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."