Continuing Tales

A Forfeit of Dreams

A Labyrinth Story
by KL Morgan

Part 13 of 15

<< Previous     Home     Next >>
A Forfeit of Dreams

Once upon a time there was a castle. No: a fortress -- with smooth, sheer walls that rose seamlessly from sandy rock as if they had been carved from it. On one side it was protected by a city, on the other by a dark, deep lake filled with insidious terrors.

The castle-that-was-a-fortress had high, far-reaching turrets. In these turrets were windows, and in one of these windows was a man. No: a prince .or a King.

A King who cast his eyes, which once held such wicked joy, over the twisting, sprawling stretches of his kingdom. In his mouth was the taste of dust, and of ashes. It was the taste of defeat.

But he would not be defeated.

"Is the prisoner awake?" he asked. He sat, as he was prone to do, on the wide-window ledge, one knee crooked and resting on the smooth stone. One gloved hand lay listless in his lap; the other unconsciously toyed with a gleaming pendant.

"Yes, your Majesty," a goblin growled, bobbing his head in a show of subservience. Its companion, standing silent, hawked and spat off to one side.

"Good. I want him brought here."

"Yes, your Majesty."

"And the others are all in place?"

"Just as you ordered, your Majesty."

Jareth closed his eyes. "Good. We can get started, then." For the first time, he turned his crystalline gaze on them. They shrank from the vicious loathing in them that he didn't even bother to hide.

"She is going to run through the Castle - and you are not to touch her, you understand? Let her go as she pleases, and make no effort whatsoever to prevent her from discovering the others. Have I made myself clear?"

"But --" the second goblin spoke the first time - a skinny fellow with broken teeth and a thin, reedy voice. "But if she finds them --"

"It will not be enough," Jareth cut in, voice rough. "She has twenty-seven minutes, exactly. That is not enough time." He turned away. "Even if she does manage to rescue them, it's the boy she needs. And I will not let her have him."

"Yes, your Majesty," the second one whimpered.

"And if I find that any of you disgusting creatures laid a finger on her, I will remove it and the hand it is attached to. Do you understand?"

They both chorused that they did, nearly tripping over each other in their eagerness to agree.

"Tell the others. And bring in the boy."

The scuttled out of the room as fast as their awkward feet could carry them, pushing their way to the door. Jareth listened as they exited, and when he knew they had left, he sighed deep.

I didn't want to do this.

From down the long corridor, he could hear the sounds of scuffling and fighting as they dragged a reluctant prisoner up the steps. Brian's ragged, desperate curses echoed faintly against the cold stones.

But I will.

Jareth heard as the goblins shoved their half-sobbing charge through the doorway, where he collapsed onto the floor, breathing harshly. Brian raised half-wild eyes to his captor, obvious fear shivering in every part of him.

I will do everything it takes.

"We meet again, my fine feathered," he spoke casually, still looking peacefully out the window.

Brian hugged himself tightly. "What do you want, Jareth?" he asked, voice hoarse.

Jareth turned, swinging both his legs over the ledge. "There's one last game to be played." He braced himself, both hands gripping the worn stones. "Are you ready?"

The pendant, an archaic warping of silver and gold, swung freely from its cord. Its sinister twistings of metal glimmered in the torchlight. 

"Let us begin."


  Sarah ran.

She barely knew where she was going - she let her feet lead her, stumbling and straining down dim, deceptive passageways that doubled back on themselves and coaxed her onward into darkness. The breath tore through her lungs, searing her sides and throat with pain. She scraped her palms raw, catching herself on rough stone whenever she threatened to fall, leaving faint smears of blood behind. Her feet pounded along the hard floors, sending jolts of pain through her legs that threatened to overwhelm her overworked muscles.

And still, she ran.

She halted every time she came to a doorway; throwing open the thick wooden door with enough force to almost wrench her arm out of its socket. As it banged against the opposite wall, she would thrust her head inside, eyes darting - to find nothing. The rooms held dust, dirt, broken toys, crumbling chairs, sooty fireplaces, rusted pots and pans - almost each and every discarded or worthless thing you could think of, but none of her friends. The searches took less than a moment, and she was back to running.

Sometimes the corridors would split into two or three different passageways - when this happened, Sarah didn't stop to think. She couldn't waste that much time. She simply barreled down one of them, not even pausing to consider the consequences of a wrong choice. She had to keep going.

Sarah didn't know how long she'd been looking, or even how much time she had left. She only felt as if she'd been running forever down the close, damp hallways of the Castle. Each moment she had to pause to catch her breath, every step that slowed because of her own tiredness - she felt as if she lost hours when those precious minutes were used for some other purpose besides searching. She wanted to cry, but knew the tears would blind her.

At one point, she finally stumbled through a doorway that held something besides trash and refuse. She paused for an instant, eyes narrowing - it was a book. A thick, leather-bound book lay on the floor, beside the empty fireplace. It was strangely pristine, considering its surroundings, vellum shining and white pages untouched by grime. Strangest of all, she could see it was bound shut - wry lengths of twine crisscrossing across its surface in order to secure its pages shut. Bewildered, Sarah took a step closer -

-- and shrieked as suddenly the very air attacked her, her mouth and hair and eyes failed with battering, light touches. She held her arms up before her face defensively, squinting so see what exactly her enemy was. only to have her vision almost completely obscured by winged, flimsy grey bodies: moths. She was surrounded by moths, and they were attacking her, flying at her from all directions and deliberately becoming entangled in her clothes and hair, scratching at her skin with their tiny feelers, painlessly biting with their toothless mouths.

And now she could see what was really lying in front of the fireplace - not a book, after all, but Chaucer. He sprawled out as if senseless, eyes closed. He was the one bound up with twine, the thin ropes digging sharply into the skin at his knobby wrists and ankles. The moths rested on him, too, converging upon his thin, papery skin like a rustling blanket of malicious bodies.

"Chaucer!" She threw herself forward, pulling up the neck of her shirt over her mouth so that she could breathe without sucking tiny insects into her lungs. She used one arm as a shield over her eyes, hunching forward and struggling onward through the blizzard of moths. She almost tripped over his bulbous body, but with difficulty managed to kneel down without injuring him. Squeezing her eyes shut, she blindly reached for the wire-like ropes around his thin wrists.

For an instant, a breath, it was very bad - wings beating incessantly on her skin, tiny bodies managing to crawl underneath her shirt and along her neck. She wanted to open her mouth and scream, but that would have meant choking on a multitude of pests as they flew into her mouth and down her throat. Mercifully, she managed to feel along the ropes to find the knot where they tied together, and practically ripped apart Chaucer's bindings, her fingers stinging with the force of effort.

And it stopped.

Cautiously, she opened her eyes. The room was empty, with no bugs in the air or scratching along her skin. Shuddering, she started to untie the twine that bound Chaucer's ankles together, shaking him slightly by the shoulders with one hand as she did so.

Within a moment, he blearily opened his eyes. Seeing her, he sat up, and wrapped his spindly arms around her for a moment, holding her tightly. "My child," he croaked. "Thank you.      

She pulled away. "We don't have much time," she said tersely. Chaucer watched her as he carefully climbed to his feet, blood slowly returning to his limbs. She made to stride out the doorway, but he called out to her.

"Stop, child, stop," he said, wincing with the pain of standing. "This is no way to do things. Stop, Sarah, and listen to me."

She whirled on him. "What happened to you and the others, after I fell into the moat?"

He wheezed, sitting on his haunches. "We managed to reach the shore. Jareth's guards were waiting for us, of course. He took us prisoner, and then bound us all up in spells, as you saw before."

"But I thought -"

"We were also in your dreamworld," he interrupted, guessing her question. "Mentally, as were you. Physically, we were kept prisoner in our separate rooms."

 "How did you get there, though?" she demanded.

"We're Jareth's subjects, Sarah. His creatures, his to deal with however he pleases - even if that means casting us into the throes of a very elaborate - and convincing - illusion. He needs no poisoned peaches to ensnare us, unfortunately."

Her mouth quirked slightly. "I bet Hoggle wasn't happy about that."

"On the contrary, he was furious. But there was nothing he could do - nothing any of us could do."

"Do you know where the others are being kept?"

He hesitated a moment. "Yes."

She turned to exit the doorway again. "Then let's go."

"Sarah." He climbed to his feet with difficulty. "Sarah, I understand you wish to rescue the others, and I applaud you intentions. But you are severely pressed for time, I expect. The only way you can win is if -"

"Shut up!" She whirled on him, and he started to see her white, strained face. She was shaking as she stood before him, fists clenched and arms held rigidly at her sides. After a moment, she spoke again. "I'm sorry," she said quietly. "But you can't expect me to consider that. Not if the others are trapped like you were - in pain, maybe, expecting me to come and get them -"

"They will understand, Sarah."

"No." She set her jaw. "I won't let him do this," she whispered. "Not to them, and not to me. I refuse to play by his rules."

Chaucer sighed, deeply, knowing it was hopeless. "Then we had better get moving." He began to walk out the door, but halted when he found that Sarah wasn't following. Turning, he saw that she hadn't even budged. Instead, she was staring at where he had lain before the fireplace - where, he saw, something was shimmering into existence.

Slowly, Sarah walked over to it, kneeling in the soot and ashes. She picked it up in one hand. Over her shoulder, Chaucer could just about see that it was a dark blue glove. Meant for a lady's hand, a white rose was embroidered in the palm. A seed pearl glowed like an ember at its heart.

"You're not going to make this easy, are you?" he heard her whisper to herself, running her fingers over the satin material.

"My child?"

She got up, letting the glove fall back to the ground, where it crumpled like a fallen bird. Without looking at him, she marched out the doorway.

"Come on," she called. "We don't have much time."


Things were so much easier, now that she had Chaucer to lead the way. She wasn't stumbling blindly through the menacing passages, but diligently following her guide, who moved with grim purpose. They still set a heart-racing pace, but for the first time Sarah felt hope. A nervous energy lent strength to her tired limbs, buoying them with a jittery excitement that made her shiver as they sped through the Castle.

Through Chaucer's direction, they began to climb steadily upwards. Sarah herself had been unconsciously barreling towards the bowels of the Castle, throwing herself headlong into subterranean passageways and forgotten chambers lodged deep into the earth. Chaucer reversed that process, forcing her to climb higher and higher up steep stairways into larger, airier corridors that boasted wide windows.

And, incidentally, goblins.

Sarah realized with a jolt that she hadn't actually seen a goblin since the battle in the City, all those years ago. There had been no encounters with their kind on this trip - not unless you counted the little stone-switching hobgoblins, which she didn't. These goblins were an entirely different breed altogether. They were a bit taller than six inches, for instance, and infinitely more threatening. They wore bulky, rusting armor that clanked noisily with their every step, brandishing pikes and axes and scimitars in their gnarled fists. They came in a variety of shapes and sizes. Some of them were stout and bulky, barely up to Sarah's waist, peering at her with little piggy eyes from beneath pot helmets, jowls wobbling. Others were rail-thin, stretched out like rubber bands. They drooped, leaning on lances as if they couldn't support their own height. Some had snouts, or hooves, or horns - but none of them made any move at all to stop the two interlopers.

"Chaucer," she gasped, as they struggled to keep up their breakneck speed, "why aren't they attacking us?"

"Hmm?" He took a moment to see where she gestured. "Oh. Them. Probably don't have any specific orders, and so are at something of a loss. Goblins are rather harmless in the essentials," he remarked dryly. "Rather like simple machines. Just point in the right direction, and give them a push."

Whether or not this was true, Sarah couldn't figure out - but their lack of interference was just another reason to hope that maybe, just maybe, they could get through this.

They found Hoggle minutes later, disguised as his bundle of jewels. As soon as Sarah stepped over the threshold, the room began to flood. She and Chaucer had to struggle together to lift up the unconscious Hoggle, keeping his head safely above water as Sarah's nimble fingers went to work on the knots in the twine that secured his own wrists and ankles. The moment they were undone the water receded, leaving them all soaked up to the waist. As they both helped Hoggle up onto his feet and out of the room, Sarah spotted a flash of color out of the corner of her eye. There was a small table tucked discretely into one corner, and resting upon its rough surface was a white linen napkin. Lying on the napkin, in an extreme contrast of red against white, was a sculpted candy strawberry too perfect to be real.

She let it lie.

Next was Ludo and Didymus, imprisoned together (naturally). The spell was a little different, this time - Sarah didn't know if it was because they were reaching the end, or simply as a kind of sadistic tribute to the two souls he held in thrall. Instead of inanimate objects, Ludo and Didymus were enchanted as, respectively, a field mouse and a hawk. And, of course, the moment Sarah stepped into the room the rotting tapestries that hung on the walls burst into flames. Coughing with the smoke, Hoggle and Chaucer managed to catch the Ludo-mouse (yet another change in the spell) and undo the tiny collar of twine knotted around his furry neck. Meanwhile, Sarah desperately tried to soothe the panicked Didymus-hawk, thrown into a raging frenzy with fear of the licking flames. Arms upraised to defend herself from his raking claws, she eventually got close enough to dart in and rip off the twine jesses looped loosely about the hawk's feet, catching Didymus as he transformed in mid-air. She set the bewildered fox-like creature on his own two feet, coughing out the last of the smoke from her lungs as the surrounding fires died. The five of them shuffled out the door, but not before Sarah glimpsed a shining circlet of white gold, set with three rosy pearls, lying innocently in the middle of the smoke-blackened floor.

No, she thought grimly as the resumed the search. No. I won't let you do this.    

They ran desperately though the remaining hallways, shouting Brian's name until their throats were hoarse. Corridors upon corridors yielded nothing but empty rooms, vacant of even the evidence of living she had glimpsed in the lower levels of the Castle. Finally, stumbling and weary, they found themselves once again in the throne room. There was no one there, either - save a few startled chickens, which immediately ran squawking for cover. Gasping for breath, pain lancing through her sides, Sarah dropped down onto the floor to rest. She threw a quick glance at the unnatural clock, still resting off to one side. They had accomplished the impossible, rescuing everyone from the spells in twenty minutes, exactly. Which left exactly seven minutes to find Brian, free him, run back to the Portrait Hall, and escape the Labyrinth.

You're not going to make it, a voice whispered inside.

"Sarah, look!"

She whipped her head around to see Hoggle, gesturing wildly. She turned to see what he was pointing at. another staircase, with thin, shallow steps, immediately opposite the throne itself. It was brightly lit by the sunshine that poured in from above and from a tall window. It was also sickeningly familiar. She had walked up those exact same stairs three years ago, and for years afterwards in her nightmares.

"Did you look up there, Sarah?" Hoggle asked, a little subdued. He recognized the spot, too.

"No," she said, feeling a yawning emptiness open up inside her. "They weren't there before."

"Well, then," Chaucer said briskly as he made to walk across the room. "Having eliminated all other possibilities." After taking a few steps, he hesitated, looking curiously at the other behind him, who hadn't stirred a step. "Ahem." He turned to face them, crossing skinny arms over his enormous paunch. "Am I missing something?"

"Twas at yonder staircase we last saw our lady," Sir Didymus supplied softly, "before she went forward into battle."

"What? What are you talking about, she's right -" Suddenly, the light dawned on Chaucer. "Oh. Oh, you mean. ah. Last time. I see."

"Ludo scared," the big beast rumbled, and Sarah stood to take his massive paw in her own hands.

"I know, Ludo," she said quietly. "I'm scared, too." Standing on her tiptoes, she managed to kiss him on his rough cheek. He hugged her tightly, almost lifting her off the floor, before sadly letting her go.

"Wait a minute, wait a minute," Hoggle growled. "If you think you're goin' back in there alone, AGAIN, you gotta 'nother think comin'!"

"I have to, Hoggle," she said dully, kneeling to hug Sir Didymus. The foxy creature looked up at her, clearly unhappy, his one good eye gleaming.

"If thou insists, my lady," he said softly.

"I insist."

With absolute aplomb, his kissed her hand and swept a bow, removing his plumed hat to do so. "Is there any task you would charge me, lady, before you depart?" he asked, looking up. "Any at all?" he concluded hopefully.

"Look after Ludo. Make sure Chaucer gets back to his home safely - the Red and Blue guards like to play tricks on him, okay?" She hesitated. "And try to visit Hoggle once in a while," she whispered in his pointed ears. "He gets lonely all by himself."

"Twill be done as you have charged, fair maiden."

"Thank you, noble sir." She stood, absent-mindedly brushing off the dust from her jeans.

"No!" Hoggle roared, moving to block her as she made to mount the stairs. "No way! I'm not lettin' you go off by yourself again!"

"I agree with Hoggle," Chaucer said stoutly, standing resolutely beside the dwarf. He winced at the statement. "Though only out of necessity," he muttered.

Sarah looked at them both helplessly. "You guys, I have to do this - and I have to do this alone."

"Why?!" they wailed together.

"Because!" Exasperated, she sat on her heels as so to be face-to-face with them. "You've both done so much already, don't you see that? Chaucer," she said, turning resolutely to the scholarly demon. "I could have never made it through the Labyrinth without you - never. And just now, finding everyone in the Castle. Do you honestly think I could have pulled that off on my own, with the time we had? No." She sighed, reaching for the hand of the misshapen dwarf in front of her. "And Hoggle. you were my strength. I know you felt badly about what happened last time, but you more than made up for any past mistakes." She squeezed his hand and, studiously not looking at her, he gave a gentle squeeze in return. "And Ludo and Didymus, too. You've all done so much." Sarah drew a deep breath. "But this," she began, and the way her voice shook let them know how afraid she was, "this, I have to do on my own. With no one else's help." She was quiet for a moment. "I made my choice when I came back to the Labyrinth," she spoke softly. "And now I have to bear the consequences of that choice. I love you all, so much," she said thickly. "I can't ask you to fight my battles for me."

Releasing her friend's hand she ran up the stairway before they could stop her, hot tears blinding her and scalding her cheeks. She took the steps two and three at a time, until their protestations faded behind her into silence. She walked up the stairs, feeling déjà vu so strong she could almost taste it, and out onto the platform.

And reeled.

It was the Escher room, just like three years ago - endless and impossible staircases that trickled along the ceiling and dripped down the walls, spiraling into oblivion. They thwarted the eye, tracing a headache on the viewer's skull until they wanted to scream to take it back, it wasn't right. It was the same room that had shocked her to the core, years ago. Only this time Jareth had done something different.

The room was filled with mirrors.

They were everywhere. They covered the walls in shining sheets, flowing over every step. Instead of an inverted maze of stone, it was one of mirror-reflections. All kinds of different mirrors. Some had a slightly greenish cast to them, others yellow or blue. Some were warped, their rippling reflections incongruous with their silk-smooth surfaces. But it was a room or mirrors, of illusions. Whenever Sarah turned her head, thousands wearing her face - whether distorted beyond belief or a clear-cut image - mimicked her, unconsciously following the movement.

It turned the room, initially confusing and chaotic, into a kind of hell. She couldn't see where she was going, couldn't make out where she was coming from - she could barely distinguish the end of one step from the beginning of another. Everything was mirrors, a fluid and deceptive visage that shifted and kaleidoscoped with her every move. Infinitely careful, she began to pick her way down the first flight of steps, feeling along the steps with her foot.

"Brian?" she called, voice echoing and bouncing like light off the mirrors and around the room."Brian, are you in here?"

She heard something. It wasn't clear - just a muffled explosion right beyond her field of vision: the obvious sound of someone trying to scream through a gag. Excited, she tried to speed up her progress - and slipped, stumbling on the slick glass surface. The room gulped; her own mirror images swelling and contracting as she was swallowed into that infinity of representation. Before she knew it, she was tumbling down the steps. She had to close her eyes against the absolute chaos of her vision as she rolled down that steep stairway, trying desperately to gain purchase on the slippery surfaces.

She hit the bottom and groaned. She had protected her head with her arms as she fell, but everything else - her body already weary and worn from her trek through the Castle -- felt bruised from hitting step edges and the resisting planes of glass. Making sure she was on a wide surface, she sat up, blinking to clear her eyes of their multi-faceted view. She gave it up as a lost cause, struggling to her feet.

"Brian!" she called again. "Brian, can you hear me?"

The choked sounds came again, directly to her left. Cautious, this time, Sarah lowered herself to her knees and crept along the edge of a wall. She was careful to feel her way along the floor as she crawled around the corner to see -


"Oh, God," she breathed. "Oh, man, Brian, I am so glad to see you." She scuffled over to him, denim jeans sliding along the glassy surface beneath her. Her sweating hands squeaked against the slick sheets of mirror, but she used the rubber soles of her shoes to keep from slipping, scurrying over to where her friend lay. He was bound up tightly with the same thin ropes as the others had been, the twine cutting deeply into the flesh of his wrists and binding his ankles together. On top of that, a spotless white handkerchief had been stuffed into his mouth, and another one tied over it and around his head to serve as a gag. Thinking uncharacteristically violent thoughts about a certain Goblin King, Sarah scowled and bent her head to pick apart the knots. Using her nails to rip them undone, she got his hands free in a matter of moments. As he rubbed them briskly together to get the blood flowing she reached around to pull the gag off his head. When she had done that, he spat out the second handkerchief, shoving the damp cloth over to one side.

"Hey, beautiful," he said, with a ghost of his usual grin as he bent to untie his ankles. They were tucked safely into a corner, but the rippling and distorted reflections surrounding them still gave Sarah a headache. Brian looked just as he had in the dream - dressed in his normal jeans and t-shirt, of course, and a little gaunt around the eyes, but otherwise her Brian. Wincing, he managed to wrench off the ties from his ankles, stomping his feet on the shining mirrors beneath. "Took you long enough to get here, didn't it?"

Sarah threw herself at Brian, wrapping her arms around him tightly. Hugging Brian so hard he could barely breathe, she admitted to herself for the first time how much she had missed him: his laugh, his easy manner, the stupid things he said. She had come so close to loosing him. but it was okay. It was okay, now, they could go, and they could get out, they were safe.

She realized she was babbling like an idiot, half-sobbing, clutching at the material of his shirt as she spoke, clinging to him as if for dear life. He laughed a little, putting his arms around her and rubbing her back soothingly.

"It's okay, baby, it's okay," he said softly. "Everything's alright. I'm here. Give yourself a minute."

She gave a soggy chuckle, turning her face up towards him. "I know," she said, resting her head on his shoulder. "It's just everything that's happened, and I feel like it's been forever since I saw you  -- God, at school. Can you imagine going back to school, after this?" 

He smiled at her fondly. "No," he whispered. His eyes darkened, and he used the gentlest touch of his fingers to coax her chin upwards. He couldn't resist kissing those smiling lips, taking her mouth in his. That was his mistake.

Because then she knew, of course.

Sarah wrenched away so violently she almost sent herself skidding along the slippery glass, her head throbbing with the sudden movement. Around her reflection-Sarahs did the same, their eyes wide with her own shock and betrayal. She stared at him, breathing heavily through her mouth. She snarled, mouth twisting with her anger.

"You fucking bastard," she spat out. "Where is he? Where's Brian?"

Mismatched eyes laughed back at her, but the pale, aristocratic hand he rose to push back rough-cut blonde hair trembled slightly. The mirrors finally relinquished the truth: a multitude of Jareths, in Brian's clothing, faced her rage with a thin, vicious smile of their own.

"You won't find him," they informed her. "And even if you did, you won't win."

She stood, desperate to control her body as it shook from sheer weariness. "I guess you've made sure of that," she spoke dully.

"Of course," came the soft reply. He stood, and the pretenders around him followed his lead. "You surprised me the last time. Your devotion to your brother was quite. unexpected. But I have learned not to underestimate you."

"Fuck you."

Eyes narrowed. "Don't talk to me like that, Sarah."

"Fuck you! Brian!" she screamed, turning, fingers grabbing futilely at mirrored corners. "BRIAN!"

She lost all sense of caution, racing along beside mirror-stairways, not even careful where she walked or whether there was solid ground beneath her feet. Idly, she wondered whether Jareth would care if she fell and broke her neck. She shoved that thought aside and concentrated on finding Brian. She could almost feel the seconds slipping past her, the opportunities for escape fading away even as she called desperately for her friend, voice cracking with the strain. The surrounding Sarahs - on the walls, ceiling, floor, and even shadowed corners - seemed to laugh at her pitiful desperation.

She almost missed him. It would have been nicely ironic if she actually had missed him, walked right past him - but she was in no position to appreciate such subtleties. As it was, it was a pretty close call. After all, they were both dark-haired, of roughly the same height, and she was half-crazed and jumping out of her own skin, she was so frantic. It would have been easy to casually dismiss him as one of her reflections - because that's all he was. A reflection.

She stopped suddenly, arrested in her tracks. Slowly, she turned her head - and saw him. There was Brian, the real Brian. She should have known better, before. This Brian was exhausted and dirty from sleeping in the oubliette, his clothing wrinkled and a ragged beard beginning to show on his chin. He was reflected in the mirror right across from her. She whirled, joyous, expecting to see him standing behind. but there was nothing. Frowning, she turned back to the mirror - and for the first time, realized it wasn't showing her reflection, it was the only one that didn't show her reflection. Just Brian. And when Brian saw her eyes on him again, he pressed his hands up against the glass. She could see the skin flatten and spread as it hit the solid surface between them.  

He was inside.

Hesitantly, Sarah approached the mirror. She touched her own fingers to the glass, lightly, pulling away at the unresponsive coolness. Brian shouted silently at her, mouth working furiously. He began to pound his fists against the clear divider between them, but - placing her hand back on the smooth surface - she could feel no answering vibration through the material. He wasn't on the other side of anything; he was truly inside the mirror. It was a spell.

He was trapped.

Sarah stared with growing horror. There was no way to get him out. He wasn't behind anything, so it wasn't as if she could somehow managed to break through the mirror, or peel back the glass to get him free. It was a spell, and she had no magic - she couldn't undo whatever Jareth had done. Brian became more and more anxious as he read the expression on her face, shouting hysterically, noiselessly, from his mirrored prison. Sarah choked on a sob. Knowing she was defeated, she couldn't bear to look at the friend she had utterly, miserably failed. She turned from him, hunching her shoulders against that despairing expression.

Only to see Jareth, tucked into the shadows a safe distance away from her. He was back in his customary hangings of black, delicate falls of lace spilling over his wrists and at his throat. The pendant rested against the iridescent armor that covered his chest. It shone softly in the ever-reflected light that bounced continuously between his mazes of mirrors. He gazed at her somberly.

She lunged at him. She didn't even think about it, she barely knew what she was doing - but she sincerely wished, for a few frightening moments, that she could tear his throat out. She flew at him, spitting and cursing, fists striking wildly against his arms and his face and any part of him that she could reach. Her nails scratched uselessly against his armor, but then triumphantly scraped skin, catching his pale cheek - and then he had enough of her hysterics. Mouth thinning, he caught her wrists effortlessly in his own gloved hands, cruelly twisting them around and against her back. She cried out in pain, and he transferred both wrists to one gloved hand while the other arm wrapped around her waist, bringing her roughly against him. He ruthlessly crushed her attempts at resistance, griping her so tightly tears of pain came into her eyes.

"Don't fight me, Sarah," he warned, as he braced himself behind her. And then - she could feel him lean his cheek, so softly, against the dark masses of her hair. "Please."

"You're cruel, you're so cruel," she raged, despising the fact that a few tears leaked from her eyes. "I hate you!"

"Perhaps," he answered in a strained voice. "But I finally have you, Sarah. I will not let you go."  

Abruptly, she gave up, slumping dejectedly in his hold. Bereft of hope, she stood listlessly, staring into the mirrors at their feet. Jareth waited a moment, making sure this wasn't another ploy. But when she remained so defenseless, so vulnerable, he picked her up like a child: one arm underneath her knees, the other supporting her back. She offered no resistance. Jareth bent his head, briefly resting his lips on her pale forehead. He stepped over mirrors, ignoring the flow and ebb of their reflections as he moved through that mirrored space. Gently, ever so gently, he carried her over to Brian. He stopped in front of the prisoner, paying no attention to the young man's grief-stricken expression.

"He won't be unhappy, Sarah," the Goblin King murmured softly into her hair. "He'll live within his dreams. There are some who would kill for such a fate."

She turned away. "Put me down. Please."

Wordlessly he complied, setting her back down on the ground with infinite care. But he kept his hands firmly on her waist, allowing no escape. Sarah turned herself around to face the friend trapped within a reflection.

"And me?" she asked, meeting Brian's broken gaze. His mouth, loose and trembling, pleaded soundlessly, begging for her help. But she had no way to help him. "I'll become a ghost, or something."

Jareth's arms further encircled her waist, holding her close. "I would never do that to you," he promised quietly. "As long as you stay here, with me, I will never keep you to our bargain."

"What if I don't want to stay?" she asked, voice small.

"Why wouldn't you?" Placing his hands on her shoulders, he firmly turned her away from Brian, made her meet his own crystalline gaze. "Imagine it, Sarah. Rule by my side - reign over a world of absolute fantasy, with every wish granted and every dream come true. It's everything you've ever wanted."

She didn't respond. She merely gazed back at him, expressionless. He brought his gloved hands up to her face, a thumb caressing the line of her mouth. "I've stolen your soul to keep you with me, in a way." A grin tugged at his thin lips. "Surely that appeals to your romantic sensibilities."

"It isn't romance," she responded evenly, not moving from his touch. "It's captivity."

He stilled, his hands falling away. "It's all I know."

She sighed, leaning imperceptivity forward, falling into his arms. Silently he accepted her surrender, holding her gently as she leaned her cheek against the unyielding material of his armor. One gloved hand smoothed her hair, as if she were a child that had just cried herself to sleep. Sarah closed her eyes, submitting to his restraint.

"I never meant to take you through this," he spoke, so softly his voice barely reached her ears.

"Really?" she asked, almost sleepily, completely relaxed in the circle of his arms.

"Truly," he acknowledged, laughing low in his throat. "I never expected you to get this far," he said, wryly amused. "You are forever surprising me, Sarah."

She sighed, eyes still closed. "That's good, I guess."

"It's wonderful." He was quiet for a moment. "But no," he continued, "I never wanted to go this far. What I wanted was. I warned you reality was harsh, didn't I?"

"Yes. You did."

He sighed deeply, his grip slackening as the tension flowed out of his frame. "I'm sorry," he said finally.

She lifted her head to look up at him. "It's alright." One of his hands came up to lightly trace along her cheek. "I'm sorry, too." He smiled - openly, warmly, the only real smile she had ever seen on his face.

Her heart broke.

But it was too late, now. Dimly, she could hear the clock whirring as it prepared to strike thirteen. Her fingers were already closing around the delicate silken cord on which his pendant hung  -

("All we know is, it is an artifact of incredible power.")

 -- snapping it off with practiced ease (after all, she'd done this before) and turning away from him in the same fluid motion --

("The exact opposite<> power of that which fuels the Labyrinth.)

-- because she didn't have magic, she couldn't fight a spell. at least, not on her own --

("He holds the greatest threat to the Labyrinth around his own neck!")

-- and she dashed the pendant against the mirror with every bit of strength left in her body.

The world shattered.

The entire castle shook, foundations dancing merrily beneath her feet. The walls shivered, the staircases hiccupped, the mirrors rustled - it was as if the fortress, after taking a long nap, was finally shaking itself awake. The mirror cracked, of course. With the sound of tiny bells crashing together, slivers of glass flew everywhere as they launched themselves into the air, diving in arcs of reflected light. Sarah pitched toward the floor, the roiling of the stones beneath unbalancing her and driving her to her knees. She hid her face from the flying glass, feeling crumbs shower against her back. The ground rumbled, growled, screeched. More mirrors broke - she could hear them cracking musically, far above her head - and shattered glass rained down on them. And the clock tolled and tolled and tolled, the sound rolling over their heads like a call to arms. Existence jumped and pirouetted to that tune.

After a few minutes, thankfully, it subsided. Cautiously, Sarah lifted her head. The ground still grumbled, faintly, the stones beneath her feet shuddering at the sound, but the worse seemed to be over. And Brian was free.

He had fallen right beside her. She only had to sweep away some shining debris to step to his side, coughing through the pungent smell of burnt glass and warmed mercury. Stooping, she gently shook his arm.


He lay on his side. When she touched him his eyes snapped open, wide and terrified.

"Brian?" She spoke softer, this time, afraid to spook him. "It's Sarah."

Abruptly, he sat up. He looked at her, pupils dilated with shock. Suddenly he grabbed for her, crushing her too him. After a moment of surprise she hugged him back. She expected to be exhilarated. They had won. But all she felt was sad sense of relief.

"It's okay," she said softly. Exactly who she was reassuring, she couldn't tell. She could still see herself reflected in the broken shards at their feet, her face wan. "We're going home."

After a minute she managed to disentangle herself from his embrace. With a reassuring smile, she stood. He watched closely, eyes begging her to stay by his side. But she had something to do.

Another figure lay sprawled a few feet away, this one swathed in cobwebbed fabric of deep black. His long limbs stretched out on the floor, legs encased in high boots, arms covering his face. She knew, with a distant sense of regret, that when the world had fallen to pieces he had made to move to shelter her. 

Hesitantly, she reached over to touch his motionless shoulder. No response. She crept closer; kneeling on splintered glass to peer at his drawn, white face. "Are you alright?" She took his gloved hand in her own, absently. "Can you -"

His arm shot out, slamming into her chest and brutally shoving her away from him. With a gasp, she fell into the broken mirror across from them, her back scraping against remnants of glass.

"Hey!" she heard Brian shout. "Don't touch her!"

Wincing at the pain, she opened her eyes - and the breath caught painfully in her throat. Jareth had rolled onto his back, cushioned from the splinters by his thick cloak. But he was in pain - terrible, horrible pain. He gasped, eyes screwed shut, balled fists clutching at his heart, gritting his teeth against some undeniable agony. Bewildered, she made as it to stand and walk over to him. and then as she put her hand on the floor, something bit into it, lancing pain along her palm. Shocked, she looked down to see the broken pieces of what had once been a sinister coupling of gold and silver.

The pendant - lying shattered on the ground.

She felt the bottom drop out of her stomach. Her eyes darted back to the Goblin King. He struggled in silent anguish, surrounded by pieces of his own pain in the ragged shafts of mirrors. What was it Chaucer had said?

("We can't survive without dreams. Not the real, true dreams.")

And if I destroyed his only dream?

"Oh my God," she whispered to herself. "What have I done?"

That, Jareth heard. He turned his head toward her, eyes glinting with private misery. Another wave of torment seemed to hit him, for he clenched his teeth as if to keep from screaming aloud. The ground rumbled malignantly beneath them both.

"I wasn't even suppose to have it," Jareth gasped out, almost laughing. "And now look where it's gotten me."

"No!" Sarah leapt to her feet and was at his side in a second. He pulled away from her, snarling as he leaned against a fragmented wall. One arm curled defensively against the agony in his chest - like a wild animal that can't bear to be touched when in pain. The wall against his back shuddered, and a few more mirrors cracked with musical dissonance.

Sarah halted where she stood, one arm outstretched, still reaching for him. Her eyes were wide and excruciatingly vulnerable. "No," she cried, low and soft. "I didn't mean to hurt you!"

He laughed again. His hand spasmed over his heart - as if it were trying to tear itself out of his body. "That doesn't erase the fact," he murmured, "that you just did."

"Don't go near him, Sarah." Brian was at her side, fingers encircling her arm, holding her back. "It's a fucking trick. Just watch."

"Let go of me," she growled, trying to wrench herself out of his grasp. She would have succeeded - had she not been so worn out from the past half hour that she could barely stand. They struggled, but eventually Brian ended up holding her firmly by the arms as she strained to reach the fallen king.

Jareth watched them both from beneath half-lowered lashes. There was a steady vibration, now, in the ground beneath him and the walls surrounding. He could feel it, even as the numbness began to seep into his body.

"The Castle is going to collapse," he remarked, conversational.

Sadly, it didn't give the two children much pause. Sarah still struggled uselessly in Brian's grip, and the young man looked at Jareth with burning eyes. "Stay the hell away from us," he said, full of mistrust. "You come near us, and I'll cut you open, do you understand?"

"If you hold her still," Jareth only replied, "I can send you both home."

"No!" That from Sarah, who managed another desperate burst of energy. She almost pulled free - really, quite impressive, considering her captive and the shape she was in. As it was, Brian had to yank her around sharply, fingers digging into her arms as he turned her to face him.

"Why are you doing this?" he hissed. "Are you that stupid? It's a fucking trick! Just like the dreamworld! You think this is any less of a lie?"

"Let go of me," she seethed. "Now, Brian!"

"No." There was a terrible determination in his face. "You obviously have no idea what the hell is going on. Sarah, listen to me," he said, voice urgent. "You don't know what you're doing!"

"I know what I'm doing," she said softly. Her eyes met his. "I always knew," she continued steadily, "exactly what I was doing. Even in the dream."

Brian stared at her for a long moment. "No way," he finally said, trembling. "No fucking way." He wrenched her around again, drawing her in close to the circle of his arms. "The only reason she'd choose you," he said raggedly, directly to the Goblin King, "is if she'd been drugged, tricked, or fucking bespelled! And you know it!"

"Of course I do," Jareth replied, his tone deceptively light. "Why do you think I started this charade? But if you don't get her to calm down, you're both going to die."

 "No," Sarah choked out, still trying to twist her arms out of Brian's hold. "I'm not leaving you, don't you dare send me away! Jareth!"

He had been pulling himself upright: a slow, excruciating process, impossible if not for the support of the wall behind him. The pain was less, now - but the lack of sensation in his limbs, that was a bit worrying. At the mention of his name, hearing it from her for the first time. Jareth looked up, and his face was cold.

"Hold her still," he said tersely. "Otherwise, it won't work."

If anything, Sarah struggled even harder at his command. Brian hesitated. Around them more mirrors shattered, fell, dissolved above their heads in a crescendo of disharmony. The walls started to tremble severely, and the floor beneath their feet pitched violently for a few seconds, like the deck of a storm-tossed ship, before subsiding. For the first time, a hint of doubt entered Brian's eyes. He nodded warily, adjusting his hold on the writhing girl in his arms.

Jareth held out his hand, noticing dispassionately that it shook rather badly. Shrugging to himself, he began to concentrate.

"Let me go!" Sarah was on the verge of hysterics, tossing her head from side to side as she realized what was happening - and how powerless she was to stop it. She pulled one arm free, straining toward the Goblin King. He had no idea what she intended to do, but it didn't matter. He struck at the outstretched hand, sparing none of his failing strength in the violent motion. She gasped and stumbled at the rejection; it gave her enough pause for Brian to capture her back up in his arms, pinning her arms to her sides.  

Sarah watched as Jareth, now a distant stranger, curled his fingers inward to his palm, as if ready to release some power. His eyes chanced to meet her wild ones - and he hesitated.

She stilled in Brian's grasp. "I'm sorry," she whispered brokenly. "I'm so sorry. I didn't mean to hurt you." 

For an instant, that cold gaze thawed.

"I know," he said simply. Then his concentration turned inward.


He opened up his hand, and they were gone.

As if that were some silent signal, the castle walls began to shake in earnest. The ceiling began to break apart, huge bricks dislodging and tumbling down towards the earth, taking out structures as they went. Sheets of mirrors crumpled like paper, falling away from the stairs in rainbows of prismatic light. They crashed to earth like comets, splintering upon contact into showers of fragmented glass.

Jareth slid to the floor, tired of fighting his own helplessness. Idly, he tilted his head up. Through the broken ceiling, he could glimpse patches of the evening sky: cold, clear stars shining against the darkness of the night.

Without ceremony, the Goblin King died.


For Brian, reality faded into existence slowly. Jareth had only so much left, of course, to send them home with. Not much, but just enough. It was a tired process - first the dim shape of things, as if his eyes were adjusting to total darkness. Then light bled into those shapes, and color. it seemed an excruciatingly slow development while it happened, but when it was over he blinked in startled surprise.

As if from very, very far away, he heard the campus clock chime in the new day.

He wasn't holding Sarah anymore. He wondered if that were Jareth's doing, or the magic's. It didn't really matter. The way it ended up, when Brian was fully conscious of being back, he was standing amidst the mess of his papers and his books, surrounded by the plush red seats of the audience. Sarah, on the other hand. Squinting, Brian could see that she was onstage. She knelt before the gilt-edged mirror; head bowed and hair falling over her face like a veil. He walked over, picking his way through the audience and hopping up onto the stage. He hesitated before touching her shoulder, but the eyes she turned on him were clear.

"You okay?" she asked quietly.

He looked down at himself. The dirt, the rips and tears in his clothing - it was all gone. So were his bruises, and the half-healed scratch from that damn owl attacking him. He rubbed his chin absently to find it smooth and shaven. There was sign at all of his days spent in the darkness of the oubliette - only that he was incredibly tired, with a weariness that seemed to sink into the marrow of his very bones.

"Sure," he said hollowly. "I just need a long shower. You?"

"I'm fine." She turned her head back to the mirror. She confronted her reflection squarely, as if trying to divine the depths of its thoughts. "He's dead, isn't he?" she said abruptly.

Brian swallowed. "Yeah," he said finally. "I think so."

Her head dropped down again. Her shoulders began to shake, and he knelt down so he could comfort her - only to find she was laughing.

Then she began to scream. She screamed and she screamed and screamed - she screamed until her throat was raw and there was no more breath left in her body, and then the darkness took her as she collapsed upon the stage.

A Forfeit of Dreams

A Labyrinth Story
by KL Morgan

Part 13 of 15

<< Previous     Home     Next >>