Hoggle stared around. There were hedges all around, as opposed to the dark oubliette he had been in before. In his mind, it seemed as though a memory played, but he knew that that was once again a trick made by Jareth. Jareth talked to him in the memory-trick.
'Hedgeward. Find the girl and lead her back to the beginning. If you do, you will be spared the Bog. The Yeti is with her. Get rid of it.
And oh, Hedgeward? If you make friends with her, you will be hung by your ankles over the Bog of Stench. But if she kisses you, I'll make you a prince!' The King said. Hoggle asked 'prince' in his head and a new memory-trick surfaced. This one was shorter.
'You'll be Prince of the Land Of Stench!' Jareth said, laughing. Hoggle sighed, and got on with his assignment.
As Hoggle rounded a corner in the sunny hedgerow, he saw that Mabel had once again found herself a new friend. A red-haired yeti named Ludo was tagging along behind her, holding her hand and looking fond of the girl. Ludo's horns had grown a lot. He had also grown taller, Hoggle faintly recognised. Was Ludo tall or was Mabel small? Hoggle didn't know. He fell into pace behind the yeti and the girl. He scraped his throat. Mabel turned around and looked at him delightedly.
'HOGGLE!' She said, throwing her arms up and smiling. She went over to hug him, but Hoggle took a few steps back, alarmed
''Ello little lady' Hoggle said.
'Hi! Did you decide to join us after all? This is Ludo! He's so soffttt!!!' Mabel said, rubbing her cheek over Ludo's arm.
'May-bel fwieeeend' Ludo said in his odd voice. He patted Mabel on the head with a huge hand.
'Yeah, we are!' Mabel cheered, smiling up at Ludo. She whispered to Hoggle: 'He doesn't talk human very well, but he's being a huge help by getting me through the labyrinth!' She smiled up at Ludo. 'Don't you, Ludo! You're helping me find my brother!'
'Fiiind bwo-ttheeerr' Ludo said, smiling at Hoggle.
Hoggle had to think fast. '...Well, it is a rookie mistake, taking advice from a yeti. They're famously bad with directions.' He told Mabel conspiratorially. 'Look at this. Hey, Ludo. Which way's the castle, left or right?'
'Ri-iight' Ludo said.
'Ach, no it isn't you big dum-dum' Hoggle said, in a fake-fond voice, flapping his hand as if to say look at this guy, always making jokes. 'Castle's this way! Follow me!' He added, waddling to the left path. Mabel and Ludo shrugged at each other, and followed him.
They exchanged jokes for a while. Hoggle found Mabel and Ludo quite fond of his bad jokes, and Ludo could make various funny sounds with his body, to Mabel's delight.
After about an hour of finding their way they came to a patch of forest which Mabel and Ludo didn't recognise. In fact, it was another way to the beginning of the maze, like Jareth had commanded Hoggle to do. Hoggle didn't want to do it. Really, he didn't. He didn't want to betray Mabel. But the idea of betraying the girl was nothing compared to the rage (and stench) that Jareth would unleash upon him if he didn't. So he brought all the people that came into the maze back to the beginning. He sighed. The next bit was no fun either. They were walking through a narrow hallway, first him, then Mabel and then Ludo.
'See, little lady? This place is a piece of cake!'
There was a small sound as of stone grinding together and a muffled gasp as the yeti fell down the hole Hoggle had conjured up by saying that last sentence.
Mabel looked around.
'Ludo?' She asked
'Eh, probably got lost..' Hoggle said. He took her hand and tugged her along a bit further. 'Come along now, wouldn't want that brother of yours ta be waitin' for so long, right?'
'...right.' Mabel said, bummed that her new fluffy friend had vanished so soon.
A glass ball rolled away from them in the tunnel. Where it came to a stop, a creature sat. It was a
hobo with a big beak, wearing ratted clothes and a big hat that covered his face.
'Well, well, well... What have we here...' The hobo said.
'n-nothin' Hoggle stammered.
'Nothing?' The hobo said, getting up from off the floor and revealing himself to be the Goblin King himself 'Nothing, nothing, tra-la- OW!' He said, for Mabel had once again kicked him.
He stepped away from her.
'I'm surprised at you, girl.' He said. 'I thought you would be cleverer than this... Following Hedgewart?'
'Hoggle' said Mabel.
'Hoggle' said Hoggle.
'Whatever,' said the king. 'He's just trying to trick you! Oh, didn't you know everyone works for me in here?' He smiled.
'..What?' Mabel said
'He is just trying to lead you back to the beginning, my pet' The King said.
'Hoggle? Is that true?' Mabel said, turning to the dwarf. 'I thought... I thought you were my friend'
'Hahahaha,' the king chuckled. 'Silly girl. There are no friends here. Just cleaners...'
With that, he threw his glass ball down the corridor, and vanished. A horrible rattling sound came from the end of the hallway, and a metallic sort of drill emerged from the darkness. Hoggle yelped, grabbed Mabels arm and ran for his life. They took a side road and emerged into a stony corridor.
Mabel, who had been paralysed with fear, anger, and grief, turned to Hoggle.
'You tried to betray me? Lead me back to the beginning?!' She shouted at him. Oh no. Her throat began cropping up. Soon the tears would come.
'...only a little, maybe? But listen-' Hoggle said.
'I THOUGHT YOU WERE MY FRIEND! OW!' She shouted. She had tried to kick him in the ankles, and, failing that, stepped hard on his toes. Her foot had hit something hard. Her eyes teared up at the unfairness of it all.
'What the heck?'
'Iron-toed boots' Hoggle said apologetically. 'You need to listen to me! I am a coward, and Jareth scares me. If I didn’t obey him, he'd...'
A small sniff made him stop talking. He looked at the girl in front of him. She stood near the wall of the corridor. All anger had gone from her face, to be replaced with a terrible sadness. Tears fell down her cheeks and were sucked up by her sweater.
'I thought you were my... friend' Mabel whispered, silent tears streaming down her face. She didn't even try to wipe them away.
He hadn't seen it before. How incredibly young she was. Her façade of anger had dissipated and all that was left was a little girl, missing her brother. He wondered how old she was. Normally, the Sarahs that came into the Labyrinth seemed about 16. This girl couldn't be sixteen if she wore all the makeup in the world.
Mabel had slumped down, her back to the wall. She put her sweater over her knees and put the collar over her head. She trembled with sobs. Hoggle was reminded of a little hedgehog, hiding in its prickles. He knelt down next to her.
'Hey, little lady...' He started.
'SweaterTown is not accepting any callers right now...' Mabel muttered.
Hoggle had forgotten how to deal with kids. Sarahs usually just ended up smarter than he was.
He didn't have any siblings and he had forgotten about his parents.
He would have to deal with this in pure Labyrinthian Logic, mixed with Mabel logic.
Hoggle sat down next to Mabel, his back to the wall as well. He took off his vest, and put it over his broad head. It barely fit to cover his eyes.
'Mabel?' Hoggle began.
Mabel sniffled from below her sweater. Her small voice came out muffled by the wool.
'Didn' I tell you that SweaterTown is closed to outsiders?'
'You did.' Hoggle said. 'But I'm in VestVille, and we are neighbours to SweaterTown. You gotta listen to your neighbour, right?'
Mabel gruffly admitted that, yes. SweaterTown would have to listen to its neighbours.
'The mayor of VestVille requests an audience with the queen...' Hoggle began.
'President.' Mabel corrected.
'..President of SweaterTown.' Hoggle finished.
'Why?' Mabel asked.
'Because the Mayor of VestVille is pretty good at telling stories, and has a couple about the Labyrinth.'
Hoggle peeked out of his vest. Mabel has stopped shaking. Her head was turned towards him. It was obvious that she was looking at him through the wool.
Hoggle didn't wait for a reply. He simply started.
'Did you know that there is a space here in the Labyrinth that is a complete forest? Yeah, it's not as hot as in here, but there are even crazier guys as in these halls. That guy we saw with the bird on his head? Ha! He was nothing compared to the crazy Flamingo Cats... Hoggle wiggled his fingers to indicate scaryness.
'Catmingoes?' Mabel asked. It was unclear if she was weeping or interested.
'That's right. Catmingoes.' Hoggle nodded. 'They are funny, until they find out that your head don't come off. Their heads do, ya know. They play football with them. Polo. Bowling. Golf.'
'Mini golf?' Mabel asked. Hoggle could sense that he had hit a certain spot.
'You kiddin me? You already met them! They play mini golf all the freakin time!' Hoggle said, standing up to enunciate his story. 'They take off their heads and slam! They shoot it off into the distance with one of their legs. Then one of the others makes a little gate for the head to roll through. I've seen them do a competition once. It's amazin what they can make of themselves. I once saw them form a full windmill, complete with blades!' While he told the story, he had mimed the actions the Catmingoes did. Mabel giggled. She didn't come out of SweaterTown just yet, but it seemed she had enjoyed the story.
'On the outside on the Labyrinth lives an enormous coward. He sprays at fairies cause they be littler than he is. He is a dwarf, but don't have a beard. His face looks like a dog's behind, and trust me: his behind looks even worse.'
Mabel giggled at the cheap joke.
Hoggle continued. 'He sprays at fairies and waits for new Sarahs. When they come, he is as confusing as possible so they'll get mad inside the labyrinth. Why does he do it? Cause the King can hurt him. The King wants to put him face first into the Bog of Stench...'
'A bog of stench?' Mabel asked, getting curious.
'No, no, 's not the bog of stench. You have to speak the capital letters. Bog of Stench. See?'
'Bog of... Stench?'
'You got it.'
'… What's so bad about the Bog of Stench? Why, does it smell that bad?' Mabel said.
'You have no idea' Hoggle said darkly. 'It's sticky. Touch a single drop and you'll smell bad forever'
'Whoa, We... I mean, I, shouldn’t go there!' Mabel said. 'If I don't like Dipper when he doesn't shower, I'll hate it in there!'
'No, we shouldn't.' Hoggle confirmed. 'Alrighty then, kiddo.' He had decided Mabel was simply too small to even be called 'Little Lady'.
'Let's go find your stinky brother.' Hoggle said.
'You mean you'll help me?' She asked.
'Cause I- I'm done with being Jareths puppet. He only set me to lead you back to the beginnin' so he could turn you against me. Argh, it's what he does best after all.' Hoggle said to Mabel.
Mabel peeked out of her sweater. 'You really mean it?'
'Really really' Hoggle said, pulling her up.
Mabel smiled a damp but wide smile, showing her braces.
They walked in silence for a while.
'Hoggle?' Mabel asked after some time.
'Why does everyone keep calling me Sarah, anyway?'
''Cause you are a Sarah, ain't you? A Sarah named Mabel.'
'What do you think a Sarah is?' She asked.
'Yehknow, just a person who comes into the labyrinth to try and solve it, who imagines it's all nicer than it really is and is disappointed in it later, and who disturbs us in our daily work?'
'That’s... That's a tourist.' Mabel said.
They rounded the corner. Mabel saw something familiar on the ground, and darted forward.
'What the heck is a tourist?' Hoggle asked the walls.
The walls didn't reply.
Mabel ran towards the thing on the floor. She stopped. She knew it!
On the ground in front of her was a fluffy brown hat.
She picked it up, and sniffed it. It smelled of Dippers hair. Despite the heat, she put the hat on her head.
'I'll be there soon, Dipper...' She promised softly.
Everything hurt. Dipper felt like he had just aged 60 years. Now he understood how Grunkle Stan felt every morning. He forced his eyes open. He raised himself up on his elbow and looked at his left leg. He winced. It lay at an unnatural angle, all bruised and blue. He couldn't see any blood or broken skin, though, thank goodness. He raised his hand to his head. There was a bruise on his forehead where the king had kicked him. He also had numerous scrapes and bruises from where he had fallen. This dream sucked. He decided to stay down a little longer. There was some sort of fur on the floor, but it smelled of mothballs. Well, better than cold stone.
Still pretty groggy and half-numb with pain in his head and leg, Dipper sat up further and looked around. He seemed to be in a large ornate golden birdcage with thin bars. Dipper felt watched from all sides, as the King had had him placed in the indent in the middle of the floor. All around him goblins were loping about, being useless. Some of them looked at Dipper as if he was one of the curiosities in the Mystery Shack.
'Aaaw, does the poor kid need a huggg?' One teased.
A very small, very old, childlike fear made itself known through the haze of pain. Dipper remembered the puppets in the amusement parks. Dipper had always told Mabel that it was the haunted house that gave him nightmares, but it was the puppets all that time. Not speaking, just gesturing. 'Here, I'm fluffy! Come hug me!'
Dipper didn't want to be hugged. He didn't want to take a picture, even when Mabel tugged him along. The goblins looked like the puppets from his nightmares. And Mabel wasn't there to help him. He didn't even have Wendy's hat with him. He was totally and utterly alone.
Dipper turned on his side facing the throne. There were less goblins there. He lay down, pulled his knees up to his chest with a small whimper and closed his eyes again.
Maybe things would make more sense when he woke up...
Maybe Mabel would be there...
'There's a way to the Goblin City, but it's a bad way to go. It goes through the Bog of Stench..'
'...You told me about it before. Is it really that bad?'
'It is. But it might be the only way to get as fast as we can to the city'
'Okay. What do I need to do?' Mabel asked.
'...Was hopin you weren't gonna ask that' Hoggle muttered.
'Uh oh' Mabel said.
'Uh oh covers it. Jareth told me that if you kissed me I would become Prince of Stench. So that's the quickest way, but you needn't...'
'Oh, is that all?' Mabel asked. She darted over to Hoggle and put a kiss on his knobbly head.
'There ya go. You should have told me you wanted a kiss!' She smiled fondly.
Hoggle was about to give a sarcastic reply when the ground fell from under them. They slid down a steep stone slide, Hoggle yelling in fear, Mabel laughing and shrieking in glee. They landed hard on a stone ledge. Mabel looked around interestedly. It truly was a bog. Green slime oozed down the walls, there were dead plants everywhere surrounded by thick murky goop. Because of the air in the tunnel, she hadn't breathed in yet. Then she did, and immediately wished she hadn't.
It was the sort of stink that made itself comfortable, wrapping itself around your shoulders like a damp blanket. The air was damp. Mabel and Hoggle started sweating immediately, adding their own smells to the mixed city of smells that already lived in the Bog of Stench. Hoggle layed down on the floor, gasping and choking.
It smelled like a mixure of farts, vomit, rotten eggs, rank frying pan fat, the bottom of a thrash bin, three week-old milk with fish in a summer heat, the bad places of a hospital and those hairs that clogged the shower drain at home. Mabel buried her nose and mouth into the collar of her sweater. The smell of her own sweat was a hundred times better than the smell outside.
She walked down the path, dragging poor Hoggle with her, when she saw she could go no further. There was a steep ledge where the path ended. Right then, a terrible roar sounded, and rocks fell, right down the ledge. The avalanche had made a slight hill for her to go down. She shrugged, and thanking her lucky stars, went down the path, where she and Hoggle were met by a heap of familiar fur.
"Ludo!" She said, her voice muffled by the sweater.
'Smeelllll...' Ludo whined, trying to clog his nose.