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."
"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.