She could hear the bells now. They clanged ominously as she and the Goblin moved deeper and deeper through cool passageways and narrow nooks. Every now and then the Goblin would reach out his boney hand to lovingly caress a stalactite, or pop an unwary trilobite into its mouth, but Maggie was silent and still as a bone. While it gave him comfort, the darkness robbed her of thought; she could only hear and feel.
He stopped. The bells were louder now. They echoed off of every surface so loudly Maggie was certain they were in some sort of antechamber.
“Now, it is very important that you do as I say,” The Goblin whispered quickly. “You must keep quiet. Do not speak unless spoken to, do not touch what you are not given, and never look any of us in the eye—especially me and especially not Her Majesty. This is not a request.” His fingers dug into her flesh as he shifted her weight on his shoulder.
Without waiting for an answer the Goblin let out first a low whistle, then a high one, and then a third in harmony with the bells. And, as if by magic, a light appeared in a hollow above them. Maggie contorted her neck enough to see a small, peaky faced creature squinting down at them and smiling, a torch clutched in his greenish hand.
“Welcome Traveler,” Peaky-face barked, his high-pitched voice sounding more like a command than a greeting.
“Greetings, Halvar” the Goblin replied.
“Haven’t seen you before. Are you from a tributary?”
“No, Halvor,” The Goblin answered patiently. “It’s me, Magar.”
“Magar? In true-form, it’s you?” Halvar’s face split into a wide grin, displaying several crowded rows of incisors. They glinted in the torchlight.
“Come in then, come in! The Queen will be glad to see you!”
The Goblin sighed inwardly—the Queen probably couldn’t tell him from a cave newt—but he stretched his face as wide as Halvor’s in response.
“I’ll get the ladder—and what is that you’ve got there? A child!”
The Goblin—Magar, Maggie repeated inwardly, Magar—tensed his grip on her waist as Halvar let out a roar of laughter.
“In the name of the Queen, I swear….I haven’t seen a child in ages! So useful, so delectable and tender, but so hard to catch. The queen will of course want to see you at once!”
“Please calm yourself, old friend. I will take it to the queen, yet I wish to visit relatives in the city first.”
“Of course,” Halvar answered, slight disappointment in his voice. He disappeared briefly, but in his place a small wood and rope ladder tumbled from the hole.
Without releasing his hold on her, Magar scampered up.