A.C.H.Smith. The Labyrinth. Chapter 16: The Gates Of Goblin City

      Sarah looked at the grotesque gates and did not dare to believe what she saw. "Where are we?" she asked.
      All Ludo could do was beam with joy. "Sarah - back," he started to say.
      Sir Didymus interrupted him. "We are at the gates of the Goblin City, fair damsel. Beyond thou canst descry the castle, the object of thy quest, dids't thou not say?"
      "That's right."
      Sir Didymus looked wistful. "Thou art sure, art thou not, that thou dost not seek a castle which requireth fourteen years of errantry through travails and perils and -"
      "O, Sir Didymus. Ludo. I have to go quickly into Jareth's castle, or I'll lose Toby."
      "Toby?" Sir Didymus queried.
      "My little brother."
      "Toby - Ludo - brother," Ludo beamed.
      "Ah! Sir Tobias, our brother-in-arms," Sir Didymus exclaimed. "Then forward!" He raised his staff, spurred Ambrosius and charged toward the gates of Goblin City.
      Sarah and Ludo hurried after him. They did not see a shadowy figure lurking behind a junk pile. It was Hoggle, and he was watching every move they made.
      Outside the gates, a goblin guard was leaning on his spear, sound asleep. Sir Didymus took no notice of him, but rushed straight at the great gates and began to hammer on them with his staff. "Open up!" he bellowed. "Open the gates, in the name of all that is -"
      Sarah, catching up with him, put her finger anxiously on her lips and whispered, "Sh! Quiet, Sir Didymus." She pointed to the sleeping guard.
      Sir Didymus glanced contemptuously, and shouted, "Pshaw! I give not a fig for such goblins." He repeated his clattering on the gates. "Open up, I say!"
      "Please," Sarah entreated him in an urgent whisper. She saw the guard grunt and stir in his deep sleep.
      Sir Didymus was indomitable. "Let them all wake up. I shall fight them to the death." And again he rained blows upon the resounding gate.
      The guard's eyelids were flickering.
      Sarah grabbed the tiny chevalier by the sleeve. "Please! Please, Sir Didymus. For my sake, could you please try to make no noise?"
      From his saddle, Sir Didymus bowed so low that his mustache swept the ground. "But of course," he answered her. "For thee, fairest of maidens, for thee, anything!" He put his mouth to her ear, and whispered, "But I am not a coward?"
      "Oh, no," she whispered back.
      Ludo shook his head, too, with great conviction.
      Sir Didymus had one more point concerning his knightly prowess that he wished to settle. "And my sense of smell is keen?"
      "Oh, yes," Sarah told him.
      Sir Didymus drew himself up proudly, and his voice rose again. "Then I will fight anybody or anyone, at any time, anywhere." He thought, and shouted, "With any weapons."
      Sarah was pressing her finger to her lips again. "We know, we know," she whispered. "Now please, Sir Didymus, shusheth thee up."
      "Right," he said with alacrity.
      Meanwhile, Ludo had gone up to the gates and given one of them a little push. It swung open.
      The three of them sneaked inside. As soon as they had done so, they heard the gates slam shut behind them. Ahead of them was another pair of gates. This pair was already open.
      "Ah!" Sir Didymus exclaimed, with a proud toss of his head. "They dare not shut their gates against the might of Sir Didymus." And, holding his staff aloft, the flower of chivalry led his intrepid band onward.
      The inner pair of gates, however, swung shut before Sir Didymus reached them. And the appearance they now presented was a thousand times more daunting than mere gates. Each door was half a giant suit of armor. When the two halves of the gate met with a thunderous clang, they formed one titanic, mailed warrior, whom the goblins called Humongous. His cavernous mouth uttered an earthly metallic bellow; his eyes glowed. In one hand he wielded an enormous, double-headed ax.
      Sarah whimpered. She felt the ground tremble as Humongous, ax raised, detached himself from the doors and stamped toward them. Beside her, she heard Ludo roar, but it was a mere piping sound in comparison to the terrible noise made by this Goliath goblin.
      Ambrosius took one look and sensibly bolted. Sir Didymus, dumped on the ground, furiously ordered his steed to return. Ambrosius was having none of it. He lurked behind a buttress.
      "Pshaw!" Sir Didymus clicked his fingers in irritation. "Were yon warrior and I to joust with lances, I would make short work of him."
      Humongous was not yon now. He had come close enough to aim a massive ax blow at the trio. It missed them, but gashed a great wound in the stone wall. A fountain of sparks spurted from the steel axhead.
      The three dodged past Humongous's feet, but he jerked rapidly around and smashed his ax down again with both hands. Screaming, they leaped apart, and the ax hammered the ground between them, burying itself among shattered paving stones. The giant withdrew it effortlessly, and now, crouching, he delivered a scything swing at them. The threw themselves flat, and heard the ax whiz over them with a noise like an ignited rocket.
      They saw the ax raised high again, and scuttled for cover to the wall of the courtyard. The descending ax carved a slice off a buttress. Blow followed blow. Each one would have left no more of them than there is of a mosquito squashed on a wall. All that had saved them so far was the inflexible, jerky motion of Humongous's attack, which gave them a split second's forewarning of where the next annihilating crash was aimed. It was only a matter of time before they got it wrong, and Humongous seemed to have all the time he needed trampling after them around the closed courtyard and evidently not wearied by the atrocious energy of his onslaught.
      In a brief moment between one blow and the next, Sir Didymus spotted a movement along the parapet of the wall. "Look!" he panted, and pointed. It was nearly fatal.
      "Watch out!" Sarah screamed, and the three of them dived simultaneously sideways as the ax whistled and crashed down again, raising a spray of fragmented paving stones.
      While Humongous was lining up his next swipe, Sarah saw what the movement on the parapet was. Hoggle was running nimbly along the battlements, toward the arch over the inner gates.
      "Hoggle!" Sarah yelled in encouragement, before sprinting between Humongous's feet and out of the way.
      It was obscure what assistance Hoggle could bring them, but he was scrambling so urgently up the arch that he clearly had some purpose in mind.
      Humongous shifted his feet, like armored tanks, to get in his next blow. In doing so, he positioned himself with his back to the inner gates.
      Sarah saw Hoggle, now on top of the arch, crouching, prepared to jump down on the horned helmet of the giant. She covered her face with her hands, terrified, and peeped through her fingers. What hopeless heroism it was in Hoggle, like a fly attacking a locomotive.
      With a triumphant shriek, Hoggle landed on Humongous's shoulders.
      "Hoggle!" Sarah whispered, as she took off to avoid another thunderous stroke.
      Hoggle balanced on one leg, and kicked the giant's helmet. The top half of it flew open, on a hinge. Inside Humongous's head, a tiny goblin in a white lab coat, with eyes staring madly through thick lenses, was feverishly working a bank of levers. Hoggle reached down, grabbed the goblin under the armpits, and hurled him away. He landed haplessly on the flagstones of the courtyard and groped for his smashed spectacles.
      Already Hoggle had jumped down inside the giant's head, and was operating the levers there as though he had always been the engineer. Perhaps he did know what he was doing, or perhaps he tugged the levers at random. The result was that, Humongous, elbows by his sides and arms raised robotically level, went into a convulsion. His feet did a shuffling sort of dance, his torso swayed from side to side, the ax jerked rapidly up and down, and his neck swiveled faster and faster. Hoggle pulled more levers and then had to make a wild jump for it, as Humongous went careering off blindly, with his ax oscillating and steam spurting from his joints.
      Hoggle landed in a heap at Sarah's feet. She helped him up, but had no time to speak to him yet. Humongous was now rampaging around the courtyard like a mad bull, bouncing off the walls. His ax was lashing up and down on a long vertical axis, pulverizing the paving stones when it landed, and crunching into his own back on the reverse stroke.
      The giant's random movements eventually brought him back to the inner gates, where he had started. On its next backward swing, the ax penetrated deep into the cleft between two stones in the arch. It stuck there. In consequence, Humongous's next attempt at a mighty downstroke was converted into a terrifying leverage upward of his whole body. He was too heavy for his feet to leave the ground. What might have happened was that the ax could have snapped, or the wall collapsed. What did happen was that Humongous bent at the knees and sagged at the waist, looking like a failed giant hammer-thrower, and little blue sparks shot up and down his armor as his circuits overloaded.
      "Are you all right?" Sarah asked Hoggle, bending over to fuss over any bruises he might have.
      Hoggle retreated a few paces and stood with his face inclined. "I'm not asking to be forgiven," he said obstinately. "I ain't ashamed of nothin' I did. I don't care what you thinks of me." He was toeing a little stone around with his boot, his eyes fixed on it. "I told you I was a coward. Now you sees I was only tellin' the truth. And I ain't interested in bein' friends..."
      "I forgive you, Hoggle," Sarah said, simply.
      Hoggle cocked his gnomish head and looked at her from under one bushy eyebrow. "You do?" he asked in a small voice.
      Sir Didymus strode across and slapped Hoggle's shoulder. "And I commend thee," he said, with his other hand resting on his staff. "Seldom have I seen such courage. Sir Galahad himself will be impressed when word reaches his ears. We owe to thee our lives. Thou art the fragrant bloom of knightly valor, Sir Hoggle."
      "I am?"
      Ludo paid his tribute. "Hoggle - Ludo - friends."
      "We are?" Hoggle agreed uncertainly.
      Sarah had unfastened the string of baubles she had taken from Hoggle in the hedge maze - so long ago, it seemed - and handed them back to him. "Here are your things, Hoggle. And thank you for your help."
      Hoggle took the jewels and gazed down at them. Then he looked up with a puckered grin. "Well," he said, and started to stride toward the inner gates, "what are we waiting for?"
      Sir Didymus called, "Ambrosius!" His steed poked his nose cautiously around the buttress behind which he had been hiding.
      "Ambrosius!" Sir Didymus raised his voice impatiently. Ambrosius did not so much trot as sidle up to his master.
      When the knight was mounted up, the party made its way carefully around the massive shape of Humongous. The blue sparks were still fizzing.
      Sir Didymus enthusiastically overtook Hoggle and beat upon the inner gates with his staff. Hoggle pushed. Neither of them could get the gates open, but it was an easy job for Ludo. Without Humongous, they were no more than a pair of heavy doors leading to Goblin City.

      Jareth was lounging on his throne, propped up on one elbow. Beside him was Toby. Goblins stood around, watching them play together, and wishing that they had Toby to play with. It looked like fun. Jareth would tickle Toby, and whenever he was within range the baby would punch Jareth in the face. The game had been going on for some time.
      Jareth chuckled. "Spirited little fellow." In more senses than one, he thought, but why bother to say it when all you've got in the audience are goblins? He nodded. "I think I'll call him Jareth. He's got my eyes."
      Toby smacked him in one of them.
      "And my disposition," Jareth added.
      A goblin came running into the chamber, tripped on a chicken carcass, fell flat on his face, and from there delivered his message. "Your Highness! The girl!"
      Jareth glanced up laconically. "What?"
      The goblin was picking himself up. "The girl who ate the peach and forgot everything?"
      "Yes, yes," Jareth said testily. As though he had had more than one girl on his mind lately. "What of her?"
      The goblin's eyes were boggling, and he had one arm flung out behind him, pointing. "She's here."
      "Hm?" Jareth stopped tickling Toby and scrutinized the moronic messenger.
      "She's here, your Highness! With the monster, and Sir Didymus, and the gnome who's in your employ."
      "Here?"
      "They've gotten through the gates."
      "What?" Jareth barked.
      "The girl who ate the peach and -"
      "Yes!" Jareth's face was working. "She got past Humongous?"
      "Yes, your Highness. He's blown his fuses."
      "Blown his - where are they?"
      "They're on their way to the castle."
      Jareth stood up, holding Toby, who wriggled. "Stop her!" the Goblin King commanded. "Call out the guard!"
      The goblins milled around the chamber, screeching, "Call out the guard!" at each other.
      "Don't mill," Jareth told them. "Do something. She must be stopped."
      As one goblin, they all dashed for the door.
      "Wait!" Jareth shouted. Carrying Toby, he strode over to them and handed the baby to one of them. "Here," he said, "take Jarethkin. She must not get the baby."
      The goblin with Toby ran off one way, while the rest rushed off to raise the alarm.
      Jareth was left alone. "She must not get the baby," he repeated to himself. "She must be stopped."