Notes: This was written for the 2012 Labyrinth Fic Exchange on Livejournal.
Prompt: Why does the Bog smell so bad? A crack team (Sarah's friends or random other goblins if you'd prefer) is sent to give it a good clean out. What they discover surprises everyone…
Author's Notes: Okay, so, this sort of started off the prompt and then it crossed over with a different fandom and, well, I apologize in advance if this fic makes no sense whatsoever. It is crack. Total and complete crack. Which I guess *sort of* makes it fit the prompt, since crack was mentioned. There's just not a lot of cleaning involved. (End has been slightly revised since the original posting.)
The Adventure of the Miserious Stench
Goblins are not the brightest of creatures. Turnips have been known to test higher on IQ tests than your average run-of-the-mill goblin. Oh, it's true that they possess the ability to talk, but speech has never been concrete evidence of intelligent life.
What Goblins do possess in abundance is curiosity, tenacity, and a certain amount of impressionability.
Which is why the Goblin King had forbidden television.
Of course, nobody thought to tell Sarah that.
"What are you wearing?" the Goblin King asked the goblin pacing at the foot of his throne.
The goblin reached up and adjusted his helmet proudly. Normally it was a simple leather helmet with a few metal spikey bits attached and two leather flaps that fell over his flappy, leathery ears. It was the recent and somewhat odd addition of two mismatched deer antlers that had piqued the Goblin King's curiosity, however. One of them was facing forward, the other leaned somewhat drunkenly to the rear as though it were about to fall overboard.
"Deertalker hat," the goblin said, affecting his most haughty voice. The Goblin King's eyebrow arched nearly to his hairline.
"I see," Jareth said. "I would ask why, but I find I don't really care."
He adjusted his posture slightly, in order to better project his utter ennui, then turned his attention back to the clock on the wall. It was badly in need of dusting. Perhaps he ought to fling one of the chickens up there to flap about a bit and knock down some of the cobwebs. It would have to wait until later, however. At the moment he was busy.
Only twelve hours to go.
Jareth yawned, showing rather a lot of sharp pointy teeth. If the Labyrinth had lions, they would have been envious.
It was at this moment that the goblin apparently decided that today was a good day for a Bogging.
"I'm Skerlok. I'm a defective," the goblin said.
Jareth's lip twitched infinitesimally. His gaze wandered lazily back to the goblin with the lopsided antlers.
"A great defective," Skerlok felt the need to clarify.
"Indeed." Jareth's eyebrow climbed impossibly higher, and the lip twitch intensified.
"I solve miseries," Skerlok said. Then he gave a funny little sniff that forced his nostrils to flatten out, making his thin beak of a nose look even more beaky than usual.
"I don't believe that 'solve' is the right word." Jareth flicked a speck of glittery dust off of his coat sleeve.
"I use amazing powers of ob-ste-trician to deduct crimes," Skerlok informed him.
Jareth's lip twitched again, harder. "I see. And just what do you … deduct right now, my dear fellow?"
Skerlok squinted at the King. He shuffled closer, and then closer still. He reached into his grimy tunic and pulled out a pair of eyeglasses with only one lens left in them and both earpieces broken off. He held the lens up to one eye and proceeded to squint even harder at the king. This was most likely due to the fact that goblins don't need glasses and judging by the thickness of the lens, Jareth doubted Skerlok could see much of anything through it at all.
"Well?" Jareth drawled, when he'd had enough of being peered at. It took rather less time than usual, because although Jareth did enjoy attention of any sort, being squinted at by a beak nosed goblin in an antler hat was decidedly less amusing than being stared at by a scared Runner.
Speaking of which, he supposed he really ought to check in on that. But when he'd last seen the chit she'd been sitting on the hillside, arms crossed, glaring at the front gate as if she could level it with her gaze alone. If that was how she intended to beat him, she would be at it for a while.
"Ha!" Skerlok exclaimed, sticking his makeshift magnifying glass back into his tunic. "I deduct that YOU are the King!"
This was pronounced in the sort of tone that indicated that something remarkable indeed had been revealed. A nearby goblin, already fourteen tankards of ale into the day, even sang out, "Ta da!"
Jareth blinked, not unlike an owl staring at its prey. "How very astute," he said finally. "And what, precisely, gave me away?"
Skerlok blinked back at him. "Someone give you away? You want me to solve misery?"
Jareth rolled his eyes, but his boredom had progressed to the Can't-Be-Bothered stage. "No, you clot." He went back to staring at the clock.
At this Skerlok heaved a mighty sigh that seemed to start in his pointy clawed toes before deflating him from the ground up. "My brains is rotting!"
"That," Jareth muttered, "was never in doubt."
"I need a case or my brains is rot!" He gripped his helmet by the ear flaps and tugged dramatically. Unfortunately he seemed to grip rather a lot of ear as well, causing him to howl more from pain than frustration.
"A great misery to test my powers of ob-ste-trician!"
"I would really rather you didn't." Jareth conjured a crystal and peered into it. The Runner was still sitting on the hillside, staring at the doors. Eleven hours and fifty-seven minutes to go. He was bored enough he had even considered speeding the clock up for the first time since … Well.
"Rotting! Rotten! Rot!" Skerlok had apparently run the gamut of his limited vocabulary. Jareth pinched the bridge of his nose between his forefinger and thumb. He felt a migraine coming on, skipping along hand in hand with the urge to bog something annoying.
"Rot!" Something annoying groaned again.
There are moments of genius that creep up on you, and then there are moments that attack out of the shadows with sharp pointy teeth.
This was one of those pointy teeth kinds of moments.
"Perhaps," Jareth purred, which really should have warned the great defective that whatever was about to come out of the Goblin King's mouth was not going to be pleasant at all. However, Skerlok was a goblin, and thus took no notice whatsoever. "Perhaps I might have a case for you after all."
Skerlok immediately ceased groaning and turned sharp, beady little eyes on his liege. "Tell me!" Then he seemed to remember something. "And don't be boring."
The throne room, which had until this point been mostly ignoring the little conversation happening by the throne, suddenly froze in fear. Every goblin, every chicken, even the small gurgling infant in the pit was struck silent. A hundred beady eyes turned toward the King, waiting to see what would happen to the goblin who had dared to imply that Jareth could ever be boring.
A small, predatory smile curled Jareth's lips, revealing just a hint of the Goblin King's sharp teeth. "I task you with this. You have-" Jareth glanced at the clock. "Eleven hours to solve this mystery. I want you to discover the source of the Bog of Eternal Stench. And if you don't … then you will relocate there. Permanently."
The silence in the throne room grew suddenly more profound, as everyone-chickens included-held their collective breath.
Skerlok, alone, seemed oblivious. His beady eyes lit up. His ears perked up a bit beneath their flaps. He did an excited little jig that made his antlers wobble alarmingly. "A case! I will not fail, King! I will find you the source of the Stench! Skerlok is on the case!"
He whirled and stalked dramatically (well, as dramatically as a two and a half foot tall goblin with flappy ears, a beaky nose, and wobbly antlers on his head could stalk) to the throne room doors. He paused just at the threshold, turned and exclaimed:
"The game, misses huston, is on!"
Then he whirled again, tripped on his own tail, and tumbled down the stairs.
"Ta da!" hiccuped the drunk goblin.
The first order of business in solving any great misery, Skerlok knew, was to find himself a partner. A Wadsin. Wadsins were Very Important to solving crimes. He wasn't entirely clear on what exactly they did, but he knew that he ought to have one.
Anything would do, really, provided it fit the the right criteria. The broom in the corner had a fantastic mustache, but wasn't fat enough. The chickens were fat, but not mustachey enough. He also had the vague idea that a Wadsin ought to be a doctor, but he wasn't entirely certain what a doctor did either. He thought it had something to do with shooting things.
So he went to the barracks, because that's where most of the goblins who shot at things lived. Sort of.
There were half a dozen goblins in the barracks. Most were sleeping off that morning's drunk. Two were engaged in a game of thumb wars - made slightly more difficult by the fact that they'd lopped off their thumbs in order to better use them to battle with, only to discover that they were impossible to hold on to without thumbs. One goblin sat in the corner with a bamboo straw and a small pile of wadded up bits of paper. As Skerlok watched, the goblin shot a very impressively aimed spitball at one of the sleeping goblins. It landed dead center of the sleeping goblin's forehead.
Skerlok examined this sharpshooter with a critical eye. He was chubby, for a goblin, with big feet and knobbly knees and not a lot of leg to separate the two. He did not, however have a mustache, which was somewhat disappointing. However, Skerlok was determined, and since mustaches weren't impossible to come by, he decided this was something he could work with.
Luckily one of the sleeping, drunken goblins had some extra mustache to spare. Skerlok cut it off with a dull knife, then approached the sharpshooter. "Glue this on," he said, and handed the shorter goblin the bit of mustache. The short goblin gave a shrug, licked the mustache, and stuck it to his face. The result was more than a little lopsided, but Skerlok decided it would do. "Try to keep up," he told the other goblin. "You are now Wadsin."
"My name is Glurg," said Glurg.
Skerlok waved a claw. "Boring. You Wadsin. Now come."
And that, as they say, was that.
The next thing they needed was a clue.
Unfortunately for Skerlok, Glurg seemed to possess that one trait that he himself had been born without: a healthy fear of the Bog. They had made it as far as the bridge road when Glurg caught a whiff of where they were headed, dug in his heels, and tried to turn back.
Unfortunately for Glurg, Skerlok, in an actual hit-and-run moment of near-brilliance, had anticipated this and taken the precaution of tying a rope around Glurg to use as a leash, just in case. As Skerlok was the larger and stronger of the two, there wasn't much of a contest. Jareth's bridge road did get a rather nice, Glurg-shaped furrow that day, however.
The stench grew thicker and more oppressive the closer they drew to it, until it hung like an elephant in midair and was as difficult to wade through as treacle. Skerlok knew, however, that it would be impossible to find a clue with his nose plugged, and so continued on, panting through his mouth. Glurg attempted to hold his breath, which only served to turn him a rather fetching shade of purple.
"HALT!" Someone cried, and a reddish blur leapt dramatically into their path. "None may pass without my permission!"
The reddish blur was, in fact, a strange little fox-like creature with a feather stuck in his blue velvet cap. Skerlok squinted at him, in case there were any clues. The fox-thing seemed unfazed by this and posed almost regally, staff planted firmly in the dirt and chin thrust high in the air.
Skerlok deduced that the fox-thing was some sort of guard.
"You guard Bog?" he asked.
"It is my sacred duty. Passed down to me by my father, and his father before him, and his father before him, and his father before..."
Skerlok yanked on his Glurg-leash to keep Glurg from pulling him away from the Bog.
"Lot of fathers," Skerlok said, interrupting the ancestral back-flow.
The fox-thing raised an impressively fluffy eyebrow. "Indeed. Why, I am Sir Didymus, the last of the noble line of Vulpecula, which stretches far back to the earliest days of the Goblin Kingdom. We were once the most revered Knights in the land, guardians of his Majesty's Labyrinth since time immemorial-"
Glurg's lungs chose this moment to protest, and he gasped deeply. Then he promptly vomited all over Skerlok's tail as the smell of the Bog finally hit him.
"What ails thee, friend?" asked Sir Didymus.
"SMELL BAD! Bad! Bad! Bad! Badbadbadbadbadbadbad!" Glurg renewed his efforts to claw his way away from the Bog. Dirt and grass flew as his arms pin-wheeled faster than the Cleaners claws, and he soon dug a trench nearly two foot deep in the path. He also unearthed, in his frantic digging, a tin can, a pencil with the end chewed off, a bit of broken plate, a playing card-the king of hearts-with a faded picture of a pineapple on the back, a pacifier, three moldy socks (none matching), and several scraps of some kind of grubby white plastic-y stuff with baby ducks printed on it.
Sir Didymus sniffed the air, his nose quivering. "As I have told my Brother, the Brave Sir Ludo, I smell nothing untoward. What foul odor dost thou detect, good sir?"
Skerlok stared at him. He might have been as far down the list of Most Intelligent Goblins as one could be without dangling off the end of the parchment, but even Skerlok could smell the fetid, overwhelming, nauseating putrescence that was the Bog of Eternal Stench. Which meant that Sir Didymus was either broken, or a suspect.
Skerlok pulled out a sharpie marker and a pad of hot pink Post-It notes that he'd stuffed in his pocket. He wrote "Susspekdt" on it, and stuck it to Sir Didymus' eyepatch.
"Come Wadsin!" Then, leaving the bewildered Didymus trying to peer at his eyepatch with his only good eye, Skerlok whirled and headed away from the Bog with a relieved and exhausted Glurg in tow.
Didymus had mentioned a Sir Ludo, so Skerlok determined to track this creature down. Fortunately it wasn't terribly difficult, as all he had to do was mention the name to any passing goblin and then go in the direction they went running away from. Unfortunately this wasn't a very precise method, and thus several hours were wasted on dead ends, being rerouted through travelling doors, and falling down pits.
It was with more luck than anything else that they eventually stumbled on a clearing in a rather rocky bit of the Labyrinth, with a sign propped up against a boulder that read "Ludo's Howse."
Not that it was much of a house. Rather, it seemed to be cave, surrounded by a great many rocks and boulders. The entrance was dark and spooky, and Glurg once again attempted to turn back.
"No! Bad Wadsin!" Skerlok said, and hauled on the leash until Glurg was dragged reluctantly along, claws screeching against stone.
The inside of the cave smelled musty and something like rutabagas, if rutabagas decided to play hide and seek and then forgot that someone was supposed to seek. At the back of the cave, however, there was a great deal of bluish-white light, and as they drew closer they saw that the light came from several patches of mushrooms that grew along the walls of the cave, beside a small waterfall. The waterfall fed into a stream that flowed deeper into the cave, and beside this stream, sleeping on a chair made of stone, was a great shaggy beast with curling horns and white, protruding tusks.
Glurg promptly went into full panic mode and attempted to dig his way free again. However, the ground here was stone, not dirt, and all he succeeded in doing was scrabbling uselessly at the hard surface.
Skerlok, of course, had no such qualms about the monster. He trudged up to it, Glurg-anchor in tow, and poked the monster's hairy bicep. "Wake up." He poked it again.
The beast groggily opened its eyes and peered at the annoying thing that kept poking at it. "Hunh?" it groaned.
"I'm Skerlok," Skerlok said. "What are you?"
The beast heaved itself into a sitting position, towering over the two small goblins. "Me Ludo," it said, in a deep, groaning voice. It blinked down at them warily through two small, beady eyes.
"You know Bog?" Skerlok asked.
Ludo reared back in alarm, his nostrils flaring. "Bog smell BAD!" A few small rocks skittered across the floor, as if looking for somewhere to hide from the beast's roar. Glurg stopped trying to get away and played dead instead.
Skerlok squinted at Ludo suspiciously. "You playing incense?" he asked.
Ludo only tilted his great, shaggy head in confusion. "Whaaa?"
Clearly this was a creature whose intellect matched Skerlok's own, the goblin decided. He would have to be clever to outwit the beast. "What's this?" he asked, pointing at a rock.
The beast peered. "Fwend," it said.
Skerlok frowned. "What's this?" He pointed at a bigger, flatter rock.
"Fwend," said Ludo.
Growing more frustrated, Skerlok pointed at a different rock. "This?"
"No! They is ROCKS!' Skerlok said. He narrowed his eyes. "You stupid."
"Rocks fwends," Ludo said, shaking his massive head. At this moment, his stomach growled, loudly. Glurg fainted.
Slowly, Ludo lumbered to his feet and reached out for the stone wall. He broke off a large, glowing mushroom. "Bwekfast?" he said, offering it to Skerlok.
Skerlok sniffed, disdainfully. "I no eat when on a case."
Ludo shrugged and began to munch happily on his mushroom. It gave off a faintly noxious odor as it broke open, rather like old rutabagas left out for too long, but Ludo didn't seem to mind. Skerlok glowered at him. Then he fished his Post-It notes out, scribbled "Sispickt" on one and stuck it to Ludo's back. The great beast didn't even notice.
And so several hours slipped by as Skerlok interrogated whichever denizens of the Labyrinth he happened upon and leaving behind a trail of pink Post-Its and confused creatures. By this point, Glurg's nearly non-existent legs had given out, and he was being dragged behind Skerlok like a grumpy, helium-free balloon. Skerlok didn't seem to mind.
Finally, Skerlok reached the gates of the Labyrinth-one of the perks of being a goblin being the ability to travel quickly through the maze when needed-and poked around until he came upon the Goblin King's royal groundskeeper urinating into a gazing pool.
"I Skerlok, the great defective. Who you?"
The groundskeeper finished his business, stowed his plumbing, and then gave the goblin a contemptuously raised eyebrow. "I'm Hoggle, the completely uninterested. And I don't like goblins in my garden, so go away."
Skerlok squinted at the area around them. It was mostly sand and dirt, with a few scrubby, barren trees and thorny brambles growing alongside the massive stone wall of the Labyrinth. There were a few fluffy flowery things clinging to some of the brambley things. That must be the garden.
Hoggle bent down and picked up a spray can, and then trundled over to the brambles. A little flickering light peeped out from among the thorns and Hoggle sprayed it, quickly. There was a squeak, and the light dropped to the ground and went out. Without looking, Hoggle kicked it away so that it landed among a pile of other deadish looking things.
"What you doing?" Skerlok asked.
"What does it look like I'm doing?" Hoggle said. "I'm getting rid of pests. I'm good at that."
"Fairy-bugs!" Glurg perked up as he saw the pile of dead fairies. He started toward it.
Skerlok, however, was heading in the opposite direction, pacing alongside Hoggle. "We investing the source of the Bog. What you know about that?"
Hoggle gave an all over shudder. "Not interested, don't care, go away. I have had enough of the Bog of Eternal Stench to last a lifetime and then some."
Glurg reached the end of his tether and stretched out his spindly arms. He was still too far away.
"You know why it stinks?" Skerlok asked.
"I don't know, and I don't care. Why don't you just go look it up in a book or something? Betcha Jareth has the answer in one of those books of his. Ah! There's the last one." He sprayed, another fairy dropped to the dirt, and Hoggle kicked it into the pile. Glurg started running. Unfortunately he was still tied to Skerlok, and thus he ended up running frantically in place, arms outstretched toward the pile, drool flying off of his flapping tongue.
Skerlok didn't seem to notice. He just plopped himself down in the dust and steepled his claws in front of his beaky nose, his face screwed up into a mask of concentration. It rather looked less like he was thinking, and more like he had to go to the bathroom.
Hoggle, in the meantime, went and fetched a shovel, then scooped up the pile of fairies. He carried it carefully over to a drainpipe of some kind, and dumped them in. Glurg sat down and whimpered, his beady eyes tearing up and his lower lip wibbled.
Skerlok looked at Hoggle. Hoggle shoveled dead fairies into the cistern.
Finally, Skerlok got out his Post-It's and wrote "Suspet" on it.
He stuck it to Hoggle's helmet.
On their way to the Library, Skerlok poked his beaky nose into the throne room. Jareth was nowhere to be seen, and the human baby in the pit was screaming its lungs out. The goblins were taking turns alternately laughing at it, poking at it, and trying to shut it up.
"Where's King?" Skerlok asked a drunken gaurd near the doorway.
"Time's running out," the goblin said, pointing at the clock. There were only a few hours left for the Runner, and that meant that Skerlok's time was also almost out.
The baby was howling louder. Glurg sat down and put his claws over his ears to try to block out the noise.
"Gonna make a good goblin," said the door guard, grinning at the pit.
"Smell bad!" Glurg whined.
One of the others seemed to have noticed this as well. It took a peek in the baby's diaper and made a face, then it grinned. "Diaper Ball!"
In a moment, the diaper had been removed and rolled up into a slimy, stinky ball shape. Several goblins ran for cover, others arranged themselves around the room in teams. With a gurgling laugh, another goblin pulled open the round grate that covered a hatch halfway up the south wall.
The rules of Diaper Ball changed from game to game - mostly because no one ever remembered to write them down. Only two rules remained consistent. First, they never played when Jareth was present-at least, not since the unfortunate Great Diaper Ball Game of '72. Second, the game was over when the ball went through the hatch and down the chute. The rest of the game seemed to involve randomly chosen teams of varying size, some with weapons, batting, tossing, or rolling the ball at other teams. Winners were decided at the end based on how long the ball had been in play, and who was covered in the least amount of its contents.
Glurg tugged on his leash, wanting to go.
Because of his size and shape, he often got mistaken for the ball.
The Library, such as it was, sprawled throughout the entire western wing of the palace. Jareth had started it millennia before even the longest goblin memory, collecting books, papers, magazines, and scrolls from through the worlds-both Above and Below. Where there were shelves, they groaned beneath the weight of books. Where there weren't shelves, there were towering stacks of books and slippery mountains of paper. There were rooms and rooms, full of books, stacked nearly as high as the ceiling. Towards the bottoms and the corners, they had aged and mildewed until they were nearly unreadable.
There were creatures that lived here. Small, twisted, goblin-like in form if not intelligence. They collected and organized the library, shifting books and manuscripts from pile to pile and room to room. Unfortunately they each had their own system for organizing and so they each were constantly moving items already shifted by the others, until the Library was possibly more labyrinthine than the maze beyond the castle.
Skerlok dragged Glurg over a thick carpet of yellowed paper and into the Information Room - one of the smaller chambers of the Library where it was possible at least to see the walls. This was partially because one whole wall of the chamber was covered in a giant map of the Labyrinth that updated constantly based on how the walls and paths within it moved.
Skerlok marched up to a wooden desk set in the middle of a small mound of books. One of the Librarians was perched atop this desk, sitting on a chair of books and scribbling notes in a huge ledger.
"I Skerlok, the great defective," Skerlok said.
"De-tec-tive," said the Librarian in a low, guttural voice. It didn't look up from its ledger.
"I investing the Bog," Skerlok said.
"Investi-gating the Bog," drawled the Librarian.
"What?" Skerlok said, puzzled.
Glurg plopped himself down in a pile of paper. Paper was one of Glurg's favorite things in the whole world and here he'd found a treasure trove of it. He glanced back at Skerlok and the Librarian, who appeared to be arguing over the pronunciation of a word Glurg had never heard before. Neither of them were paying Glurg the least bit of attention, so he reached for a sheet of paper. It was old, thin as tissue from use and much trampling; in short, it was perfect. Glurg quietly tore it into strips and then into smaller squares. He got out his spitball shooter and looked around for a good practice target.
His attention was drawn to the huge map on the wall. He had no idea what it was, but he liked the pictures. There was a castle somewhere in the middle, surrounded by a cluster of smaller buildings. A thick line separated this from the massive maze that spread, web-like, out from the center. Some portions of it were marked in green, like hedges. Others were drawn in browns and gold and brick reds. Here and there were drawn forests and gardens, courtyards and fountains. The lines moved and shifted as he watched, rearranging themselves seemingly at random.
He stuck a piece of paper in his mouth and chewed until it was a small, slimy ball. Then he lifted his shooter to his mouth and squinted at the map. The castle was an easy target, so he started there, bulls-eyeing a spitball in an upper window of the tallest tower of the castle. Next he aimed for a cave, off to the west of the Labyrinth. There was a picture of the big, scary beast beside it and Glurg took a certain amount of satisfaction in landing a spitball right in the beast's face.
He noticed, then that there was a small blue line that ran away from the cave drawing. He traced it with one squinted, beady eye. It crossed through the mazes and forests, joining up with other blue lines and growing thicker. Glurg spitballed a picture of the groundskeeper perched at the edge of a small pool at the edge of the Labyrinth. He spitballed a small lake in the middle of a forest full of Fiery's. Another splatted in the middle of a set of blue lines running through a drawing of the junkyard. He targeted a thick set of lines leaving the castle and running south, landing them only inches apart along the line.
Finally he located the place where all the blue lines converged-a drawing of a swamp, bordered on one side by high cliffs and on the other by forests and eventually the Junk Yard. Glurg shot the rest of his collection of spitballs there.
"Wadsin!" Skerlok yelled, finally getting Glurg's attention. However, it didn't seem to be Glurg that Skerlok was yelling at.
"Watson," the Librarian said tiredly, his voice still at the same faintly bored level it had been at when they arrived. He didn't appear to have even looked up from his ledger. "Associate and sometime flatmate of Sherlock Holmes, fictional character. Arthur Conan Doyle. Novels include The Hound of the Baskervilles, The Sign of Four, A Study in Scarlet, The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes-"
"SKERLOK," Skerlok yelled. "Why everyone so STUPID?"
He took out his Post-It Notes and began to scribble on them frantically, sticking small pieces of pink paper to every surface available.
"You will find the answer to that question in an untitled, unfinished manuscript unwritten by Douglas Adams, four years posthumous. Born 1952. Died 2001. It is located somewhere in the third room down the hall, second pile of books to the left, about six feet from the bottom and transcribed onto a squashed roll of loo paper."
Skerlok slapped a pink Post-It note on the Librarian's forehead with the word "Stewpid" written on it. The Librarian reached up, plucked it off of his forehead and added it to a nearby stack of papers in a box labeled "To Be Catalogued."
"Come Wadsin," Skerlok growled and stalked from the room. The last thing Glurg heard as they left was the Librarian, muttering over his ledger.
"I don't know why I bother..."
Jareth was feeling rather pleased with himself. All in all, it had been a relaxing, but productive day. His earlier boredom had faded to be replaced by a certain smug satisfaction that hadn't even been dimmed by discovering that his throne room had once more been turned into a Diaper Ball court in his absence.
There was a new goblin, tottering around the pit. He could never tell exactly how the magic would take a child. Some grew taller, some shorter, some thinner, some squatter. Some retained at least a modicum of the intelligence that they had possessed as a human child and others … well others, lamentably, seemed to lose whatever brains they'd had.
"Majesty," said a goblin, trudging up to the throne. Jareth vaguely recalled he'd sent this one on some sort of errand, earlier, when he'd been drowning in ennui. The antlers were passingly familiar. Now, however, the antlered goblin was … accompanied by a smaller, roundish goblin being dragged behind the first on a frayed and dirty rope. What was it he'd asked the goblin to do? "I have encumbered the source of the Bog."
Ah. It was coming back to him now. Skerlok. The great defective.
"I see," Jareth said, grinning malevolently down at the pair. "And who, or what, is to blame?"
"Moldy Arty," Skerlok said.
Jareth blinked. Skerlok blinked back. Glurg tried to hide behind Skerlok.
From the back of the room, a goblin piped up. "What'd I do?"
"Ah ha!" Skerlok said, whirling. The effect was somewhat ruined as his whirl tangled him up with his Wadsin leash and he ended up face-planting on the flagstones in a smear of Diaper Ball debris. He clambered back to his feet and pointed a claw vaguely at the back of the room. "Repeal yourself!"
There was quite a bit of shuffling, pushing and shoving until finally a skinny goblin in a hat that looked like a colander was brought forward.
"You Moldy Arty?" Skerlok said.
"Just Moldy, to m'friends," said the goblin.
"You make Bog!" Skerlok said.
"What? No. No no nonononono. I make bread mold. Tasty." Moldy glanced at the Goblin King to see how he was taking this.
Then Jareth grinned, a wide, pointy-toothed, awful grin that promised all kinds of awful things done in even more awful ways. "And this is your answer? This goblin is the source of the Bog?"
"Yes!" Skerlok said. "He lying. Don't listen."
Glurg, however, who had been listening to all of this while staring at the Diaper Ball hatch, suddenly straightened. Deep in the dark, cobwebby recesses of his brain something sparked. It wasn't much of a spark, but he suddenly remembered the map and the blue lines and the dwarf's gazing pool and cistern and the moldy mushrooms growing in a cave where a giant beast lived and all the debris buried in the mud near the Bog of Eternal Stench. The spark ignited like a firework in his brain and he stood up and came around Skerlok to look at the King.
"You," he said.
Jareth froze. His head swiveled to inspect this latest development. "Yes?"
"You make Bog. You source of Bog. Everything …" Glurg frowned in concentration. "Bad things go there, from everywhere. All the smells go there."
Jareth leaned back on his throne, studying the little, round goblin like an owl studying a particularly tasty looking mouse.
"No!" Skerlok said. "Stupid Wadsin. Was Moldy Arty!"
"Ah. Not me, King," said Moldy. "Don't go near there. Nope. Nope. Nononono."
"Silence," Jareth said. He didn't raise his voice, but silence descended on the throne room. "It would appear that the mystery has been solved. Correctly. However, there is one more matter that needs answered."
He leaned forward in his chair and glared at Skerlok. "Where did you learn about Sherlock Holmes?"
It had been a long week. She'd had exams in four courses, a paper to write for her Literature course, and her boss at the coffee shop had asked her to put in extra hours. Sarah had been looking forward to her night off all week.
She stood in the kitchen, listening to the popcorn pop and rolling her shoulders to relieve the stiffness caused by too much time spent hunched over a desk or an espresso machine.
Sarah spun, clutching the edges of her robe closer around her favorite flannel pajamas. "Jareth," she breathed. He lounged on the countertop, decked out in leather and glitter, somehow making the coffee pot and microwave look out of place. She hadn't seen him in years, but he hadn't changed at all. Not even the slightly smirky smile that played around the corners of his mouth. "What are … what are you doing here?"
"Tsk, tsk," Jareth said. He inspected the fingertips of his gloves as if he expected to find flaws in them. "I ask for so little, Sarah, and I give you so much in return and this is how you betray me?"
The popcorn was building up to a crescendo.
"I don't know what you're talking about," she said.
"Just because you are not a denizen of the Labyrinth does not mean that the rules do not apply when I generously allow my subjects to spend time with you," Jareth said. He slid, graceful as a snake, from the counter and approached her. "I have discovered that you have have been a very, very naughty girl."
Sarah backed up, bumping into the refrigerator. "I - I really don't know what you mean," she said. Jareth smirked, then seemed to decide to take pity on her.
"One of my goblins recently came to visit you," he said. "When he returned he was behaving … oddly. Even for a goblin. When I questioned him, he revealed that he had spent an entire afternoon with you watching … television." He said the word with a shudder and a sneer, as if he couldn't imagine anything more vile.
Sarah cast her mind back, then remembered. "He was bored," she said. "We watched Sherlock and then, well, he seemed really into it so we watched some of the Jeremy Brett Sherlock Holmes episodes on Netflix and..."
"Exactly," Jareth said. "Do you have any idea of the mess that has caused me? Goblins wearing antlers on their heads, indignant librarians, pink pieces of paper stuck all over my Labyrinth. It is unbearable, Sarah."
"I'm sorry?" she said, not entirely sure whether to laugh or be afraid. Instead she opted for keeping her face straight. It seemed like the least dangerous choice.
"You should be," Jareth said. "It is against the law for goblins to watch television. It is also against the law to allow them to watch television."
"Okaaaay," Sarah said, a sinking feeling in the pit of her stomach. "But I didn't know that. No one ever told me."
"Is this the part where you claim that it wouldn't be fair of me to punish you for it?" Jareth asked. Sarah slipped sideways, out from between him and the fridge.
"Sort of?" she said. "Only, I'm pretty sure you can't punish me for it. You have no-"
Jareth was back in her space again, a gloved hand pressed to her mouth. She inhaled the scent of leather and magic and popcorn. "Don't," he warned. "Don't." His shoulders slumped. "You exhaust me, Sarah."
She reached up and pried his fingers from her face. "Ditto, Goblin King."
There was a sudden loud crash from the vicinity of her living room, and Sarah suddenly remembered. "Um, so, about that thing where no one told me they weren't allowed to...?"
Jareth glared, his eyes flashing dangerously. "What have you done?"
"I didn't know," she said, even as he strode purposefully to the swinging door that separated her kitchen from the living room. He pushed it open, Sarah close behind him.
In the living room beyond, two-dozen goblins had crammed themselves onto her couch, floor, and coffee table, leaving only the armchair free for Sarah's use. They were munching on almost empty bowls of popcorn, crushed cans of soda littered the floor, and their eyes were glued to the glowing light of the television screen where two men battled one another with swords. One character smashed the other's shield, and the goblins all gave a cheer.
Jareth turned his head slowly to regard Sarah. She twisted her hands nervously but lifted her chin. "You didn't tell me," she said.
"And dare I ask," Jareth said, "what you have them watching this time?"
"Season one of A Game of Thrones," Sarah said. "I got it for Christmas."
She had seen Jareth look smug before. She'd seen him look seductive. Cruel. Even, briefly, almost kind. When she'd defeated him in the Labyrinth, she'd seen his fury and something like resignation.
Never, had she ever seen anything like the look of horror that crossed his face in that moment.
To her credit, Sarah managed not to laugh.