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.