him. “Sopohorous beans,” he said to himself aloud. “They grow sopohorous beans.” He thought about his potions class, about his professor, and how disappointed he would have been in his dunderheaded student. “I haven’t found a way through this mess, and haven’t found the kids, but I found out where sopohorous beans are grown,” he told his long-dead teacher. Some lousy Guardian I am; I can’t go back without them, he thought. Alice can’t tell them anything and no one will tell me how to get me out of this mess.

He tried to clear his mind. The scent of the flowers seemed to make his thoughts more fluid, and he saw himself sitting next to Alice, on one of the nights she whimpered, when only thing that would calm her was soft singing.

He slowly started the last song he had sung to her, “Will you walk a little faster, said the lobster to the snail, there’s porpoise close behind us and he’s treading on…my…tail.”

He stopped. The hedge was moving, and it was opening up. “See how eagerly….” The plants beyond the hedge parted. Startled, he forgot the next words. The plants quit moving and seemed to be waiting.

“They are waiting on the shingle,” he hesitantly sang as he stepped through hedge. “Won’t you come and join….” the plants obligingly moved out of his way. “…the dance?” He stopped singing and waited. After a few moments, the plants moved to different spots, and the hedge closed.

He faced the castle. He could hear some unfamiliar humming from it and the sounds of the sea behind him. Is it so simple? He wondered.

“Will you, won’t you, will you join the dance?” he sang a bit stronger. The plants moved again, making a clearing in front of his feet. “You really have no notion how delightful it will be,” he sang louder and with more confidence. A path opened before his feet that pointed straight to the castle. “When they pick us up and throw us with the lobsters out to sea…” he walked faster, and then he ran as he loudly sang, “The further off from England, the nearer is to France, so do not pale, beloved snail, but come and join the dance!”

He sang through the song four times, until he reached the ruined gates of the goblin village that lay at the base of the castle.

.
End Notes:
Author’s note: The Mock Turtle's Song, also known as the Lobster Quadrille, is from Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland.
"Too Late!" by Overhill
Author's Notes:
The goblin village was silent and empty when he arrived.
“Too Late!”



Richard stopped to catch his breath and looked back at the landscape. The hedges had moved again, covering his path. Beyond them, he could see little boats on the sea. The horizon between the grey sky, and the water was barely visible. He bent down to stretch out his back and noticed the ferns growing outside the wall. He caught their scent and, suspicious, knelt down and pulled up one of the plants. It was valerian. Is there nothing in this place that is not a potion ingredient? he silently wondered. He dropped the plant and brushed off his hands.

He carefully checked the opening of the gates, expecting to find guards, but there were none. The wall that bordered the village was decorated with vaguely familiar red feathery items, the size of his head, and had odd pointed parts sticking out. The village was built of grey stones and seemed empty. The huts were small and jammed together, and the cobblestones roads were laid out at odd angles, curbed at seemingly random places with planters full of blooming white and yellow asphodel and green wormwood. He tried to keep his eye on the castle, which was on his left hand side, but found himself caught in the maze of lanes and moving away from his target, toward the faraway low mountains. He could smell burning wood, but he heard nothing but his own footsteps.

“About time you got here,” a high screechy voice said.

Richard swung around and found himself face to beak to a large orange and blue bird. Its huge yellow eyes glared at him. The bird had a long neck, a short round body, tiny legs, and huge feet.

“You’re too late. The Labyrinth is no place for children; you’re too late,” it squawked.

Richard took a step back, and looked around him. “Where are the children?”

“They were over there,” the bird replied. “In the Bog of Eternal Stench. And they were in the orchard, and they were in the dump.” A wall of blue and orange flames shot up in the distance. “And they were up in the air, and they were with the fireys, and look what they did with them,” the bird snapped, pivoting its head around.

Richard looked and saw that the red objects were actually grotesquely grinning heads, mostly eyeless, fixed on spikes on top of the wall. They looked like the doll that the king had given Alice in what seemed like another life time ago. As he watched, one of the heads wiggled itself loose, rolled along the wall, and disappeared to the other side. “It’s going to take days for them to right themselves,” the bird groused. “All that fire, all that smoke. The goblins have their hands full, keeping the fire out of the dump. It’s full of treasures in there, you know, and Runners who were as inept as you.” The bird fixed a baleful on him. “The swamp needed cleaning out—it reeks when the wind is wrong--but I never thought that fire was the way to go,” it said in an injured tone of voice.

“Where are the children?” Richard asked again.

“You’re too late,” the bird airily replied. “They’re with the king.”

Richard looked at the castle. “Can I sing my way there?” Fear gripped him, and he could not think of a song, any song, at the moment.

The bird snickered. “You are called a wizard, and you don’t even know what magic you have. If you have any magic. Go on; just start walking to the dump, and find yourself there.” It flapped its wings at him. “Shoo!”

He stumbled backwards and caught himself. “What are you talking about? I don’t want to find myself, I want to find the them.” He started singing, “Hogwarts, Hogwarts, Hogwarts, walk a little faster said the whiting to the snail. Lilacs and lavender, satin and lace.”

He stopped singing and heard silence. Nothing moved but the smoke in the distant breeze and the twinkle in the bird’s eyes.

“Please, how do I get to the king?” he asked desperately.

The bird made a laughing sound. “Child’s play.” It stretched out its wings and flapped them, scattering feathers and dust, and flew away.

Richard watched the bird as it turned in its flight to behind the castle. “I wish I had someway to get there,” he grumbled. He felt sick—there was no way he could ever return to his world, not without Bruce and Wilf and the rest. He stared at the ground, where some of Leia’s plastic beads were caught in between the stones, and felt cold at the thought of having failed. He started walking, and then jogging, but found himself by the wall, with trees limbs filled with peaches hanging over his head.

Down on the ground, one of the red furry heads rolled past him, its eyes missing. “Hey, man, give me a kick!” it shouted in a Jamaican accent. He took a step backward to avoid it. “Thanks for nothing!” It used its pointed mouth to propel itself and fell into a gutter and rolled out of his sight.

There were some green preaches lying on the road, and in his frustration, he kicked one. It rolled oddly. Annoyed, he marched up and kicked it again. Again it didn’t go as he thought it would. He tried again, and it rolled up a sloped path between two huts. He had nothing to lose. He had already lost the run, lost his charges, lost any reason to return to his former life. He briefly remembered when he was Owen’s age, kicking cans around Kensington Park just to make noise, and wished his life were as simple again. He desperately hoped that Chaucer was watching out for the children’s welfare and wondered what he would do next as he kicked the peach again, and it rolled straight, then banked left. Kicking the peach somehow made him feel a bit better, and he ran after it, kicking it a few more times, hoping that somehow he would find directions to the castle. He stopped kicking it for a bit and looked for signs but all there were only the silent hovels and huts of the village. Some doors were closed, some were ajar, but everywhere was emptiness and silence.

He went back to kicking the peach. Sometimes it rolled left, sometimes right, until it rolled along the base of a planter, through a slight opening of a door, and disappeared.

Richard looked up and saw that he was now facing the castle’s doors. He looked behind him and was not surprised to see the wall on the other side of the village.

There were no goblins about, no animals, no birds. It all seemed too easy. “Child’s play,” he muttered. He took a step off to the side of the door and looked around and listened. An odd clicking sound came from inside, down on the floor. Warily, Richard stepped into the dimly-lit castle and looked around for the noise. It came from two things: a battered Gobstone and a white knight chess piece that were pushing at each other at the edge of the door. The knight was hitting the Gobstone with its broken sword, while the Gobstone looked as if it were trying to roll it over. Richard wondered where the other Gobstone was as he deftly grabbed the one Gobstone and scooped up the knight in the other before turning to examine the inside of the castle.

He sensed that the walls and the floors had changed even as he had stepped inside. The air had a wave in it, as if a drafty door had opened and closed, and the dirt floor looked as if it had just stopped rippling. Everything in the large entry room was gray and had a roughness that matched the landscape outside. The ceiling seemed to disappear above him, although the light came from windows up high. The place smelled of rock, damp earth, a tang of burning wood, and chickens. He watched where he stepped, concerned that there might be mud or dung on the floor. He listened for the children but heard nothing but the breeze through the open windows. Richard stood still, heedless of the knight that squirmed in his hand, and searched with his senses, feeling that he was not being watched.

There was an arched door to the side of him. A quick glance inside showed that it was the guards’ room, and nothing was in it but blunt weapons and a half-eaten meal. He went to the larger carved wooden door and pushed it open, going into another room. The floor was covered with rough slate, as were the walls and the empty alcoves, and there was the feeling that no one had been in it for a while. The light colored stone doors to the next room had tinted brown and green carvings of boomslang snakes that slithered slowly across the surfaces. The next floor had smooth stone floors and well-fitted stonework for its walls, and the doors were flat. The windows had glass and the same empty feeling. The room after that had marble floors laid out in a geometric pattern of triangles and circles, a half a dozen tapestries that featured fanciful bicorns hanging over smooth walls, and the same unoccupied feeling. This room had seven tall closed doors made of shiny gray metals and polished obsidian. Different symbols were on each door, but they were unfamiliar to Richard.

He had no idea which door to choose. He put the knight and the Gobstone on the floor. “Go find your owners,” he ordered.

The knight stood still, but the Gobstone rolled straight to the second door to the left. Richard was puzzled for a moment, then remembered that the knight belonged to the chess set in the community room, but the Gobstone belonged to Lenny. He picked up the knight, went over and caught up the Gobstone, and then examined the door. It was decorated with what might have been silver stars; some had four points, others had five, seven, or eight points. There was no handle, so he gently pushed on the door. It slowly, silently swung open, and he found himself peering into a passageway that went upward in a clockwise curve. The floor and the walls that arched into a ceiling were of smooth, glowing gray metals, and there was the unsettling feeling that someone was somewhere inside, waiting.

.
______________________________________

Thank you to my beta, gelsey!
Resolutions by Overhill
Author's Notes:
Out of time, the Guardian must deal with someone from his past and solve games of logic to finish his run.
Resolutions




Richard put the Gobstone on the floor again. "Go find your owner."

The ball obediently rolled up the gentle slope. Richard followed, and noticed side doors and alcoves along the wall. He decided to count them as he went along. The alcoves seemed to be used as small offices, as there were desks and chairs in most of them.

It was at the fifteenth door that the Gobstone rolled to the left and stopped. Richard stooped down to pick it up, and as he did, he noticed boots behind the dark glass door. As he stood up, the doorway slowly brightened, and he saw that there was a man wearing a shiny silver suit. He thought at first it was the Goblin King, but then he saw that he looked grim. His hair was shorter, darker, and around his eyes, around his head was a cloth bandage, and fixed to the bandage, on the left side was a red glowing ruby and on the right, a green glowing emerald where the eyes should have been. The nose was broken, and a raw scar ran down the left side of his face. A beard was starting to form, the suit was travel-stained, and the whole bearing of the man was one of exhaustion. There was no glitter about him.

Richard stared at the man and realized that he looked exactly like the Major Tom in one of the last comic books he had read, back in his school days.

"Halt! Who goes there?" the man calmly asked.

"Major Tom?" Richard asked.

"I am he. Who are you?"

Richard decided to be honest. "Richard Goodfellow. I'm a healer, and…"

"I know of no Richard Goodfellow."

Richard stood, stunned. Walnuts! Now what do I do? Is this supposed to be child's play? he wondered.

He thought fast and recalled one of his favorite characters from the comic books. "Lee Shark. Captain. Captain Lee Shark."

"Greetings, Captain Shark," Major Tom said. "How may I assist you?"

"I'm here to collect some children, which were under my guardianship. Have you seen them?" Richard asked, hoping that he was not making a mistake in lying about who he was and hoping that his memory of rank and relationship was correct.

"The children are beyond this door."

Relieved, Richard ordered, "Then step aside, major."

Major Tom shook his head. "I'm under orders not to leave this door until nightfall."

Richard hesitated, thinking of what to ask next. "After nightfall, will the door open then?" What if the captain is already supposed to know this? he wondered.

"The door will open with the right key," Major Tom replied.

"Which key?" Richard asked.

"Exactly. It is behind you."

Richard turned to the alcove opposite the door. Papers and objects lay on the desk and hung from a pegboard on the wall above. "Which key?"

"Yes," Major Tom affirmed, and then asked, "Captain Shark?"

It took Richard a moment before he realized that he was being addressed. "Yes, Major?"

"How…how is my wife?"

How am I supposed to know? Richard wondered. He remembered very little about her and decided to continue to bluff his way. "Ask her yourself when you return," he said, not unkindly. He glanced back at the man, but there was no reply.

Richard turned his attention to the alcove and studied the contents. There were so many keys to choose from—typewriter keys; piano keys; a map key, with a decorative compass printed on it; skeleton keys such as the caretaker of Hogwarts wore on his belt; car keys and house keys, such as he found at the bus stops at Kensington Park, with odd items chained to each of them, including black plastic fobs, a pair of dice, and a five-sided star; a skate key; a map of southern Florida with a chain of islands; an encryption key, shaped similar to a decoder ring Owen owned; and a thin rod of metal as long as a finger and bent into an L-shape. Richard was not familiar with it and was puzzled by its inclusion.

He took it off of its peg, weighed it in his hand, and studied it. Intuitively, he felt that it was the one, but he didn't know why. He turned it over and over. It wasn't round, as he thought it would be, but it had six-sides. Looking at the end of it, it reminded him of a cell in a honey comb. One of the skeleton keys had managed to drop from its peg and land on the floor; he stooped and, careful not to drop the chess piece in his hand, put it back on its peg and ignored its chattering skull as it cried in a thin, tiny voice, "Pick me! Pick me!"

He looked over the other keys again, while slowly rolling it between his fingers. He studied the five-sided key chain. "Pentagon. Six side, hexagon; seven sides…." He stopped. "Hexagon. Hex. It's a hex key. Which key? Witch key. What other key would a witch use?" He turned back to the door. "Stupid pun," he muttered under his breath.

He stood at attention before the other man. "Major Tom," he said, "it is now knight fall." He held out his hand in front of him and dropped the chess piece.

Major Tom bowed his head, and he and the glass door dissolved.

Richard quickly spotted the key hole—a small dot in the center of the smooth plate—and pushed in the hex key. Starting at the key hole, the plate melted. Richard had just enough time to scoop back up the Gobstone and the knight from the floor before the whole area in front of him opened.

Beyond was starry night. Constellations burned and galaxies slowly rotated through thin clouds of nebula. A nova flashed as Richard stood at the doorway in breathless awe. All of outer space was in front of him, and somewhere in it, the children. He opened up his hand, and the Gobstone slowly floated away to an unseen destination. The knight stayed weightless on his palm.

"You are too late, Guardian," the king said. Richard snapped his head around and saw the king standing perpendicular to him, silhouetted by star light. The king wore a suit similar to Major Tom's, his feet were firmly planted on the wall beside Richard. Beyond him was the vastness of space. He held out a warning hand.

"The way back to St. Mungo's is closed. You shall not return from here."

Richard shut his eyes and slowly took in a breath, exhaled, then took another breath, somewhat surprised that he could breathe. The air was clear, and it cleared the confusion in his head, even though he was starting to drift out the doorway.

Ignoring the king, he said loudly and clearly, "Chaucer, round everyone up and take us to Dinty's."

The startled look on the king's face gave Richard a moment of satisfaction, but greater was his relief at the familiar yank on his arm and the sudden stumbling onto the pizzeria's floor. The noise of the restaurant assaulted his ears, and he could smell baked bread, oregano, and basil. He opened his eyes in the dim light and saw the backs of the children as they ran to the colorfully lit arcade area. He quickly counted them and saw that they were all there.

"Healer G! Do you have tokens?" Owen shouted. "We need tokens!" "Tokens!" Wilf echoed. Behind them, Bruce and Lenny scuffled at one of the game boxes while Leia ran to her favorite pinball machine.

Suddenly exhausted, Richard replied back, "Go get them from the counter—tell them to put it on my tab."

He sank down in the nearest booth and ran a hand over the red leather seat. The table had crumbs on it—he cleared it off with a wave of his hand. "Thank you, Chaucer," he said gratefully. The door to the outside street opened, and he could smell the rain before it shut again.

There was no reply.

He looked around and spotted Chaucer standing on a stool at the counter next to a customer that the barkeeper was talking to. Chaucer was wearing an odd suit of armor. Weary, Richard leaned into the seat back and shut his eyes.

"Anything for you?" the waitress asked.

Richard opened his eyes and saw she was one of the familiar staff members.
He could see the day's special and the clock on the wall behind her—it was only two hours since they had left. "Just the regular, Bonnie," he said.

She gave him a withering stare.

"Sweet water in an obsidian cup, small double basil on vegetarian with original crust." He sighed.

It didn't take her long to fill the order, and she brought it back with the ticket. He glanced at it, then, horrified, read it and reread it. "Three hundred pizzas! Bonnie! Bonnie"

A too-familiar voice spoke. "Did you expect me to return empty-handed?" The goblin king slid into the seat opposite of Richard. He wore a simple silk shirt that was open at the neck. "My subjects have been cleaning up after your charges and are doubtless very hungry. Those children did more damage than Lucy Graves, Sarah Williams, and the entire freshmen class of Baum Institute combined."

"Why are you here? How—" Richard was speechless and very annoyed.

"It is your fault. You did say 'everyone,'" the king coolly replied.

Richard glared at him, before re-examining the receipt. "There's a cake…."

"Special order. A white jasmine flavored cake, with jasmine sugar flowers on top."

The waitress returned to put a small pizza and a mug in front of the king. "Tarragon and mushrooms with white sauce on fluxweed crust, and Hudson Valley Amber Brew."

The king gave her a gracious smile, which she, as she did all smiles, ignored. The king returned his attention to Richard. "You need not worry about the cost. The gratuity is included in the bill. Pay up and turn in the receipt to the Ministry of Magic, attention Bill Weasley, Goblin Liaison. He will see to it that you are reimbursed for the pizzas."

Richard looked at the tab again. "And the cake?"

"One of your charges, Owen, I believe, crashed a birthday party, and it must be repaid. Discuss it with him." The king took and knife and a fork to his pizza. "Do you prefer you food cold, Guardian?"

Richard had no doubt that Owen was guilty and decided to eat slowly. He glanced around for the king's two minions but didn't see them, and he decided not to ask about them. There was silence at the table, while around them were the sounds of the arcade's pinball machines, the overhead music and the low conversations of nearby diners punctuated with laughter.

Richard decided to say something. "I think I know where one of Alice's pictures is. I know where I last saw it, and it's probably still there in Healer Smyth's office. I'll have it put in Alice's quarters."

The king nodded. "There are four paintings. You will find the other three; you will recognize them."

Richard couldn't tell if it was a statement or an order, but he said nothing.

The waitress returned. "Your pizzas are ready," she informed the king.

The king replied, "I require assistance."

She shrugged and walked away. Chaucer appeared in her place.

"Chaucer send Richard Goodfellow and children back to the community room?" Chaucer asked.

"We'll take the Floo," he said. "Go ahead and deliver the pizzas, and I'll see you when you get back."

"And no more 'borrowing' my clothes," the king ordered. He stood up, a glittery black travel cloak swirled around him, and he disappeared.

The waitress returned to the table. "Would you like some dessert?" she asked as she cleared the dishes.

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