The children stood in the middle of a large room that was walled with rough stone. Frameless, glassless windows were in the wall, there were ledges around the perimeter, and there was one--and only one--piece of furniture that might have been a chair by the wall opposite an opening to a large hallway. Odd creatures, a few looking like Gringotts goblins and others less so, were sitting on the ledges and standing around the children. Chickens strutted around the room and birds flew in and out of the window.
Otherwise, the place was silent as the two groups studied each other.
Finally, one of the goblins spoke up. "Where's the king?"
"Dunno. I thought he was with you," Bruce said.
There was another silence.
"Where's the baby?" a different one asked, looking behind them as if there was one hidden behind them.
"We're not babies," Bruce sullenly replied. "At least, I'm not." Lenny and Owen, who were standing at his sides, punched him.
While the boys tussled, Leia marched over to the chair and perched herself on it. "I'm the Princess, so what I say goes."
"What's a 'princess'?" one of the goblins asked.
"I'm the boss," she replied, her nose in the air and her feet swinging. She straightened her tiara.
"You are not the boss," one of the goblins retorted. "Get off the throne." He reached out to grab her but jumped back in pain, holding his arm. "That hurt!"
Leia looked worried. "Did it?" Her expression changed instantly. "Good!"
"And you're going to hurt more if you try to touch her again," Owen warned. "She's a witch. And we're wizards. We've got loads of magic. And that's Chaucer. And you have to do what we say."
Chaucer gave a small wave from his side of the room.
The goblins grumbled among themselves. The boys were tired of standing and sat down on a vacant area of a ledge opposite of Leia.
And everyone waited. The boys looked out the different windows and saw the labyrinth, gardens, farms, a village ("That must be the Goblin City," Owen guessed), a huge dump and what looked like a swamp with big trees.
"What is that? The Fen of Foul Fumes?" Lenny asked a grouchy-looking goblin.
"It's the Bog of Eternal Stench. It's where we're all going to end up if the guard made a mistake."
"Bringing you lot here," he grumbled. "It was supposed to be a baby."
"We're not babies," Lenny replied.
"We can see that," the goblin snarled as he stomped away in his hob-nailed boots.
The Goblin King did not arrive.
Most of the goblins left the room, two or three at a time. The boys moped around, with Wilf checking where the chickens had been sitting to see if there were any eggs. Leia turned the dark feathers on a chicken into pink fluff, causing the goblins to eye her with a deepening suspicion. Chaucer stood with a couple of goblins, having a quiet conversation.
The Goblin King still did not arrive.
"I'm bored," Owen complained. "Lucy said that there was music here."
"I want a dance," Leia added.
"We don't do it for free," a goblin grumbled. "And you don't have anything we want."
Leia took off a bracelet and dangled it in her hand. "I can pay."
The goblins eyed it but made no move.
"It's plastic," Owen said.
Chaos erupted. The goblins started jumping up and down, and music came from the walls.
"Dance, dance, dance," the goblins sang. Chaucer stepped over to Leia's side and watched.
"There's nothing to do but dance. The dinner is done, the grog is gone, the time is now to dance! Dance! Dance! Dance!"
The music continued and the goblins kept jumping around. Leia clapped her hands and laughed.
"This is so stupid," Bruce growled. "I wish we were out of here."
"I do too," a near-by goblin agreed. "I don't like you. And the king makes much better songs."
"Where does Bruce want to go?" Chaucer asked.
"Anywhere but here."
"Me too," Owen added. "She's just going to get bossier."
"Me three," Lenny muttered.
"Yeah," Wilf said loyally.
Goblins seized the boys and disappeared.
A second later the boys were on a slight--and quiet--hillside. The goblins were gone. Everywhere behind and around them looked like a giant moor, and the labyrinth, the city, and the castle lay before them. Far off to the side were some rough area, to the other, gardens. They could not see what was beyond the castle. Chaucer Apparated next to them.
"I didn't mean here," Bruce snarled. "Why didn't they take us back to the library? Take us back to the library. Please."
"Bruce did not ask for the library. Chaucer can go back and forth, but cannot take anyone. Goblin King is the only one who can have humans go back and forth. Bruce heard Lenny read that in the book. Goblin King is not here."
"That idiot?" Bruce snorted. "Where is he?"
"Chaucer does not know. But to go back to St. Mungo's, boys will have to ask Goblin King."
"And where will we find the king?"
"Try the castle. Goblin King rules there."
"But we were just there," Lenny protested. "Ow! Something bit me."
"Looks like a weird Doxy," Owen said.
"Not Doxy--a fairy," Chaucer said. "Fairy bites hurt, but won't harm," he informed them. Nevertheless, the two boys started waving their arms around, to frighten off the few fairies that were hovering near them. Wilf ran after one, trying to catch it.
Bruce ignored them and turned to the house-elf. "But you said that he's not here."
"Does Bruce see Goblin King standing here?" Chaucer asked. "Bruce needs logic lessons before Bruce goes to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry."
Owen snorted. Bruce swung a punch at him and missed him.
"What about Healer G?" Lenny asked.
"Richard Goodfellow cannot enter here without Goblin King's permission," Chaucer replied.
"Well, that counts him out," the boy grumbled. "He's probably sitting back, reading a newspaper, waiting for us to show up."
"He's probably on another box of biscuits," Wilf added.
"I need to go back to Leia," Owen shouted. "I'm her cousin--I'm supposed to be watching for her."
"Owen can get back to the castle on his own," Chaucer said calmly. "Owen wants to, to tell Lucy how easy it is. Chaucer heard Owen say so. Goblins cannot take boys anywhere now, until or unless Goblin King says so. Chaucer needs to go back to castle now. Chaucer watching for Leia, just as Owen ordered. Good-bye." And he Apparated away.
"Well, that's just great. Thanks a lot, Chaucer," Lenny said, sneering at the absent being. "I never said I wanted to do this."
"Yes, you did. In the library, before we found that stupid book. That's why you were looking for it. That's why you got Chaucer to say the stupid words," Bruce retorted.
"Lucy liked being here," Owen said. "She wanted to come back."
"Yeah, right. Maybe she'll trade us places," Bruce said in a bored way. "Well, if our stupid cousin could make it to the castle, we can. Easy."
They studied out the landscape in front of them. There was a wall of brick surrounding more walls of brick, stone, and plants. A village could be seen in the distance, and beyond it, the castle. The distance to the castle, as the crow flies, was probably not more than three miles.
"I see some big doors over there," Lenny said, pointing far to the right, where a set of great gates were set into the outer wall.
"That way, over the wall, looks shorter," Owen said, pointing over to the left, where the wall seemed to dip down. "We could climb it and walk on the wall tops to get to the castle."
They went down the low hill and started scrambling up the wall.
"Ow!" Lenny said. "Wait, I've got these stupid Sticks in my pocket." He threw the blue game pieces down on the ground, but left the two Gobstones in his other pocket.
He and the others easily found toe-holds and made their way to the top of the wall.
They walked easily on its wide flat top for a while, but the wall had a break on the top, and they had to go on the inside. When they were down the ground, they discovered little plants that grew from the wall. The plants grew together in clumps of stalks that had round ball-like ends that seemed to have eyelids. They were not unlike the newt and frog eyes and optic nerves that were stored in jars in the hospital's apothecary and which the boys had to fetch at times in their chores. They picked up sticks from the ground and poked at them. The eyes closed up, and the stalks shrank until the plants were almost hiding in the cracks in the wall.
The boys waited for the eyes to reopen, and then they blew dust on them, forcing them to close. Bored, the boys started walking again. Down the row, whenever others of the eye-like plants sensed them coming, they closed up and drew back to the walls.
After another five minutes of walking (which seemed like an hour to the boys), Wilf threw himself down and whined, "I'm tired. And I'm hungry."
"Well, why don't you come in for some tea?" a voice said.
The boys looked around, but didn't see anybody else.
"I'm down 'ere. I'm a worm," the voice said.
The boys stared down at it. It was furry, like a caterpillar, and had a scarf around its neck.
"We're busy," Bruce said. "We're trying to get to the castle."
The little creature blinked at him. "It's easy. Just go through that opening, turn left and go straight. You'll be right there."
The wall looked solid, but they were used to hidden openings at the hospital. The boys walked through without hesitation, looked down to the left to where there was a far away turn in the passage, and then looked at each other. "It's too easy," Owen said. "It probably goes right to that stinking swamp."
"Have you been there before?" Lenny asked the worm.
"Me? No," it answered.
"I can't go there. I'm just a worm," it answered. "Would you like some tea?" it asked again.
"Can I have some tea?" Wilf asked.
Bruce hesitated. He didn't trust the worm to be giving directions, but he didn't want Wilf whining around him.
"Sure, go ahead, but we'll be going this way." He pointed to the right. "Hurry up and catch up, okay?"
"Come on in, meet the missus," the worm said invitingly to Wilf.
So Wilf went in and met the missus while the other three took the right hand turn and went on without him.