He almost pities the ones who have to face his Labyrinth at night.
Stone walls loom black against a bloody moon, towering over this girl who is brave enough to defy the Goblin King. Winding trails and heavy mists dull the mind and confuse the senses while vines and branches trip feet and snag clothing. In the center of it all is the Castle – a warped and twisted silhouette that reflects its tenants and its king.
The biting faeries still guard the entrance to the great maze – darting will-o-wisps sent to lead their victim into the endless maze of grasping creepers and invisible eyes. Their dwarven antagonist waits with them. His lumpy features stretch into a distorted grin and his eyes gleam with an eerie light.
"Even if you make it to the center, you'll never get back out again!" he cackles as the doors open with a rusty shriek.
Upon finding the hidden path into the inner labyrinth, the runner begins to feel that she has a chance of winning; but the kiss of death is given as soon as the giant doors swing shut, for the worm still watches from his nook in the walls.
"Never go that way!" he cries. His benevolent warning leads the unwary girl further from her goal, ensnaring her in his King's crystalline web.
Rattling machinery and wild howls echo through the tunnels as the runner beats futilely against barred gates and rusted door alike. Behind her, the Cleaners draw swiftly nearer, laughing at the terror that they see in their prey's eyes. What little light trickles through cracks in the stonework reflects off of the cruelly pointed knives and blades that whirl with devastating speed towards her unprotected form.
Maddened giggles fill the hedge-maze. Unseen goblins nip at the runner's heels, grasp at hair, and pinch skin – relentlessly spurring her on in an unending circle.
"The way forward is sometimes the way back!" mocks the Wiseman each time the runner passes him.
Dazed, disoriented, half-crazed from fear, the runner shudders as she stumbles onwards into the dark, her flesh still tormented by remembered swipes from phantom goblin paws.
"Hey! Her head don't come off!" one of the fieries yells, howling with laughter as his hard fingers wrap around her throat and jaw.
Disembodied heads pursue the terrified runner through the dim forest, lit only by the stained light of the crimson moon. Feet slip in the moist loam, ankles catch on protruding roots as whimpered sobs mingle with those grating giggles.
Then he appears. Nonchalant and arrogant, he pulls out a crystal orb and twirls it deftly before the runner's face. She backs away in fear, taut muscles quivering like a horse about to bolt.
"It's a crystal, nothing more," he laughs, slowly moving closer. "But if you turn it this way, it will show you your dreams."
Grimy hands reach out, only to have hope snatched just out of reach.
"Forget about the baby…"
The gleaming crystal is held out once more and is snatched up greedily; the runner sighs of relief as the nightmare ends.
"Live without the sunlight…"
Her eyes snap open.
Deep within an abandoned oubliette, she crouches against a dripping stalagmite, cradling the last gift anyone ever gave her. Remnants of clothes hang in wretched tatters on her emaciated frame. Eyes, fever-bright with barely contained insanity, stare fixedly into the crystal clutched in her bony fingers. A muffled giggle breaks the silence as chapped lips part in a demented half-smile.
But if you turn it this way...
She giggles again as she sinks, unresisting, further into the surreal madness of her dreams – warped now, twisted into endless nightmares. She knows that she'll never escape them.
High above his kingdom, a white owl perches on the tallest spire of his castle and screams his delight to the moon.
Another midnight, another victory.