Her hands shook as she drew the small red book from the sleeve of her dress. With weary eyes she gazed upon its title, Labyrinth. She let out a shuddering breath and looked at the clouded sky that hung low over the treetops. She let her gaze rest upon the riverbank, where the willow trees swung in the evening breeze. With leaden steps, she walked towards the river’s edge, images of a Shakespearean Ophelia running through her head. This is where it all began, she thought. This is where it must end.
It was time.
Her troubled thoughts fought with her unwilling body and she collapsed as she reached the shore. Her left hand throbbed, especially her index finger, where she thought a faerie had bitten her, if faeries did exist. Her mouth was strangely dry, with a slight tang of peach resting lightly upon her tongue. She had seen and felt magic, hadn’t she? Was that the reason for her sickness? Was she merely deluding herself with fancy imaginings? Shaking, she leant forward to gaze at her reflection in the water. Dark shadowed eyes were huge in a too pale face. It was all too much for her to bear. She couldn’t live with it any more.
She no longer knew what was reality and what was fantasy. She remembered a time when she had been in the Labyrinth, but knew not if it was of her own making, her own imagination now playing cruel tricks. Since that remembered time, seemingly three years ago but more like an age, she had begun to doubt her own sanity even as her body began to fail her. No one knew why, she had no energy, no will to live or to eat and sleep evaded her like a gypsy rose from a would be suitor. No one would notice, no one would care. She was a burden to her father and stepmother and she did not want her little brother to grow up with a sister whose sanity was a tenuous thing at best. It was time to make an end. Her vision darkened around the edges as she thought of falling, falling into the cool water, to lie with the reeds under the willow and let it all slip away from her with the current.
The evening breeze ran its delicate fingers along her back, cooling the heated feverish skin beneath the pale gown and for a brief moment clearing her vision and thoughts. It was then she saw another’s reflection in the water beside hers, a face she recognised well and yet was also a stranger to her. Was it her mind playing yet another trick, or was he really there, standing behind her? She almost lacked the energy and inclination to look, simply wanting to end it all here and now, but with a heartfelt sigh brought herself around to see whether or not it was one last torment from her troubled mind.
It was not.
A figure did stand behind her, a dark cloak lined with a shimmering blood red fabric swirling majestically in the breeze. On her knees she fell slightly to the side, and looked up at the dark figure.
“I am true to my word, Sarah.”
Tears filled her eyes, that it was real, that she was not imagining things. Her clouded mind began to clear. “You’re him, aren’t you? You’re the Goblin King.” A smile raised the corner of his mouth, and he cocked his head to the side, resting a gloved hand upon his hip. Recognition of this strange person seemed to solidify him to her.
The tall, lean figure of the Goblin King sat back upon his haunches before her. Cold eyes looked deep into hers, one blue, one brown. “What a pity,” he said softly to himself. “Sarah, you do remember.”
“Then it was true? All of it?” Her brimming eyes pleaded with his.
“Yes. As is my word.”
“I – I don’t understand”. Confusion mixed with relief.
“I said I would be there for you, Sarah. As your world falls down, I’ll be there for you. And here I am.”
“What – what will you do?” she asked in a small voice.
The Goblin King raised himself up and looked down upon her. “I can make you better, Sarah. I can make you well again.” He offered his gloved hand to her. A silence hung between them. The sky was darkening rapidly as the sun set behind rain filled clouds. The clock in the belltower began to chime. “Do you trust me?”
A tear slid down Sarah’s cheek. She didn’t know what to do, only that she couldn’t stay here any longer. Her blood ran hot through her veins, humming with a strange fever. Her temples throbbed in time with her hand and a cold sweat sprang out along her body. It was time.
“Yes,” she lied, reaching out to take his hand.
(I) Whispers in the night
The world dipped and swayed as he pulled her to her feet. The light changed, and the wind smelled different. The throbbing in her head lessened to a dull aching. She brought her eyes up towards the light and drew in a small breath.
It was as she had dreamed, as she had remembered it so long ago. As it had the first time she had viewed it from the hilltop, the sun slowly rising and spreading long fingers of shadow upon it’s sprawling surface. Birds began to sing softly from the brush. Tears flowed from Sarah’s eyes yet again. “It is real,” she said softly affirming it to herself.
“As real as you and I, Sarah,” came Jareth’s voice from behind her. “Welcome home.”
The words both elated and frightened Sarah. Was this to be her home? It was what she had wanted, wasn’t it? Already she was feeling slightly better. She raised her injured hand to the light, the small bite wound that had turned to an ugly purple, that refused to heal, was now a reddish colour. The scent of peach blossoms drifted on the breeze, making her feel sleepy. She stepped forward and stumbled, catching herself. “What is wrong with me?” she asked.
Jareth’s voice was at her ear, his head very close to hers. “All will be known in time. First now, you must rest.” Sarah turned to face him. For a brief moment his face showed nothing but concern, yet it was quickly replaced by a smile that made Sarah’s heart freeze. He held out his hand and a crystal sphere appeared. Within it was a miniature replica of the castle that lay at the heart of the Labyrinth, far in the distance. The castle within the sphere then grew, or Sarah shrank, she did not know which. All she knew was that she was now within the castle, in a bright room with a large canopied bed.
“Innona,” Jareth called. A servant lady came at his bidding from beside the door. “My guest is ill. See that she is better soon. Take the very best care of her.”
“Aye, my lord,” came the response. Jareth took one more look at Sarah, one that she did not comprehend. He nodded to himself and left them, the door shutting itself behind him. “My lady, you look most unwell. Come, lie down.” Sarah looked down into a fey face with twinkling pixie eyes. She was neither young nor old, and her skin had a strange mottled green appearance that was strikingly beautiful in the light. She took Sarah’s hand and led her to the bed. As she helped Sarah down onto the soft blankets she saw the injured hand. “That’s a nasty one,” she said. “I’ll make a fresh poultice to clean and lay upon that, and a tea for your fever. You’re burning up,” she said, but Sarah did not hear. She slept for the first time since she could remember in a long, long while, her mind finally at peace.
* * *
He sat in his throne room, surrounded by numerous goblins of all shapes and sizes, gazing into the crystal sphere that he held. Within it could be seen the sleeping form of Sarah, as she lay in an almost deathlike slumber. “Gather your strength, little girl,” he said. “You’ll need it later.” The goblins burst out laughing at his remark. “Be still!” he ordered. As one, goblin mouths clicked shut in frightened unison.
“Yes,” continued Jareth. “Sleep well, Sarah. You will need your strength soon enough. “ A wicked smile played across his handsome features. “As will I.” Silence followed this remark. “Well, laugh!” he said with exasperation to his subjects. Obediently, the throne room rang with the sound of goblin laughter.
* * *
Sarah awoke to a candlelit room. For a moment she was fearful until she remembered where she was. Her fear left, replaced by an uneasiness. She wasn’t sure whether or not she had done the right thing. She knew she could not have stayed that way any longer in the other world, with her strange sickness and memory failure. She felt physically better here, at least. She rolled up onto her elbows and looked at her hand where the faerie had bitten her. A bandage was wrapped around it. She slowly unwound it and looked beneath, it was healing quickly. She sat up and replaced the bandage, brushing the long dark hair that had come undone from it’s fasten away from her eyes.
Her head still hurt, but nothing like it had before. She let her gaze wander around the room, noting the opulent furnishings. She sat upon a rich canopied bed with red velvet drapes, held back by golden tassels. An ornate bedside table stood next to it, a gold candelabra upon it. She pulled the bedsheet aside and laid her feet upon a rich rug. She stood slowly, expecting the usual weakness that she had grown so accustomed to, and found to her surprise that it was easing, she was getting stronger. She arranged her rumpled gown and walked to where a large burnished mirror shone in the soft light upon its stand. She unfastened the clip that had held her long dark hair up from her neck and let the thick locks fall. She ran her fingers through her hair, then looked around for a brush. She found one next to a fancy vanity mirror with a matching velvet cushioned stool. She went over to it and sat down, pulling the brush through her hair until it shone.
The door to her room swung open slowly. She caught the movement from it out of her corner of her eye. She gently laid down the brush and turned towards her visitor.
Jareth entered the room, wearing a black riding jacket over grey hose and his usual tall black boots. He smiled as she rose slowly from where she sat. She stood where she was, unsure of what to do or say.
“I trust that you are feeling better?” he asked with casual detachment, standing near the doorway pulling up the cuff of his glove.
“Yes, a little,” she admitted.
Jareth strode into the room and stood in the center, looking at her with hands on hips. He gave Sarah that look that she despised, with his head cocked to one side and a sneer just waiting to make an appearance. “I was quite afraid for you,” he said.
“Afraid? For me? Why?”
“Because, you were very close to death you know. Had I not appeared I’m afraid you would have been lost to that river. You’re illness had taken hold of you completely, Sarah. You were lucky to escape.”
A small spark of anger ignited from some long forgotten place within Sarah’s soul. “You – you know of my illness?” Was he keeping yet more secrets from her?
Jareth closed his eyes briefly for a moment, as if already tired of the discussion. He began to walk towards her. “Yes, for one cannot be with the magic and remain unaffected. Think, Sarah,” he said, very close now, “of what has happened to you within my Labyrinth. You could not take that into your world without any repercussions. You have linked yourself to my Labyrinth, Sarah, whether you wanted to or no. You caused my world to fall Sarah, did you not think it would affect yours as well?”
Sarah was both angry and confused now. “I don’t understand!” she admitted.
“No, but you will, Sarah. I have shaped my Labyrinth to your liking, for your adventure, and you in turn denied it all in the end. The Labyrinth is real, though it is linked to the magic of imagination. It draws from that, it feeds off it. And you cut it off, Sarah. You starved me of the magic to keep the Labyrinth going, when it was tied to your own imagination and the magic that flows through you, as it flows through all of us. You could not cause the Labyrinth to crumble and not be unaffected by it, Sarah. You are the cause of your own illness.” He turned away from her and paced around the room, always looking back to her. It was as if he enjoyed seeing her reaction to his words and her confusion at them.
“It – it can’t be!” she said, not wanting to believe it but seeing the possibility.
“Yes it can, Sarah,” came his smooth voice. “You and I are linked to this Labyrinth, we are all its subjects. I do not deny or question the magic that lies within, and I have rebuilt this Labyrinth piece by piece. But you were alone in your world, and the magic still affecting you. I see the bite on your hand is healing well.”
She involuntarily looked at her bandaged hand. The throbbing pain had ceased. “Yes,” she admitted.
“Then you see?” he said. He walked towards her with an almost fevered gleam in his eyes. “It is working! Your world is connected to mine, you cannot lose a part of yourself and continue the way you were.” He stopped just before her and gave her a sideways glance. “You caused my world to fall, Sarah,” he said softly. “And yours fell with it”.
Sarah didn’t know what to say. It made sense to her, she believed it was possible, but yet held back. She still did not trust him, though he genuinely seemed to have helped her. But the look in his eyes warned every fibre of her being – this fey man was not to be trusted completely. She brought a hand up to her eyes, suddenly feeling dizzy. She still had not the strength yet.
“You are tired, I am sorry,” she heard him say. She opened her eyes to watch his back as he made his way to the door. “Rest well this night, we will talk on the morrow,” he said without turning. He did not look back as he went through the door that shut softly behind him. She gazed a while longer at the door, then looked to the bed. Just to rest my eyes, she thought. She had much to think about. She slept until dawn.
(II) By the light of day
Sunlight across her eyes woke her. Curtains had been drawn back, and Sarah was momentarily blinded by the brilliant light. She brought a hand to shade her eyes and saw the little faerie creature, Innona, moving about the room. The servant lady noticed Sarah’s gaze and turned to her with a smile. “Tis a beautiful morn, mistress. Come over here, and we’ll find you something nice to wear today. Come along then,” she said at Sarah’s hesitancy. “The Master’s waiting downstairs for you.”
Sarah rose, feeling much stronger than the day before. Resignedly, she went to the large wardrobe where Innona waited patiently. Today she would be able to think, she would figure out what Jareth was up to, if anything. Doubt still clouded her mind but she pushed it aside for the moment. She felt she knew Jareth, and well enough not to believe that he had changed his ways these past three years.
“This one will do nicely,” Innona said, pulling a cream gown from the wardrobe with one hand, a green overdress in the other. She laid them upon a cushioned chair next to the wardrobe and beckoned Sarah forward. She obediently complied, and the servant lady turned her about and helped Sarah with the fastenings at the back of her gown. “What’s this thing here?” Innona said, tugging at Sarah’s zipper.
“It’s a zipper. The teeth bite together to fasten the back of the dress.”
“Marvellous thing!” Innona exclaimed. She helped Sarah out of her dress and into the gown. It was a pretty gown with a many layered skirt that had many folds within it. The sleeves stopped at her elbow, with a lace trim that hung halfway down her arm. Innona helped her place the overdress on top of the gown, and cinched up the corset at the back. When she finished she stepped back and nodded to herself.
“Right, sit down here and we’ll see to your hair.” She waved Sarah towards the vanity table. Sarah, unused to all the fussing, muttered something to herself about being able to brush her own hair, but it was tutted away by Innona. “Sit, sit, there we go.” The servant lady began to brush Sarah’s hair with gentle hands, then proceeded to braid sections with her nimble faerie fingers. She placed coils atop of Sarah’s head and arranged them in the latest fashion. “There!” she exclaimed.
Sarah looked in the mirror and could hardly believe it. She didn’t look anything like herself. Innona placed a powder puff and rouge in front of her. “Make yourself up now, dear, and I’ll take you down.” Sarah obliged and powdered her face, applying a tiny amount of rouge to her cheeks and lips. She had to admit that it made her look healthier. Meanwhile Innona arranged the bed linens. When she was done she turned around and clapped her hands together. “You are a vision my lady!” said breathed, pure joy expressing itself upon her mottled green face. “Let’s get you down into the hall now.”
Sarah followed the little lady out of the room. She found herself in a large, long corridor lit by a window at the end and torches spaced along the length in sturdy iron brackets. A set of stairs wound downwards at the other end of the corridor, and they began their descent.
Sarah felt a dogged determination steel through her to find out what the Goblin King was up to this time. She did not wholly believe his story but as yet could find no fault nor flaw with it. There was time yet, she thought grimly. The fire had crept back into her eyes and her chin jutted defiantly as she set her jaw.
The stairway brought them down into a larger corridor. They turned right and followed it to the very end to a large double door. Great grinning doorknockers leered down at them. Sarah wondered if these too could speak, but was hastened through by Innona.
Sunlight gleamed through large windows, casting the room in a wondrous soft golden glow. Silhouetted against one of the large windows was Jareth, his light hair gleaming and hands clasped behind his back as he looked out over his kingdom. He turned as he heard the movement into the room, and for a moment he seemed very real to Sarah, not frightening or intimidating or jesting cruelly but a true man, a real Jareth without the mask. Then his slow, sardonic smile crept up one corner of his mouth, and his eyes hardened. “You are better this morning?” he asked.
Sarah was momentarily surprised by this small lack of insight but recovered quickly. She drew herself up and squared her shoulders. “Yes, thank you,” she said stiffly.
Amusement played across Jareth’s handsome features. “Very well. Come, sit and eat with me.” He waved a gloved hand to a long table where two places had been set near one end. He pulled out a chair for Sarah at her place, and then seated himself at the head.
Innona had already left the room and came bustling back in without Sarah’s notice. She placed a plate of summer fruits and berries before Sarah and a goblet before Jareth. The little servant then went to the doors and bowed before taking her leave.
“Please,” said Jareth, motioning to her food.
Sarah cleared her throat before speaking. “I seem to remember the last time I ate something in the Labyrinth I woke up in a junkyard,” she said haughtily.
Jareth’s eyes narrowed. “I am on your side now, Sarah,” he said simply.
Sarah didn’t know what to do. What she had been expecting was a confrontation, this quiet statement had taken her by surprise. She regrouped her thoughts, determined to see the evil she knew existed. “Why? Why are you on my side?” she asked with an air of disbelief.
Jareth closed his eyes for a moment, as if in exasperation. “Sarah,” he said, opening them and looking right into her eyes, “We are not fighting over a child any longer. I am not your enemy. I am trying to help you. I wish for you to be well again. So that you may find your own path within my world. I would show you a life you have never known. Know that you may leave me and my castle at any time, you are not a prisoner but a guest. And be well again.”
Sarah grasped what little she could, hoping to see some false reaction. “I may leave whenever I wish?”
Jareth simply smiled and nodded.
“And what if I wish to leave now?”
Jareth’s smile faded ever so slightly. “I would not want you to,” he said, seeing Sarah’s triumphant smile, “but I will not stop you.” Sarah’s smile faded at this last remark. Jareth leaned over the table towards her. “This world is as dangerous as any other Sarah, and I would have you wise to its ways before I set you upon it. I can teach you much that you do not know, if you will have me.” He sat back and took a long drink from his goblet. “Call it honour to an enemy if it makes you feel better,” he said, smirking into his goblet.
“That is not the reason why!” Sarah said angrily.
Jareth put down his goblet, the smirk now gone from his face. His handsome features grew solemn. “No, that is not the reason. Sarah, as I stated last night, our worlds are linked through the magic of imagination. I can bring you your dreams. The Labyrinth was created out of dreams and made into reality. You are a part of the Labyrinth, some of it was drawn from your imagination and yours alone. That is why you fell ill in your world, Sarah, a part of you was left here where you denied it. You will thrive here, you can grow here, you can become whatever you wish and go wherever your heart pleases. But you must learn the dangers first. I would not see you wasted and at death’s door in your world and in danger in mine.”
Sarah stared at her plate as she took this in. He did sound genuinely concerned for her. She didn’t feel much like a prisoner either. Still, she thought, there is only one way to test that. She vowed to try later. “Very well. I know I cannot go back to my parents and Toby, I know that the magic of the Labyrinth would do things to me that upsets the balance in my world. I accept that. But I don’t know what I will do here.”
“Here,” Jareth said slowly and with relish, “You have all the time in the world to decide.” He leaned back and watched her for a moment, then sat up and quickly placed his now empty goblet upon the table. “I must go.” He said, rising in one swift, smooth motion. He adjusted his jacket and motioned once more to her plate. “Please eat, you will never get better at this rate.” He walked to the door and turned just before it. “You might try and trust me,” he said, then pulled open the doors and left. Sarah heard his bootsteps clicking down the long corridor.
She let out a long breath and relaxed slightly. She picked up a berry and examined it closely, sniffing it and turning it this way and that to see if it looked at all enchanted. It didn’t. Neither did the peach she ate three years ago. She looked around the room to make sure she wasn’t being watched and popped the berry into her mouth. Nothing happened. No floating bubbles or ballroom dancers came into the dining room, just a sweet red berry whose juices flooded her mouth. She poured herself some water from a crystal decanter and finished off the rest of her plate. It was only then she wondered why Jareth hadn’t eaten a thing. She looked for the goblet that he had drunk from, but it had disappeared.
* * *
“You’ve gained your strength quickly, Jareth. Even after defeat at the hands of a mere girl.” The beautiful face in the crystal sphere was marred forever by cruel malice. “But the time is now ripe. You shunned the Court for a mortal, you would have given her everything she wanted. We know of your weaknesses and we shall destroy you.”
Jareth smiled. “Akarra, my dear, your dramatics ever become you. I shunned not the Court for the reason that you think, as I have already told you. The Court has shunned me. But it may surprise you to learn that my supposed weakness is a prisoner within my walls, forever now bound to my world. And I have a limitless supply of power – my magics will defeat whatever course of action you wish to take.”
The woman’s face grew dark with rage. “Do not lie to me! We saw you and the mortal together, we know of your intentions! And we will not have it!” The face quickly composed itself. “The Court will not take the risk to itself and the world. Your Labyrinth is your only defence. Defend it as well as you can Jareth, for you are now at war.”
Jareth’s eyes grew cold. “You would truly declare war against one of your own? Do you know the implications of such an act?”
“Well I do, Goblin King. I have the pleasure of formally declaring war upon your kingdom.”
Jareth gave her a wicked smile. “And I have the pleasure of formally accepting.”
(III) Of sunlight and shadows
“Have you finished, dear?” Innona asked, appearing at her elbow.
“Yes, thank you,” she said.
The little faerie woman took her plate. “Good, you look better already! Master said you might like to see the gardens?”
Gardens? thought Sarah. She supposed she could try her plan there. “Yes. Yes I would. Thank you.”
The little servant lady nodded and beckoned for her to follow. She went halfway down the corridor and stopped, looking at one of the torch brackets. She looked to Sarah. “If you could, please.”
“Take that torch and turn it to the left..” Sarah realised that the little faerie woman couldn’t reach, and so she grabbed the torch in it’s bracket and turned. “That’s right. No, left. Right.” A door appeared in the wall, which sunk back and slid sideways. Innona waved Sarah through. Once on the other side, she pressed a stone panel within reach and winked conspiratorially. “He keeps this quiet,” she said in a low voice, looking around to see that no one overheard. “He don’t want no goblins coming in and ruining the place.” She pushed open a wooden door and waved Sarah through.
The warm morning sun fell fully upon her face. The air smelled of green things, and the sound of a fountain trickled just out of sight. Birdsong called all around her and bees hummed happily in the rosebush next to her. She took in a deep draught of air and smiled. “It’s beautiful,” she said.
“Aye, Master does like the finer things,” Innona said. “I’ll just do a bit of tidying up in here while you have a walkabout. Go on, go on now. Don’t waste the morning!” And with that the little faerie woman disappeared into the rows of hedges and flowerbeds.
Sarah slowly walked the many paths that twisted and wound round the garden. It was walled on three sides, the fourth the castle wall from whence she had emerged. The sun warmed the walls and made it a very comfortable place. Unfortunately, the walls were just high enough that she could not see what lay on the other side. She saw no possibility of trying her escape here. She sighed, leaning against the warm stone wall. It was lovely here, just like a faerytale. She wandered amongst the flowers, walking each and every path. It felt good to be outside. When she tired of this she went back to the door.
Innona appeared at her side. “Mistress will be wanting to leave then?” she asked, turning her mottled face up towards Sarah’s.
“Yes, thank you. The gardens were lovely.”
“Aye, that they are. That they are. Master said you might also like the view from the battlements.”
“Yes,” thought Sarah. She might see an escape route that way. “I would very much like to see them.”
“This way,” the little lady said, taking her back through the door.
Sarah’s mind pondered possible ways of testing Jareth’s supposed freedom but she decided she would have to wait until she saw the battlements. She needed to explore this castle a bit more as well. She paid special attention to the corridors they travelled, the twists and turns and stairwells in a vain attempt to memorise certain routes. The inside of the castle was as much of a labyrinth as outside the castle walls. They climbed and climbed stair after stair. When they finally reached the top Sarah was glad for it, and paused to catch her breath. She looked enviously at the little faerie woman, who wasn’t even breathing hard. The little green face turned back to her. “You’re still recovering, dear,” she said patting Sarah’s arm sympathetically.
They turned and ducked through a low lintel and found themselves out on the battlements. The wind blew around them. Sarah walked towards the edge of the wall and looked down. Her stomach dipped slightly at the height but she stayed where she was. She could see the Labyrinth stretching out for endless miles from the battlements, and the copper hills that lay behind it. The sun made the view hazy in the distance, but she remembered the bracken and twisted trees that covered those hills. Beyond she could see nothing.
She walked along the battlements with Innona trailing behind her. She looked for ways down the battlements but they were built of huge stone blocks that had been smoothed and polished. No handholds or footholds could be seen, not even ivy clung to its sheer surface. There was no escape this way.
When Sarah had completed a circuit, she stopped and wearily turned to Innona. “Thank you, I’ve seen enough,” she said.
The little faerie woman nodded. “Master said you’d be wanting a rest after your morning,” she said.
“Master seems to know everything in advance, doesn’t he?” she murmured to herself.
Innona had heard. “That’s why he’s the Master,” she agreed, nodding sagely. “Come, I’ll take you back to your room.” The servant lady started towards the low opening in the castle wall.
“Innona,” Sarah called her back. “I think I might try it on my own.”
Something flashed behind the little woman’s eyes. “The castle can be quite difficult, my lady,” she said. “I’d be feared that you would become lost.”
“I will find my own way back. Thank you, Innona.” The little servant hesitated. Sarah decided it was time to be in charge. “You are dismissed.”
The faerie woman left at that, and Sarah could hear her footsteps as she descended the many stairs. She was sorry to be so strict with the little woman who had helped her but she felt it was necessary in order to spend the time alone she needed to think. She went to the battlement edge once more and sat leaning against one of the stone blocks. She was more tired than she cared to admit.
The sun was at its full height and began to beat down upon her mercilessly. She began to sweat underneath her dress and decided she should find some shade at least. Her vision wobbled slightly as she raised her head and she felt faint. She put her head down between her knees and hoped that she wouldn’t.
A shadow fell across her, cooling her skin. She slowly raised her head and looked up to see Jareth standing before her. He looked concerned. “Are you feeling ill, Sarah?”
“Just a little dizzy,” she replied, not wanting him to see her like this.
“You might feel better inside. Let me help you.” He held a gloved hand out to her. She took it and he lifted her to her feet. He held out his arm and she took it, leaning upon him as he helped her inside the cool castle walls and down the stairs. They silently made their way back to her chamber. At her door, Jareth stopped. “Please, if you need anything, just say my name. I can help you, Sarah, if you will allow me.”
Sarah nodded wearily. Jareth stood before her for a breath or two, then turned and walked away. She pushed open the door to her room leaned it shut once on the other side. She stayed there for a moment, her eyes tired and her hand beginning to throb once more. The bed looked inviting. She pulled off her overdress and climbed onto the bed, falling asleep as soon as her head hit the pillow.
* * *
“And how is the girl, Innona?” Jareth asked. He sat lazily upon his throne, one leg draped over the arm as he inspected his ornate silver tipped walking stick.
“She seems to be recovering well, my lord, but it will be a few days before she is at full strength.”
“Is there no way to speed the healing?” he asked with annoyance.
“I am afraid not, my lord, her body heals itself at it’s own pace, even here.”
“I want her to regain her strength no later than the day after tomorrow. Tomorrow if possible. Give her a healing draught or a potion or something,” he said, waving his hand. “As long as she is ready for me.”
“Aye, my lord, I will do what I can.”
“And more,” he said.
(IV) A memory of a dream
Sarah awoke to see that it was now late afternoon. She sat up, feeling slightly better. A memory tugged at the edges of her thought but remained just out of reach. Innona then entered the room and smiled at her. Looking at the little servant lady reminded Sarah of something, of someone, but her memory would not heed. Images came to her all mixed together as they had been for the past year – a faerie falling to the earth, an old man sleeping on a stone chair, a dog on a park bench and a tube of red lipstick. Her hand was still sore, and she thought of the faerie, faeries falling to earth, faeries that had been playing outside the castle walls where, where… someone had been gardening. She could not bring to mind the memory of the gardener. She felt tired trying.
“Let’s have a look at your hand, dear,” Innona said. Sarah swung her legs over the edge of the bed and held her hand out for inspection. The faerie woman undid the bandage and turned it this way and that in the light. “Still a little bit of infection there,” she said. “I’ll make you a nice tea that will help that.” Sarah looked at the little lady but she still was inspecting the hand. “You could do with a fresh poultice too. I’ll bring those up quick as I can, my lady, if you’ll wait here.”
Sarah nodded when the little lady looked up at her for confirmation. Innona nodded back and quickly left the room. She stood up and walked over to the burnished mirror. Her face had regained some colour, though the dark circles remained under her eyes. She tidied the stray bits that had come loose from her coils and pulled on her overdress. She sat on the window ledge overlooking the eastern edge of the Labyrinth and emptied her thoughts. It was nice to be here, she thought. Nice to not have the fever, to not have to worry about parents and her brother and the real world. Living here might not be so bad, she thought. It seemed like quite a pleasant place.
“Things are not always what they seem in this place.” The little voice popped into her thoughts. A worm, thought Sarah, a talking worm. The memory became clear, if short. “So, you can’t take anything for granted,” she said softly.
At that point Innona returned with a laden tray. She popped it upon the bedside table and poured the tea, humming softly to herself. When finished, she waved Sarah forward. “Come along and drink up, you’ll feel better.”
Sarah sat a moment longer, still trying to recall why the strange saying had any meaning to her. She shook her head to clear it and obediently went over to the bed. She sat upon the edge holding her teacup. She raised it to her lips, then thought better of it. “What exactly is in this tea?” she asked the little faerie woman suspiciously.
“A brew to make you better of course,” she replied, applying the poultice to bandages from the tray.
“Yes, but what exactly is in it?” Sarah repeated doggedly.
“Oh, herbs from various plants that have healing properties. I am in charge of growing them,” she added proudly.
Sarah sighed. She was not getting anywhere. She looked at the tea and decided she might as well drink it. The first batch had made her feel better. “Where is it grown?” she asked between sips.
“In the garden of course.”
“The one we visited this morning?”
“Aye, that’s the one.”
Sarah vowed she would have a closer look at the garden, though she knew not at that moment how to identify the strange plants that grew within it. All she knew was that she had to do something. And something to do with gardening.
She finished the tea and slumped on the bed, feeling much more relaxed. Her hand stopped throbbing and she felt less shaky. “Come, let’s change that bandage and then you can see the Master for dinner.” Sarah held out her hand and watched the top of the little woman’s head as she deftly changed the bandages. She felt more at ease and stronger as well. When the servant lady had finished Sarah smiled at her.
“Thank you, Innona. You are truly skilled.”
The little lady blushed a deeper shade of green at the praise. “Let’s get you changed for dinner now,” was all she said.
They went over to the wardrobe where Innona selected a gown of russet and gold. She helped Sarah out of her other dress and into the new one. The sleeves brushed the stone floor of her chamber as she turned about to look in the mirror. “Here,” said Innona, “wear these with it.” She pulled a pair of burgundy slippers from the wardrobe. Sarah took off her leather suede shoes and put the new ones on. A perfect fit.
“One last thing,” the little lady said. She reached up on tiptoe to pull a golden coronet from a shelf. Sarah took it from her hands and placed it upon her head. How regal she looked!
“I – I don’t feel I should be wearing all this,” she said. “Where did it all come from anyway?”
“Master knew you’d be needing clothes. He does what he can, I don’t rightly know how, but he does. Now, you look splendid. Let’s get you downstairs so you can have something to eat.” She ushered Sarah out of the room before she could utter any more protests.
The dining hall was lit by a beautiful many-tiered chandelier. Torches in sconces lined the walls as well, with candles running the whole length of the massive wooden table. A harp stood in one corner upon a pedestal, playing all by itself. Sarah looked around but Jareth was not there. “Come and sit by here until the Master arrives,” said Innona. She directed Sarah to the corner of the room where the harp played, surrounded by lavishly stuffed chairs and pillows scattered about. Sarah took a seat on a chair and looked around as Innona left her.
The harp played a strange, melancholy melody. Sarah got up and stood before it, wondering at the magic that allowed it to play itself. The curve of the harp had a young girl carved into it, her mouth open in song and clad in flowers that flowed down the length of the wood. It was very beautiful, thought Sarah, but the girl seemed also very sad.
She turned away and walked around the room, taking in the furnishings. A large tapestry lay along one wall depicting some sort of hunt, with elven looking people on white horses chasing a white hart that glowed in the trees. She looked closer at the hunters, and with a start realised that one of them looked very much like Jareth. She peered closer, noting the features that were so alike. Yet this Jareth seemed younger somehow, more carefree. The cynical smile was nowhere to be seen and he looked full of life. Sarah reached out to touch the tapestry when the doors to the dining hall opened. She turned around quickly and clasped her hands before her.
Jareth entered, looking about the room for her. When his eyes settled on her he started for a moment. Sarah looked around to make sure that no one was standing beside her, for his reaction was so strange. She looked back at him but he was already smiling.
“I trust that you are healing quickly under Innona’s care?” he asked, coming towards her.
“Yes, she is very helpful,” Sarah replied carefully.
Jareth walked right up to her and held out his hand. His eyes gleamed. Sarah took it and he led her to the table. He pulled a chair out for her before seating himself. Innona then entered, bearing a tray with a crystal decanter and a goblet. Behind her were two goblins carrying more trays, laden with food. They placed the food upon the table at Innona’s direction as she poured the liquid from the decanter into a goblet, placing it before Jareth. She then took a plate and filled it with the choicest morsels and lay them before Sarah with a smile. “Eat well,” she said, patting Sarah’s arm. “You’re too thin.” After voicing this motherly concern she curtseyed to the Goblin King and left them, trailing the other two goblin servants behind her.
“Would you care for some wine, Sarah?” Jareth asked as he poured her a glass from a different decanter already upon the table. She couldn’t politely refuse, and thanked him. “And are things to your satisfaction here?” he asked, raising his goblet to his lips.
“Yes, thank you.” Sarah didn’t know what to say. She still felt like an awkward little girl around the Goblin King. His presence was always unnerving at best, and being social with him was even stranger. She gathered her courage and spoke. “I see that you are not eating again.”
Jareth lowered his goblet and looked aside. “I do not eat at usual times, my dear. And I do not need much.” He looked into his goblet. “Is the music to your liking?” he asked, changing the subject.
“Yes. That is a most – unusual harp.”
“It was a gift from a passing minstrel,” he replied. “It will play any song you desire.”
Sarah doubted that it knew any Sarah Maclachlan or Bare Naked Ladies but decided to give it a try. “Does it know ‘One Week’?”
In response the harp began to play the tune perfectly, with crisp clear notes. Sarah was amazed. When the song finished, she asked with wide eyes “How did it know?”
Jareth looked amused. “Anything is possible,” he said.
Sarah didn’t know what to say to that so she picked up her knife and fork. The food was delicious. The salted pork made her thirsty however so she drank the offered wine. It was light and fruity and tasted ever so slightly of peaches. Sarah ate with an appetite as Jareth refilled her empty glass. The music played on softly.
When she was done she sat back, well contented and rather sleepy. Jareth sat and drank from his goblet seeming preoccupied. Sarah finished off the rest of her glass in the silence. When she put the glass down Jareth seemed to come out of his reverie. “Well,” he said with a smile, “was it to your satisfaction?”
“Yes, and again my thanks.”
“None are needed, Sarah.”
Sarah was getting rather sleepy, but she doggedly remained awake to find some answers to her questions. “I still don’t understand why you are doing all of this for me,” she said.
Jareth finished off his goblet. “Why do I need a reason, Sarah?” he asked with a smile.
“Because, because – it just doesn’t seem like you,” she said without thought. Her mind wasn’t quite up to speed she realised after all that food and wine. After all he had already done for her! She sat back fearfully and awaited the repercussions of this statement.
But again he surprised her. “Does it not?” he said mildly, looking away. “I suppose to you it doesn’t. But then, how well do we really know each other, Sarah?”
Sarah thought that she knew him, but seeing this different side of him made her doubt her summations.
“I – I’m not sure really,” she said. “Only that things seems different now.”
Jareth swirled the liquid around in the bottom of his goblet. “Things are very different now, Sarah,” he said. “The Labyrinth changes all the time, that is its only constant. But I fear soon that it may change forever, and be utterly destroyed.”
“Why?” asked Sarah. “How?”
Jareth rose and walked to the tapestry with his hands clasped behind his back. “There is more to the Labyrinth than you know, Sarah. It is old, very old, but older things live still. The Labyrinth was my creation, my home. I built it out of a barren wasteland, brining life to a place that was without. But beyond the Labyrinth, beyond the hills in the distance there are other kingdoms, other courts. They have been jealous of my Labyrinth since it began but now they are taking action. They wish to rule the Labyrinth but they cannot, for it is my creation. If I am no longer king of this land it cannot exist. It will sicken and die, as you began to sicken and die in your own world. If I could not bear to see it happen to you,” he said, turning to her. “How could I bear to see it happen to my Labyrinth?”
Sarah sat in shocked silence for a moment. “But who are these people?” she finally asked.
“The Court of the Fae. You have met them before, Sarah, in my ballroom. They have declared war against my Labyrinth. I must fight back, I must protect my home and all those within these lands.”
“I – I had no idea.” The thought of the Labyrinth and everything in it dying seemed horrifying to her. It was important that the Labyrinth survived, people dear to her lived here. People dear to her? she thought. Well, she supposed, Innona was dear to her, in a way, and she was grateful to Jareth for rescuing her and saving her life. “Is there anything I can do to help?” she asked.
Jareth turned back to face the tapestry, hiding a triumphant smile. “I know not,” he said. “I admit that you have immense power over the Labyrinth, for much of it was created from your imagination. But I know not what you can do to help.” He turned back to her. “I will think on this though, perhaps you might save the Labyrinth where I cannot.” He turned and walked to the door. “I will have Innona take you back to your chamber, Sarah. I have many preparations to make. I regret that I cannot spare you any more time.” With that he left the room. Sarah sat and waited for Innona, thinking on his words as the harp played on.
* * *
Jareth thought a trip to the dungeons would boost his already high spirits. The guard let him in and walked alone down the long corridor. In the deepest, darkest cell at the furthest end of the corridor he stopped. He unlocked the door took a torch from it’s bracket to light the interior of the tiny stone cell.
On the floor in a corner lay a limp and lifeless bundle of rags. Jareth placed the torch in a bracket by the door and walked over to it. He nudged it with his boot, when it didn’t respond he kicked it harder. A moan of pain sounded and the figure lifted its head. In the dim light of the torch the prisoner’s features were twisted with pain.
(V) Hidden Truths
Sarah thanked the little faerie woman and closed the door to her chamber. She was still shocked to find that the Labyrinth was in such danger. And to see this side of Jareth – one where he cared for his kingdom and those within it. Perhaps she didn’t know him as well as she thought. The figure in the tapestry kept coming to mind, of a younger Jareth, a princely young man. She surmised that it must be him, with others of the Faerie Court. But how had it come to this? And what could she do to help?
Her head began to swim with all this new information. Feeling dizzy she went to the bed and sat down. Innona had left her a pot of tea once again by her bedside. She poured herself a cup of the healing brew and sipped it slowly. To see Jareth as the good guy! But he had been so cruel to her, to others. And yet, she thought, who had he been cruel to? He treated Innona respectfully, as a good lord to a servant. He had been kind to her, and had rescued her. But why did she feel he had been cruel to others? He was trying to save the Labyrinth, and all those within it. Yes, he had taken her little brother, but she had wished him away. It had been her fault. But why did she feel she knew others in the Labyrinth? Was her mind still playing tricks? She shook her head to clear it.
She drank her tea down and, feeling better, walked to her window where she saw the moon rising from beyond the hills. There lay the outside kingdoms of the Fae, who threatened the Labyrinth. She may not know many who dwelt within the Labyrinth, but it was a noble cause. She had to help save it. By the light of the rising moon she vowed to help the Goblin King in any way she could. It was the right thing to do.
* * *
“It is soon time, Hoggle,” the silky voice purred from the shadows. Hoggle looked up but could not see the face of the Goblin King, it was shadowed by the weak light of the torch. How he hated that face, that face that had come to torment him these past three years. Three years? Had he really been in here for that long? Three years, a lifetime, it made little difference. All he knew was pain and discomfort, and that mocking voice that enjoyed it so much. Such was the price one paid for treachery.
“You are of little worth to me now Hoggle,” Jareth continued. “She does not even remember you, the cruel girl. She doesn’t know, she doesn’t care. She sits in the dining hall above in fine clothes eating rich food while you starve down here in your own filth. The friendship that you thought you had was all a lie, and now she has what she wants. A cruel twist indeed.”
Hoggle shook his head, he did not want to believe it. He didn’t. He couldn’t. It was the only thing keeping him alive.
“She is ready to aid me in any way she can, Hoggle. So you see, keeping you alive is really unnecessary for very much longer.” The figure in the shadows moved closer and knelt down to look into the little prisoner’s eyes. “We are very much alike, the girl and I. And soon we will rule the world.” The Goblin King stood and left, taking the torch with him. His boots rang down the long corridor as the light faded.
In the darkness Hoggle wept.
* * *
Sarah awoke that morning at dawn. The gardens, she thought. I must see the gardens again. Why, she could not remember, only that it was important. She slipped an overdress over her nightgown and crept quietly out of the chamber. She padded down the silent corridors in bare feet, the castle still abed. She found the staircase and began the long climb.
At the top of the stairs was the door, and she pushed it open, praying that it would not creak. Her prayers answered, she slipped through and pulled it shut behind her. She drifted silently past the rosebush and stopped dead in her tracks. She had heard a voice coming from beyond the next hedgerow. She crouched down and held her breath, listening.
Slowly she inched her way along until she could see the figure standing in the center of the garden. It was Jareth, and he was singing.
Sarah strained to hear the words, but he sang in a strange tongue that she had never heard before. He was bathed in a glowing light, though the sun had not yet risen over the high walls of the garden yet. Sarah could hear the power in his voice, a power that was old and eldritch. It seemed to her then that she could hear other voices joining in, though he stood alone. A long lament was being sung as the sun heralded a new day. The glow around Jareth brightened until Sarah could not bear it anymore and looked away. The sound stopped, and when she turned back Jareth had disappeared.
“Sarah.” His voice appeared at her elbow. She cried out and jumped. Jareth stood behind her, the cynical smile leering at her. “Can I help you?”
“I – I – what was that?” Sarah’s heart was in her throat, making it hard to speak, let alone think.
“Magic, of course,” he said. The smile slowly faded and his eyes narrowed thoughtfully. “Why do you ask?”
“I – I’ve never heard anything like it. It’s , it’s – “
“It is old, far older than you. You have never heard the like, and I pray you never hear it again.” A strange, almost sad look came into his eyes, though the smile returned. “That was The Declaration of War, Sarah. The Fae have called and have sung to me as the sun rose, and I have answered it. It has not been sung amongst the Court for two thousand years.”
“Then, then the war has started, hasn’t it?” Sarah asked, fearful.
Jareth nodded. “The world is about to change, Sarah.”
* * *
The faeries trembled amongst the flowers at the edge of the Labyrinth. The goblins cowered in fear. Trolls, elves, pixies and all manner of creatures that lived within the Labyrinth heard the song, and knew fear, the song humming within their fey blood. In his dark cell, Hoggle shook with it. The Court of the Fae was going to war against them. Jareth was taking them to war.
* * *
“I am ready to help you in any way I can,” said Sarah, looking up at Jareth with fierce determination.
The Goblin King gave her a long look. “Sarah,” he said, coming close to her. “You are helping. Don’t you see?” He put his hand on her shoulder and whispered in her ear. “Just by being here, just by being with me, you are helping. You give me strength, Sarah. In you I see what the Labyrinth could be, what I am fighting for. You are my inspiration, Sarah.”
Sarah looked down as he spoke to her, slightly uncomfortable at his closeness but a newfound joy springing from inside her at his words. What did it all mean? Was he implying feelings for her? Could it be? And if so, could she return them? Gratitude welled within her, that such a man could possibly have feelings for her, when all else seemed dark and despairing. Her knight in shining armour had rescued her, it was like she had always imagined it, just not with the Goblin King! But the faerytale, the faerytale had come true! She had always found him handsome, yes, but now she knew him, knew him for much more than the Goblin King. Sarah looked up at him in the golden light spilling through the dining hall window, her eyes brimming with tears. “But – I, I wish to do more! Tell me what I must do and I will do it!”
Jareth smiled and said “Get well. That is all I wish you to do. The war will come within the fortnight. We have time for you to regain your strength and then we may consider the aid you could bring. But I will not risk you and your health, you are too important. To me,” he added, gazing deep into her eyes. Something moved behind his eyes, something Sarah did not recognise. She hesitated slightly before she spoke.
“Then I will,” she said.
* * *
After they had broken their fast, Jareth left Sarah to rest under Innona’s care, telling the servant lady to bring some more tea. He then went to his chamber, humming the light-hearted tune that Sarah had requested the harp play the day before. Rather catchy, he thought to himself. He energetically pushed open the double doors and swept into the room. He took off his vest and unbuttoned his shirt, casually tossing the items onto the massive four poster iron bed frame. He walked over to his clothespress and carefully selected another shirt, with embellished sleeves and golden embroidery at the cuff and throat. He pulled it on, not bothering to button it and walked to the window. He sat upon the sill, the morning sun warm upon his skin. His triscellion pendant gleamed upon his breast.
“Your Highness!” A goblin guard appeared at the door.
“Yes,” replied Jareth, not moving from his perch.
“The fox, my lord!”
“The fox who aided the lady with the dwarf and the monster, that got through the labyrinth!”
“What of him?” Jareth asked mildly.
“He is outside the gates to the Goblin City, my lord!”
“Heavens, well we should send out the entire compliment of guard then,” the Goblin King replied sarcastically. “If one fox is such an upset!”
“Yes, my lord!” the goblin said, turning back to the corridor.
“Wait,” Jareth said in the most world weary tone.
“Get back here.”
“Yes, my lord.”
Jareth beckoned the guard forward. He hesitantly took a few steps. The Goblin King waved him forward again, step by step until he was right before the window ledge whence he sat. He bent down and grabbed the little guard’s shoulder and whispered conspiratorially to him. “Shoot him.”
“Shoot him, my lord?”
“Yes. Shoot him. Shoot him full of arrows.”
“Yes, my lord.”
Jareth released him and watched him run out of the room and down the corridor. How nice it was when old friends turned up unexpectedly at your door.
* * *
Sir Didymus waited underneath the flag of parley. War had been declared and as a knight of the realm he dutifully attended the King, though he didn’t much care for him, bit of an odd fellow really but a King nonetheless. The Lady Sarah had fought against him previously and she had emerged victorious. But Sir Didymus had to live in the Labyrinth, and when he had heard the call to war at dawn this very day he knew his duty.
When more and more goblin heads appeared over the wall to gape at the little knight and his loyal steed, Ambrosius began to fidget uneasily. “Steady, boy,” Sir Didymus said to him. The trembling sheepdog beneath him began to back away slowly from the wall. “Steady, remember Ambrosius, we are under the flag of truce. They cannot hurt us,” the little knight said confidently.
An arrow whizzed past them. Ambrosius barked and turned away, running full tilt. Another arrow embedded itself in Sir Didymus’ hat. “But I’m on your side!” the valiant knight shouted as he was borne away to safety by his faithful steed.
(VI) Of suspicion and trust
“Sarah, help me!”
Sarah awoke to those words, ringing in her head. Images of a dark and cold place lay just beyond waking memory. A nightmare? she thought. She rolled over and saw the steaming pot of tea on the bedside table. She automatically reached for the cup, then stopped herself. She still didn’t know what was in the tea. She remembered suspicions of the day before, but she didn’t know what to make of them in the light of Jareth’s new affection for her. The dream still hovered around her, troubling her. She looked long at the cup and then rose from the bed, taking it to the window. She pushed open the pane and looked down, making sure that nothing or no one was below and emptied the contents of the cup. She watched as it fell down, landing on a small courtyard tree far below.
The door to her room opened and Innona came bustling through. She saw Sarah standing at the window with the cup. “How are you this afternoon?” the little lady asked.
Sarah pretended to drain the cup. “Very well, thank you.” she replied. She smiled and handed the cup to the servant’s outstretched hand.
“Would you like to see the rest of the castle, my lady?” the faerie woman asked.
“Yes, yes that would be very nice. May I spend some time in the dining hall first, to listen to the harp?”
“Certainly, dear. Come now, let’s get you dressed.” She chose yet another gown of deep blue and silver for Sarah to wear, with matching slippers. She dressed Sarah’s hair again, fastening silver ribbons in amongst the coils. Sarah made herself up slowly, feeling more tired than before she had lain down, but resolved not to show it. There must be something in the tea, she thought as she applied powder to her face. And I’m not sure it’s all health and healing properties.
As she applied a touch of rouge to her cheeks and lips she thought on her suspicions. She had been very wary of Jareth when she had first arrived back at the Labyrinth, and those suspicions slowly dissolved under Jareth’s attention and Innona’s care. Was she being frightfully ungrateful? She would go this one day without the tea, without drinking anything or eating anything that might affect her. She still remembered the peach. At the very least, she still remembered that. And she had a plan.
When she was finished she followed the little servant lady to the dining room. There she sat upon a cushion before the harp. “Innona, may I have some time alone to listen to the harp?” she asked.
The little lady smiled. “Of course, dear. When you are ready to leave just ring that bell over there, and I’ll take you back to your room.”
“Thank you, Innona,” she said. She watched and waited as the fey creature left the room. She turned to the harp, touching it lightly. So sad, it seemed. “The Lady of Shallot,” Sarah requested, thinking of the longest song that she knew. She needed the music to cover any sound. “Followed by every Santana song you know.” That should keep it busy for an age, she thought!
She went swiftly to the door and carefully opened it. She peered down the hall to either side. At one end she saw Innona walking away, chatting to a goblin guard. Sarah took her chance as the servant lady’s back was to her and quietly pulled the door shut behind her. She took off her slippers, should they make any noise and, with a last glance at the two figures down at the other end she ran silently down the corridor, slippers in hand. She didn’t stop until she had rounded a corner, hoping that no one was there. She was lucky, it was empty. She peered around the bend and saw the two just turning around the far corner. She had made it to the first stage of her plan. Now she needed some stairs.
At the end of her corridor was a flight of stairs that continued upwards or downwards. Clutching her slippers to her she began to descend, the stone flags cold beneath her feet. The staircase twisted round and round as she went down, corridors branching off at every which way. When she could go no further she turned into one and had a look around.
No windows showed in this corridor, so she guessed she might be below ground. The air was chill. Sarah shivered as she made her way down the passage, similar to that in her dream. She should be near the dungeons by now. It ended at a door with a large brass ring. She pressed her ear to the door to see if she could hear anyone on the other side. Silence answered.
She chewed on her lip for a moment. What if someone was on the other side? She leaned against the wall, unbelievably tired. Perhaps she should have had just a sip of that tea… no. A clear head is what she needed.
The voice in her dream had come from a deep, dark place. She must be near that place now. She had to put her mind at ease before she could return to Jareth. A chill current of air swept down the corridor and again Sarah smelled the ever so faint aroma of peaches ripening in the sun. That fragrance soothed her, told her that she was just being a silly girl.
She shook her head. She’d find out soon enough. She nodded to herself and slowly pushed the door open.
Not three inches from the doorjam sat a goblin, sleeping in his chair. Sarah eased past him and closed the door behind her. She saw a large keyring hanging from his belt, but decided not to take it. She didn’t want to risk discovery. Besides, she didn’t really know if anyone was here, she thought.
Chillbumps stood out upon her bared shoulders as she made her way down into the darkness. She plucked the last torch from it’s bracket and headed down further into the cold and musty place. When she reached the end of the passageway she found an iron bound door with a lock on it. Iron bars protected a small gap in the door, where she could see inside. She lifted the torch and stood on tiptoe, peering through the bars.
All she could see was a pile of rags lying in one corner. A few bits of straw lay here and there on the floor, a rat scurrying quickly across. Sarah sighed, there was nothing there. She was being a silly girl.
She turned and made her way back up to the goblin guard. She placed the torch back in it’s bracket and slipped past the guard once more. Closing the door behind her she made her slow way back up the stairs.
* * *
In the dark, cold cell Hoggle raised his head. Figures she’d come just to gloat, he thought. He lay his head back down and wept.
* * *
Sarah made her way slowly up the stairs, slippers in one hand and the folds of her gown in the other so she wouldn’t trip. She safely made it to the dining hall once more, and sank into the cushions before the harp. She felt a bone weary sleep come to her, and her eyelids sagged shut. She briefly fought against it, wondering why a guard would be posted down there if there was nothing to guard, but sleep proved victorious. She lay her head upon the cushions and sank into oblivion as the harp played on.
* * *
“Sarah, Sarah are you alright?” The dark mists lifted that wrapped her mind in sleep and Sarah slowly opened her eyes. Inches from her face was the Goblin King. This close, she could see that his eyes were two different colours, one blue and one green.
“I – yes. I must have fallen asleep.”
Those eyes questioned her for a moment, narrowing thoughtfully. Jareth then rose. “And what is that godawful racket?” he asked, looking towards the harp. It immediately fell silent. He took a few paces away from her, then returned. “You should have called for me,” he said, reaching down a gloved hand to help her up.
She took it and he helped her up. She fell forward slightly, her hands brushing against the rich burgundy velvet jacket he wore. “Sorry,” she mumbled, backing away, not sure of what to do with her hands and feeling extremely uncomfortable.
“Are you unhappy with me, Sarah?” Jareth asked.
Sarah was shocked by the question. What kind of question was that? Not to mention the fact that she had just woken up, she thought without humour.
“No, I – I was just tired. I fell asleep.”
Jareth gave her a hard look. “Very well. Shall I see you to your room?”
Sarah began to feel a spark of anger as her wits returned. She was not a prisoner, so she could do what she liked. “No, thank you. I do not want to go to my room.” She cringed as she said it, feeling like a little girl, throwing a tantrum.
Jareth smiled condescendingly. “You do not have to go to your room, Sarah. I just thought you might like to return and change for dinner. That is all.” His eyes smiled at her mockingly.
Sarah didn’t know what to do. She looked out the window, it was dusk. “I – I would just like some air first,” she said.
Jareth nodded and moved away from her. “Very well. As I said, you may come and go as you please, Sarah. You are my guest, and my only wish is that you recover well enough to either aid me or flee this war. For your sake,” he added. “It is your choice, Sarah. You have already aided in the creation of the Labyrinth, what I am trying to do is save it. But it is your choice. You may come and go as you wish.” He walked a few paces away from her, then turned to face her. “If you have changed your mind, then please let me know so that I may best accommodate you.”
Sarah shook her head. She felt like a spoilt child. “I’m sorry. I don’t know what came over me. I wish to help you, as you have helped me.”
Jareth took a step towards her, hands on hips. “And I you,” he said with a smile. “Remember that, Sarah.” He turned then and left, boots echoing once more down the corridor.
“Would you like some tea first?” Innona said, sidling up to Sarah. “It should give you strength.”
“Um, thank you, but I will have it in my room before dinner, if that is alright. I’ll just get some air first.”
“I’ll have it waiting for you when you get there. How is your hand?”
“Much better, thank you. It doesn’t hurt anymore at all,” she noted with surprise.
“We’ll leave the bandage on for a couple more days just in case.” The little lady nodded to Sarah and left.
She stood, alone in the room for a moment. She looked over to the harp where it sat upon its pedestal. The sad girl waited, poised over the strings, ready to sing out her grief. Sarah shook her head and left, after first putting on her blue slippers.
(VII) The King’s Court
Jareth paced about his chamber like a hunted animal. Something was wrong, something he could not control and that bothered him. Sarah was hiding something from him, when he had nearly had her completely. He stopped his pacing and smiled. Well, never mind. The best cage is one with no bars or locks. He will give her the freedom she thought she had, all the better to gain a stronger hold on her. Soon enough, the charade would end.
A humming sounded throughout the room. Jareth walked over to a stand that was covered with a black velvet cloth. He pulled the cloth away to reveal a large crystal ball.
“Akarra. How nice to see you again,” he said jovially.
“It is never a pleasure, Jareth.” The beautiful, cruel face smiled. “You were not alone this morning in the gardens, when you called for war. We felt the presence of another. Is your captive eavesdropping on your affairs, oh Great Goblin King?”
Jareth’s eyes narrowed. “No, she knows all, and she stands at my side. I have won her over to the Labyrinth, and she is ready and willing to give me her power. You saw how strong she was before, at the ball,” Jareth said with a smile. “She is stronger now. She will defeat you.”
“As she has defeated you?” the face in the crystal spat. “You haven’t changed, have you Jareth? You still have no power over her!”
Jareth’s smile widened. “That is where you are wrong, Akarra my dear. She has no power over me, as you have no power over me. But from you all I gain in strength. Think wisely before coming to the battle, sweet Akarra. Things have changed, I have changed, and you all would do well to heed that!”
“You will never change!” the face shouted. They crystal suddenly went black. Jareth replaced the velvet drape over it and went to his wardrobe to change for dinner.
* * *
Sarah found the staircase that led to the gardens. She stepped out into the evening gloom. The air had turned colder, and she wrapped her arms around herself for warmth.
She walked among the flowers and hedgerows, pondering her predicament. She had told the Goblin King that she would help him, it was only right after he had saved her. But something still nagged at her, something that said that she could not trust him completely. This feeling grew within her all day, and she wondered why.
She ducked below a low hanging lintel of ivy leaves and came upon another section of the garden, one she hadn’t noticed before. In neat rows before her lay plants of all description, a type of horticultural garden. Sarah wondered if this was where Innona gardened, where she found her healing herbs. Again, a memory just out of reach that reminded Sarah of gardening played in the back of her mind.
Without fully knowing why, Sarah reached down and plucked a leaf from each plant, having about twenty in total when she was done. She looked around to make sure she wasn’t watched and wrapped them in what looked like a large lettuce leaf before stuffing them down the bosom of her dress. She then left the gardens to change for dinner.
When she had returned to her chamber she found that Innona had been true to her word and left her a pot of tea in the usual place. Sarah first found her old shoes in the wardrobe and, taking the packet out of her dress, stuffed it into one of her shoes before hiding them underneath the bed. She then went over to the tea pot and poured out a cup, taking it to the window. She again opened the window and poured the tea out onto the unsuspecting tree below.
She closed the window and was returning the tea cup to the stand when Innona entered the room. She smiled at Sarah and went to the wardrobe. “Does this suit your fancy, my lady?” she asked, pulling out a pale yellow gown that tapered at the waist with a long, flowing skirt that trailed behind.
“Yes, thank you. It is very beautiful,” Sarah said. “But where did they all come from?”
“That I know not, my lady. But they suit you, and you wear them well.”
“Yes, funny that,” Sarah mumbled under her breath. She allowed the little servant lady to help her into the gown and dress her hair. She place half of Sarah’s hair in coils on top of her head, lacing pale yellow ribbons among them and allowing the rest to flow down Sarah’s back. Sarah looked at her reflection in the mirror and noticed that she looked pale and tired once again. The dark circles had returned under her eyes, and she wondered again if she should not be drinking the restorative tea. No, she said firmly to herself, not until she knew what it was, or she could not go without.
She picked up the makeup and applied it, giving her face the illusion of health. When she was ready Innona took her down to the dining room once more. She opened the door for Sarah and waved her through.
Sarah entered the room and stopped suddenly. There was someone else in the room, speaking to Jareth. They stood before one of the large windows, conversing in low tones. Jareth was dressed in his usual finery, a silver brocaded waistcoat over a white shirt, with grey hose and the usual tall black boots. This newcomer was clad all in black, with a black captain’s coat over hose and long boots that folded over at the cuff by the knee. He held a short tophat in one gloved hand. His jet black hair was tied back with a black ribbon at the nape of his neck. Upon hearing Sarah’s entrance, the two stopped conversing and looked her way.
Sarah felt extremely uncomfortable. “I – I’m sorry, I am interrupting,” she said, turning back to the door.
“Sarah, no, wait.” she heard Jareth say. She turned back to see the man in black lean over and whisper in Jareth’s ear, but she could not make out the words.
“So, this is the one Akarra was talking about?” came the whisper in Jareth’s ear.
Jareth smiled and nodded, then moved forward to Sarah. “Sarah, may I introduce you to Lindir, of the royal house of Ethelion.”
The man in black stepped forward and took Sarah’s hand. He resembled Jareth, in that his face displayed sharp yet handsome features. His eyes were a deep purple in colour, with flecks of gold and he had the same arched eyebrows as Jareth. He kissed Sarah’s hand with soft burgundy lips. “Charmed, my lady,” he said, bowing low.
“Lindir brings us good news,” Jareth continued. He took Sarah’s arm and led her to the table. He pulled out her chair for. Both men waited until she was seated and then seated themselves. The table was already laden with delicacies. “The Prince of Ethelion has made it known to me that he wishes to side with us. That Ethelion will side with us. We can expect troops and reinforcements within the week.”
Lindir turned to Sarah, a charming smile upon his lips. “Ever has the house of Ethelion been loyal to the Goblin King.”
Jareth’s eyes narrowed. “Yes, though it has taken the royal house some time to declare it, as such,” he said.
Sarah said nothing, feeling completely out of her depth.
“We have merely waited for the opportune moment, your Highness,” Lindir said, spreading his hands in supplication.
“I shall look forward to your opportunism on the battlefield then,” Jareth said, taking a long drink from his goblet. Lindir merely smiled and raised his glass to the Goblin King.
“Are, are there others willing to help?” Sarah finally asked.
Both men looked to her. Lindir finally spoke. “I hear the House of Nethaera plans to join us soon. As well as Nadion, but that probably means little to you, my lady,” Lindir replied with slight arrogance.
A trait that seems to run in the blood, Sarah thought, a spark of anger flaring. “Saving the Labyrinth means everything to me, my lord.” she said hotly.
Lindir turned to Jareth, a look passing between them that Sarah could not interpret. He then turned back to her. “Indeed,” he said over the rim of his goblet.
“What is that supposed to mean?” Sarah asked.
“Please,” said Jareth, “We are all friends here.”
“It means,” Lindir continued, “that it wasn’t the case a few years ago. In fact, you seemed bent on destroying it. While I have the utmost faith in my King, who has rebuilt his kingdom, the Labyrinth, after your destruction, I have my doubts yet.”
“Enough!” Jareth shouted, standing up. “I will not tolerate this. You must apologise at once!”
Lindir stood up and bowed first to the king, then to Sarah. “I am truly sorry, my lady. I have no wish to dishonour you. I merely spoke my doubts, which should have been alleviated by my allegiance to the Goblin King before I even entered this discussion. I ask you both for your forgiveness.”
Jareth gave him a cold stare. Finally, he spoke. “No forgiveness is required from me. I understand your doubts, but the circumstances have changed. We are all bent on saving the Labyrinth. It is Sarah that must forgive you your words.”
Sarah stood a moment, unsure of what to say. “It is given,” she finally said.
“Please, then, let us drink to the unity of the houses opposed to the Court. To our victory!” Jareth said raising his goblet.
“Victory,” Lindir and Sarah replied.
Sarah raised her goblet but did not drink from it, nor did she touch the food on her plate, though she was hungry. She found that she was exceedingly tired after the confrontation. “My lords,” she said, standing up. “May I be excused?”
Jareth looked up at her questioningly. “Of course,” he said, rising. Lindir followed suit. “As you wish. Is something wrong?”
“No, only, it has been a long day, that is all.”
Jareth nodded. “Innona waits without. She will see you to your chambers if you are weary. Rest well, Sarah,” he said. He took her arm and led her to the door. He opened it for her and instructed the servant lady to take the very best care of Sarah. Sarah smiled and thanked him and followed the little lady down the corridor.
Jareth turned back to the room and quietly shut the door.
“Your guest seems unwell,” Lindir remarked.
“Of course she is,” Jareth said, striding the table and pouring himself another goblet. “She is very strong, but not too strong,” he said.
“Meaning?” Lindir asked, eyebrows raised.
“Meaning the Prince of Ethelion should not question the King of the Goblins so,” Jareth said.
“Again I apologise. I do not understand these mortals as do you, your Highness. Pray forgive my ignorance.”
Jareth snorted into his goblet, ignoring the last. “What does Akarra think on this?” he asked.
“I would not know. I do not dare contact her to find out. She is most… temperamental.”
“Aye,” Jareth agreed. “That she is.”
* * *
Sarah returned to her room, utterly exhausted. She let Innona help her out of her gown. The little servant lady poured her one last cup of tea before bed, and left Sarah to drink it, smiling as she gently shut the doors to her room behind her. Wearily, Sarah pulled herself to her feet from the bed and took the cup to the window, pouring out its contents. She replaced the cup on the tray and fell onto the bed, instantly asleep.
* * *
“There is a tie between the mortal girl and Jareth that I do not yet understand,” Lindir said, gazing into the tiny crystal that he had kept hidden within a pocket of his cloak. He was alone in his bedchamber, as a guest of the Goblin King. “But fear not, I shall find it out soon enough.”
“Sooner,” came the woman’s voice from the crystal. Akarra’s face appeared miniature within the depths of the sphere. “I need to know the extent of her powers, and what she intends to do with them. Do not underestimate her, Lindir. She destroyed the Labyrinth, she can destroy us as well if we allow it to happen. And that we must not do.”
“To be truthful, Akarra, it is Jareth that I am more afraid of than this mortal girl. He seems to have grown in power, his voice holds back more than you or I have ever known. It seems to be spilling out of him, at times. While this mortal girl seems very weak indeed, and incapable of doing much that will harm us.”
“That is where you are wrong, Lindir. You saw how she broke Jareth’s spell at the ball, and how easily she won the day. It is to her that we must look. She controls the Goblin King still. I know it!”
“I think perhaps that your judgement of the situation is a bit clouded, your Majesty,” Lindir said.
A beam of light flowed from the crystal and struck Lindir in the chest. He mouthed a wordless cry and fell to the floor, still clutching the crystal, unable to break free. Finally it stopped, and he lay on the rich carpet of his chamber, panting for breath. “Do not presume to judge me, Lindir.”
“No, your Majesty,” he gasped.
“And see to the girl. She must be stopped before the war begins.”
“Yes, your Majesty.”
The crystal flared once and then darkened. Lindir replaced it within his pocket and slowly, painfully, crawled to the bed.
(VIII) Talk turns to lighter things
“Sawah, Sawah friend.” A huge, hairy beast lumbered towards her. Frightened, Sarah backed up but could not, a wall was at her back. “Sawah,” it said again.
“How do you know my name?” she cried.
The monster came to a halt, looking puzzled. “Friend,” he said pointing to her.
Sarah shook her head.
An arrow came whizzing out of the darkness, striking the beast in the shoulder. It let out a massive cry of pain. Another, and another, landed in the thick furry hide. The beast howled and howled. Sarah cowered against the wall, not knowing what to do. The monster gave her one more sad look and limped away, trailing blood amidst a hail of arrows.
A crystal floated before her eyes. Within it she saw a small knight, sharp eyes and whiskers to be seen through the visored helmet. The little figure charged the wall of the Goblin City and fell from his steed, pierced by goblin arrows. Sarah screamed, though she knew not why.
Her scream echoed down the dark and dank corridors of the castle dungeons. She opened the door to a cell and found a small skeleton, shackled to the wall. It raised it’s skull and looked to her with empty sockets. “I ain’t interested in being friends,” it said, it’s teeth clacking together.
Sarah woke, sitting straight up in the bed with a gasp. What was that all about? Who were those people in her dream? She brought a shaking hand to her eyes. Her mouth was dry and all she could taste was too ripe peaches. It was just a dream, she said. Just a dream. But it had been so real.
She pushed aside the bedclothes, dampened with her sweat. She slowly stood, feeling as weak as the first day she had arrived. The pot of tea waited for her. She poured a cup and tried to take it to the window, but found that her legs wouldn’t respond to her commands. The room began to spin, and she fell to her knees, spilling some of the liquid on the fine rug. Such a shame, she thought. It’s a very nice rug.
She raised her head, her ears ringing. Her mind cleared for the barest instant, and she realised she needed the tea. She had not drunk it all day yesterday, nor eaten, and she had become steadily weaker for it. She brought the cup to her lips and drank it down with shaking hands. When she had finished the room stopped spinning. She got to her feet and made her way to the pot. That was better. A little more and she could continue with her plans, whatever they were.
She poured another cup and drank it down quickly. She could feel its restorative powers. Why had she refused to drink it before? It was only making her better.
Innona entered. “Good morning, Miss. You look better today!” she said with a smile.
Sarah returned the smile and the cup to its tray upon the bedside stand. “Thank you, I feel better.”
“And would my lady like to break her fast?”
Sarah stomach clenched as she remembered she had not eaten the night before. “Yes, please.”
“Let’s get you ready then.” The faerie woman pulled out the burgundy gown. “You looked so splendid in this, would you care to wear it again?”
“Yes, of course. Thank you, Innona.”
When Sarah had dressed and made herself up she once again followed the little servant downstairs to the dining hall. The door opened and she entered. It was raining outside, little rivers of water running down the panes of glass in the two large windows. Jareth and Lindir stood talking before the tapestry. They had not heard her entrance. She glided silently on the burgundy slippers towards them.
“She is most persistent, my lord. She will not surrender until the whole Labyrinth is destroyed.”
“I think she will be convinced to change her mind of that soon, Lindir. She knows not what I have at my disposal.” Jareth suddenly turned and saw Sarah. A sad smile flickered upon his features for the barest of instances.
Behind him Lindir gasped. Sarah stopped in puzzlement. “Wha- what is it?” she asked, looking behind her.
Lindir swallowed, gaining his composure. “I – I apologise, my lady. You looked like someone I knew, a long time ago. You are her very likeliness.”
“The very likeness of who? Whom,” she corrected herself.
“An old friend,” Jareth smoothly interjected. “But come, let us break our fast. We were just going over some plans for the battle.”
“Where will it be fought?” Sarah asked as Jareth seated her. The two men took their seats.
“We are hoping that it will be on the hills beyond the Labyrinth, but if necessary we can hold ourselves within the walls of the Labyrinth.”
“What about all of those living within the Labyrinth?”
Lindir smiled at her. “All able bodied will fight, and those who cannot shall seek refuge in the tunnels below the Labyrinth.” He snapped his fingers as a thought struck him. “Sarah, may I propose that you lead those to refuge within the tunnels? If I may be so bold as to suggest it,” he said, looking to Jareth.
Jareth shot him an icy look. “If is for my lady to decide where she will feel most comfortable, and most helpful, within the battle. She wants to help as much as she may, perhaps her talents would be wasted in leading flocks to safety.”
Sarah bit her lip in annoyance. “It is that I wish to discuss with you, your Highness,” she said finally. “I need to know from you how I may best help. You mentioned the connection between ourselves and the Labyrinth, and I would wish to understand that better, all the more to help you.”
Lindir’s eyes flashed. “That does sound reasonable,” he said silkily.
“Yes,” Jareth said, his voice cold as a midwinter’s day. “We may discuss this privately and at length later today if you wish.”
Sarah looked from one man to the other. “Yes, thank you.”
Innona pushed a plate before Sarah. Jareth and Lindir both drank from their goblets. The meal was eaten (or drunk) in silence. When finished, Lindir sat back. “We must continue our discussion on positioning of the troops at a later point, my lord. I must return to Ethelion to report to my king. If I may take my leave, then I shall return to you as soon as I may with word on the troops from Ethelion. Hopefully by then we should have received confirmation from other kingdoms as well. I should hope that at least half of the royal houses side with you, though I should think you need it not with your power.”
Jareth nodded. “I shall look forward to it,” he said politely. Lindir rose, Jareth and Sarah following suit. Lindir bowed first to Sarah, then to Jareth, then faded out of existence. Sarah gasped softly.
Jareth smiled at her discomfort. “So unused to the magic still, Sarah?” he asked coyly.
“It – it surprised me is all,” she said. “I didn’t know he could do that.”
“It is an inherent ability. But come, sit with me, and we shall discuss how best to use your talents.” Jareth motioned to the cushions, and led her by the arm to them. He glanced at the harp and it began to play very softly.
Jareth sprawled lazily, a crystal appearing in his gloved hand. He turned it this way and that as he spoke. Innona entered and poured Sarah another cup of tea, which she drank thirstily. She felt she needed the energy for this discussion.
“Sarah, as I have mentioned before, much of the Labyrinth was created out of your imagination. Which is why it so devastated my kingdom when you – denied it. I think I may have come up with a plan to use that energy. As you know, imagination is very powerful here in the Labyrinth. And you, being a very imaginative person, can control much of it. Therefore, if we can somehow use that power, say, channelled through me perhaps, then I can use the energy to help us defeat our foes.”
Sarah cocked her head to the side. “How can that be channelled?” she asked.
Jareth looked long and hard at her. “It would require you to let the energy that you hold come to me. For that, you must release yourself to me. You must,” he said, looking down and stopping the crystal’s motion across his gloved hand. “You must do what was asked of you before, that which you rejected.”
Sarah shook her head. The tea warmed her and though she felt sharper of wit, she still did not understand what he meant.
“You must let me rule you, Sarah. Then you can have everything that you want. Including victory on the battlefield.”
Sarah smiled at him. She wondered why it was such a big deal to him. Of course she would help him this way, he had saved her life.
Jareth’s eyes lit up at her smile. “Is that a yes, then, Sarah?” he asked, with his beautiful voice.
She put down her teacup and said, “Yes.” She felt very good about being able to help. To be able to save the Labyrinth, a source of imagination and inspiration, where dreams really could come true! “Yes,” she repeated, with a smile of pure joy.
* * *
The throne room was empty save for the two figures at its head. Upon an ornately carved throne of ivory sat the Queen of Alannsia. She drummed her fingers impatiently upon a growling kobold skull that served as one of the armrests.
“As you see, I tried to have her out of the immediate action, by leading others to safety. But Jareth seemed opposed to that plan. And she mentioned a connection between herself, Jareth and the Labyrinth that was to be the main part of their plan. Jareth continued the conversation in private. Once again, your Highness, I would stress that it is to Jareth we must focus on, rather than the girl.”
Akarra smiled thinly, running a long finger along her jawbone. “Once again, Lindir, I would stress that I am Queen here.”
Lindir blanched visibly. “I – I do not question your authority,” he began.
“That’s amusing,” Akarra replied, rising to her feet and stretching like a cat. “I just thought I heard you do the very same.”
Lindir fell to his knees. “Please, your Majesty, I beg forgiveness,”
Akarra stood over him. “The only reason you are still alive, Prince of Ethelion, is because you are my spy to the Goblin King. You have the chance to redeem yourself, I suggest you take it.”
“Yes, your Majesty. I am very grateful.”
“As you should be,” she replied. Lindir shuddered. This is what would become of the mortal girl should she grow in power, he thought to himself. From some place deep down he knew that it was more than appearances that made her resemble this frightening queen. It was power.
But the Queen of Alannsia would not see it for her own reasons.
* * *
Jareth walked Sarah around the base of his tower. Hedges formed miniature Labyrinths, where all paths lead to the center. The rain had stopped for the time being, and they enjoyed the dry spell, as the clouds promised yet more rain to come. They came out the other side, and walked along the base of the tower. They passed a large rowan tree along the way. Sarah looked up and saw that the leaves were sickly and spotted. A shame, she thought. It would be such a nice tree otherwise.
(IX) Twists and turns
Sarah spent the next few days wandering about the castle, regaining her strength under Innona’s care. She did not have anymore dreams, and seemed to be making progress. She forgot all about the packet she had hidden in her shoes under the bed, her suspicions apparently laid to rest as she recovered under Jareth’s care. She found more halls used for entertaining, one impressive with a massive fireplace at one end and long trestle tables bound with iron leaves. Banners of all sorts from places and kingdoms unknown to her hung from the rafters, and she imagined what it would be like full of all the strange people from outside of the Labyrinth.
She found the kitchens, where she rather wished she hadn’t. When she has raised this point with Jareth he blanched, and told her that all of her food had been prepared by Innona and that, for her own sake and safety, was never to go near the kitchens again. Sarah was only too happy to agree.
She found the throne room, with a goblin or two scattered about, one asleep in the corner and the other polishing the throne. A chicken sat upon it, squawking at the intrusion.
She found the room off of the throne room where she had chased Toby, staircases twisting and turning in all directions. It made her dizzy to look at and she hastily withdrew.
Lastly, one dark and rainy day when she could not explore outside she came to the ballroom. She remembered the people who attended the last time she had been there and wondered who of those would be on their side, and who of them was opposed. It was dark in the ballroom, the chandeliers unlit, but Sarah could still walk around it without much difficulty, though she tripped on a cushion once. The ballroom was in disarray, as if it had never been cleaned since the last ball. She found the chair she had used to smash the bubble of Jareth’s spell, lying broken and in bits in one corner. She felt as if she had changed immensely from that girl of three years ago.
She was glad that she didn’t have to fight Jareth. She was glad that she was in the Labyrinth, helping to save it. She was glad that Jareth had changed, and that she had a trusted ally in her life.
A little voice that she had not heard for some days warned her in the back of her mind, not to trust to everything, and not to take anything for granted. Surely that did not mean the Goblin King, Sarah thought later that day, sitting on her window sill in her chamber and drinking a cup of tea. Surely not.
Jareth had been charming, if somewhat hard to find lately. He had excused his lack of presence due to the upcoming war, for which he and Lindir spent many hours closeted away discussing battle plans and other such matters, or so Sarah thought, not being privy to these. Jareth had explained that it was military detail, and Sarah agreed that she knew nothing of battle tactics.
She had thought of exploring the Labyrinth early one morning but Jareth had convinced her not to. With the upcoming war everything was in chaos, and he had no wish for Sarah to come to any harm amidst the tumult. Again, she thought, she owed much to the Goblin King, who could think only of her welfare at a time like this.
She smiled, remembering the dinner they always had together. Jareth was looking more and more splendid every day, and he even told Sarah a tale of the Elven Court after they had dined one evening. She remembered sitting on the cushions, listening to his voice. She could not recall the story much afterwards, but the sound of his voice was still sweet in her memory.
The time was nearing for the war. As Sarah watched from her perch she saw files and files of Labrynthians (or so she liked to call them) marching up the long corridors and hedges of the maze towards the castle to fill the ranks of the Goblin King. There were beasts and monsters of every description, and faeries and dwarfs and gnomes of all sizes. Cute and cuddly walked side by side with large and alarming alike, and it was a sight to see.
Sarah bided her time until the Goblin King would call for her.
* * *
Early one afternoon there came a soft knock at her door. She opened it and saw with surprise that Jareth awaited outside. He’s never knocked before, that little voice said in the back of her mind. She dismissed it and smiled at the Goblin King. He looked briefly into her eyes, and then, eyes cast downwards, said simply “It is time.”
Sarah felt her heart leap, though whether out of excitement or fear she knew not. “Very well,” she said. She left her chamber and closed the door behind her carefully. Jareth held out his arms wordlessly. Sarah took it, feeling her mouth go dry as they walked down the corridor. She knew not why she was so frightened, if that was indeed what this feeling was. She was going to help the Labyrinth. She was going to help save them all. She was going to be a hero again.
Jareth led her up to the battlements first. The wind blew endlessly up there, and caught up Sarah’s unbound hair, swirling it around her head. He led her to the edge, where the armies had assembled.
“The other Houses of the Court of the Fae will be arriving this afternoon. Witness my army as it stands.”
Sarah looked down and saw the large masses of figures below. The goblins had assembled into formations of foot and cavalry. A squadron of spearbearers were quarrelling with the samurai warriors. A cannonball shot by accident from somewhere behind broke up the fight.
A group of huge, lumbering hairy trolls milled about the fringe. Sarah thought that these beasts looked familiar, with their shaggy coats and curved horns. Her gaze passed over them to a twinkling, sparkling light beyond – the faeries. They flitted about each other, glowing softly like tiny fallen stars.
“This is what you will be fighting to save, Sarah,” said Jareth, standing next to her atop the battlements. “All of these creatures who dwell within my Labyrinth, some created from imagination and some existing since before even the dawn of time. Will you aid me?”
“Yes,” Sarah said, her eyes going over all the creatures of the Labyrinth. They all deserved a chance to live and, as she had been given a second chance at life by the Goblin King, so shall she help him in return. She turned to Jareth. “Tell me what to do and I will do it.”
Jareth’s eyes glittered. “Follow me,” he said.
They re-entered the castle. Jareth took Sarah down long corridors she had never explored, she couldn’t ever remember seeing them at all. At the far end of a darkened passageway was a door, with two torches bracketing either side. Jareth stopped just before it and turned to Sarah. “My private quarters,” he said, then opened the door.
Sarah stepped into a lavishly decorated room, with thick rugs beneath her feet and colourful tapestries depicting all sorts of life within the Labyrinth. Paintings as well adorned the wall, of people she did not know. Leather covered chairs were arranged around a large fireplace that crackled and hissed softly. A doorway to an antechamber lay beyond, where Sarah glimpsed an enormous canopied bed draped in the finest finishings.
Jareth strode across the room to an ornate brass stand, upon which something rested, covered in a black velvet shroud. He pulled away the shroud and looked to Sarah.
“You must first let go of the walls in your mind, and lay yourself open to me. Then, you must touch this crystal, and pour forth your strength into it.”
Sarah stepped up to the crystal. Within its depths a dark mist swirled. She hesitated, out of fear.
Jareth moved up behind her. “Sarah, do you trust me?”
She waited, the whole of the Labyrinth depending on her. Jareth was trying to save it.
“Sarah,” he said softly. “You must do this. The Labyrinth is in dire straits. Part of the reason of this war is because of you.”
“Me? But, how?” Sarah asked, her gaze fixed on the shifting mists.
She heard Jareth’s soft sigh behind her. His gloved hands reached out to gently take hold of her shoulders, turning her around. “Sarah,” he said, looking deep into her eyes, “The Court of the Fae has long since been at odds with me ever since you entered the Labyrinth. So, not only were they jealous of my powers, they did not condone all that I had done for you. They did not appreciate that the King of the Goblins had fallen in love with the girl and had given her certain powers.”
Sarah gasped softly. “No, it – it cannot be!”
Jareth smiled sadly. “I say this because I want you to know the whole truth before you decide what it is that you will do.” His eyes, one blue, one brown, seemed so sad to her.
Sarah felt tears coming to her eyes. She had thought it a mere flight of fancy, but a chance at love as well in this world was more than she could have dreamed. “I have no reservations. I am ready.”
Jareth took her hand. A strange sensation flowed through her, a searching. Something was searching to see if she had any doubts. She opened herself to it, let it see herself for what she was, for what she thought she was, a hero, and as she did, her last doubts fled. All she felt was an openness and a willingness within her. She felt as if she were floating atop a glowing cloud.
Jareth moved her hand towards the crystal. Sarah smiled, her face peaceful. She reached out and gently laid her hand upon the crystal, ready to release her energy to its depths.
A violent tug pulled her forwards into the crystal. She fought back, pain sweeping through her. She tried to shut off the flow of energy, but found she couldn’t. Panic swept through her as she felt her energy being drained. A deep roar sounded in her ears and she tried to scream speak but found she could utter no sound. She felt her energy draining quickly from her, from her body and her mind. Soon she would be lost completely, there would be nothing left.
Jareth stood and watched as Sarah hung from the crystal, unable to move, tears flowing down her face. The crystal began to glow, changing from pink to deep purple as her energy filled it. His eyes shone in the strange light.
When it was over, Sarah slumped to the floor unconscious. Jareth stood over her prone form a moment before reaching up the black velvet cloth. He swept it over the crystal and the light was instantly dimmed.
“Such a pity,” he said.
* * *
Sarah awoke to darkness. She couldn’t move, her body would not respond. Tears slid weakly from her eyes as she lay there, helpless. She had been violated body and soul. And there was nothing she could do about it.
“So, he’s finished with you now as well then,” a voice came from out of the darkness.
Sarah could not muster the energy to turn her head. She was so weak.
“Figured you’d end up here,” the voice continued. “It’s where we all end up.”
Sarah drifted back into darkness.
* * *
“Come on dear, wake up. You need to drink.” Sarah felt her head lifted and a cup was held to her lips. Tea, she thought. Yes, tea, her mind said, and she shook her head away. “Well, at least you’re going to live if you’re fighting like that already,” the little voice creaked. “It’s different,” it said. “Not the same brew. Please.”
Sarah managed to open her eyes. Innona’s face was illuminated in the torchlight. “No tea,” Sarah croaked through a dry throat.
“I told you, it’s not the same tea. That one was to make you… agreeable. This one is to save your life.”
Sarah looked into the little faerie woman’s eyes. At the very worst the drink would kill her. Or perhaps for the very best. She drank it slowly as the little servant woman held it up to her lips. It soothed her dry throat and she managed to move her arms a little. She finally managed to pick up the cup herself and hold it. She finished the remains and held it away from her. “I would thank you, but you are a deceitful little woman,” she said wearily.
Another voice chuckled from the shadows. “She’s got you there Innona.”
The little faerie woman frowned at looked to the voice. “Well you’re one to talk.”
Sarah closed her eyes and drifted back into unconsciousness while the two bickered.
* * *
She awoke much later. She couldn’t believe what had happened to her. The fog lifted from her mind and she realised how stupid she had been. How could she possibly have been so foolish as to trust to the Goblin King?
She painfully rose from where she lay, her legs shaking as she leaned against the wall. She looked around at her prison, for prison it was. She was cold, she realised. It wasn’t just a physical sensation, though the air was chilly, but a loss of something that she had held dear, a loss of her very self, that had hardened her heart.
“Feeling better?” the voice said sarcastically from a darkened corner.
Sarah peered forward but could not make out much. No torch shone in her cell and the only light was provided by a torch shining through the little barred window of the door.
“Who’s there?” she asked softly, her voice having lost much of its strength.
Something shifted in the darkness. Sarah could make out a pile of rags but that was all. She tried to step forward but her legs gave out beneath her. She lifted herself onto her hands and repeated, “Who are you?”
“Don’t you recognise me Sarah?” The bundle of rags shifted and Sarah found herself looking at a strangely familiar worn, craggy face. The haze lifted slightly from her mind. “Hogwart?” she said.
“Hoggle!” he replied, but Sarah had already fallen back into unconsciousness.
(X) Stranger than fiction
“Get up!” Hands pulled her roughly to her knees. Sarah looked up and saw six armed goblin guards standing over her.
“The King wants to see you. Get up.” Sarah slowly rose to her feet. She stood there, unmoving. “Come on,” one of the guards said, shoving her forward with a pike. “Move along.”
Sarah looked over to Hoggle, her eyes pleading with him to help. He sat there and watched expressionlessly as they took her away.
The guards pushed her down the dark and dank corridor of the dungeons. Sarah recognised it as the dungeon she had explored, in what seemed so long ago. She remembered wondering why a guard had been posted, and the bundle of rags in the corner of the cell. It had been Hoggle, but she had not known him. She put her face into her hands and wept as they walked.
If Hoggle had been captured, then what had happened to her other friends? She remembered the view from the battlements, of the large hairy trolls standing in the ranks. Ludo, she remembered. What had happened to Ludo? And what was happening with the war?
“Has, has the war started?” she asked her guards as they climbed the long staircase.
“His Highness says not to speak to you, but it hasn’t started yet. Scheduled for the day after tomorrow.”
Sarah wiped her tear streaked face and grimly carried on up the stairs.
When they finally arrived at Jareth’s chambers the guards opened the door and motioned her in. She took a deep, shaky breath and entered. The door swung shut behind her.
Jareth sat in one of the armchairs before the fire. He waved her to take one across from him. She stood where she was, glaring at him.
He stood, a mocking smile upon his lips. “So angry with me, Sarah?” he said, moving towards her. “I did it all for you.”
“You never do anything for anyone but yourself,” she stated quietly, through gritted teeth. She had not even the strength to shout. She longed to jump at him and hit him over and over again, for what he had done to her. “What have you done to my friends?”
“Friends?” Jareth asked. “Oh yes, I believe you met one of your traitorous friends down in the dungeons. How is old Headwart anyway?”
“Hoggle,” Sarah said.
“It matters not.”
“Nothing matters to you but yourself. That is all you think about.”
He stopped and gave her a sideways glance. “Is it? Well, I thought I had made it quite clear. I did speak the truth to you, Sarah.”
“You know nothing of the truth,” she said. “You are all lies and deceit.”
He crossed the distance between them, talking jovially. “No, really, it was true. Everything that I said was true. The Court was upset at me for putting special attentions on a mere girl, but then, they never did really understand my full plans. It is but one of many things they are upset with me for. And now it is to their loss, I’m afraid. I owe you my thanks, Sarah.”
“For what?” she asked wearily.
“For helping me in this war. My war. A war of expansion. You didn’t really think we were ever under attack, did you? My my, such a silly little girl still.” He leaned his head close to her. “No, the Labyrinth will not be contained any longer. The Court that has so despised me all these long years will soon know my wrath. And it is all thanks to you.”
Sarah bit her trembling lip to keep from bursting into tears. She shook her head in defiance at his words.
He moved away, strolling over to the fire. “Would you like to hear the story of how I became the Goblin King, Sarah?” He picked up a poker from beside the fireplace and, leaning upon the mantlepiece, prodded it, making little flames shoot up. Sarah stood where she was, not replying.
“I was not always ruling here, ruling over the Labyrinth,” he began. “I was once a prince of the Court of the Fae, of highest standing. I remember the feasts and the sporting, the beauty of the courts and its gardens.” He pushed away from the mantlepiece and returned the poker to its stand. He went over to a small table beside one of the chairs and picked up a large chased goblet. He drank deeply and continued.
“But I was foolish,” he replied, waving the goblet in her direction. “A brash youngster, I deemed it necessary to prove my love.” He turned away from her. “Beautiful Akarra, the most beautiful creature that ever existed had stolen my heart. And so I claimed that I would fetch down the Great White Hart, to present it to her so that I may have my own back.” He walked a few paces and stopped, sideways to her.
“The entire Court had risen to the challenge, all the young men seeking the hand of the fair Akarra. Even my best friend, my comrade, my companion since childhood, sought against me for her hand. I laughed and let him join in the chase, it would be a splendid thing, the Court bringing down the famed White Hart.
We rode all that day, and deep into evening we had spotted it glowing amidst the trees. I was at the head of the pack of hunters and drew my bow. Delkor reined in before me, attempting to spoil my shot and bring down the stag himself. But I had loosed my arrow, and it had flown straight and true.
Delkor fell, and I saw the Hart ready to leap away. I loosed my second shot and brought down the White Hart. I then went to my companion, but his life had already fled. It was an accident.
But some of the Court did not think so, Akarra especially. I lay the White Hart at her feet and she said nothing but to accuse me of murdering my best friend, she was ever so vain. It had been an accident, not a deliberate attempt to quell a rival.” Jareth raised the goblet to his lips once more. Sarah stood, entranced by the story and too weary to think of escape.
“And so I was banished from the Court for 500 years. Because of my noble standing I was granted a kingship in a distant land called the Labyrinth. I have prospered here as I never would have prospered at Court. And after a time, some houses of the Court began to visit me and to accept my redemption. The punishment had been served, they said.”
Sarah thought, five hundred years? How old was the Goblin King then?
“But little did they know that I had not forgotten. I would have my revenge on them all. And so I shall.”
“At my expense,” Sarah said. He put down his goblet and strode towards her, eyes glittering in the firelight. She moved back a step and found her back pressed up against the door. She had not forgotten the pain he had put her through.
“Yes, Sarah, even at your expense,” he said, standing once again before her. “It had to be done.”
“I hope you rot in hell,” she replied.
“And I hope you enjoy your stay in my dungeons, Sarah,” he said conversationally. “You may come to change your mind after a while.”
He turned away and raised his goblet once more. “Guards!” he called. The door swung open and Sarah, pushed from behind, fell to her knees. “Take her away,” he waved, not bothering to turn around. Sarah glared hatefully at his back as they pulled her out of the chamber.
* * *
“And what news do you bring me Lindir?” Akarra, Queen of Alannsia asked. She was clad in a rich burgundy velvet dress with a golden girdle. She moved gracefully down the steps of her throne to stand before the courtier.
“He has made the final battle plans, the military stratagems. I have given a full accounting of them to your General. But of his masterplan, the one that involves the girl, I know not.”
“That is because there is no masterplan,” the Queen said. “His heart is weak for her, but that is all. She is the strong one, of that I am sure. I know the Goblin King, I know how ruthless he can be. But powerful he is not.”
“You mean Delkor,” Lindir said softly.
The Queen’s beautiful, cruel visage softened slightly at the mention of the name. “Yes. My Delkor is forever lost to this world because of the Goblin King.” She then flashed Lindir a smile of true malice. “But it will not affect this war. The Labyrinth will fall, Jareth will fall, and it will all be mine.”
“Jareth considers it a war of expansion on his part,” Lindir said.
“Jareth is wrong again. But you must find out what it is that he is keeping secret from you. I must know.”
“Yes your Highness. I will do my best. And better.”
* * *
The door to her cell slammed shut with loud finality. Sarah leaned against it and sank to her knees, her strength and spirit giving out. She put her head in her hands and wept.
“Decided not to keep you, then?” Hoggle said from his corner.
Sarah looked up with a tear stained face.”I’ve been such a fool.”
She heard Hoggle shifting in the darkness. “Well, I suppose we all have been at some point or other,” he said, vaguely consoling her.
“He’s going to overrun everything. He’s going to war against everything outside the Labyrinth. And I have given him the means to do it.” She drew in a sobbing breath. “How many people will die because of it?”
“It – it’s not your fault. It’s his. We’ve all been taken in.”
Sarah shook her head in the darkness. “What – what has happened to Ludo? And Sir Didymus?” she asked, fearing the worst upon remembering her dreams.
There was a long pause as Hoggle decided how best to tell her. “Ludo was – captured, and thrown in a dungeon as well, shortly after you’d gone home. He broke out, having his rocks to aid him, but was brought down by the goblin archers.”
“Brought down? Is he – dead?”
Hoggle’s silence was final.
“No!” she cried. “No!” She leapt to her feet, her grief giving her new strength. “How could he do that!”
Hoggle could make no answer.
Sarah kicked at the door to her cell but it didn’t move. She pounded her fists against it in grief and frustration. When she had exhausted herself once more she sat down, tear oozing from her eyes. “What have I done?” she asked to no one in particular.
“The knight returned to the Bog, if I remember correctly,” Hoggle said, trying to console her.
Sarah nodded unseen in the dimness and crept forward and feeling for Hoggle. “Are you hurt?” she asked.
“I’ve been chained here for over two years, what do you think?” he asked grumpily. Sarah helped him more upright, but he gasped in pain. “I – I think I’ve got a broken rib.”
Sarah gritted her teeth in the darkness. “Jareth did this to you?”
“Well I didn’t do it to myself!” She reached for the shackles that bound Hoggle to the wall. She tugged on them to try and move them but they didn’t budge. Similarly the chains on his feet.
“We’ve got to get these undone,” she said, thinking hard.
“Oh yes, and if we’re so clever, why don’t we just ask the guards for the key and walk out of the dungeons.”
Sarah ignored him. She had learned something useful in the Labyrinth, something that Jareth had said. He had said that she created much of it, as had he, she supposed. She wondered if she still could. And if so, vengeance would be dealt.
She sat down beside Hoggle and concentrated very hard. After a time, where Hoggle interrupted her concentration twice by clearing his throat and once by sighing, Sarah heard a little voice.
A slight pause, then Hoggle said “Did you hear something?”
“Hello?” Sarah asked.
She lowered herself to the floor. “Hello, it’s me, Sarah. Do you remember me?” In the dim light of the torch outside her cell she saw the little worm.
“Of course I do. Why, you’re the reason I’m here.”
“Yes. When I told the missus what had happened when I first met you, she says to me, she does, ‘Well, didn’t you think that perhaps the lady wanted to go to the castle?’ So I says, ‘Well, no I didn’t,’ and she says ‘Well you’d better find her and tell her then.’ So, here I am, and I finally found you, only it seems you’ve found the castle, albeit a nasty part of it.”
“Please, can you help me now? I need to find the secret passage.”
She heard Hoggle snort in the darkness. “How’d you know there is one?”
“Because all castle have secret passages in their dungeons. Standard really.” She turned to the worm. “Do you know where this one is?”
“Of course.” The little worm drew himself up erect. “I know all about this Labyrinth. You get to know these things when you live underground.”
“Where is it, please?”
“That other wall, third stone from the bottom left corner.” Sarah moved over to it. “That’s it.”
“How do I open it?” Sarah asked.
“Just push on that stone over the top at the same time as the stone below the passage. There you go!”
The passage opened before her. A draft of air came out through it. She turned back to the little worm. “Thank you, you’ve been so helpful.”
“Glad I could. Now I’d better be on back to the missus. It’s taken me quite while to get here, and it’ll take me quite a while to get back. Suppose I was just lucky I caught you still here, after all this time.” With that, the little worm crawled back into a crack in the wall and disappeared.
Sarah turned to Hoggle. “I’ll be back for you,” she said with certainty. “I must find a way to stop Jareth. And have my revenge for what he has done to my friends,” she said grimly. As she said that, Hoggle noticed a spark flash from her eye, a pinkish purple spark like a small bolt of lightning. “I will make him pay for what he has done, I will make them all pay.”
She then turned and vanished into the secret passageway.
(XI) Lines are drawn
Lindir strode into the Goblin King’s throneroom, where Jareth sat upon his carved seat, gloved hand to lips as he thought. “All is in readiness, your Highness?”
Jareth turned cold eyes upon him. “All except for our reinforcements. Where are the other houses?”
Lindir spread his hands and smiled invitingly. “I assure you, they are on their way. They should be here soon.”
Jareth stood upon his raised dais, towering over Lindir. “Soon was two days ago,” he replied mildly.
Lindir knew that tone and that he had to think fast, or his doom was nigh. “I was assured that they had departed and are on their way,” he said, backing away.
Jareth stepped off the dais and followed the retreating Lindir. “I am not so easily assured.”
“Please, my Lord, I am but the messenger,”
“Are you?” Lindir stopped, his back up against the far wall. Jareth stood very close to him. The strange eyes of the Goblin King were narrowed with cruelty. “I think that perhaps you may be more than you seem, Lindir,” he said thoughtfully.
Lindir shook his head. Sweat began to bead his brow. “What-whatever do you mean? I am loyal to the Goblin King, as is my house.”
“You are a liar.” The Goblin King tugged upon his gloves nonchalantly. “Whilst I have no aversion to that specific pastime, it greatly saddens and, more importantly, annoys me when it is directed towards my person.”
“My King, I never-“
“You never told me the truth about anything, Lindir,” Jareth finished. “Who are you working for?”
“My liege, I work for you-“
Jareth turned away and sighed. He stood for a moment, unmoving. He then spun about, cloak swirling around him as he threw a crystal at Lindir. Lindir raised his hands up protectively but to no avail. Where the Prince of Ethelion once stood was a stone statue, a replica in perfect detail.
“You can work for me as being the newest ornament to my collection,” the Goblin King answered. “It matters not who opposes me. All shall fail. I will make them pay for what they have done. I shall make them all pay.” He then strode from the room without a backward glance.
* * *
Sarah followed the passageway for some time. She was tired, utterly tired, still feeling the draining effects from Jareth’s crystal. She couldn’t stop the tears as she thought about Ludo and what the Goblin King had done to Hoggle. She wiped them away with a grimy hand and continued on in the darkness.
* * *
The Queen of Alannsia drummed her fingers once more upon her throne as she waited for her agent to report. As the hours passed she grew more and more angry. Finally she stood and stalked over to her crystal, peering into its depths. At first she could see nothing but an empty throne room. Upon taking a closer look she noticed a statue up against one wall. She focused her attention upon it and gave a small gasp of surprise. Then her face became a mask of rage.
Akarra screamed into the crystal. The sound reverberated off the walls of Jareth’s throneroom in a horrible onslaught. The statue vibrated with the noise until it shattered into thousands of pieces, scattering all over the flagstones. Lindir, Prince of Ethelion was no more.
* * *
The light in the tunnel changed, and Sarah began to crawl upwards. She felt fresh air and was grateful. When at last she came to the opening she found herself blinking in the bright sunlight. When her eyes had adjusted she saw that she had come out of the base of the wall surrounding the castle and into the Goblin City. She pulled herself out quickly and stepped into a small alleyway.
“There you are!” came a small voice from her elbow. Sarah jumped and turned to see her accuser. Innona’s mottled green face smiled up at her.
“What – what do you want?” she asked, raising her hands and backing slowly away.
“Well, you forgot these,” the little lady said. She held out a packet to Sarah in one hand, and her old clothes in the other. “I found these under the bed,” she said, holding up the shoes, “And this was in them. You might have use for it someday.”
Sarah looked at her suspiciously. “Why are you helping me?” she finally asked.
“Well, I don’t really know. I suppose I like you. You’re a nice, polite young lady. Not too many of them these days.”
Sarah reached out and quickly took the items. “Thank you,” she said. She held up the strange packet. “What is in here? I don’t remember this.”
“Well, I had myself a quick peek, and its herbs from the Master’s garden. Quite a handful you’ve got there, really.”
Sarah unwrapped the parcel. She had a vague memory of going into the garden and taking them. “Yes, yes I suppose I did. Do you know what they are?”
The little lady drew herself erect. “Of course I do! I grew them! Learnt everything I know from old Hoggle.”
“You know Hoggle?”
The servant lady smiled. “Of course I do. He’s my uncle.”
Sarah stood, dumbfounded for a moment. “Is there anything you can do to help him?”
Innona nodded and winked. “It’s a good thing my Master doesn’t know. But blood is thicker!” she said with a grin.
“What are these herbs for?” Sarah queried.
“Well, in small doses, they’ll be used as sedatives, although they affect the memory slightly. In larger doses they can kill.”
The little lady nodded. “That’s right. The amount you picked would kill just about anything. Use it carefully. It’s to be ingested, as you know.”
Sarah clutched the poison packet to her. “Thank you.” She looked at it thoughtfully, then a cruel smile twisted her face. “I may have a use for it after all.”
The little lady patted Sarah’s arm. “Well, good luck to you then. If me Master asks if I’ve seen you, I cannot lie to him. But I don’t have to say where or when unless he asks!”
“Again, you have my thanks. Save Hoggle,” Sarah said.
“Aye, what’s family for?”
Sarah smiled at the little woman and then slipped further down the alleyway, making her way through the Goblin City.
* * *
Sarah had stealthily made her way to the gates of the Goblin City. She had gotten turned about twice and had to backtrack several times but, in the end, she finally found them. The inner doors were open, with a gaping hole where the giant mechanical guardian had been. Obviously Jareth hadn’t repaired it. Obviously, she thought grimly, he wasn’t expecting and invasion. Look at these defences, she thought, seeing the outer doors wide open and the guard asleep at them. Obviously, she would have seen all this for herself if she hadn’t been so foolish as to trust to the Goblin King.
She set her jaw and crept up towards the gates. Glancing quickly around, she passed through them at a dead run. No one stopped her.
She made her way through the junk fields outside the city, picking a path through the piles and heaps of rubbish. She soon found herself heading upwards on a slope. Looking up, she saw small scattered lights, hundreds of them, in the forest at the edge of the garbage. Jareth’s armies, she thought to herself. She must find a way around them. She must find a way to escape. She must find a way to warn the Court of Jareth’s intentions. She must stop the Goblin King at any cost. Not to save the Labyrinth, no, she thought, anger blazing in her eyes. This was between her and Jareth now. The Labyrinth would have to look after itself.
A small voice told her that this was wrong, that she should be working for the overall good, that a personal vendetta was very unheroic. Tough, she said to that little voice, the time for heroics was over. Her eyes flashed in the light of the setting sun, a deep pink purplish hue.
As she waited for darkness to fall to make her way through the camps she grew more and more angry. With that anger came a newfound energy that she had never experienced before. She held up her hands and found that they were shaking, not from a weakness but from an overabundance of power. So, she thought, I am linked to the crystal as well as the Labyrinth now. Jareth’s plan may very well be his demise. He had no idea what he had done. Her eyes narrowed with cruel delight at this thought.
“I thought I might find you here,” a soft, sultry voice said from behind her. Before Sarah could turn around a hand had clasped her shoulder and the world blurred out of existence.
(XII) The dam bursts
Jareth walked down the dungeon corridor, smiling to himself. He never really cared much for Lindir, anyway. Now that he knew the reinforcements were not arriving, he could put his plan into action without delay. All he needed was one more moment with Sarah, to savour the feeling and then the world would be his. From somewhere deep inside some long forgotten, rarely visited place a voice asked him why he needed to see her before getting on with it, was there another motive lurking somewhere within the depths of his soul? Then, with a smirk, Jareth scoffed at it and hummed “As the World Fall Down” as his boots kept time down the long corridor.
He came to the last cell and the door opened before him, no lock and key were needed for the Goblin King in his own dungeons. He strolled into the room, smiling at Hoggle’s shape in the corner. He looked around for Sarah but could not see her. His smile faded.
“Where is she?” he asked abruptly.
Hoggle’s silence was his only answer.
Jareth strode angrily towards his captive. “I said where is she?” The Goblin King’s voice rolled down the corridor, echoing off the stone walls.
“I don’t know,” Hoggle answered truthfully.
“You’ll tell me, Hoggle, or I will hang you over the Bog of Eternal Stench for a fortnight before dropping you in!”
Hoggle looked up at Jareth. His face was devoid of all expression. “I don’t care,” was all he said.
Jareth crouched next to him. “What?” he asked through gritted teeth.
“I said I don’t care. I don’t care what you do with me, it don’t matter no more. She’s gone and I don’t know where she’s gone and I don’t care neither.”
Jareth studied his prisoner for a moment. He then slowly stood and put his hands upon his hips. “Do you know, Hoggle,” he began mildly, “I actually do believe you are telling the truth for a change.” Hoggle’s head lowered onto his chest. “Well, it seems you are of little use to me anymore.”
Jareth paced about the dungeon for a moment or two. “No, you still have some use yet. She must still care about you, she probably said she would be back for you or some such nonsense. Always the hero. Well, she’ll have to find you first then. Guards!”
At his command four goblin guards came into the cell. “Take the prisoner and move him to the west tower. Lock him up there.” The goblins bowed and began to unshackle their prisoner from the wall. Hoggle made no resistance as they led him away.
Jareth stood alone in the cold cell for a moment. “What are you up to, Sarah?” he asked himself. He thought he’d better find out, and soon.
* * *
“You should thank me, Sarah. You were not in a very… advantageous place to be.”
When the world finally came into focus Sarah whirled to face her abductor. Her blood ran cold as she looked straight into the face of her mother.
* * *
Jareth stalked to his chambers, his anger growing within him. How dare she escape. How dare she mock him so. After everything he had done for her. He stopped halfway down the corridor to his room, remembering her crumpled form on the floor of his chamber, bathed in the light of the crystal. He abruptly began walking again. Pawns, they were all pawns. He’d have his day. He would have what was rightfully his.
The door burst open before him as he strode into the room. He hurried to the crystal and threw aside the velvet covering. It pulsed and glowed still. As Jareth looked closer, he saw small flickers, like lightning, within. Well, that was new, he thought. He looked deeper and concentrated on his prey.
* * *
Sarah gasped in surprise. “You – you can’t be. Who are you?”
The woman before her smiled with cruel delight. “Such a pretty thing,” she said wistfully. She stepped up to Sarah and put her hand to her cheek. Sarah found that she could not move. “You remind me of myself when I was much younger,” the woman said. “No wonder Jareth has such a fondness for you.” The strange woman turned and walked away, her purple grey robes swishing softly. She rose up onto a dais and seated herself upon an ornately carved chair. “So, little one, what were you doing out there all alone?”
Sarah found she could move again. “Why should I tell you?” she asked defiantly.
The woman smiled and raised a long, delicate finger to her chin. Her arched brows rose up in surprise. “Were you not trying to find me?”
“I – I was looking for the Court,” Sarah said.
“Well you’ve found it, dearie.” The woman leant back in the seat and languidly crossed her legs. “What news do you have for me?”
“I – how do I know who you are?” Sarah asked.
The woman’s eyes narrowed. “I am Akarra, Queen of Alannsia. This is my Court. You would do well to learn better manners in my presence”. She reached over and pulled a cloth from a large crystal in a stand to her right. “I see and know all in my kingdom and Court. But Jareth. Jareth is hidden from me.”
Well, Sarah thought, she sounds the part. “Jareth is going to attack you.”
The woman laughed and spread her arms wide. “Tell me something I don’t know!”
Sarah bit her lip to keep from retorting. Her hands began to tremble in anger. “He has a weapon far greater than his armies at his disposal as well.”
The woman’s smile faded and she leant forward slightly. “And you’re going to tell me, aren’t you little one? What did he do to you?”
“He killed one of my friends.”
The woman nodded, her eyes sad. “Yes, he killed one of mine as well. He seems to be making a habit of it.” She drew a deep breath and let it out slowly. “What is this weapon?”
* * *
Jareth drew a sharp breath as he watched Sarah and Akarra. “No!” he shouted. He brought his hand before him, a small crystal ball materialising it in. He threw it with force at the large crystal, where it disappeared in a flash of purple.
* * *
Sarah opened her mouth to tell the Queen, when a flash of purple lit the room. She looked at the Queen’s startled face a moment before the crystal came flying out of the sphere on its stand. The Queen saw it coming towards her but, too late, could not avoid it. She threw up her hands as the crystal hit her and then she disappeared.
Sarah looked around hastily to see where she had gone. She turned back to the throne and saw with dread that the crystal was still there, hovering over the seat. Within it was the Queen of Alannsia, her graceful hands banging against the inside of the crystal. Sarah started towards it but, before she reached it, the crystal flew high into the air.
Sarah held her breath and watched the crystal fly higher and higher. It began to swirl and eddy as if caught in a hurricane. Sarah ducked for cover behind the throne as it flew about the room. Suddenly it stopped, hovered a moment, and then dropped to the floor.
With a despairing cry Sarah ran towards it but, too late, saw it shatter upon the cold stone floor. She fell to her knees among the shards, a purplish mist rising from them. It formed the sad face of Akarra briefly before her eyes and faded away.
“No,” she whimpered. Hot tears fell onto the floor as she kneeled over the shards. “No.” Something inside Sarah snapped. Her grief and anger flooded her veins. “Mother,” she said, her voice almost a whisper. She then stood, shaking raising her fists to the ceiling.
“No!” she cried, her voice echoing off the walls, lightning streaming from her uplifted hands and crashing all about her.
* * *
Jareth smiled as he saw the crystal fall to the floor. He then draped the cloth over the crystal upon its stand and went to pour himself a drink.
* * *
Sarah stood in the middle of her own storm of rage. The doors to the chamber were flung open and guards poured through. They stopped in amazement at what they saw. Then, one by one, they slowly knelt to the floor.
Sarah mastered her anger and brought her hands down, the lightning flickering only in her eyes.
“My, my Lady, said a guard from where he knelt. He looked up at her in amazement. “Your youth, you’ve reclaimed your youth!”
Sarah smiled, eyes flashing as a new plan came to her. “Yes, I have. And with it the power to stop the Goblin King.”
* * *
Sarah asked to be shown back to her chambers. She bade everyone to leave her and then cast a quick glance around the room. On a table in the middle of the room was an ornate crystal decanter full of red liquid. Without a second thought Sarah made her way to it and poured herself a glass. She did not hesitate as she raised it to her lips and drank deeply. It was both sweet and bitter at the same time and smelled like both summer and winter. She lowered the glass and stood for a moment, feeling the liquid inside her, warming her and making her blood go cold all at the same time. So, she thought. This is what it is like. She poured herself another glass.
She made her way to a pile of cushions in one corner of the room. Her movements seemed more graceful to her, as if the liquid had loosened her muscles and she found a certain fluidity that she had never known before. She relaxed on the soft seat and drank her second glass, thinking on revenge.
Again, a little voice told her that she was forgetting something or someone but she pushed it casually aside and bade it never to return.
Still thirsty, she cast about to see if there was another decanter. Her eyes fell upon yet another shrouded stand. Good, she thought. Her lips thinned as she smiled, teeth showing. She rose and made her way to it.
She pulled off the shroud and stood before it. “Jareth,” she said softly to it.
Jareth’s face showed in the crystal almost instantly. She then saw that he was perched on the windowsill of his chamber, overlooking the Labyrinth. His face was deep in thought, the eyes clear and mouth set. No trace of the mocking sneer was evident. A small crystal was held in one hand upon his lap.
“Hello, Jareth,” Sarah said softly.
Jareth started and looked around. He then lifted the crystal to look into it. “Sarah?”
Sarah’s eyes narrowed. “Yes, Jareth. You have made your last mistake.”
“I will destroy you, Jareth. And if I have to destroy the Labyrinth as well, then have no doubt that I will. I will have my revenge.”
Jareth’s surprise was replaced by the customary sneer. “Don’t be a foolish girl, Sarah. You cannot stand against me.”
“Can’t I?” she replied softly. “I did before, and you lost. And I will do it again.” As she said the last words, purple white lightning lanced from her eyes into the crystal. She saw Jareth’s figure tumble back into his chamber from the windowsill. He fell to his knees and remained there for a moment before rising, a look of pure hatred flashing in his eyes.
“How dare you!” he asked. He raised his crystal high over his head and dashed it against the far wall of his chamber.
The pain swept through Sarah but she did not mind. Jareth had been warned. She pulled the shroud over the crystal and went to finalise her plans.
* * *
Jareth lay on his bed, the canopy a rich shade of black with burgundy trimmings overhead. His head ached from Sarah’s attack as he lay there with fists clenched at his side. She had somehow managed to tap into the power of the crystal, but how? It should have drained everything from her. It should have left an empty shell. But she seemed stronger, with new powers that could prove to be a threat. He raised a gloved hand to his eyes and wondered at what he had done. You and I are linked, Sarah he remembered himself saying. If only he had heeded his own words.
When he had seen her face in his crystal she looked so much like Akarra that it almost pained him. And to see how cruel her eyes could be, just as Akarra’s had been those many years past. Well, he said to himself, that had been a long time ago. But still, he could be just as cruel.
He rose and went to the little table by the fireplace, poured himself a drink and seated himself upon one of the plush covered chairs, stretching his booted feet out before him. He gazed at the flames and remembered his past.
The world was an unfair place. That he had learned long ago, when his best friend had been killed in the hunting accident. That it should become even more unfair when Jareth had been cast out for it, shunned by the Court as a murderer. Even if he now lived up to the title of murderer it was only because they made him so.
He wondered what his life would have been like, had that terrible day not happened. Had he not sought the hand of Akarra, had his friend not gotten in the way of his shot. Even, he thought, had Akarra accepted his gift and mourned the loss of his friend alongside him, that would have been preferable. But it had not happened that way, no, not at all.
And now the Queen Akarra had been deposed and a new Queen taken her place. Fate has strange ideas sometimes, thought Jareth. But Sarah had been his enemy before, she could be so again. The look in her eyes made him cold however and, he wondered, who would be fighting on the side of good at the end of it all?
* * *
Sarah swept down the forecourt, guards, courtiers and courtesans trailing. She went to the railing and looked down upon her armies as the rest of the Court behind her whispered behind gloved hands and plumed fans.
“The time has come!” Sarah shouted. “We march at once!” Overhead, dark stormclouds rumbled and flash lightning streaked across the sky. The Court ran inside out of the impending rain while Sarah stood, the wind whipping her hair about her shoulders as her troops marched on to the Labyrinth. Soon the sky turned a strange shade of purple, before the rains came.
(XIII) Of heroes and villains
“Your Highness!” A goblin guard ran into the room. Jareth looked up from the flames of the fire, a faraway look in his eyes. He blinked suddenly, then sat up straight.
“Our scouts report a large number of troops marching on towards the Labyrinth. Our troops are still camped just outside. We await your orders for battle, Sir!”
Jareth’s lips tightened. Sarah had moved her pawns before his. No matter. She was just a silly girl. What did she know about magic?”
“Deploy the troops. I shall join you shortly. Have my horse ready.”
“Yes, your Majesty!” The goblin hastened out of the room.
Jareth went to his wardrobe and selected his armour. A short leather jacket with black and gold trim plate armour to go with it was soon in place and he studied himself in the burnished mirror before selecting the appropriate sceptre for the job. The Goblin King was going to war.
Just a silly girl, his voice repeated in his head. No, not a silly girl anymore. Sarah had changed. Jareth stopped just before his door, hands at his sides, his head down. Perhaps so, too, had he.
* * *
Sarah rode at the back of her troops, her personal guard around her. She looked out over the masses to the Labyrinth in the distance, rising up behind the forest. Jareth’s armies had amassed right before the forest, on a level plain. The battleground had been chosen.
Sarah thought back to all the books she had read and all of the movies she had seen, to come up with a good formation and battleplan. She ended up with two cohorts of archers in the front middle of the formation, with polearms cohorts to flank either side. Behind that were four cohorts of infantry with shields. The archers were to fire on her command two volleys and then fall behind the shields. The polearms were then to charge and the infantry to follow. The archers were to pick off any stranded in between.
Silly girl indeed.
Sarah would kill each and every one of them until the Goblin King had nothing left. Then she would kill the Goblin King, slowly, for what he had done. The thunderclouds behind Sarah made her seem a goddess of insurmountable fury as she rode upon a white charger, clad in her white dress that she used to play dress up in. That seemed such a long time ago.
The Queen stood up in her stirrups and raised a hand to the sky. When her arm fell, her army moved forward. She sat back and smiled. Let it begin.
* * *
Jareth rode along the front of his troops, watching the enemy formations draw closer. His troops looked nervous and he hoped his presence would harden their hearts.
It didn’t seem to be working.
Well, when all else fails….
Jareth brought his horse up and turned his back to the oncoming army. “You will win this battle,” he shouted to his troops. “Or I will move the entire Labyrinth into the Bog of Eternal Stench!” Goblin troops and other inhabitants of the Labyrinth stood straighter and swords and spears stopped shaking as if in a heavy wind. They feared the oncoming army, yes, but they feared the Goblin King’s threats more.
One little knight atop his canine steed, working their way up to the front of the Goblin King’s army, heard the threat. “Well, I don’t know if I have the place to put you all up but if it comes to that, I shall make a jolly good effort,” said the small knight.
* * *
The Queen’s army advanced. Jareth bade his troops to hold their ground. Should they fail at this first attempt they could still fall back into the woods. Jareth briefly wondered why he should care about a retreat but then pushed the thought away. He needed his army and their numbers. That many would die was of no consequence. The Labyrinth was his creation and he would sacrifice all of them for it if need be.
Who then would he rule over? he thought. His face grew thoughtful as he sat atop his steed at the fore of his troops, watching the enemy advance. He needed the Labyrinth and all of its inhabitants for, even when he defeated the opposing army, he would need his people to enforce his rulership. That was all, he convinced himself. The Goblin King did not have twinges of conscience, though Jareth may once have had.
Jareth’s black mount began to sidestep nervously as the opposing army advanced. He reined it in and looked out, trying to catch a glimpse of Sarah. Of her he could see no sign. Well, he thought, it was time to find her. He raised a mailed fist high over his head and, when it came down, he and his army charged.
Jareth let his mount plunge headlong into the enemy. A hail of arrows sailed past, missing the front rank of the charging army to fall upon those still waiting to charge. A second storm of arrows fell into their midst.
The Goblin King caught an arrow in the shoulder of his armour. Still at full gallop he growled and pulled it out, throwing it aside. He drew his sword and grinned fiercely at those who opposed him. Oh, how he had longed for this moment. His army heartened at the bravery of their king and followed him in a raging torrent into the enemy lines.
Jareth ducked under polearms and slashed at the infantry. His horse reared and trampled as many as it could. His blade was soon red with blood and those before him gave way before this demonic fury. The Goblin King laughed as he slew all those who had exiled him and opposed him, who had mocked him and ignored him.
He saw the House of Ethelion near to the front lines. A cohort of polearms, they saw the Goblin King’s charge and lowered their pikes against his mounted attack. Jareth pushed and fought his way to them and stood before them, saying nothing. He saw the King of Ethelion and nodded. His lordship returned the nod and saluted the Goblin King with his sword. He then turned and gave an ordered shout. As one, the House of Ethelion’s cohort raised their pikes, turned and faced their reinforcements behind. Jareth could be seen behind the deadly blades atop his mount, a mocking smile upon his lips. The King of Ethelion gave the command, and the House of Ethelion changed sides.
* * *
“What is holding up the advance of my army?” Sarah asked her Lieutenant. A messenger had just ridden up and passed on the news. The Lieutenant turned, pale faced, and cleared his throat before speaking.
“The House of Ethelion has just rebelled and is now attacking our infantry.”
“What!” cried Sarah. “How is this possible?”
“It seems they are loyal to the Goblin King, your Highness.”
Sarah remembered something Lindir had said, about two of the other houses. She then sneered tugged on her mount’s reins. The white horse snorted and shifted beneath her. “Let them rebel,” she said, moving forward. “We’ll destroy them as well then.”
The armies fought until sundown, with the other traitor house exposing itself to the Queen’s forces. Both sides seemed evenly matched now, with Jareth’s beginning to gain a slight advantage. His goblin troops seemed tireless, as well as hard to strike at, being at a much lower level than the opposing troops. The trolls of the Goblin King swept through and clubbed many of the opposing soldiers until they had lost half their number to arrows. The Goblin King then decided to pull them out for a bit and wait for the archers to run out of arrows. It would not be long.
Slowly, inch by inch, the Goblin King’s armies pushed the Queen’s back towards her palace. Sarah, at the rear, snarled and shouted commands to her troops to fight to the death, but they were fast losing heart. The might of the Labyrinth, with all its strange creatures as well as the traitorous Houses of the Court were taking their toll. A full blown retreat was nigh.
Sarah watched this all happening with growing anger. She had vowed not to let the Goblin King win. Jareth could not emerge victorious, no matter what. The stormclouds grew darker and rain began to pelt the battlefield as Sarah’s anger boiled over. Then the front ranks of the Queen’s army fell back, and the retreat began in earnest.
Sarah cried aloud in wordless fury and galloped back to the palace. She jumped off her horse and ran up the stairs to the tiered balcony that overlooked the battle. Lightning raced across the darkening sky as the sun set, hidden behind the dark masses.
Amidst the troops of the House of Ethelion, Jareth moved forward, ever looking for Sarah. He saw a flash of white from the rear of the opposing army, and then a rider racing back to the palace. He spurred his horse forward, taking a blow from an infantry sword upon his back as he did so. He armour held though and deflected the blow but, not before a pike caught him in the leg. The Goblin King cried aloud and threw a crystal at the mass milling around him. The enemy soldiers soon became enemy statues.
Jareth kicked his horse into a gallop with his good leg, racing around the edge of the battle and up towards the palace. As he pulled up he slid off his horse, his leg giving way beneath him. He snarled and pulled himself upright once more, limping up the stairs leaving a bloody trail behind him.
Once inside the noise of the battle stopped suddenly. Jareth growled under his breath at the pain in his leg and drew his rapier. He spied the stairs and pulled himself up in agony, pain fuelling his anger.
At the top of the stairs he felt the stormwind upon his face, and turned a corner to see the form of Sarah standing at the edge of the balcony. The wind whipped her dress and hair, the rain pelting down upon her skin, making it shine with each jagged lightning bolt that raced along the sky. Sparks of purple and pink shot out from around her body. Jareth leaned against the wall, unable to comprehend what was happening. Disbelief was apparent on his handsome features as he watched the girl before him. He clutched at his injured leg and tried to move forward.
“You cannot stop me, Jareth.” Sarah’s voice rolled across the balcony, reverberating with Power. “You will fail.”
“Sarah,” the Goblin King gasped, limping forward. “What are you doing?”
“I am going to kill you, Jareth. I am going to kill your army, I am going to destroy the Labyrinth, and I am going to rule the world.”
Sarah raised her hands high overhead. Lightning streaked across the sky and crashed all around her. Jareth was knocked backwards and thrown against the far wall. He slowly raised himself again, pain contorting his features into a fearful grimace. He tried to move forwards once more, but at a gesture from Sarah’s hand was thrown to the floor.
“You cannot stop me, Jareth!” she cried, exultation in her eyes. They glowed a bright purplish colour, mirroring the lightning across the sky. “No one can stop me!”
The Goblin King could do nothing but look as the girl before him raged, wreathed in fire and lightning, a power more frightening than anything he could ever have imagined. He witnessed, and wept.
A single tear fell from the strange eyes of the Goblin King. His Labyrinth would be destroyed utterly, beyond any repair. All within would be killed. He would be killed. But, most of all, he said to himself, this once innocent girl would be doomed forever, lost to her rage and madness, all because of him. Everything would die.
Jareth’s sole purpose to her had been to be the villain, it was all he could ever have been to her. And now, it was up to him to stop the villain, to save the Labyrinth. For once, it was not for his own sake, his own selfishness that he was accepting this task. He cared not for the first time in his life what his own fate would be. All he knew was that he had to stop Sarah before she fell into the deepest hell from which there was no returning.
He crawled on hands and knees to her, the rain pouring down, his pale hair in his eyes. Blood ran in little red rivers along the balcony from his wounded leg. He had one magic left, one chance. He held a gloved hand out to Sarah, a last crystal sphere held within it.
She turned to him, an triumphant smile upon her face. She looked down upon the Goblin King, and thought what a weak, wretched thing he looked. His eyes were clouded over in pain, his face paler than usual. His long blond hair was matted to his head and he was soaked through and shaking. She looked at him, and laughed. “What is it, Jareth? What have you to offer me now?” She looked to the heavens, where her power crashed and spilled down upon the world before turning back to the Goblin King. “What will you offer me?” she repeated. “My dreams, again?” She laughed aloud.
“No, Sarah,” Jareth said softly. “It is not your dreams, but your reality that I show you.”
Sarah looked into the crystal, one hand raised to dash it to the ground below. She looked, and her world stopped, if only for a moment.
She saw a young girl by a river, ribbons in her hair. A dog on a bench. A red-haired child laughing in the sun. A prisoner held in a high tower.
She then saw herself reflected in the crystal. Her burning eyes were huge in a rain spattered face, red lips drawn back in a snarl. She saw herself standing atop the balcony, raining devastation upon all those below, hurling the Power at the Labyrinth and watching it fall under flames and ruin. And then she saw herself, alone, in this barren wasteland that she had created, where nothing remained alive but her, where she walked among the ghosts of those she had slain.
She saw as well the awesome power ripping through the fabric of space and time and spreading to other worlds. She saw the horrifying storm fall upon her hometown, her house, and her family. She saw it destroy everything she had once loved and cherished in both worlds. She saw her world fall.
“I’ll still be there for you, Sarah,” Jareth said.
Sarah remembered no more.
* * *
When Sarah awoke, she could not move for the pain that wracked her body. She lay there, unable to even weep.
A smooth, silky voice floated towards her. “Does it hurt, Sarah?” She couldn’t even reply. “Good,” the voice said. She fell back into darkness.
* * *
“You shouldn’t be so hard on her,” Innona said. She deftly tended to the Goblin King’s wounded leg. “She’s probably in much more pain than you, you know.”
Jareth gritted his teeth. “Yes, well, you’ll have to forgive me. My patience and humour have been somewhat affected by the needle and thread you are dragging through my skin.”
The little faerie woman chuckled. “Nearly there,” she said. “I’m afraid you won’t be going anywhere for a couple of days. Everyone will just have to wait to greet and cheer the Goblin King for winning the day.”
“They’ll wait a long time, then,” was all Jareth said.
* * *
When next Sarah woke, she wished she could have forgotten all that she had done. Unfortunately, everything was crystal clear in her memory. At least this time she could weep.
* * *
Sarah slowly recovered once again, under Innona’s care. After a day or two, she was able to stand and walk a few paces around her room. Her steps were listless though, and her thoughts were dark. Innona grew more and more worried, for though her body healed, it seemed her mind would not.
“Oh, come now,” Innona said, trying to get Sarah out of bed. “The very least you could do is get up and go to see my Master. I’m sure he’d like a visit.”
Tears fell from Sarah’s eyes. “I don’t think so, Innona.” She imagined the look on the Goblin King’s face, not to mention having to see people along the way who would recognise her for the villain she was. “I cannot bear anyone to see me.”
Innona tutted away her response. “They won’t even recognise you, dear. Come, come along now.” The little faerie woman pulled Sarah up and out of the bed, dragging her unwilling victim to the large burnished mirror. Sarah looked upon her reflection, and gasped.
Her hair fell along her back in a long, silver mane. It shimmered in the light of the window, almost glowing softly around her. Her once green eyes were now a shade of violet that contrasted against her pale hair. “What happened?” she breathed.
“I don’t rightly know, but you sure don’t look the same,” Innona said. “I shouldn’t worry if I were you about people seeing you. Besides, rumour has it that Jareth banished the Queen forever, never to be seen again.”
Sarah hung her head in shame, tears falling from her eyes. “What have I done,” she said.
“Come now, let’s get you dressed.” Innona went to the wardrobe but Sarah shook her head. “I can’t bear it, Innona. I can’t.”
The little faerie woman looked at her for a long time, then nodded. “Don’t worry,” she said, her mottled green face looking up at Sarah. “You’ll feel better in time.” She then went to the door and left, closing it softly behind her.
Sarah let out a sob and put her head into her hands.
* * *
The next day, Sarah obliged Innona by getting dressed, but still refused to leave her chamber. She sat by the window of her chamber all day, looking out upon the Labyrinth that she had nearly destroyed. Towards the end of the day, she saw a small figure tending the tree beneath her window, with its spotted leaves and withered branches. Sarah recognised Hoggle, restoring health to the tree that Sarah had unwittingly poisoned, but she did not call to him. She could not bear it yet, if ever.
The next day passed much the same as the first, with Sarah unwilling to face anyone and looking sadly out her window. Hoggle tended the tree and once, looked up to her window. He smiled at her then, his wizened face creased up into its many wrinkles but, Sarah could not return the smile. She would have killed him had Jareth not stopped her and shown her the monster she had become. She would have killed everyone.
She did not go to her window again that day.
* * *
The next day Innona came in, her little green face looking worried. “Come along now, you must see my Master. I’m sure he’s worried about you.”
Sarah did not look at the little woman from where she lay on the bed. “I’m not so sure, Innona,” was all she said.
“Please, it would do my heart good at least then, if you went to see him. At least before he leaves.”
“Leaves?” Sarah sat up. “Where is he going? Why?”
The little woman shook her head sadly. “I don’t know. Maybe you can find out.”
Sarah shook her head. “No, no. I can’t.” Tears fell again.
Innona went up to her and patted her hand. “Osh, aye, and you can.”
Sarah looked into the little fey woman’s eyes and found strength. After a time she nodded, wiped her face dry with her sleeve and stood. “Very well,” she said. “I just hope no one recognises me, or if they do, that they kill me quickly.” The little servant lady shook her head sadly and led Sarah out of her chambers.
* * *
Jareth paced the length of his room. He was nearly packed and ready to leave. Where he was to go was still a mystery, even to himself. All he knew was that he could not stay here any longer.
The Goblin King was a hero. The Goblin King had defeated the evil Queen who would have destroyed the Labyrinth. The Goblin King had saved the day. Jareth could not stand it.
He was the villain. He had been outcast from the Court. He had killed. He had used people to satisfy his own lust and greed. And he was now a hero.
Time to leave, he thought. He couldn’t be the hero. He didn’t know how to rule as one. He didn’t know how to deal with the adoring crowds outside the palace. It was all he ever wanted and, now that he had it, he did not have the faintest clue what to do with it.
A soft knock at the door interrupted his thoughts. “What is it,” he growled, throwing his finery into leather bags. When no one answered, he turned, annoyed, to see who had intruded on his musings.
Sarah stood there, dressed and pale. Her hair glowed in the light, giving her an angelic appearance. Her violet eyes brimmed with sudden tears and she clasped her hands in front of her. “I’m sorry,” she said.
Jareth stood up straight, trying desperately to find something to say. He failed. He tugged on his gloves and went to the little table by the fireplace to pour himself a drink, to give himself time to think of what to say.
“Where are you going?” Sarah asked to his back. Jareth stood and drank deeply before turning around.
“Away. I can’t abide the constant rabble and ingratiating courtiers at my door. The Labyrinth is better off without me.”
Sarah took a step forward. “No! You saved the Labyrinth! They need you. They need a king. After what I have done,” she said, her words trailing off.
“They would have been better under your rule,” Jareth muttered, turning about to pace the room once more.
Tears fell from Sarah’s eyes. “They would have all been dead,” she said, her voice shaking. “It was you who saved them.”
Jareth snorted. “Yes, I’ve heard it all before, Sarah. Jareth the Hero. Jareth the Saviour. Jareth the Great and Jareth the Brave.” He turned to Sarah, an almost pleading look in his strange eyes. “I don’t know how to be any of those things, Sarah.”
“But you do care for them. I know, I saw it.” Sarah went up to him, hesitantly. “I – think I have known and felt what you have. The good as well as the evil. I have seen them both, in myself and in you.” She paused. “It is I who must go.”
Jareth looked at her, surprised. “You cannot, Sarah.”
She looked up at him. “I have no reason to stay. I must leave.”
Jareth turned and poured himself yet another drink. “I’m afraid you can’t. I no longer have the power to send you back. I no longer have the power to leave this world. I have little magic left Sarah. I’ve destroyed the crystal, so that its power may never be abused again.”
Sarah drew in a small breath. “You destroyed it?”
Jareth’s silence was mute testimony to his deed.
“You cannot leave,” Sarah repeated. “The people need their King.”
“The people cast me out and I can never forget that.”
Sarah went up, and laid a trembling hand on his arm. “No, and I understand that. I cannot ever forget what I have done. But can you forgive it?”
Jareth turned and looked into her violet eyes. “It is easier to forgive others than yourself,” he stated. He moved away from her and seated himself by the fire.
“I ask you to stay. Who will rule the kingdom if you are gone? The people now have a hero to look up to, what will happen to them when they find out he left them?”
“Then they will understand finally that he is not the hero they believe him to be. They will finally open their eyes to the truth.”
Sarah stood where she was, hands shaking at her sides. She gathered the strength to say what she had just found out to be true within herself. “No one is the hero they seem to be. Even heroes can fall. But the people still need them. I – I need you.”
Jareth looked up at her from where he sat. Slowly he rose and came towards her. “You don’t need me, Sarah.”
“Yes, I do. Please, listen. I have destroyed much, and killed many. I must make amends. But I don’t know how – I, I need you to help me, like you did before. You believed in me, on the balcony, no matter what would have happened, you believed in me. And that is what saved us all. I ask now that you now believe in yourself. You can show me how to make amends, you can show me how to use the power to heal instead of destroy. The Goblin King can make things right, it is within his power. I trust you.”
“I too have killed, Sarah. And I cannot make amends for that, no one can. What you are saying is impossible.”
Sarah turned away, wiping away tears. In a small, wavering voice, she simply stated, “If you can dream it, then it can happen. You taught me that much.”
Jareth turned to face Sarah. He handed her a glass of the ruby liquid. She looked at him, hope radiating from her face as she did so. For the first time, she saw his smile without the bitterness, without the mocking smirk. He raised his glass to her.
“The Labyrinth has taught us many things, then,” he said to her. “Heroes who are villains, and villains who are heroes. United it will be a mighty kingdom. To the Labyrinth then, where anything is possible, and nothing is what it seems.”