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?"
"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:
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.