- LABYRINTH II
...             ...


CHAPTER XIV

The illusion room was a cube shape, each wall possessing its own stairway.  Gravity's laws did not preside here; the laws of sheer will were master, as one could stand on any stairway on the six walls, and not fall.  Upon one wall was a clock, ticking away as a relentless bomb.  Jareth sat thoughtfully upon the steps, his arms pivoting about his knees.  This was his favorite place for reflection, and there was much to be considered.

            "She is human, simple to understand, simple to control," he mused quietly.  "If that is so, what is my trouble?"

            A timid knock came from the door to his left, and he bid whomever was on the other side to enter.  It was Isabelle, holding a chalice of wine.  "I brought you drink, sir, as you asked."

            He took the chalice and stared at it a moment.  "Thank you, Isabelle.  You may go now."

            She curtsied and made haste out of the room.

            Jareth drank fitfully, then gazed at the clock.  It swam before him, unconquerable.  Time always eluded him of late His control was dissipating at an unbelievable pace; control over time, over others, over his very self had become difficult.

            His gaze shifted to the chalice in his hand.  It was full again.  He dropped it, and it hung suspended in the center of the room, the fluid it once contained dancing about it in a growing river.  With a sweep of his hand it disappeared, but the wine's effects stayed nonetheless.

            Sarah had switched his wine glass with the one he had attempted to give her earlier that evening. How she had done it was beyond him.  She must have made the switch just before she came to him in the dining hall.  But how

            Jareth did not know whether to curse or laugh.  He began to feel lightheaded, yet somehow completely in control of his actions.  It was as if one part of himself had been put to sleep due to the wine's spell, while another part was allowed to fully awaken with this partial loss in control.  In his mind's eye he pictured a dream, one in which he was dancing with Sarah. Sarah must see me for who I truly am, he thought, gazing at his hands, as if seeing them for the first time.  I do not have much time, and time, for once, is not under my control.

            The beautiful, elusive emotion that had once passed over him made another appearance.  It stayed, drifted through his being like frothy cream in hot cider, melting away and dissolving into his being.  He relished the taste, savored it like a fine wine, and tried to figure out what this strange liquor was.  He suddenly knew that this drink had always been with him, but had merely been locked away.

            He looked up and out into the room.

            "I love her," he whispered. "If only she could know."

Sarah awoke with a splitting headache.  The room did somersaults before her eyes, but her vision became clear after a few moments.  She found that she was in a new bed and a new chamber, one very much like her former bedroom, but possessing no stained-glass window.  A nightgown replaced the dress she had worn earlier that evening, and she had apparently been carefully tucked in for a night's rest.  Unfortunately, due to circumstances, sleep eluded her, even when she was under a spell for that very purpose.

            She pulled the covers off slowly, and went to the dresser.  On it laid combs and brushes with inlaid jewels, make-up and jewelry boxes, perfume bottles and hairpins.  With a reverent gesture, Sarah picked up a silver brush and began to comb her hair.  Never before had she felt like such a princess Yet, where was the prince that would sweep her off her feet?  Her prince had done nothing but sweep her friends away.

            "What is wrong with Jareth?" She posed this question to her reflection.  "Five years ago he was menacing, yes, but never was he so cruel.  He played with me, and made me go through trials, but never once did he raise he voice to me.  Was he merely controlling himself for the game, or is there something different now?"  She almost expected her reflection to answer.  It did not.

            She resumed the brushing of her hair, and stopped abruptly as she heard the shuffling of goblin feet through the hallway.  In her sudden stillness, she became receptive to small details.  Daffodil and jonquil perfumes wafted their fragrances toward her, and the orange warmth of the hearth swam about her frame.  Suddenly the footsteps stopped as the goblin guards at Sarah's door awoke.

            Hurriedly, Sarah made her way to the door and quietly opened the slat to view the activities without.  A young goblin female, carrying coals in a dirty and ragged dress, had stopped due to the obstructing guards.  Her hair was tangled, but pretty, and her face held innocence and intelligence within its half goblin, half human features.

            "Hey Isabelle," the first goblin began, "why'nt you stays with us and keep us comp'ny?"

            She lowered her head and continued to walk.

            "You don't need them coals," the other remarked, "come warm up wid us." Her pace quickened and her eyes fell to her feet.

            The other agreed, "Yeah, why not?"  They caught up with her and started playing with her hair.

            "Stop," she commanded timidly. They didn't stop. She halted her travels and shrugged them off. "Leave me alone," she demanded more forcefully, yet ineffectually.

            Sarah opened the door with ease and stepped out. She rushed to the goblins and grabbed them by the scruff of the necks, tossing each against an opposite wall. "She said to leave her alone!!"

            One of the goblins got angrily to his feet and pointed an emphatic finger at her.  "Hey!! You're da prisoner!! You can't do that!"

            Sarah grabbed the goblin again and threw him against the wall, harder than before. "Pick on somebody your own size!" she exclaimed. She looked at Isabelle and rethought her statement. "I take that back," she corrected in a quieter tone.  "Don't pick on anyone."

            Sarah looked at the spilled coals. She walked over to Isabelle and put her hand on the girl's shoulder. "You alright?"

            Isabelle nodded her head, her face full of shock and admiration. Sarah bent over and picked up some of the coals, then waited for Isabelle to pull up the bottom of her dress in order to make a cloth basket. Sarah dropped the coals in and replaced the remaining ones.

            One of the goblins got a little courageous and pointed a shivering, accusing finger at Sarah.  "You're da one who needs to pick on someone yer own size."  Sarah gave him a menacing stare and raised her hand, causing the goblin to end his pointing and begin to cower.  She shook her head at his stupidity and withdrew her threat.  The little monstrosity was not worth the effort involved in dealing him a blow.  Besides, only a true coward would pick on such a sweet little girl.

            The goblins got up from the ground with effort. This time the other goblin dared to talk back to Sarah. Isabelle found protection within the doorway of Sarah's room.

            "I'm going to get the Goblin King," the goblin stated with a forceful point in Sarah's direction before it stomped off angrily down the hall.

            That would be my luck, Sarah thought spitefully as she continued to assist Isabelle. Yet, she would not forbid that he bring the Goblin King, because, for some reason, she hoped that he would come.  Perhaps it was her curiosity over his reaction to this incident, or her deep need to prove to him that his intimidation would no longer control her.

            The goblin had made it halfway down the hall, and was yelling, "Yeah, yer in trouble, I'm gettin' the Goblin King!" when Jareth appeared suddenly out of nowhere, blocking the goblin's path. The goblin ran into him and looked up.

            "No need," Jareth remarked. "I'm already here."

            The goblin fell back, cringing. "Sheshe threw us up against the wwall him twtwice. I was ggoing to get you, yyour beautiful majesty," he said, bowing deeply.

            Jareth walked past Sarah, and looked at her peculiarly as he passed, his brow furrowed. She stared at him wordlessly. Jareth bent over to Isabelle's height; he whispered something into the girl's ear and she nodded, then the king glanced up at Sarah. After giving her a peculiar expression, he looked down again and whispered something else into Isabelle's ear. Isabelle nodded once again and he stood up. "Thank you, Isabelle," he said quietly. "You can go back to your work."

            Without a word, Isabelle scampered off down the hall. Jareth motioned for the two guards to move out of the way and they quickly fell back to the wall in compliance. He paced around Sarah and she turned with him as he studied her. He had blame in his eyes; he was blaming her for mistreating his guards.

            "They were doing awful things to her," Sarah argued. "I know you wouldn't care, but they didn't have the right."  The venom in Sarah's voice was sharp and had made a direct hit. He continued to pace around her, staring her down.

            "I wasn't about to stand by and"

            "Stop," he ordered. She stopped, tightened her fists, and prepared for his oncoming fit of anger. He ceased his endless pacing. After a long, calculating pause, he said quietly, "You are right."

            The words hit her like a ton of bricks. How could she be right? She was never right in his eyes. She glanced over at the goblins; they had obviously been surprised as well. They started a mad dash down the hall, to which Jareth replied by swinging out his hand and causing them to disappear in a puff of smoke.

            Slowly he faced her again.  "Thank you for protecting Isabelle.  I was not aware that she had been receiving such attentions from my guards.  Please forgive me for having such cretins in my castle."

            A perplexed look took hold of Sarah's features. "Why do you care?"

            Jareth took her hand carefully.  "I care about everything that effects you, Sarah, you know that."

            It did not take much instinct for Sarah to pull her hand away from his grasp, no matter how gentle.  "It wouldn't appear that way to me.  You are acting pretty strange."

            "Dont act so surprised, Sarah.  You know why it is I act this way."

            She laughed uncomfortably.  "I do not."

            "Try to remember," he said teasingly.  "You switched my wine glass"

            Sarah stared at him in disbelief.  "You mean, with the one you planted on me today?"

            "Yes.  That one."

            "I did no such thing."

            He seemed to analyze her.  Her gaze was quite frank and mirrored no anxiety or uncertainty.  "I thought about doing it," she said, surprised at her own frankness, "but I have been asleep since you"

            She looked wistfully up at Jareth, her emotions growing violent like a tossed sea.  Feelings of extreme hatred, confusion, and pity washed upon the same shore, leaving her with the only action she knew to take  She walked barefoot through them and let the wet sand ooze between her toes.

            "I I really didnt do it, Jareth."

            He smiled at her softly.  "I know."

            She seemed taken aback.  "You do?"

            He pulled a hand forth and brushed aside her hair, his expression suddenly somber.  His milky skin was tinted by the yellow flame of a nearby candle, and his eyes shone a vibrant green as he stared at her face.  Sarah was planted to the spot, strangely enthralled and alarmed by his actions.  His spindly fingers floated across her face, sending not a tingling desire through her, but a warm sentimentality that she had never before felt from him.  Without thought, she grabbed his hand as he began to pull it away, and held it again to her face.  Maybe the magic that he had used to put her to sleep was affecting her currently, but she was not sure.  All she knew was that years of emotions that had built up within her were exploding like fireworks in her brain, and she wanted to relish their unearthly light.

            "You see now"  Jareth drifted his gaze away and slowly pulled away his hand.  "It is sad that it is sad that I see now, too."

            "What do you mean?"  Sarah gazed into his amazingly youthful face as it wrinkled in mournful thought.

            "I am powerless, Sarah.  I am powerless against my past.  I apologize that you, too, are a victim of it."

            He turned away from her and walked down the hallway, tall yet unassuming, proud yet grieving.

            Something struck within Sarah, and she knew that things would never again be simple.  Hatred, like a turncoat, had eluded her once again to leave her feeling emotions unwanted.  It seemed that Jareth had good in him that had been before unrevealed, but his display of kindness had not freed her friends.  She would still leave tomorrow to make a journey she knew nothing of, and chances were that Jareth would not be so benevolent in the morning.  Perhaps he was just drunk.  She would never know.

***

Somewhere deep within the castle, a goblin hummed quietly to herself.  She scrubbed clothes happily, minding her own business as she always did.  Only when asked did she give her opinion, and never did she speak up against her master.  She was the everyday goblin.

            At least, that's what everyone thought.

            Sooty, however, was quite the schemer.

            She had helped Sarah earlier that day in cleaning a puddle of wine, also instructing the girl not to drink the enchanted liquor that the Goblin King had sent her.  Although Jareth acted as a tyrant, Sooty knew the intentions he had planted deep within himself, intentions that he did not even truly know existed.  She had watched the king over the years, heard the stories of the elves, and was the only one in that castle that had any inkling of how Jareth ticked and why he ticked the way he did.

            Today things had been a little different for the king.  When Jareth had asked for drink, Sooty bade Isabelle bring the chalice with the enchanted wine.  Sooty was aware, through the passing of rumors, that Jareth had displayed his true feelings due to this exchange.

            The goblin woman continued whistling.  She felt quite proud of herself

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