Continuing Tales


A Labyrinth Story
by Willa Suvia

Part 4 of 9

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The rains had come again.

He closed his eyes and listened to the faint creaking of the towers as great sheets of rain batted them to and fro like grain in the wind. He didn't worry that they might fall in the storm; the towers were places of magic, and for every stone that crumbled, another would fill its place. But it might be better, he considered, to let the enchantment go. If the towers fell, then they fell. They were places of forgotten longings and useless yearnings, anyway. Perhaps they would be better off destroyed. If he weren't so tired, he might actually do it.

But he couldn't quite bring himself to lift the enchantment that bound the stones. There were entire worlds beyond the drafty thresholds of those towers, some too far away in memory and purpose to ever be useful again, but others he considered his finest works.

The eastern tower, for instance, held a land locked entirely in a season of winter, smothered forever by white-blue snow and breath-stealing winds. Only ghosts lived there now, for beyond that tower door human skin would freeze and shatter at a touch. This place had been a gift for a fire sprite intent on changing her station. Now she was lost for all times, stumbling blindly through a world where warmth was as alien as life.

Across the courtyard, just above the gardens, the northern tower was a world where time twisted and stretched, warping young flesh into old before the clock had even begun to strike. Now met Then in a somber dance, while Never and Forever clashed, ripping springs and cogs and gears from the face of the other. One foot inside and you might be a child again, shiny and new; but then, in a world where clocks mark time with a heartbeat, you might just as easily age to dust before the door has shut behind you. To be trapped here was to be trapped in Time, itself...a fate not one living creature has ever succeeded in eluding.

And over there, in the western tower, he had created a world where the sun never existed, and where creatures too horrible for nightmares freely roamed the eternal darkness. That had been a special undertaking, a deluded and desperate place created especially for a young woman who had envisioned herself as a dark and rare flower, too exquisite and fragile for such a menial task as motherhood.

But of all the worlds he had created, none was so bitter and wholly desolate as the southern tower. It was...


That was a sacred place, a place of memory and consequence that he saved all for his own.

But in all of them - save one - after he had turned away from the pitiful sounds of pleading, their children had become his own and even now served him in the customary fashion. Funny, he thought, how such little things can become so precious to those who never truly treasured them at all.

He treasured the goblins in his own way, even if their parents and caregivers had not. They were constant reminders of victories, of battles waged and won, of the myriad unlucky who had not left him for the banal comforts of a magicless, mundane world. They were his children; indeed, they played like children, their presence both invigorating and irritating as they screamed and chattered their way from chamber to chamber. They had the run of the castle now, and seemed to sense the decline in his power only in the most abstract fashions. He did not underestimate their intelligence - they were dumb as rocks, and there was no mistaking that. But many of them had a curiously keen perception which allowed them to gauge his mood from twenty paces and clear the way, if need be. Truth be told, he had always thought the goblins stupid, dim-witted creatures with oatmeal between their ears. He had not expected to be so surprised so often.

These days he half-blessed the comforting echoes of their warty little feet as they padded hither and thither through the castle. Be that as it may, he didn't care to patronize their stories or their games, nor was he in the mood for the interpretive dance they'd been knocking themselves out to complete since the last rains fell. He couldn't imagine how all seven-hundred-fifty of them had managed to choreograph their own production of "West Side Story." The finished product could only be a travesty.

"Heinous! Heinous!" A tiny myopic goblin scurried around the throne room balancing a canvas on his head, squinting as he peered this way and that.

"That's 'Highness,' Berbur," Jareth intoned menacingly, and the goblin went from green to ash. "What do you want?"

He held up his cute little green hands, all filthy and smeared with charcoals and crayons. The sides of the canvas were smudged with fingerprints like rat tracks. "I made a pitcher of that gurl! The one 'at beatcha! Wanna see it?"

Jareth hung his head and sighed. Would it never end? He had a room full of Berbur's best of *her* reading on a park bench, speaking into a telephone, laughing so hard her skin glowed red as Eve's apple. He did not begrudge her any happiness, but neither did he wish to see how well she had slipped back into her mortal life. Was it so much to ask that she should suffer just a little? "Berbur," Jareth began, exhausted in a thousand different ways, "I thought I asked you not to make any more of those pictures."

He shrugged his stooped shoulders, shifting the canvas. "Yeah, but-"

"I do not appreciate having my requests taken so lightly," he informed the sulking goblin. "If I had the energy to kick you into tomorrow morning, I would do it in a blink."

Berbur frowned, his lip quivering maniacally. "Does this mean you don't wanna see the pitcher? I made it just for you, Your Heinous!"

A headache began mounting its forces almost immediately. Jareth rubbed at his eyes, hoping to avoid another of those awful spells. "Of course you did," he said softly. Deep breaths, slow to anger...the old Jareth - untouched by enchantments gone awry - would never have been so placating. "I would be delighted to see it."

The little goblin beamed brightly and thunked the canvas down before him, spreading his arms in presentation. "TA-DAAAAA!"

Jareth opened his eyes and prepared a few pale compliments for the creature's mongrel art, but stopped short.

He suddenly found his feet beneath him, carrying him toward Berbur's rendering of Sar- ...of her. This little goblin had captured the perfect likeness of her face in a moment of rest. But she did not look at peace; dusty purple half-moons darkened the space beneath her eyes, and her cheeks were streaked with charcoal tears. One hand clawed at the pillow beneath her head, and his heart skipped a beat at the sight of her mouth half-open in a frozen cry of pain.

"Berbur, what is this?"

"I drawed it!" he announced proudly, buffing his nubby nails on his burlap tunic.


"Just tonight. I sawed her pitcher inna crystal! Ya like it?"

For the first time in an eternity of crystal moons, Jareth was rendered speechless. He raised a hand and with an elegant gesture, called forth a luminous crystal from the damp dusty air.

"Heinous?" The little goblin tiptoed behind him as he peered into the crystal.

Jareth's vacant stare turned the creature cold. This didn't look like the Heinous he knew! This made him think of the stories old Tursnip told after Heinous had tucked all the goblins in their bunks at night and put out the torches. Stories of the way he used to be, how he would kick a goblin for just looking at him or dunk twenty in the Bog if they couldn't make the sun shine at midnight. And the things he did with chickens...

Berbur cringed. Those stories were positively fowl.

"Whatsamatter, Heinous?" he squeaked, covering his fanny in case the king had rediscovered his itchy foot. "Dontcha like it?"

"Like it?" Jareth whispered, drawing languid circles on the crystal with one silken fingertip. "It's a masterpiece."


Three years, and you still can't let it be, he chided himself for his foolishness. Three years, and still she haunts your dreams as any specter might haunt a thing it loved in life.

But she never loved you, he reminded himself. She never loved you even for a moment.

Still, she'd insisted on haunting his dreamsleep, turning every night's journey into day a torment. She was always there, her face smooth and porcelain, her eyes smoky quartz. He had but to close his eyes and she was there, her face fading into the walls or the canopy above him. Always, he awoke to empty arms and an empty bed; always, he swore by the eternal moon that he could smell her in his bedclothes, sweet and musky, all tangerine and spice. It was more than he could bear, night after night.

Damn those magics, he cursed glumly. Is this a fitting role for me, the pining schoolboy? Or do I better fit the leering voyeur, finding indulgence in someone else's dreams?

Part of him really didn't want to spy on her dreams, but the other part - the part that always won, eventually - screamed that he was due a little payback.

"Let's see what you're up to, shall we?" He leaned in, intent on surveying her every move with a critical eye. It was perverse, in a way; a desecration of that ground held most sacred and secret in the human mind. Her dreaming mind was a primal thing, dangerous and unexplored territory that not even she could be fully aware of. And here he was, peeping at her like a child through a bathroom window!

He spied in her hand a mirror whose handle seemed made of water. Even as talented as he was, he still could not quite make out the rose petals in her ears. She looked lost, scuttling backwards and crablike across the sand.

"So you've lost your way." Blue-orange flames from a dying candle licked softly at his breath as he sighed with satisfaction. "Where are you, I wonder?"

And he would have continued to wonder had the castle not come into sight just beyond her, looming high above her like a giant stretching its arms out to warn him.


Jareth dared a hasty glance through the casement window. The sudden deluge was even now scouring the castle walls clean, forcing slimy black streamlets down the dreary stone.

Why on earth was she dreaming of this place? This was not her beloved ballroom, the place she tormented him night after night with her unattainable presence! Why did she not simply wait for him to sleep, then close in to attack through *his* dreams, as always?

Unless this was a new game. Unless she was *trying* to catch him unawares...

He chuckled at his own paranoia. She couldn't help what she dreamed! She was only human! Unlike Jareth, who created dreams of his own from time to time, dark and fuzzy images of life as it might have been in other times and places and under different circumstances, she could no more control what she dreamed than she could control the color of her eyes. Sarah could not, as he did when her nightly visits became unbearable, dream herself as one of the king's goblins, small and squat as a block of stone, stupid as a pigeon. She could not spend an exceptional night as a dragon, hovering over the rooftops of the Goblin City as fitful goblins scurried about like roaches, squealing in poked-piggy fear.

He returned the crystal to thin air and gritted his teeth. Every fiber of his being told him to turn and walk away, to ignore her intrusion into his world as he might ignore a mosquito bite or a yattering goblin. But still he watched, rapt, fascinated by her swinging braid and careful, awkward steps.

He blamed his trembling hands, his brow beaded with light droplets of sweat, even his twitching eye on that old spell. His fingers itched badly, and the gloves made a desperate rasp as he rubbed his fingers together slowly.

It couldn't still be burning this brightly, could it?

Of course it could.

And now that he had seen her, his raging heart could not be quieted with merely watching.

"Everything's going to be fine now, Aggy. Just fine."


A Labyrinth Story
by Willa Suvia

Part 4 of 9

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