Continuing Tales

A Forfeit of Dreams

A Labyrinth Story
by KL Morgan

Part 3 of 15

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A Forfeit of Dreams

Something was very, very wrong.

The dusty landscape burned with the late afternoon sun overhead, just as before. The Labyrinth itself seemed to writhe like a living thing as its twisted pathways coursed over the ground, like before. Sarah could even -- if she squinted her eyes -- make out the low, flowering bushes that lined the outer wall, which Hoggle had been tending when they first met. But something, something...

"Why is it different?" she whispered to herself.

"Because you are different."

Sarah jumped. She had forgotten about Jareth entirely in her sudden confusion. He gave her a bitter smile, as if he knew it, before continuing.

"You didn't think the Labyrinth was an unchanging entity, did you? It wouldn't claim so very many victims if it were. It's a personal challenge to everyone that enters its walls, reflecting their dreams and fears." Jareth leaned back easily against one of the barren, twisted trees that covered the land outside the Labyrinth. The rich sunlight caught on its cobwebbed limbs, and he was a dark shadow against the glittering beauty. "There are constants, of course. I must claim credit for the greater part of the Labyrinth's charm. But the challenges you met would not be the same as, oh, say your boy Brian would encounter. And since you are the only person the ever travel through it twice," he lifted an eyebrow, "I am not surprised it has shifted to accommodate the simple fact that you are no longer the girl you were then." He gave a depreciating smirk. "To a point."

She lifted her chin, slightly stung by the remark. "Doesn't matter," with an arrogance she didn't really feel. "I solved the Labyrinth before. I can do it again."

The Goblin King closed his eyes, smiling softly. "So confident," he murmured to himself.

"Besides," Sarah spoke, and there was a quiet triumph in her voice. "I already know the truth of it all."

Jareth opened his eyes. "Oh?"

"Mmm hmm." She grinned wickedly, certain of her one victory. "This changes nothing between us. No matter whether I win or lose, we both know that -- in the end -- you have no power ov--"

Quick as thought a gloved hand was covering her mouth, trapping the words inside. "Don't," he said softly. "Even. Think. About it." He didn't remove his hand, instead leaning in close so that he looked directly into her eyes. "If you say those words, for any reason, at any time while you are in my Labyrinth, you lose. Do you understand me, Sarah?" His own mismatched eyes burned with some unknown emotion. "Cause my kingdom to come to pieces again, and I will not be happy. You must not break the Labyrinth's spell over you. You must play by the rules, as you did before. Break them, and you forfeit everything." He finally pulled back, releasing her. "Everything."

"You didn't say any of that when we made our agreement!" Sarah protested hotly.

"Oh, didn't I? How careless of me."

She loathed him.

"Fine," she said quietly, inwardly seething. "Your rules. I'll still win."

She took off towards the Labyrinth without throwing him a backward glance. He watched as she half-stumbled, half-ran over the rocky landscape, tumbling towards the outer wall. The doors to the Labyrinth, to her obvious bewilderment, were unhidden -- out in plain sight for all to see. She looked around tentatively, dark hair swinging with the movement of her head. Sarah seemed to shrug, and then pushed at them both. The Goblin King watched as they opened easily to her touch, and she hesitantly walked inside.

The doors slammed shut.

Jareth relaxed almost imperceptivity. Some kind of tension leaked out of his stance, and he threw back his head to laugh delightedly. His eyes held a wicked mirth.

"Not this time, dear one," he promised softly. "Not this time."


Dark, reaching stone that shimmered slightly, covered with gnarled vines in a withered filigree. An endless stretch of corridor on either side, like the photo-negative of a train's lights disappearing down a dark tunnel. Broken tree limbs littered underfoot, as if the walls had just suddenly appeared -- instead of being built -- where a wide forest once stood, severing branches from their ancient trunks. The shaky whispering of the lichen, eyes rolling wildly on knobby stalks as she passed by.

It was all so familiar to Sarah, and yet not -- like walking in a place you remembered vaguely from a dream. Her body moved with an assurance she didn't actually feel, her thoughts always a step slower. She trailed her fingertips lightly down one wall, shivering at the dry, dusty feeling it left on her skin.

At least she remembered how to get out of this part. She made as if to stride forward, then hesitated. Wait, didn't I walk down for a while... She bit her lip, looking behind her. But I don't remember which way. She sighed hugely. Dammit. Well, I suppose it doesn't matter, really. It might even helped if I took another way -- I had to walk around for hours before I found the Red and Blue Guards... She felt a sinking feeling in the pit of her stomach. And it might even take longer this time.

Sarah had to admit it -- she was scared. She felt cast adrift now that she knew Hoggle wasn't in his proper place, spritzing fairies away from the flowering bushes outside. None of it seemed quite right. Despite Jareth's warnings, it was Hoggle's absence that made reality sink in for her: this was not the Labyrinth she once knew.

I might not see any of my friends this time around. And I miss them so much... She felt tears rise and dashed them angrily from her eyes. Stop that. Crying won't get you anywhere. She gave another look at her surroundings with a tiny laugh. I'd give anything to see a familiar face right now. I wonder if that worm is still around. She walked a little farther down, idly trying to choose an invisible opening. I wonder how he thought I'd manage to "come inside" and meet his missus. she thought bemusedly. Sarah stopped.

"Daydreaming," she said aloud, "is not going to help me. At all," she added firmly. She stepped forward, one hand held up instinctively to feel at the unseen edges of a passageway. "Left or right? Well," she paused, "I guess it's all the same."

She went right.


Brian groaned.

Pain. It was the first thing his sluggish mind registered: aching muscles all through his back and neck, a headache that threatened to blind him, and sharp bruises from... from...

What the hell am I doing on a stone floor?

Muffling instinctive yelps of protest, Brian heaved himself up into a sitting position. His hand went immediately to his head as he winced with the rush of blood. He waited for the temporary blackness before his eyes to clear. It didn't.

Where am I?

He blinked forcefully. Nope, didn't help -- he was in true darkness. He waved a hand in front of his face, or where he guessed it to be... nothing. Either he'd suddenly gone blind, or he had woken up in a very bad place. And he was inclined to believe the latter.

   What did he remember? Practicing in the theater with Sarah, the stranger walking in, and then... Then he, Brian, had said something. Something flippant, as usual. Something... something to do with...

Brian went absolutely still. No way.

As if in reply a door swung open, flooding the room with light. He cowered from it, holding up one hand to shield his smarting eyes. He barely had time to realize what was happening when strong hands grabbed his arms and roughly lifted him to his feet. Still trying to adjust to the overwhelming brightness, Brian couldn't truly make out who -- or what -- they were. Their hands were strangely small, yet strong; they didn't seem to have any trouble pushing and shoving his stumbling form out the door and into some kind of corridor. And then jumped. The hands had left off of him, but someone was prodding him forward, pushing something extremely sharp into his back. Blinking his eyes furiously to clear them, Brian whirled, registering the grunts of protest this elicited around him, to see --


They clustered around him in one great group, small ones and tall ones and round ones and long ones... All of them dusky-skinned, but some had round, smooth faces, some had craggy ones, others had features lost beneath a wealth of fur or grime. Some had horns, or tusks, or curious, lipless mouths that opened to reveal broken remains of teeth. A few actually had mustaches and straggly hair that wisped out from beneath their poorly made helmets and rusted chain mail.

It's not possible.

The tallest one prodded him again -- with a spear, he could see now. A couple of the others threatened him with sticks of rotted wood or rattled lengths of chain in his direction, but Brian could tell it was the tall one who was in charge. A large, unwieldy helmet that looked as if it had been a soup pot in another life obscured its face. There was a sickened, churning feeling in Brian's stomach as he gaped at the creatures around him, ignoring the sharp pokes of the leader. He stumbled, clutching at the stone walls around him, trying vainly to make his head stop spinning.

The worst of it all was that in every jeering, cackling, taunting, snarling face that surrounded him there was placed a pair of wide, intelligent eyes.

Human eyes.

 Brian let them lead him down the corridor, numb. His mind tried desperately to make sense of his surroundings, scrambled to come up with an explanation that would dispel the ocean of fear and bewilderment in which he was cast adrift. He walked onward, unseeing, simply waiting for some kind of answer. He almost didn't notice when the corridor blossomed, leading into a large circular room. Brian let his eyes wander over the scene before him. More deformed creatures hung on the walls and scampered over the stone floor, some of them dangling precariously out circular windows. There was some kind of pit in the middle of the floor, draped haphazardly with rumpled, dirty pieces of cloth. Thick, waxy candles perched unlit in various corners, and he could see a huge, ornate clock with... thirteen hours...

A feeling of dread came over Brian. It was familiar, and yet not -- familiar in that if he thought about it long enough he knew the memory would come to him. But he didn't want to remember. Brian knew in his heart that ignorance, at this point, was most definitely bliss.

With infinite reluctance, he turned his gaze to the focus of the chamber.

It was a throne. As alien as it all was, some things are obvious no matter where they're found. It sat on a raised dais some three steps above the floor, set against the wall. It was a gold semi-circle with hooked ends, pale purple hangings with a dusty gold pattern draped around its edges. And there was a man sitting in it -- although "sitting" was an inappropriate description. "Lounging" was much closer, with his back against one arm and a leg thrown casually over the other. The man seemed oblivious to the commotion around him, all his attention focused on a delicate crystal bauble he was continuously tossing into the air and then catching again with elegant motions. The man had pale hair flowing unevenly over his shoulders -- it was that which started the spark of fear inside Brian. It wasn't until the man turned his face, however, and Brian remembered those cold, cruel eyes, that the icy terror lanced through his veins.

"You're that guy..." Brian swallowed thickly, a sudden and unwelcome thought making his present situation all too clear. "You're him, aren't you? You're Jareth."

The Goblin King gestured expansively. The flourish took in everything around him -- the chickens running rampant underfoot, the cavorting goblins that bickered and fought in the corners, the general disarray and good-natured squalor. His smile might have been self-mocking -- but perhaps not.

"Welcome to my court," inclining his head graciously toward his guest.

Cautiously, making sure no one would stop him, Brian walked closer to the throne. His legs shook slightly, but he made it over to Jareth without stumbling. "Why am I here?" he asked, mouth dry.

"Because I wanted you to be," Jareth replied, and for all his arrogance there was the hint of a petulant child in his voice. He turned his attention from Brian, continuing his private game with the fragile crystal.

"Can I go home now?" Brian asked, his voice very small.


Brian hesitated. "When can I go home?"

"When I say you can." Jareth grinned wickedly to himself. "Perhaps never."

Brian gaped at him. "What -- what the hell is going on?" he asked, struggling to put some authority into his plea.

Jareth caught the bauble in a swift motion. Sighing with impatience, he turned to his prisoner. "You," he spoke condescendingly, "made a very stupid wish. Stupid for you, that is, very convenient for myself. As a consequence, you are now trapped in my Labyrinth." Jareth unhooked his leg from the throne's arm and swung himself upright, facing Brian. "Under the usual circumstances, of course, you would be free to lose yourself within its walls."

"Under the usual circumstances?"

"You are rather..." Jareth paused, weighing his words, "unique among our regular visitors."

"Why?" Brian asked, bewildered. "What did I do?"

"Oh, nothing you've done," Jareth drawled. He flicked his fingers outward; the crystal perched on them like an iridescent butterfly. "It's more due to a mutual acquaintance of ours."

"Mutual acquaintance?" Brian repeated, completely lost. "I really wouldn't have thought..."

Jareth twisted his wrist, catching the bauble in his hand. Carefully, he placed his other hand over its shining surface, so that the crystal was entirely lost to sight. He smiled to himself, throwing Brian a look full of mischief. As Brian watched, amazed, feathers began to peek from between Jareth's fingers. With infinite care, Jareth removed his hand, revealing the tiniest of grey doves to be nestled against his palm.

Brian gasped in wonder. "What happened to the crystal?" he blurted out.

The Goblin King shook his head, putting a finger to his own lips. Gently, ever so gently, Jareth stroked the bird with a gloved finger. The dove fluttered slightly, stretching its wings. Jareth leaned slightly to the side and rested his elbow on the throne, long fingers pressed against his temple.

"Beautiful, isn't it?" he asked, voice soft. "Such a precious, delicate creature. It would be so easy," and his voice held a heat that made Brian start in surprise, "to crush it here, in my hand." His voice dropped to a low whisper. "I can feel its heartbeat."

There was a look in the Goblin King's eye -- some darkness, some kind of fascination -- that made Brian eerily certain Jareth was not just thinking about the bird.

"But that is not what I want. No," Jareth continued, "let her have her illusion -- of safety, of certainty. But I am the one in control. And if I choose --"

He threw a look at Brian, and with blinding speed hurled the tiny creature into the air.

"Wait," Brian spoke without thinking, "It'll hit the ceiling!"

The bird tumbled frantically upwards, trying desperately to orient itself and fly straight before barreling into the sloping stone. But the chamber was simply too low. The fledgling barely had time to open its wings when its feathers grazed stone --

-- and the bird shattered like glass. It burst into a shower of light and the air blazed, catching fire to dust motes in a glittering swirl that streamed downward, thickening, convalescing, as if the light were folding inward on itself --

-- and the bauble dropped silently back into the Goblin King's gloved hand. He smiled at Brian, a mocking twist to his lips, and elegantly inclined his head, as if motioning for the boy to look into it. Brian did so, after hesitating, leaning forward to catch the reflection within.

It was a girl. He could see her long hair as she twisted her head around, obviously searching for something. He could just make out her pale profile, see the expression in her eloquent dark eyes.

Brian had to force past the sudden thickness of his throat in order to speak. "It's Sarah," he said, voice low. "What is she..?" And with horror, he realized he already knew the answer. "It wasn't a childhood fantasy, was it? She actually knew you." 

"Oh, yes," the Goblin King murmured, his gaze still locked on that delicate face. "There was a time when I would have given her anything." He leaned back into his throne, looking almost regretful. "But no longer. Now," he said, decidedly amused, "I've decided to take everything. Starting with you."

Brian struggled helplessly as he was suddenly besieged by goblins on all sides. They threw ropes over him, beat at him with their tiny fists. Jareth watched them subdue the boy easily, resting his chin in his hand.

"Really," he continued casually, as if Brian were not damning the Goblin King at the top of his lungs, "I should have done it this way to begin with."    


Sarah was hopelessly lost.

Hands on her hips, she surveyed the scene before her. Sandy stone walls every way she looked, the bricks cut in erratic patterns and covered in a web of grey-brown moss. Here and there tired-looking ivy draped itself over the walls, or scraggly branches sprouted from the stone to catch at her clothes as she walked by. The sky was overcast, streaked with smoldering dark clouds.

Whirling, she made a sound of pure vexation. Three years ago, she'd been so cocky as to think she was clever enough to solve this maze in a matter of minutes. Three years ago, she'd been sure in her knowledge that the heroine always wins, and she was definitely the heroine of this tale.

Three years ago, she hadn't known the damn thing shifted from moment to moment.

Somewhere, he is just watching me rot. Laughing. There was no question to who "he" was, and Sarah seethed inwardly. Bastard.

She strode angrily down one of the pathways, yanking her shirt free of the grasping branches. I'll just have to walk around until I find the Guards, she thought doggedly. That's the way it happened last time -- I just wander aimlessly for a bit and they pop up out of nowhere. They have to turn up sometime...

Don't they?

She stopped in her tracks. They don't have to, she thought with growing dread. He could just keep switching the maze around, keeping them out of my reach... With a tiny scream of frustration, she stamped her foot. This is so stupid!

She began to walk along the maze again, brooding. There must be some other way -- some way to speed up the process. Brow furrowing, she crossed her arms over her stomach as she walked, stopping as she came into a fork in the pathway. At her right stood a tall, smooth pillar. Its surface was scattered with brown, gnarled hands, each pointing her in a different direction.

"Fat lot of help you are," she muttered, glaring at the hands. Then slowly her expression lightened. "I wonder..."

Grinning, Sarah stretched and grabbed one of the hands far above her head. She shuddered inwardly at the feel of the dry, chalky skin, but grimly help on. Swinging herself up, she lightly placed a foot on a hand right at her waist level. If I can climb up and walk along the walls, I can find the Guards in no time!

Suddenly the hand beneath her foot twisted, and yet another gave her wrist a sharp slap. Shocked, she let go, and with a yelp tumbled down to the ground. Sitting squarely on the stone tiles and gaping like a fish, she watched as one of the hands waved an admonishing finger in her face. Unexpectedly, she smiled a little.

"Can't blame a girl for trying," she said wryly, and picked herself up off the ground with as much dignity as she could muster. She brushed the dirt off her jeans with a sigh. "Well, that's one good idea that didn't work. Now what?"

Hearing a small scraping noise, she turned. To Sarah's amazement, one of the stone tiles lifted right up from the pathway. As she watched the tiniest, most disagreeable-looking manling she'd even seen scuttled out from under it, clutching something greedily to his chest. She crouched to get a better look.

"I don't believe it," she said wonderingly. He heard her, and turned -- definitely an ugly little creature, bowlegged and balding. He sneered at her.

"Sod orf!" he commanded in a shrill voice. Sarah started.

"That's not very nice," she said, injured. "What did I ever do to you?"

 His eyes bulged with indignation. "Remember yous!" he croaked. "Was a-writin' on the fragging walk-walk!"

Sarah blinked. "Oh," she said lamely. "With my lipstick. I suppose I was. Was that you, then, changing my marks around?"


She blinked again. "I'll take that as a yes." She leaned in closer, curiosity getting the better of her. "What have you got there?"

He tried to bluster, but it was obvious he was horribly proud of himself. With a grumble that managed to quite clearly convey the sentiment "even-though-you-don't-deserve-it-I'm-a-forgiving-soul," he held them out just far enough for her to see: a pair of gold-rimmed, half-moon spectacles.

"Now where did you get something like that?" murmured Sarah, puzzled.

And there was a horrible growling scream, as if the hounds of hell were loosed and angry.

With a frantic "yerp!" the tiny goblin threw the spectacles into the air, diving back into the hole he had emerged from. Instinctively, Sarah reached out and caught them. The moment her skin came into contact with the smooth glass, a terrifying apparition bounded up onto the wall in front of her.

It was absolutely hideous. Scabby, wrinkled skin covered a bulbous body and skeleton-like limbs, all ending in long, curving claws that shone like razors in the dim sunlight. Its huge head wobbled on a spindly neck, completely hairless and draped flopping, bat-like ears. Its red eyes bulged out from a craggy face, a rumbling growl coming from a huge mouth filled with broken, yellowed teeth.

Sarah screamed, falling back against the wall behind her.

The creature stared at her, and its growling abruptly ceased. "Oh," it said in quite a mild voice, "you've got them. Thank you."

Sarah watched in terror as it awkwardly climbed down from the wall-top. It half-jumped, half-scrambled over the sandy stones. Once on the ground again it brushed itself off fastidiously. It folded its long arms -- which, Sarah could see, would otherwise have trailed on the ground due to its stubby legs -- placidly over its enormous paunch and waddled over to where she was still cowering in fear.

"Much obliged to you," it continued in that well-mannered tone. "It's not that I really mind the little rascals, you see. Well, not that much. But I cannot do my research without my reading glasses, and their little games can become very tiring."

Sarah gaped at him. "What are you?"

He squinted at her. "That is a very rude question, young lady," he remarked with disapproval. "I might ask the same of you."

"I'm a human being -- um, Sarah Williams," she replied, dazed. "And I've never seen anything like you before, which is why I asked." She gulped. "I'm sorry if it was rude."

This seemed to agitate the creature. "Sarah Williams?" it asked, further wrinkling its creased and scabbed forehead. "The girl who solved the Labyrinth?"

"I... I suppose so..." she said weakly, and then shook her head to clear it. "What I mean is, yes I am, but who are you? And why --" she looked down at her prize, "Why do you need reading glasses?"

"To read," he grumped. "I thought that would be obvious. If you would please," he said insistently, holding out a razor-clawed hand. Sarah looked askance at it. The creature sighed hugely. "Just dangle them over," he growled. "I will grab at them. And do not worry yourself about being sliced. I have much experience with these things."

"Really?" Sarah spoke, bemused. "How much?"

"I have been this way for longer than you have been alive, that's for certain. Now, hand them over, please."

Without thinking she made as if to hand them over, and then paused. A spark of an idea gleamed in Sarah's eye. "You've been in the Labyrinth for longer than twenty years?"

The creature harrumphed. "Longer than that, little girl. My glasses, please."

Sarah grinned triumphantly and clutched the glasses to her chest, shaking her head. "Nope. Not unless you can tell me how to get to the hedge mazes, and quickly."

For a long moment those bulging red eyes measured her, and Sarah was painfully aware of how sharp those claws were, how impressive those huge teeth. Then the creature seemed to shrug, and turned away.

"Follow me, then."


She followed him in silence, watching his squat form nimbly navigate the twisting passages of the Labyrinth. Every now and again they would come to a dead end, but he would simply mutter in indignation and turn back around to try again.

"Are you a gnome?" Sarah finally ventured, picking her way over fallen branches.

"Do I look like a gnome?"

"I don't know," Sarah remarked candidly. "I've never seen one before. You're not very tall, so I assumed you might be something like that."

He threw a glare at her over his shoulder, then resumed his studious unraveling of the twists and turns around them. "I," he remarked with grandeur, "am most definitely not a gnome. Gnomes are nasty, spiteful things. Little creatures with little minds."

"Are you a goblin, then?"

He snorted loudly. "They very idea," he muttered under his breath.

"Well," and Sarah paused to untangle her hair from a particularly friendly tendril, "What are you?"

"I told you before, young lady, that is a very rude question."

Sarah sighed, visibly giving up. She then frowned slightly, remembering. "How did you recognize my name?"

"Oho," it chuckled, rather unpleasantly. "You are quite famous in these parts. Were you not aware?"

Sarah frowned, feeling a little cold with his words. "No," she replied shortly.

"Ah, well, don't fuss yourself about it. Aha," he spoke with grim triumph. "Got it."

Sarah followed him around the corner and stared. She backtracked, looking around to the opposite side of the wall. "It can't lead to anything," she said, motioning toward the brightly decorated door the creature had found. "There's no space for a room, or even a passageway."

The creature turned, giving her a droll look. "Three years must do wonders for one's sense of logic, I see." He gave a disproving snort and, throwing the door open wide, disappeared inside. "Come and look, if you're a mind," he called back.

Cautiously she walked up to the doorway, and gasped.

It was a huge chamber, filled with workbenches and tables lined with bubbling beakers, magnifying glasses, and other odd tools. Glass aquariums perched in every corner, some of them containing small, sleeping creatures, others with plant cuttings or even -- as she could pick up a whiff from across the room -- even swamp water from the Bog of Eternal Stench. And the walls were lined with bookcases, bookcases that were overflowing with parchments and huge bound volumes and loose sheets of paper that fluttered with the draft as the door slammed shut behind her.

"What is all this?" she asked in wonderment.

"My laboratory," came the answer, behind her. She turned to see him standing in a different doorway, one that led to a winding staircase. "Do you like it?"

"It's amazing!" she replied, delighted. "Where did you get all of it?"

"Mostly collected it on my own," he replied, waddling out of the doorway into the main chamber. "'Course, sometimes it was more convenient to send others. In the case of the Bog water, for example. I was much happier to let someone else do the exploration."

"Can I look around?"

"Suit yourself," he replied, obviously pleased. "Just don't touch anything."

Sarah wandered around the edges of the room, peeking into the glass containers and sniffing at the burbling concoctions. But what really fascinated her was the wealth of books in the wall-to-ceiling shelves surrounding the room. "Where did you get all these?"

"The Castle's library. I used to be the Librarian."

Sarah looked at him, eyes wide. "The Castle has a library?"

"Oh, yes. Quite an extensive one. Very impressive. I was extremely pleased with my post."

"Why did you leave, then?"

He paused in the act of feeding one of his creatures, a fluffy orange insect that cried piteously in response. Hastily he set the food down in the aquarium, amazingly dexterous despite his long, knife-like claws. "I didn't," he replied gruffly. "Not truly. I'm only on sabbatical."

"Oh." Sarah watched as he moved around the room, adding this and testing that. "Did the work wear you out?"

He grunted. "On the contrary. I moved out in order to find a proper work environment. The atmosphere in that place was distinctly uncomfortable after --" He caught himself, grunting. "Well. Yes. I've been gone for several years now," his expression mournful, "and I don't dare to imagine the condition those horrible goblins have reduced it to. They've probably used the books to build forts, or obstacle races..."

His expression of dismay was so comical that Sarah had to giggle, despite feeling whole-hearted sympathy. Toby had often ransacked her library for his own amusement, making her extremely upset with him. Grinning widely at the memory, she turned her attention back to the overflowing shelves.

"So this isn't all of them?"

"Oh, no. Hardly a fraction."

She let her eyes roam over the expanse of books. "There must be thousands, then."

"Hundreds of thousands," the creature sniffed. "Librarian was no paltry post, let me tell you. Even if most of them were living records."

Sarah turned. "What do you mean, 'living records'?"        

"I mean what I mean." He snorted. "Unlike anyone else around here, which can be an advantage. Here." He plodded over to a podium where a thick book lay open, it's pages covered in neat script. He motioned her over. "Turn to the last bit."

She warily stepped up the podium, as if expecting the book to leap up and nip her fingers. Gingerly she rifled through the pages, noting dimly how smooth and white the parchment was. The writing was obviously done by hand -- a perfect copperplate script that seemed almost generic in its easy elegance. She finally reached the end, and stared. The words were writing themselves -- appearing on the page like bubbles slowly rising to the surface of a serene lake.

"That's incredible," she breathed, watching the words appear without actually reading them.

"Hmph," she heard from behind. "The mountain of paperwork it takes to inventory them properly -- that's incredible."

"What are they?" she asked, still entranced.

"They are the ongoing records of the lives of every inhabitant in the Labyrinth. That's why there's so many -- can you imagine? Every Goblin, every measly fairy, even worms; every one has their own volume with their entire life contained within." His voice was muffled as he called out to her. "Young lady, may I please have my reading glasses back? As pleasant as it is to entertain a learned person like yourself, I really must make some important notes in my research right away. I will keep my promise of aid, have no fear."

Feeling a little guilty at forgetting, Sarah dug the spectacles out of her back pocket, attempting to wipe them clean of grime on her shirt before handing them over. He managed to snatch at them without even grazing her with his claws, even though he did sniff critically at their condition. Muttering, he slipped them on and blinked at her.

"Well?" he asked, voice crabby. "What's so amusing?"

Sarah shook her head, still giggling helplessly. The sight of such a terrible, fearsome monster looking owlishly at her through half-moon specs was just too much. She managed to swallow her laughter, trying desperately not to offend her host. "What's your research on?" she asked, lips twitching.

He grinned nastily at her. "You, in fact. Which is why it was a very good idea I left the Castle when I did. Bad memories and all that."

Sarah watched as he moved over to another podium, scribbling notes in a large blank book. "Why would you want to research me?"

"Hmph. Not you exactly." He dipped his feathered quill into an inkwell. "It's a comprehensive history of the Labyrinth itself. Your own escapade was so recent, however, that I skipped ahead in order to provide the most accurate account possible." He titled his bulbous head to one side, critically eyeing his work. "Not that it mattered, much," he continued. "You'd be amazed how very little history a place like the Labyrinth accumulates. Your coming was the first interesting thing to happen around here in ages."

"Why do you want to write a history of the Labyrinth?" Sarah asked as she walked around the room, idly running a finger over the spines of books she passed.

"Knowledge is the true fruit of man's eternal struggle," he replied pompously. "The pursuit of such is the only noble ambition in life."

Sarah stopped, looking at him quizzically. "You were human?"

He was suddenly very absorbed in his work. "Whatever gave you that impression?" he blustered.

"You said, 'man's eternal struggle' -- and no one here talks about themselves as if the were human." She stared at him, open-mouthed. "You were human, weren't you?"

He sighed, and he suddenly looked very, very tired. "It was a very long time ago," he admitted. "But yes -- I was once a human mortal, like yourself."

"What happened?" she asked softly.

He shrugged. "I encountered the Labyrinth. Oh, it doesn't matter how," waving away her unasked question, "only that I found myself here, and I discovered quite quickly that I didn't want to leave. To you, young lady, the Labyrinth may seem like an enemy to be conquered. To others, it is an elegant enigma to be studied and revered." He fixed his glasses more firmly on his craggy nose, glaring at her over the gold rims. "My present form, such as it is, is the effect of dwelling too long in the Labyrinth itself. It tends to shape the external to match the internal nature, or to compliment it. I am -- or was -- a scholarly man. I appear to be a barbarous beast. But anything," he concluded, a little bitterly, "is worth the opportunities I have gained."

Countless come of their own free will, Jareth whispered in Sarah's mind, lured by the promise of their dreams fulfilled. She sighed, hating to acknowledge he had spoken the truth.

"I'm sorry," she said, feeling horribly awkward. "I... I don't even know your name," she concluded helplessly.

"Name?" He returned to his work, scribbling furiously with a wrinkled nose. "Haven't got one."


"Oh, I suppose I had at one time," he said dismissively. "Everyone does. I simply forgot mine, after the years... None of the goblins are great conversationalists. Such things happen, when you have no one but yourself for company."

"That's horrible!" Sarah cried.

He sniffed. "Not in the least. I'm really much better off without a name. Useless things. Always lying about, getting in the way. Restrictive." He gave another dismissive sniff.

"Well," Sarah said slowly, "if you're going to help me, I can hardly walk around going "hey, you" every minute... Are you sure there isn't anything you'd like to be called?"

"I told you," he said, irritated, "I'm much better off without one." There was an uncomfortable silence, and Sarah wondered if she'd managed to truly offend him. "You may choose one for me, if you insist," the creature added abruptly. His manner was offhand, but one of his bat-like ears pricked up, as if interested.

"Alright," Sarah said softly, lost in thought. "A name." Distracted, she began to tap a fingernail on the spines of the books beside her. She started, her face lighting up. "Chaucer!"

"Who?" the creature growled, but the other ear gave a twitch.

"Geoffrey Chaucer," Sarah continued, grinning. "He's a famous medieval author. He wrote about people, this huge book full -- The Knight's Tale, The Cook's Tale..." She gestured toward the living record he had shown her before. "It's perfect!"

"Hmph," went the newly dubbed Chaucer. "It'll do, I suppose. If you insist." But he had a decidedly pleased look on his face as he continued his scribbling. "Just a moment, now, and then we'll see about getting you on your way."

Still smiling widely, Sarah continued to explore the huge chamber, hands tucked carefully behind her back so as not to disturb anything. She stopped as a thought occurred to her. "The records," she said slowly, "what happens to the, um, originator if the book is damaged?"

Chaucer gave another snort. "I'd like to see someone try," he muttered. Without looking up, he snagged a volume and held it over the open candle flame resting beside him. The flame parted easily around the leather binding, continuing to burn cheerfully. "Completely indestructible."

"Even the parchment?"

"Even that."

She gave him a suspicious look. "And your history of the Labyrinth -- you read all the records, didn't you, in order to learn about it?"

"Of course." He shot her a look over his glasses. "Oh, don't look so appalled. How else could I have known so much about you?"

"It just seems like a violation of pri--" Sarah froze, her voice trailing away. There was a sudden, icy feeling in her gut. Something a little too close to fear. "What are you saying?"

Chaucer gave a nasty little chuckle. "Unpleasant feeling, isn't it? Knowing you're an "open book" to others?" He sniggered at his own joke. "Not so incredible now, is it?"

Sarah reached for a stool and sat down, heavily. "Why do I have a record?"

"You inhabited the Labyrinth at one time, did you not? So there's a record of your existence. It stopped when you left, but I'm sure it picked right back up again the minute you stepped back inside these walls. Here," as he jumped nimbly off his stool, waddling over to a smaller bookcase, tucked into a corner. The volumes inside were behind glass, and he opened the door carefully to make sure it is unscratched by his razor claws. His eyes scanned the books as he muttered: "Williams, Sarah, should be right here between Williama: A Goblin, and -- hmmm." He frowned, leaning away from the case. "Not here. I must have neglected returning it to the case last night. Wait here like a good little girl, I'll be back in a minute."

He made his way over to the doorway on the other side of the room, obviously intending to climb the staircase that probably led to his study. Sarah watched him leave, and a minute later she turned her attention back to the smaller bookcase. It inspired a kind of horrified curiosity in her, now that she was no longer removed from the process... what other lives had he stored here? What secrets were contained in those drably bound volumes? She leaned in closer, eyes skimming the spines with absolute fascination:

Heawook: A Firey

Snorth: Goblin Guard

Max: Cannonball

And then one leapt into her line of sight, a title of only a single word --


A Forfeit of Dreams

A Labyrinth Story
by KL Morgan

Part 3 of 15

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