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.