Author's Note: While working on the next chapter of Dark Hour of Night and other writing projects, this popped into my head one night. I always swore to myself I would never, ever write about this, but... Well. I apologize in advance.
Plot Summary: Everybody's hung over, and it's a very important day in the Underground. Attempted humor and innuendo.
A Momentous Occasion
Dwarves were not big believers in karma, but as Hoggle's skull throbbed like the beat of goblin war-drums, he had to admit that the festivities of the night before had taken their toll.
Every time he closed his eyes, he could still hear the cacophonous strains of goblin ballads sung by the inebriated patrons of the Pickled Goat, the most exclusive gastro pub in the Underground. A fistful of silvers would get you a three course meal complete with ale tastings, and because the pub catered to gourmands you could be very nearly certain that none of the dishes contained much rat. Hoggle had ordered the fancifully named "Flight of Parsnips from the Seven Kingdoms", followed by the tarte de navets for dessert. The meal had not agreed with him at the time, and judging by the ominous rumbling of his gut, it was still sowing the seeds of discord somewhere in his lower intestine.
But Hoggle had no time to spare for considerations of ill health. Not today.
The castle had been scrubbed from top to bottom until the stones gleamed, and not a single wisp of moldy straw or stray chicken feather could be seen. The goblins had been scrubbed equally hard, but it was hard to detect much improvement in their looks. Nevertheless, they gamely staggered about, twining flower garlands for a newly built arch in the rose garden and trying to discreetly lick the five-tiered cake sitting on a long trestle table in the hall. Someone had already eaten all the sugar roses decorating the bottom, leaving messy smears of pink and silver on the platter. Hoggle would've cleaned it up, but someone else had also eaten all the napkins. He didn't bother telling Sir Didymus, who would've been terribly distraught that his plans were not going quite as he'd anticipated. The knight had enough to worry about as it was.
Hoggle found him hovering anxiously outside the door to the Goblin King's private chambers, consulting a long list written on parchment paper. As he went down line by line, he ticked some things off his agenda with a quill pen, underlined others, then added a few extra exclamation points for good measure.
Hoggle released a quietly therapeutic belch and tried to look cheerful for his friend's sake. He nodded at the closed door. "Well, how goes it with the Royal Pain in the Arse?"
"Friend Hoggle, you do jest so. His Majesty is very well, indeed. He hath partaken of a time-honored goblin cure for hangover and declared himself to be fit as a fiddle."
Goblin cure, eh? thought Hoggle. Far be it for him to criticize if the king wanted to tempt death, but he supposed it was all right. Jareth wasn't immortal, but he was very nearly so-- grappling with the Pickled Goat's famed filet de chèvre and caramelized beet pudding armed only with a knife, fork and a pint of dark ale to sterilize his stomach contents had proven that much. A simple goblin cure probably wouldn't kill him.
Hoggle winced as his skull gave another throb of protest and his liver lurched three inches to the right. Hell, if it works, I'll try it myself.
"I am most glad of thy presence. Mayhap thou canst aid me in the final preparations?"
"I guess so." Hoggle would rather have a few precious hours alone in the nearest outhouse, but he'd been a subject of the Labyrinth long enough to recognize a command when he heard one. Besides, today would be a bad day for the knight to snap from the stress. Rumor had it that there was a choke chain and muzzle hidden somewhere for emergencies, but the dwarf had no idea where they were kept.
Sir Didymus' whiskers trembled with emotion. "Thou art a true friend! I am told the party table is immaculate and that all the gifts await within the throne room. Knowest thou if the punch bowl was brought up from the cellar?"
Hoggle nodded. He'd seen the shards of crystal being swept up from the kitchen floor.
"Excellent." The little knight crossed out another line on his list, then adjusted the pair of gold-rimmed spectacles perched upon his nose. "Ah, we are nearly finished. Hath His Majesty all the necessary talismans as decreed by ancient custom?"
Thanks to a midnight raid upon the royal library, Sir Didymus had gotten his paws on a stack of etiquette books nearly as tall as he was and subsequently declared himself an expert in Aboveground traditions. Hoggle was rather more skeptical.
"I thought that was only for... well, the other side."
"His Majesty feels that on such a momentous occasion, such customs must be observed by all involved parties."
Hoggle rather doubted that Jareth had expressed such an opinion. The Goblin King had been in a fevered state of impatience for nigh on a month, which is why he'd left all the planning up to Didymus. Hoggle thought such a decision would be regretted later, but he planned not to be around when the Goblin King vented his ire.
He sighed. "Well, that's pendant is ancient as anything, and he had those leather boots delivered by the cobbler earlier this week."
"Nay, t'is not enough, I fear." The knight nibbled on the end of his quill, thinking hard. "I have it! Thou must needs loan him thy handkerchief."
"But..." It was Hoggle's favorite handkerchief, the only silk one he owned. It had cost him a whole fifty pence at the goblin market and was a gorgeous poppy-red with tiny radishes embroidered upon it in purple thread. "I..."
Sir Didymus looked at him reproachfully. "This is a most important ritual, not just for His Majesty. No detail must be overlooked."
Hoggle groaned and fished the handkerchief from his pocket. "Fine. But I want it back. You tell him that!"
"I give thee my solemn oath that no harm shall come to it." Didymus beamed in satisfaction. "By the king's breeches, I swear!"
"Oh, all right, no need to get dramatic. I'm only doing this for her, you know. Not him."
"His Majesty will be grateful, nonetheless. Now all is in readiness! We must--" The little knight's voice trailed off anxiously. Dropping the quill and parchment, he patted down his own pockets and turned them inside out. "Alas! The last item, we have it not!"
"What is it?" Hoggle glanced over at the list. "Oh. That's kind of vague, don't you think?"
"T'is ancient custom!" The knight clutched his head in both paws and rocked back and forth on his heels. "To fail in procuring all the talismans is to bring down ill fortune. Oh shame, oh infamy..."
"Stop it," said Hoggle irritably, "You ought to be ashamed, carrying on like this. It's only one little thing. What's Jareth wearing? That frock coat of his he likes so much--"
Didymus shook his head sadly. "His Majesty favors the plum-colored velvet with silver buttons."
"What? That one makes him look like an eggplant."
"His Majesty said it was not done to outshine my lady on this day of all days."
Hoggle rolled his eyes. He'd caught a glimpse of Sarah in the mirror that morning. "Not a chance of that happening." He repeated the odd little rhyme to himself, trying to ignore his headache. Something old, something new...
"Bugger," he said at last, "I can't think when it feels like my head is full of wet bog-sand. Wait, when's the last time he saw her?"
The knight hesitated. "Well... thou knowest that it is His Majesty's custom to visit my lady frequently, night as well as day, but..."
"His Majesty did not do so last night, nor the night before. Etiquette does not deem it proper, and my lady chose to follow tradition on this matter." said Sir Didymus primly. The advantage of being covered in fur was that nobody could really tell if you blushed.
The dwarf snorted. "Oh, then something will be blue, all right. You can quit your worrying, Didymus. We're done here."
The door to the royal chambers flew open with a bang and the Goblin King himself strode out, new boots shone to a mirror polish and every strand of blond hair in place. Vanity had not permitted the plum-colored coat. Instead, he wore a fine linen shirt and over it, a silk jacket of pale silver grey that shone like the moon. The pendant gleamed upon his breast like a shard of the sun, and his hands were bare.
Jareth turned slowly on his heel, gesturing with a flourish. "Well?"
"Splendid, Your Majesty! Thou shalt dazzle the multitudes with thy raiment!"
Hoggle grunted in reluctant agreement. For an evil bastard, Jareth did clean up nice.
A wolfish smile of satisfaction crept across the Goblin King's lips. "Then I shall wait no longer."
With a flick of his wrist, he produced a shining crystal globe that rose from his hand, spinning out pure white light. When it seemed that the light could get no brighter, it simply vanished with an audible pop, taking the Goblin King with it. A shower of silver dust rained down upon the hallway, settling upon Sir Didymus' ears and whiskers like snow. He brushed it away with a heartfelt sigh.
"To think, friend Hoggle, we long feared that such a day would never come."
"Yeah. Ludo bet me a sack full of rubies that he'd get to be a ring-bearer. Now I owe him a backrub."
"T'is too much, such glad tidings. I may yet burst with joy." Sir Didymus choked back a sob and blew his nose into the red and purple silk handkerchief still clutched in his paw. "But speak me not false, Hoggle, and abandon all thy quips and complaints for but a moment. Art thou not glad? Truly, in thy heart of hearts?"
"Eh. You know how I love a happy ending."
Notes: There are two well-known gastro pubs in the Underground. The other is the King's Breeches, but Jareth never goes there because the signboard outside makes him feel just the tiniest bit self-conscious. However, the goblin equivalent of the Michelin guide highly praises their signature dish, the Royal Package. It's a flavorful medley of wild boar sausage and spring vegetables in a light tarragon cream sauce, all enveloped in a crisp phyllo pastry parcel. It comes with two delicately poached eggs topped with slivers of white truffle and a sprinkling of gold leaf.
However, the goblin equivalent of the Michelin guide highly praises their signature dish, the Royal Package. It's a flavorful medley of wild boar sausage and spring vegetables in a light tarragon cream sauce, all enveloped in a crisp phyllo pastry parcel. It comes with two delicately poached eggs topped with slivers of white truffle and a sprinkling of gold leaf.
Comments/reviews are welcome.