- LABYRINTH II
...             ...


CHAPTER XVII

            Isabelle walked gaily through the dark halls of Jareth's great castle, pondering the other reasons for her guardian to bring Sarah here.  Soon she lost interest and began to hum a tune to herself.  Her spirit seemed to lift a grim cloud from the shadowed palace, causing other servants to look on in wonder as she passed by.

            As she approached Sarah's chambers, she noted that the guard was gone and let out a sigh of relief.  After the occurrence of last night she did not want to face another grotesque guard as long as she lived.

            Gingerly she pushed Sarah's door and peered inside.  Sarah was sitting at the dressing table, her chin propped on her hand.

***

Sarah turned her head to the sound of the squeaking door to see a gentle goblin face peer curiously from behind her doorway. The girl's long hair fell neatly down her back and her dress was now clean. 

            "Good morning," Isabelle said as she walked into the room and closed the door behind her.  "I hope that the music downstairs didn't awaken you. Things are never quiet around here."  She suddenly glanced down at the clothes she was carrying.  "I'm sorry, I almost forgot. I brought you some clothes.  His majesty told me to tell you that you shouldn't walk around the palace in a nightgown."

            "Very humorous," Sarah stated to herself facetiously as she accepted the garments.

            "I don't know why, but he seemed to think so as well," Isabelle added innocently, not catching the sarcasm in Sarah's voice.

            "I guess you could say it's a personal joke," Sarah declared, suddenly remembering that she had faced him in a nightgown the evening before.  There was no doubt, now; she knew that Jareth's prime desire was to humiliate her.  "Your name's Isabelle, right?"

            "Yes," Isabelle replied curtly.  A small pause lapsed before she continued with the greatest sincerity, "Thank you for helping me last night."

            "You're welcome," Sarah responded, feeling better now that she knew she had done somebody some good since she had arrived. It seemed she had done nothing but get her friends back into predicaments that she had come to get them out of.  It was rotten enough that she had gotten them into trouble in the first place, simply by existing, but now she couldn't even rescue herself.

            "I wish I could give you more than thanks, but I'm afraid I don't have much else to offer," Isabelle continued.

            Sarah could not help but wonder why Isabelle had seemed unkempt and neglected the night before, but was perfectly cared for now.  The young goblin appeared to be ignorant of Jareth's true nature; yet, perhaps it was Sarah who was ignorant to his true disposition.

            "Where did you get that necklace?" Isabelle questioned as she came closer to Sarah.

            "Jareth gave it to me," Sarah said unhappily as she glanced at the chain dangling from around her neck.  Isabelle scrutinized the charms that hung from it.

            "What are the figures represented by these charms?" Isabelle prodded as she fingered them.

            "My friends," Sarah replied tersely.  Isabelle looked as if she were eight or nine years old but she was articulate and spoke with the vocabulary of a teenager, if not an adult.  Sarah wondered if there was more to this little girl than met the eye.  It would help to explain Jareth's affection for her.

            "They're wonderful replicas. The king often does kind things such as this from time to time," Isabelle added. "Who dishonored you?"

            "Dishonored me?" Sarah asked confusedly. "I don't quite understand."

            "The king often does things such as this when one has been dishonored.  Do you recall last night? Today he gave me wings.  It was great fun," Isabelle boasted unassumingly.

            "I still don't follow you," Sarah stated with a perplexed look on her countenance.

            "Well, I suppose I'll tell you exactly what happened.  After the incident in the hall, the king took me aside and asked if the guards had been doing those things to me all along.  I told him 'yes' and he said that he hadn't known," Isabelle explained.

            "With all of the power he's supposed to have, you'd think he would know if something like that were happening.  Especially when the one involved is someone so much like a daughter to him," Sarah rationalized.

            "Did he say that?" Isabelle asked hopefully.

            "Say what?" Sarah queried.

            "Did he say that I was like a daughter to him?" Isabelle grinned hopefully.

            "No, I just concluded that he must," Sarah stated.  She looked at Isabelle, who was obviously waiting for further explanation.  "I compared the way he normally treats people to the way I've seen him treat you and there's a great contrast.  He seems nicer to you than he is to anyone else, including me."  She grunted.  "Although, I'm not exactly good friends with him either, so I'm not exactly the best basis for comparison."

            "That's odd," Isabelle said, a quizzical look on her face. "I've always thought that he seemed to like you."

            "He likes me when I'm prepared to do his bidding," Sarah retorted.

            "Then why did he give you the necklace?" Isabelle inquired.

            "The charms don't just resemble my friends," Sarah illustrated, "they are my friends."  Isabelle seemed even more confused by this statement.  Drawing her hair back in frustration, Sarah continued, "I insulted him, so he turned my friends into metal charms and put them on this necklace," Sarah jerked at the necklace emphatically, "so that I would always be reminded of his inevitable control over me."

            Anger seemed to overcome Isabelle. "The king has been very kind to you; I don't understand why you wish to tell such lies about him," she remarked vehemently.

            "Don't you see!" Sarah exclaimed. "I'm not lying! What possible cause would I have to lie to you?! It seems to me that he's the one whos lied to you."

            "The king would never take one's companions away no, you're lying to me," Isabelle countered as she drew away toward the door, taking sluggish, backward steps.

            Sarah rose forcefully from her chair and cried, "He did turn my friends into these charms!"  The last nerve broke within Sarah as she saw how Jareth had blindly led her and this young goblin to believe that he had cared for Isabelle.  "You must believe me!" she pleaded.

            "Imagine insulting him after all of the hospitalities he has presented to you if he did turn your friends into metal, you probably deserved it!" Isabelle concluded harshly as she closed the door.

            Blowing the hair from her face in defeat, Sarah dropped into her seat, exasperated.  "Yeah, that's it everybody, Sarah's the badguy!" Sarah called out to no one in particular. "And Jareth is heaven's top angel," she said as she dropped her face into her hands, exhausted by all of the battling she had been required to do the past couple of days.  She wished that she could awaken from this harrowing nightmare.

***

Hoggle awoke with the most horrendous headache. He did not fancy being shoved into oblivion and back out again, losing his orientation and sense of direction.  Rising from the dusty floor that he was sprawled over, he stood, shakily, and reeled back to the ground when his balance failed him.  Nausea came over him and dissipated moments later, only leaving him to become sick with stomach-turning thoughts.  Had he been turned into metal?  Well, of course not, he was mobile however restricted his movements were.  So Jareth had lied to Sarah about the necklace; that was no great surprise.  If he had not been transformed into a metal charm, then it was logical to conclude that the others were similarly lacking in this quality.

            Hoggle observed his surroundings with a great sense of dread.  The room was poorly lit and menacing in its dusty simplicity; much like the oubliette in which he had encountered Sarah years ago.  As a matter of fact, that was exactly what it was; the sparkling cobwebs and flickering shadows did it no justice. Bringing the memory of that particular rendezvous to mind, Hoggle scolded himself for ever attempting to betray Sarah as he had done the last time he had accompanied in her travels throughout the treacherous Labyrinth.

            Again he tried to stand, having no difficulty this time.  The nausea had vanished completely, but Hoggle's insides were still tense with the hopelessness of the situation.

            This is an oubliette, the ghost of Hoggle from five years ago had once declared, haughtily addressing Sarah.

            Oh, she had said absentmindedly as she observed the room in awe.

            Oh, don't sound so smart, Hoggle had ordered with distaste, you probably don't even know what an oubliette is.

            What is it? Sarah had asked, undaunted by his harsh tone of voice.

            Hoggle had replied with a tone that was intended to give Sarah a sensation of impending doom, It's a place you put people...to forget about them.

            "Indeed," Hoggle said to himself out loud as he recalled the circumstance.  Jareth obviously did not want to bother with him. The Goblin King had assumed that Hoggle would interfere with any devious plans that Sarah was involved in against her own will. One thing Hoggle could not deny was that Jareth was correct in his assumption.  Courage may not have been one of Hoggle's strong points, but loyalty was certainly a characteristic of his that had grown in its effectiveness since he had met Sarah; or Ludo and Sir Didymus for that matter.

            After Sarah had left returning to her world filled with magical splendors of its own Hoggle, Sir Didymus, and Ludo had remained good friends.  It was a virtual kinship, created by their common relation with Sarah.  All would agree that they had nothing in common, they argued quite frequently, but it did not seem to matter because they had Sarah in common; that was all that was important them.  She had played a significant role in their lives, teaching them something about themselves that would have remained obscure if it had not been for her bringing it to their attention.

            At first the dwarf tried to utilize the hidden door in the room for his escape, but, though it had worked the last time he was here with Sarah, it was now gone, dropping his hopes despite the fact that he had expected as much.

            Hoggle sauntered over to the opening in the ceiling that was blocked off by a metal grating, but, when open, led the way into the abysmal hole.  Tilting his head back, he squinted to see what was beyond the mesh.  His view was limited, due to lack of illumination, so he retrieved the candle that rested atop a dull stalagmite and rose it above his head.  His search revealed a grey tunnel leading upward, numerous hands projecting from the cylindrical walls on all sides, existing in the same putrid shade of grey.  He simply dismissed the hands protruding from the walls they were probably a scare tactic.

            "Help!" he called firmly as he inclined his head, his voice echoing through the small cavern.  A few of the hands stirred from their limp positions and came together to form a mock face, almost as if a group of people were attempting to make intricate shadow puppets without the shadows.

            "Did someone say help?" the face seemed to say.  Well, it was saying it, for a voice was coming from the direction of the hands.  The "lips" of the face moved like those of any being that would ask such a question as it had.

            Even though this was an obvious fact, Hoggle could not allow himself to readily believe it, convinced that some fool was playing a sadistic prank on him.  Thus he inquired, "Yes...who's there?"  Another group of hands became mobile and replied, "We're helping hands."  Hoggle wondered if Sarah had encountered these peculiar beings when she had fallen down the hole and into the chamber five years ago.  He did remember hearing voices as he had waited for her at the bottom, and they had apparently not come from a female.

            "Then help me," he ordered.

            "I'm afraid that's not possible," one of the faces retorted.

            "And why not?" Hoggle demanded indignantly.

            "Once you're in, you're in for good," another face snickered, a high-pitched voice emanating from its position.

            "Have some sense, man," another added, "how can we reach you when you're way down there? We help others, we don't perform miracles."  At this remark all of the hands transformed into faces of all types and joined with the others as they laughed in unison.  As the laughter died away, they all returned to their limp postures.

            "What a bunch of morons," Hoggle remarked to himself as he trudged back toward the area he had been sitting in at first. "What's the purpose of calling themselves helping hands when they don't really help nobody?"

            "We help people!" he heard a voice argue as he walked away. "You're just a hopeless case!"

            Hoggle swung around, full of fire, fury, and purpose now that he had a means of letting out all of his built up frustrations.  Stomping back underneath the covered hole, he replied, "You know, you're a bunch of hypocrites you can't even help yerselves!"

            One face scrunched up awkwardly in anger and cried, rather recklessly, "What d'you mean we can't help ourselves?"

            "Really, if you all were so wonderful, you'd find a way out of here instead of being glued to a wall like that, waiting for the next moron who doesn't have sense enough to watch where they're walking," Hoggle explained vehemently, "just so you can catch them and make their fall softer! I mean, really, they're going to die anyway!"

            This seemed to silence most of the hands, but the slow one that had asked the last question wasn't quite finished.  "And you need to unearth a more productive and less emotionally destructive way to manage your tension!" it cried victoriously, with a sudden burst of intellect.

            "I need to what?!" Hoggle inquired, completely baffled, a look of animosity and surprise wrenching his face all at once. The other hands seemed puzzled by this as well, for they offered no laughter or comment, and remained in their limp stances.

            "You need to," the face explained, "master the finesse of vocalizing without merely using your utterances to harm others emotionally."

            "Yeah, sure...whatever," Hoggle remarked with disinterest as he ambled away from the argument and toward the opposite side of  the chasm.

            "Do you really think we're helpless?" he heard one set of hands ask another set, whispering so as not to be heard by Hoggle.

            "Of course not," another replied. "Why else would they have called us helping hands?"

            "Perhaps they were trying to give us a false sense of purpose," the other rationalized. "They did tell us that we would get a vacation every century."

            "So?" the other remarked.

            "Well, it seems that we are long overdue a vacation," the other replied firmly. "How long has it been?"

            "I don't know, the lifetime guaranteed battery of my wristwatch died already."

            After a short pause the other continued, "And didn't they tell us to believe in something?"

            "Believe in something?" his companion pondered.

            "Yeah, believe in something, anything, and have faith in it, 'cause that's the only thing that would get us through? Do you remember?" the other challenged the memory of his companion.

            "Now that you mention it, I do remember," he replied.

            "Well, do you believe in anything?" the other asked experimentally.

            "No," his companion offered with a little shame.

            "Well, I tried it," the other declared with a snort.

            "What do you believe in?" asked his associate with visible curiosity.

            "Well, do you see that yellow light that's sifting through the grating below us? I believe in whatever is making that yellow light," the other stated somewhat haughtily.

            Hoggle chuckled at the thought of anyone deciding to believe in a candle. Morons, he thought to himself.

            "Did anything come of it?" the face asked with swelling interest.

            The other paused for effect and slowly replied, "It...did no good...whatsoever."

***

            Jareth was in the chambers of his largest crystal, surveying the humorous scene occurring within the oubliette in which he had placed Hoggle.  He prided himself on the cunning way in which he had disposed of the dwarf, putting the creature completely out of Sarah's reach, therefore giving her no chance to rescue him. How could she when she did not know of his location? Similarly he had rid himself of her other companions; placing them in an inconspicuous site within his Labyrinth. This way she would have to explore the entire Labyrinth if she wished to free them something she could not accomplish because she had not enough time and something she would not even consider to attempt because she assumed that her friends accompanied her, dangling from the silver chain about her neck.  Yes, he had cleverly deduced a method in which to eradicate his difficulties nearly beyond recognition.  Within no more than fourteen days he would be able to render any creatures beyond the reach of his Labyrinth completely servile.

            It was glorious to comprehend that soon his decree would be made law throughout the Underground. It was even more spectacular to think that every creature would gladly obey that law; he would be the king of kings, for all of his followers would adore him. He would no longer be restricted to the title of the Goblin King, for he would not rule only goblins. It mattered not if they did not love him of their own free will. But the most significant point was this every creature or person enclosed within the boundaries of the Underground at the first moment in which he wielded his power would be subject to that power. And since he meant to keep Sarah around to observe his hour of triumph, Sarah would have no choice but to adore him as well. The thought had plagued his mind for several years; sometimes he had been ready to throw in the towel, but the painting of Sarah inspired him. One day he truly understood what he could accomplish with his newfound power once he gained it, and the painting convinced him that his first task would involve Sarah in such a way. If he could achieve his goal then he would finally prove that all would eventually give in to his might, whether it was their will to do so or not. It would be his greatest exploit, besides the moment he actually augmented his powers.

            He reclined in the ebony iron chair that opposed the monstrous crystal sphere; during this meager relaxation he pondered recurring thoughts.

            "Why are the crystals failing me?"  He put the tips of his fingers together thoughtfully.  "All of these years, and now I can barely perform simple spells.  It is as if I am limited to performing magic within the Labyrinth, and then doubly limited due to the wavering tendencies of the crystals."  Anyone would agree that his powers had increased tremendously within the past three years and that there was no cause for his crystals to suddenly rebel.  Of course it was foolish for him to refer to the crystals as if they were living beings, for they were not, and there was no selfish reason for them to suddenly become so fickle in their support.  Perhaps he was not tending to them as he should and becoming too generous in his use of their magic it was a conceivable explanation.

            A slight pain racked him, making him cough, but he ignored the pain as well as he could and regained his composure.  It was a slight thing he would not allow himself to succumb to, for, ultimately it did not matter.  Once he had gained all of his power, even these trifling moments of pain would be gone.

            By use of his thoughts, Jareth induced the crystal to show him an image of Sarah's beast companion called Ludo. The beast had been locked within a room in the clock tower, directly above the clockworks. Ludo was friends with the rocks, but, if he should howl, the rocks would tumble down and crush the beast; he would naturally be silent. The beast was not so obtuse that he did not know his limits.  Besides, if the beast cried out Sarah's name, Jareth would merely cause the bells of the clock to chime, regardless of what time the timepiece indicated, and drown out the creature's futile pleas.  Ludo was so cramped within his tight confinement that he had barely enough room to move, let alone enough to escape.  Jareth had thought of everything.

            With another thought he caused the glass sphere to shift its image again.  This time he regarded the noisy fox called Sir Didymus.  He had discovered that the fox displayed a great deal of vigor and stamina, despite his lack in size, and could not be left out of supervision without making a courageous, and sometimes successful, attempt toward escape.  With this knowledge in mind, Jareth had placed the canine in the home of one of his goblin servants.  The hut was small and yielded little room to do much damage in; it was inevitable for the fox to break something. To add to the cramped nature of the quarters, Jareth had posted guards throughout each room and surrounding the building for added protection.  There were more than enough there just in case the canine disabled one accidentally (or purposefully) with his foolhardy antics.  Jareth did not worry, for he hardly believed the fox was capable of any kind of elaborate escape.

            The Goblin King continued to watch the fox as he thought of how much more simple his task was going to be once he had rid himself of Sarah's companions.  He planned to send Sarah to the entrance of the Labyrinth to begin her journey, with two purposes in mind: to speed up her journey and to prevent her from discovering the truth about her friends. Soon he would have his treasure and he would no longer need the crystals.

            Abruptly and in accordance to his thoughts, the image in the crystal ceased to exist, the transparent exterior revealing nothing from within.  "What is happening?" Jareth asked the crystal antagonistically as he rose from the iron chair.  He wondered if Sarah had somehow gained possession of one of his crystals and was using it at the moment.  The pain returned and swept through him, as if it were a threat.  His eyes glowed blue, and he looked upon himself in a nearby mirror as he held his stomach tightly.  He bit back the overwhelming stinging sensation that took hold of his entire frame and moaned, "Why?  Please let it go."  He realized for the first time in his life that the blue glow in his eyes existed, and, with the realization he took a metal cane from beside the bookshelf and smashed the mirror with it.  Shards of glass tumbled down, tinkling as they hit ground.  Shivering uncontrollably, Jareth dropped the cane and stared down at his tensed hands.  He covered his face and doubled over; a strange dark sickness of the soul blew through him.  After it passed, he rose and looked across the room; another mirror awaited him, his image gazing back with drawn intensity.  The glow in his eyes had subsided, the pain was drained, and the crystal once again displayed the former vision of the fox and his tight quarters.

            Jareth gathered himself and returned to his seat, gaining control over his emotions and trying to forget his discovery of the blue surge that had arisen within his eyes.  His thoughts drifted to their former workings, and he denied, even to himself, that anything was truly amiss.  While he could forget the electricity in his eyes, he could not ignore the pain; he could try to forget it.

            He tried to think on other matters, and only had minor success in completely diverting his ponderings.

            It was irrational for Jareth to have considered the possibility that Sarah had found one of his globular instruments, for he had protected them well and she would have used them to return her friends if she had one in her grips. Therefore he concluded that the crystal's awkward behavior was part of the chain of unusual actions that had been coming from the spheres all along, and decided to dismiss it.  Perhaps his illness was causing the crystals to behave as they did; he did not like to think it, but it was also conceivable for it to be the other way around.

            Jareth prodded the globe to reveal images of all three of Sarah's companions on different slices of the glass sphere, in order to watch their actions simultaneously. He stood with his back to the door and examined the scenes as the transparent orb rotated them.  Everything seemed to be going perfectly.

***

            Isabelle traveled down the corridors of the castle glumly, pondering the conversation she had just participated in with Sarah. She knew that the king would not do something so dreadful as to render someone's friends inanimate, no matter how wrathful he became. Sarah seemed convinced that His Majesty had stolen her companions, but Isabelle was quite aware that it could not be true. No one had ever extended as much kindness to her as the king had for Isabelle it was simply impossible to comprehend the king doing anything so appalling as that. Perhaps Sarah had mistaken the king for someone else or had misunderstood the king's actions. Maybe she was trying to turn Isabelle against her only guardian but to what end?

            Isabelle felt ashamed for doubting the king, but her curiosity would not leave it alone. Knowing that if the problem remained untouched and unresolved she would continue to wonder, Isabelle made her way to the room Jareth would most likely be occupying at this time of day the crystal's chamber. She knew that her king would straighten this misconception out and make things right.

            As she traversed the length of the hallways she pondered another enigma. Why did she not seem to age? She had been ten years old for as long as she could remember her birthday was never celebrated; it was accepted as nonexistent by all. It also seemed that her thoughts were also so erratic from one moment to the next one moment she felt and spoke as if she were ten and the next she felt for sure that she ought to be at least eight years older than she appeared. One day she brought up the subject and asked the king why she did not age. Thinking it over, he finally replied that no creature in the Underground matured. She did not see how this was true because some of the beings did indeed seem to get old. And why did he have to contemplate the answer to her question? The question had been simple and straightforward enough. She inquired if she was ten years old; she did not know how she had come upon the notion of being ten years old the idea was just there. No one appeared to have told her this piece of information. He replied that she was ageless, merely a child, and had asked her where she had conceived such an opinion. Stating that she did not know, she tried to dismiss the puzzle and continued with her chores. Ever since then her thoughts had become inconsistent with what they had been before and she often felt as if she were merely a child when somehow she knew it was not valid.

            As she entered the preceding chamber to the crystal globes quarters, she noted that her thoughts were rational enough for the time being and that she would be able to clearly state her dilemma to the king.

            Isabelle abruptly stopped when she reached the doorway. Jareth was examining images within the depths of the glass sphere, which was not unusual, but the images were hauntingly familiar...

            "Sarah's companions!" Isabelle exclaimed, not fully considering the consequences of such an action. It was too late by the time she had gathered her composure and reprimanded herself. In response to her outcry, Jareth swiveled around on his heel and flashed his eyes toward her in surprise. "Isabelle, what brings you here?" he asked, a faint sound of astonishment remaining in his voice. Isabelle showed the same air of shock and could not find the words or strength to tell of her dismay. How could he do such a thing?! She could not decide what was more disheartening the fact that he had virtually betrayed her or the fact that she had so cruelly disbelieved Sarah.

            Jareth bent over and gripped Isabelle's shoulders firmly. "You spoke with Sarah, didn't you?" he asked with urgency in his voice and mannerisms. Isabelle merely nodded her head in acknowledgment. "Listen Isabelle," he urged. "You cannot tell her about her friends. It's best for us all that you do not."

            Doubt swarmed through Isabelle and she felt she would cry, partly for the tremendous guilt she experienced for distrusting the king and partly for the treachery that she felt had been forced upon her. What would she say to Sarah? How would she face her again, knowing that her friends were perfectly safe and Sarah  was uneasy with worry over them? "But why?" was all she could manage to utter after a lengthy pause.

            "Just do as I ask," the king requested in a forceful tone as he released her from his grip and exited from the room. As he left, the image in the crystal slowly vanished. The decree had been made and Isabelle could not disobey her king he was the only person that even remotely resembled a parent to her, and she could not defy a parent, no matter how unorthodox he happened to be. He had said it was beneficial to everyone that she did not reveal what she knew. She could only hope that it was true.

***

Making his way to the throne room in silence, Jareth realized the dangers of not keeping a strict vigil over Sarah. He regretted having had to remove the mirror from her room, for now his view of her motions had been limited. It was true that she would no longer have the ability to spy on his affairs, but because of it he would have to settle for less than adequate assurance that she would not ravage his scheme. She was proving to be a dangerous pawn, even when enclosed within her quarters. He made a mental note to watch her and Isabelle as soon as he reached his throne room and its spying mirror. He was beginning to realize that he could trust neither one of them to keep their word. Ruling by fear or generosity was totally useless with them. He needed reassurance that they would hold fast to their promises.

***

The glass doors swung closed independently as Isabelle left the room and the troubling images that the crystal sphere within carried. Even if she could not reveal her newfound knowledge, Isabelle had to apologize in some manner to Sarah; perhaps inadvertently, but she had to nonetheless. Maybe if she and Sarah had a quiet conversation she could forget the visions that so frequently would plague her mind for the next few days. She had no one to talk to, for most of the other goblins had the I.Q.s of two-year olds and discussed nothing other than food, fights, and parties. It was a droll way to pass one's time she found much more amusement in doing chores than conversing about these unimportant topics.

            Isabelle examined the bracelet dangling from her wrist and came upon a wonderful idea. She would simply give it to Sarah and explain that it was her way of saying "thanks" for all of her kindness. It was as respectable as any other obscure apology could be. Isabelle did sense a bit of attachment to the bracelet it was the only one sure thing that had stayed the same throughout her life in the Underground, and it was the only object that she could remember owning since she had arrived here. Her past was hazy and shrouded with uncertainty; she had often attempted to recreate her early youth in her mind with no success.  Always she had suspected that the bracelet had some connection with her roots and she would surely find it difficult to part with the article, but it was the only commodity of value that she owned and she had to somehow show her gratitude and sympathy for Sarah and the state of confusion in which she found herself. Isabelle regretted the fact that she could not shed some promising light on Sarah's situation.

            Isabelle reached Sarah's chambers for the second time. She peered inside cautiously, so as not to catch her in the middle of dressing, and noted, to her relief, that Sarah had already changed her clothes and was exploring the dresser drawers. Tossing caution aside, Isabelle allowed the door to swing open freely as she approached Sarah, unafraid. Sarah abruptly stopped in her search and carefully slid the drawer back into its former position as she fixed her gaze on the small goblin. Sarah said nothing, but there was no sign of anger appearing on her countenance. Only curiosity.

            "Sarah?" Isabelle stated meekly as she approached her, removing the bracelet from her wrist as she did so, "I have a gift for you."

            Sarah seemed suspicious, probably because the last words that had passed between them had been less than pleasant. "It's not from Jareth, is it?" she inquired with skepticism. Isabelle was not surprised to see her concern over this factor. "No, it's from me," Isabelle offered quietly as she handed it to her.

            Sarah accepted it silently and examined the object. "It's a bracelet," Sarah stated to herself as a smile widened on her face. "It's beautiful, Isabelle, but I can't take it," she declared as she handed it back to the young girl.

            Isabelle backed away, out of her reach and replied, "I want you to have it.

            Sarah's hand retreated and she queried, "But why? What I did last night is surely not worth something that must be so valuable to you. You did say that you had little to give. If you have little to give, then I have nothing to take," and she reached out her hand to return the sparkling object.

            Isabelle wanted her to have it, but her kindness would not allow her to receive it. Indeed, it was valuable to Isabelle, but forthright honesty was as well and she had been forced to obliterate that matter of personal value. After an uncertain pause Isabelle finally replied, "No, I want you to have it. It's not only a sign of gratitude, but one of apology as well."

            Sarah smiled sweetly and prodded, still holding the bracelet out, "You have nothing to apologize for! You can't convince me to take it."

            "Yes I do," Isabelle prompted, feeling the frustration with herself increasing with each moment. If only she had remained ignorant and left the matter as it had been, instead of going to the king for answers! "The last words that passed between us were harsh ones, and I am at fault for that! Please, take the bracelet!" she pleaded. "I will not be at peace with myself until you do!"

            "Look, Isabelle," Sarah said firmly, but kindly, "I can't force you to believe me. I see that Jareth is like a father to you and I respect that, but don't expect me to feel any gratitude toward him. Maybe it would have been best if I had never told you, for he is kind to you and obviously cares about you and it would be unfortunate if you cast him away just because of what I have said. Perhaps it is irrelevant that he has turned..." she rethought her statement, "...that he has separated me from my friends for the time being. I know that he is good on his word and that I shall be reunited with them in the end, and that is all that matters. I believe it would be best if you did not believe me, for then your relationship with him will not change. I have thought about it and have concluded, that if I had been in your shoes I would trust him rather than myself as well. I don't hold you accountable."

            It was true that Sarah did not hold Isabelle accountable, but she did have her doubts about the intent of Jareth's benevolence toward Isabelle he always had personal motives for every action. But it seemed that this young girl was not aware of that and it would be foolhardy to try to convince her otherwise than what she had learned from experience. It may affect the young girl emotionally and somehow get her injured in the long run, and the last thing Sarah wanted was for harm to come to her. She was a gentle creature with a loving nature and they had become potential friends until their argument about Jareth's endeavors. Besides, Sarah felt a bond with Isabelle a familiarity that had stayed with her since the moment she had rescued the girl from harassment in the corridors just outside of her chamber and she did not want to lose it because of a difference of opinion, no matter how important the subject was to her. Sarah was allowed her opinion, but had no right to infringe upon the personal beliefs of others, even if the person she was opposing seemed to be ten years younger than herself.

            Guilt rushed throughout Isabelle. Earlier that morning she had felt that Sarah might have been trying to turn her against her king, but now, despite all that Isabelle had said and all that she knew, Sarah was attempting to lay all of Isabelle's doubts to rest so that she would trust the king fully and not be tempted to sway from his favor. But Isabelle felt liable for more than that she knew that Sarah's friends were in no danger and had obviously been scattered throughout various locations in Jareth's domain. Sarah did not look upon her in scorn, but Isabelle did so on herself, for she was caught between what seemed to be right and what someone she trusted had told her was right, although she did not agree with his decision; it was clearly immoral to her, despite the outcome. She did not believe that the ends justified the means.

            Guilt finally overcame her and she hesitantly remarked, "I have something to tell you, Sarah." Sarah began to smile in response, but soon frowned, noting the sudden shadow that cast itself over Isabelle's face. She had obviously inferred that the matter Isabelle was about to bring up was of great importance. "What is it?" she questioned with concern. Isabelle fought with herself one last time before responding, "It's about your friends." Sarah instantly straightened in her seat. Isabelle had assumed correctly that Sarah had been greatly troubled over the current condition of her companions.

            "What about them?" she asked eagerly.

            "Isabelle..." Jareth's deep resonant voice echoed menacingly throughout the castle in warning.  It reverberated from the walls, like an entity with the power to escape all time, all laws of the manmade world. Reprimanding herself for not realizing that after her encounter with him, the king would probably be scrutinizing her from every location, Isabelle rushed to the door and faced Sarah, for what she was sure would be the final time. She could not comprehend why she would miss something so obvious as the king's probable vigil over her actions. Then it came to her her childish thoughts were creeping in on her again. She could survive if she could not trust her king, no matter how much she might adore him, but if she could not trust her own thinking process there was little hope. "I'm sorry, I can't tell you," she declared sincerely and hurriedly as she looked quickly behind her out of a sudden sense of paranoia. She glanced at Sarah again, who was obviously greatly disappointed that she would not find out about her friends. Isabelle wanted to tell Sarah, but her failing loyalty and lack of courage would not allow it.

            "Isabelle." Jareth's voice called again, more forceful and menacing than before.

            "I have to go," Isabelle said curtly as she slammed the door and scampered down the hall.

***

Sarah stared stupidly at the door for some time, irrationally wondering if Isabelle might eventually return to tell her about her friends; in reality, she knew it was foolish even to conceive such a notion. Isabelle had seemed melancholy; almost as if she were dreading to tell Sarah about her friends. Perhaps they were in greater danger than she had feared; she had been able to trust Jareth to some extent in the past, but, like he had said the other day, the rules had indeed changed. Yet, how could they be in harm's way when they were inanimate and their only job was to dangle as charms from the chain around her neck? Isabelle had appeared to be depressed because she had been afraid to tell her the news of her companions; perhaps it was something to fear, for Jareth had taken the trouble to track her down and watch her actions, catching her at the precise moment she would reveal any valuable information. Then again, maybe Sarah was jumping to unnecessary conclusions.

            So what could Isabelle have possibly told her about her friends that would be of any significance? And to make things more complicated, what might cause her to feel trepidation over bringing it to Sarah's attention? Sarah greatly respected Isabelle, for she had gone to a great lengths to bring Sarah details about her comrades, despite the dangers it involved. Now Sarah worried for Isabelle, for she could not deduce what Jareth might do to the young maiden for so obviously betraying him. He would probably not harm her in a physical manner, but would most certainly punish her for her unacceptable behavior.

            The cheery mood that had so strangely accompanied her throughout the morning completely dissipated with the recent occurrence. Her anxiety over her friends had doubled and now she had to worry about a new friend who had unselfishly risked herself to bring her comfort...or perhaps had come to bring her disappointment.

            She had been trying to push the bleak thought from her mind, but it continued to nag at her.  Had something terrible happened to Hoggle, Ludo, and Sir Didymus?  It was clearly pessimistic in nature and she certainly should not attempt to bring it to mind, but it was inevitable. What if Isabelle had come to bring her news of the death of her comrades? What if Jareth, by turning them into metal had not only rendered them inanimate, but lifeless as well? Surely, they would not be able to eat for many days and, since their lungs had been suspended with the rest of their bodies, how would they breathe? It was certainly a reasonable concern and Sarah must be able to cogitate all possibilities, but she could not allow herself to be a cynic about the entire situation; there was no point in giving up all hope. The Underground was a place of powerful magic and anything was possible here, so she could not let herself be hindered by worrying over an insignificant detail. Although she believed this to be true, Sarah's anger towards Jareth swelled again to enmity and she made a mental note not to trust anything Jareth said, despite his inevitable efforts to make it seem valid. If there was any knowledge to be gained about her friends, then Jareth had deceived her somehow, for she should be able to recognize all there was to know about their condition.

            She looked down at the bracelet in her hands. She had forgotten to return it to the young girl in the heat of the moment. Wrapping it around her wrist, she was pleased to see that it fit her; however, it was a close fit, for there was no room for it to sag and jangle on her arm. She was not disappointed, for the bracelet was beautiful enough and had been given to her with the best of intentions. It would serve as a healthy means of motivation throughout her bleak journey, wherever it might lead her. Perhaps it would bring her luck, as well.

            The sounds of chaos outside of her room had become more urgent, as if a significant moment was being prepared for and would soon be brought to fruition. That could mean only one thing she would be departing soon. Rising from her position in front of the dresser, she retrieved a small leather pouch that she had found and placed the intricately-designed gold key in it. Little had come of her search through the drawers, but she did find a peculiar object underneath a pile of clothing at the floor of her closet; it was a sack of marbles with strange designs swirling through the interiors of each. Upon counting them, Sarah discovered there were only eight of them, surely not enough for a serious game of marbles. They were lovely at any rate, and she brought them along in case she found a chance to trade them for something valuable in her travels. The pouch was smaller than the other she had found in her search through the drawers, so one fit nicely inside of the other. She located a brush as well, doubting that Jareth would take the effort to provide her with bare necessities.

            She thoroughly scanned the room one final time and sat on the bed to await her journey, deciding that perhaps it would be best if she devised some type of plan before Jareth summoned her to leave. Glancing at the bracelet, she examined for the first time the globular charm that was hanging from it. The bracelet had been so tight that she had not felt it sliding from side to side on the chain, because it had no room to do so. A hinge protruded from its edge, as if it were a locket, and just as she prepared to open it, a short, slender, goblin guard opened her door and politely declared, "It's time, Lady Sarah."

***

Jareth paced the smooth, tiled floor of the stone room anxiously, eager to commence his plan. Within moments Sarah would be standing before him and he would lay out the rules of the game, purposely censoring some of the details, enhancing yet others. She would bring forth her questions and uncertainties, receive her necessary materials, and depart quietly. At least he hoped she would depart quietly Isabelle had attempted to tell her about the state of her companions, despite his strict order for her not to do so. He did not know the extent of Sarah's cleverness and it would be reasonable to consider the fact that she may have already figured out that her friends were animate; would possibly be reasoning out their location, perhaps even lingering about the castle in search of clues. He had been so preoccupied with making preparations that he had not thought to make brief checks to ensure that she was remaining confined within her quarters. Yet there may have been no need to worry he had given her every justification to accept that he had converted her friends into metal ornaments; Isabelle had only recently brought to Sarah's attention that something was amiss, and resourceful though she was, Sarah could not match his own superior inventiveness and intellect.

            However, he had taken the precaution of restricting Isabelle from leaving the vicinity of the throne room so that he might keep careful watch over her. He still enjoyed her company, but was terribly disappointed in her for so publicly disobeying his direct orders. He had not requested her to keep her silence he had ordered it yet she had not agreed to do his bidding, either. That had not occurred to him before. Possibly she was becoming refined and elderly in her thinking once again and had found a way to outwit him. Before he had not thought it would matter he had not expected for her to sneak up on him as she had and had not anticipated the friendship that had formed between his young servant and his captive. He did not have sufficient control over his power at the moment in order to adequately spread his attention throughout the business of erasing Sarah's memory, stunting Isabelle's growth, and ruling a kingdom. It was simply impossible for him, even if it injured him to admit it.

            He discontinued his cogitations as soon as Sarah arrived. The moment she entered the room, her gaze fixed upon Isabelle. Her brow furrowed slightly as if she might be contemplating something. While her head was turned he took the opportunity to analyze her. Jareth had sent a jacket to Sarah that looked very much like one he often wore in Sarah's presence she carried it under her arm. Somewhat disappointed that she was so eager to differ herself from him, he tried to remind himself that it had been merely a test of her observational skills and degree of subservience, although he knew deep down that he had hoped she would wear it regardless of the fact that she probably knew he would be wearing one of similar design. He couldn't help but notice how the earth tones of her outfit offset her fair skin and blended with her dark hair. The brown vest was fitted and accentuated her hips he tried to draw his own attention away from her figure. He could not allow his mind to be clouded by male cravings. Yet he observed her, regardless of his counseling to himself not to do so. Her short sienna-colored leather boots came a few inches above her ankles and folded over at the top, covering the snug cuffs of the full brown pants she wore. A gold belt was taut around her waist, accentuating the shape of her hips.  A white shirt was tucked in at the waist and looked slightly baggy over the tightness of the belt; this further accentuated her upper figure.  The shirt was made of a loose silk that moved fluidly as she crossed her arms.  The charm necklace hung over her skin, just above the sweetheart-cut of the collar, mingling with the long brown hair that flowed down her front and back in smooth, dark streams. Jareth let go of the control over his thoughts for only a moment, and in that moment he concluded that she was undeniably beautiful. He also concluded that he could never let himself think so again, for it filled him with unwanted emotions.

            Sarah had continued to gaze at Isabelle during his observation he was thankful that she had not seen his own intent gaze. Finally she turned her attention toward him, eyes glistening in the dim light. Last night when he had sent sweet dreams to her through the mirror, she had not seemed hostile or angry in any way the hatred had completely dissipated from her eyes. Now that he had taken last evening's memories away, the hatred had again revealed itself.

            Jareth sat comfortably in his tremendous throne, decked in his finest garments. The sound of mumbling goblins filled the room as the servants spoke to each other in their various positions against the wall. Sarah was the main focus of attention and conversation, for they all knew what task she would soon set out to do, even if she did not. Jareth had told them that morning during the small celebration he had let Sarah sleep through it for he did not want her to discover the entire purpose of her journey. Guards were flanked all about her as she entered the room. When the guards halted, she was forced to halt as well. She moved towards the Goblin King's throne independently and was thwarted by a guard. Instead of returning to her station as told by the repulsive goblin, she nudged her way through them and stood before Jareth's throne, the leather jacket cradled in her arms. Jareth questioned why she would carry it in her arms instead of draping it over them. It seemed odd.

            "Are you ready for your journey?" Jareth asked her with a slight grin tugging the corners of his mouth.

            Sarah paused as if she might be thinking over what had been meant as a rhetorical question, even though no signs of thought emerged on her mien. Eventually she replied with a submissiveness that she had used often during the Goblin King's last encounter with her, "I suppose so."

            The mumbles that echoed throughout the room finally ceased.

            "Of course you are," Jareth said. "I will give you an overview of the path you will take. You will get a map that will lead you more precisely."

            Jareth rose from his prominent position on the throne and smoothly sauntered to the balcony, turning around only once to indicate for Sarah to begin following. She already was.

            The goblins stood transfixed as the two human figures went out on the balcony and overlooked the lands beyond the Labyrinth. Deep in their eyes, beyond even their own knowledge or comprehension or even that of Jareth's, stood a weak, perhaps more hidden than weak, indication of reverence towards Sarah. There was the visible reverence which every being in the palace could relate to the one that regarded the fact that this lovely young woman would practice loyalty to their king and bring peace to their lands. But there was the deeper, more camouflaged feeling of respect that mainly concerned Sarah's objectivity they felt a tie to this girl who was not a part of their upside-down world, a bond with someone who lived in a land more organized and harmonious than their own. Underneath their foolish ways and layers of ignorance was a tinge of distrust of their king to which they were so loyal. There was something human mirrored in their repulsive eyes, a greater understanding of human suffering behind their goblin features, an almost human desire for something beyond what they possessed, something beyond the moment, something they felt entitled to.  Somehow they knew that something greatly significant was going to happen and that Sarah would be the main instigator of this occurrence.

            Jareth placed his hands far apart on the banister of the balcony. Although they didn't close in to listen to the conversation, the goblins were studying the situation from a distance.  Sarah crossed her arms and stood directly behind Jareth. The lands spread out before the Goblin King, overwhelming him and humbling him more than he might have imagined possible. He despised looking upon them all of a sudden, but there was no other way to accurately point out Sarah's destination, so he thought upon other matters.

            He remembered the time, five long years ago, when he had stood over the lands with Sarah, admonishing her not to venture into the Labyrinth. He had stood over her ominously, clock ticking on a nearby tree. She had seemed frail, unfamiliar, frightened. She had looked so innocent.

            Now she stood over him as he propped himself against the iron banister, hardly fragile, quite knowing of his character. Yet she was still afraid. The trepidation was extremely visible in her eyes, caused by himself, but in a different manner than before. It was no longer a fear of power or authority, but something else. Something more urgent troubled her, yet she seemed to constantly deny that it was there.

            Again he questioned himself as to the cause of her fear. Could she be afraid of traveling through the Underground again? No, she did not show any hesitant signs of going on a quest. What, then, was it that she dreaded?

            Sarah stood silently behind him, not provoking him to fall out of his contemplation, but waiting patiently for him to finish drawing out his thoughts. Time stood still for a moment, causing Jareth to shudder from within. For him, time had always traveled at a never-ending pace it felt odd to have it suddenly slow down. The sun seemed to take longer in its ascent, the sky longer in its brightening, Sarah more sluggish in her breathing. He felt the temptation to ask Sarah what it meant, what emotional cause there was for time to slow down, but the notion was only a curiosity, not something he seriously expected himself to carry out. He would probably never know, but continue to futilely ask himself. It bothered him that she would know anything that he did not moreso that she was the only one he could ask to enlighten him.  Goblins, ugliness, and chaos were all around him, and not one understanding creature; the funny thing was that it was all under his ownership. Instead of thinking upon it, he thought about the smallness of an individual for the first time and doted upon his newfound knowledge.

            "Look out upon the land, Sarah, and realize how insignificant you are in comparison," Jareth stated with a drawn face as he stared into the horizon.

            Sarah looked into the sunset and replied with a voice controlled by cold, unnerved enmity, "I have realized my insignificance for a long time. The question is...have you realized yours?"

            Jareth swung around and the doors to the balcony shut gracefully in syncopation to his turning body. He stood before her, noticing for the first time that they were at eye level. Goblins grumbled in surprise from behind the closed doors.

            "Don't make a fool of me in front of my minions," Jareth balked in a measured tone. Pausing to control himself, he finally continued, "Why must you constantly test my patience? I have done nothing to deserve such treatment from you."

            Sarah's eyes widened considerably and her forced, wry smiled tightened and turned downward, cruelly revealing once again the full concentration of her wavering hatred. He expected a response. Strangely enough, he got none.

            A few moments passed in silence. The wind started up, teasing strands of her glistening hair, his own blond hair passing across his eyes vigorously as the breeze brought it to life. Her gaze was locked on his own, but their eyes did not really seem to meet. Her vision was somewhere beyond him, going through him, out into the depths of the land and sky, concentrated on nothing in particular.

            "Look at me, Sarah," he commanded quietly.

            "I am loo-" Sarah began sternly.

            "No you are not," Jareth cut her off forcefully. "I want you to really look at me. Not through me, not behind me. At me. If you must loathe me, then I won't have you denying to me that your hatred exists. In any manner." He lowered his voice to a whisper and got closer to her face so that he would be heard. She turned her eyes away and seemed to overcome the urge to retreat from the warmth created by his face being so close to her own. "I will not be lied to, I will not be defied, and I will not have you insulting me before my own subjects. Do you understand? Say something... look at me, do something dammit!"

            Sarah's eyes fell to the necklace dangling around her collar for a short moment, then explored the winding Labyrinth. She did not face him, she did not speak her face was a mixture of sadness and anger. She clenched her fists, the clamor of mumbling goblins seeming to get closer to the door, then the sounds of numerous individuals making hushing noises, and finally, silence. Sarah gritted her teeth, the stillness being so thorough that Jareth could hear the teeth grind together with such a ferocity that sent shivers down his spine.

            He felt helpless in her presence, even if he might not show it. Before he could control his emotions so easily. He was amused by her fear, thrilled by it, driven onward. Now she despised more than she trembled, her nature so acidic that it broke up the very composition of his personality. It was in his own mind to make a painful, sarcastic remark to her for disobeying him so openly, even if only because she felt she was incapable of doing what he asked, but instead he gently held her chin, his face still inches away, and pulled her face around so that she looked into his eyes. He so much wanted to know where it was that her hatred resided.

            If she did know that her friends were still animate, it was likely to conclude that she would not hate him this much she would be exploring secretively in order to find them, not standing before him, waiting to start her journey. Yet she had glanced forlornly at the necklace. What had Isabelle told her? What was it that was that she believed had happened?

            "Sarah, tell me what is bothering you. I cannot solve the problem until you tell me what it is," Jareth encouraged in a quiet tone.

            Sarah paused a moment as if weighing a possibility, testing his statement for viability. Sadness and confusion seemed to tug at her now more than hatred and she truly looked at him for the first time that morning. Her eyes were soft and hazy, her face so close, he was entranced almost to the point of madness. He felt he would succumb to her charm, if only she wished him to, if only she meant to charm him. Time slowed once again, and again he wondered why. At that instant he felt she might let go of some of her anger, forgive to a certain extent, but that was only denial on his part. Yet he drove himself to insanity believing in that useless fantasy, believing in it so strongly that he thought it might actually become reality.  He remembered how she had held his hand the evening before, how they both had been weakened somewhat by the enchanted wine, how they had let their barriers down.  Now, she remembered none of it because, for some reason, he had felt it necessary to make her forget.  It was as if he was playing Russian Roulette with only himself to challenge.

            Tingling pangs swept through him, as a warning.

            If only she would forget...If only he could make her forget.

            She drew away and faced the Labyrinth. "You," she struggled, "know what you have done...I won't fall under your spell."  She paused a moment and continued, "First you want me to hide my true feelings, then you demand that I let you see what I feel. You should know what you really want."

            He was taken aback, even though he had always truly known what she would say. He knew she would do anything but what he had hoped she would he had known it all of the time. Yet he felt disconcerted; her words hit a nerve, the pain pulsated within him.  He could feel it rushing on like a wave of fury and agonizing denial, holding him captive to the ecstasy and horrid nature it possessed.  It told him that he should not listen; the pain spoke.  It told him to ignore, to ignore, then the pain would subside.  The rhythm it possessed was almost maddening, equally maddening as the gaze that was transfixed on him as he fought not to reveal the pain; it was the endless, ageless stare of Sarah that challenged this emotional agony.  Something broke within him and he questioned himself whether he had attempted to charm her or not. He had sincerely wished to know what was bothering her, he did not know what made her so wrathful, and he was punished for even attempting to discover what it was; this is when the pain became almost too much to bear.

            He had successfully hidden the agony, looking at Sarah with a controlled expression, holding back the cries of pain as he had learned to do over the years.  Suddenly Sarah gazed up at him in surprise and terror, touching her hand to her face as her skin paled in either fright or pain.

            Jareth forgot his own pain and whispered, "What is it?"

            She doubled over, letting out small, breathless cries as she kneeled to the ground.  Without hesitation, Jareth was at her side, holding her shoulders and attempting to pull her face up to see if she was convulsing.  Her eyes bore into him, frightened and exposed, as she whispered, "It was you."

            "What do you mean?" he asked.  The searing grew in intensity the further he pursued the subject, and, as his own pain increased, Sarah's did as well.  "Sarah..."

            "Stop it!" she cried, clutching her head tightly.  "I can't take the pain!"

            Jareth knew what was to be done.  He discontinued his attentions to Sarah and rose.  With a mental effort, he blanked his thoughts, letting the darkness sweep over his mind in suffocating waves.  Now the pain had hit him where it hurt the most; he would give anything to see Sarah physically unharmed he would even sell his soul.  It was then that he knew the true reason he had brought Sarah back to the Underground.

            He now realized that this game of Russian Roulette was being played against tremendous odds.  Only one barrel had been left empty, and he had to either shoot or forfeit his winnings.  He looked sadly down at Sarah as her pain appeared to subside, and thought, Please, not that.  I will tear myself to pieces; I wish her to know.  Why can't she know?  Deep within himself there was a reply: 

            I own you....

            Do not defy me.

            He let the darkness control him as he gazed at Sarah through new eyes.  She rose with difficulty, holding herself up with the railing.  With a piercing gaze she looked at him, her face drawn in pity, confusion, and anger.

            "I am so sorry, Sarah."

            As he held up his hand, a crystal emerged within his palm.  He pulled his lips together and blew it on the wind; it swirled mystically as it came before Sarah.  With hypnotic rhythm it held her transfixed, then popped.  She blinked her eyes and gazed at Jareth as she had several moments ago, as if nothing abnormal had occurred.        

            Jareth stared at her a moment while he thought about the hopelessness of the situation. After a few moments of fruitless consideration, he came back into reality, time speeding up again. The pain subsided, the thoughts were subdued, the feelings submerged.  His faculties returned and he noticed for the first time the extreme silence emanating from the throne room; the lack of sound was broken only by sporadic scratching on the balcony door.

            With little effort, the Goblin King threw open the doors, scattering several eavesdropping goblins about the throne room in the process. Sarah slowly turned to discover the source of the commotion, then returned her gaze to the lands of the Underground, uninterested in the Goblin King's needless show of force, her hatred as powerful as ever.

            Jareth walked with steady footsteps to the center of the throne room, a calm, even expression on his face as he put his hands on his hips and pivoted his head to look about the chambers. Each time that he stopped to gaze at a particular goblin, it would either cringe or scuttle down a nearby hallway to escape his ruthless stare.

            "What," he began collectedly, but icily, "do you think I closed the door for?" He regained his whimsical and sarcastic air, giving them all a wry smile. It only made them cringe more. "Perhaps you don't know what a private conversation is?" he prodded with false amusement. He encompassed the room with his examination to find Isabelle strewn on the floor along with the other goblins. She had been eavesdropping, as well. He was exasperated by her intrusiveness, but talking to her about it would have to wait until later.

            Jareth flickered his wicked grin across the room a few times before approaching Sarah again. He pointed dramatically to the eastern lands beyond the Labyrinth.

            "Beyond my grand, strong castle, the Labyrinth's winding walls, the forest's green leaf tassels, and the mountains great and tall stands a red clay desert with plateaus wondrous high." Jareth's directions flowed like poetry. "Atop the highest you shall find my treasure. Once you bring me my prize, I will release your friends, vowing never to take them again. That is my deal."

            "How do I know you will keep your half of the bargain?" Sarah inquired.

            "We will cross that bridge once you complete the task I have asked of you," Jareth replied as he walked back to the front of the room, settling back into his throne. Sarah walked to the center and stood before him.

            "I need reassurance now," Sarah declared calmly.

            Jareth stared at her blankly for a moment. With the growth of her anger had come the growth of her aggression. Again, she was stating her opinion too often, threatening to lose him the respect of his minions.

            Still, if she did not have reassurance she would not go on the quest.  "Very well, then," Jareth replied following a drawn out pause. "After you complete your journey, I will provide you with a mirror that will allow you to view the actions of your friends whenever you like, just as long as you are the only individual in the room. If it is at all possible, I wish for no others to know of the Underground. That should be satisfactory."

            Sarah considered it. "Yes, I suppose that's a good deal."

            "Good." Jareth rose from his seat. "Isabelle, please hand Sarah her supplies."

            Isabelle got up and took hold of a brown, leather knapsack. Her expression was sad and apologetic as she approached Sarah.

            As Isabelle arrived at her destination, a small goblin scuttled into the room and hopped agilely onto the arm of Jareth's throne.

            "What is it?!" the Goblin King whispered with irritation. The small goblin mumbled something into the king's ear, sounding like gibberish from afar. For Sarah, it was a perfect opportunity. Jareth was distracted.

            "Tell me now, Isabelle," she whispered into the maiden's ear. "What about my friends?"

            Jareth noticed Sarah bending over and forced his attention back to her.

            "Isabelle, hand Sarah her supplies and step away," he commanded.

            "Please, Isabelle," Sarah pleaded.

            The young goblin was visibly struggling with herself.

            "Step away!" Jareth ordered vehemently as he rose from his seat, his figure towering over the room.

            Isabelle was shaking as she handed Sarah her supplies. She finally turned away and ran from the room, sobbing the whole way out.

            The small goblin that had run in moments earlier tugged emphatically on the Goblin King's jacket tail. Jareth stared at him angrily. "It will have to wait!" he shouted. The goblin leaped from the armrest and scrambled behind the chair, peering from behind it fearfully

            Sarah watched the scene before her with disdain. She had pushed it too far. Jareth would surely punish her for her public resistance. She felt extremely sorry for Isabelle and the goblin concealed behind the chair, as well. They probably got enough of this kind of reaction from their king as it was they didn't need her making them even more miserable.

            You would be wise to take heed to my warnings, Jareth's voice echoed through the interior of Sarah's mind. Sarah faced the king and locked eyes with him. His lips were not moving, but his eyes blazed a brilliant whitish-blue. The next time you openly disobey me I shall punish you greatly and I will not release you for all of your pleas for me to do so. The voice was only within her mind, magically enhanced, causing her to flinch from it in fear, though there was no escape from it. It felt as if he had forced his way within her it was the most terrible feeling she had ever encountered.

            The silence was overwhelming. The goblins did not know that Jareth had said anything to Sarah, but they did know something was afoot, for they looked on in wonder and fear, as if expecting something to happen.

            Sarah pondered if Jareth could read her thoughts since he was able to enter her mind in some way. It was conceivable. It was also extremely terrifying.

            Her thoughts were her most private possessions, her most guarded ones. It had never seemed to be that way with most other people she knew, but it had always been that way with her. Someone being able to read her every thought was like someone taking ownership of her soul. The last person she wanted to have control over her in that manner was Jareth, for he would find great amusement in reading her thoughts, knowing her deepest desires, her innermost secrets. Remembering her cherished memories.  There could be no greater punishment that he could inflict upon her than that.

            Then she speculated again if he could read her thoughts, would he be able to control them?

            Stop right there, Sarah, she said to herself in her mind. Don't overreact. You must be logical about things.

            She returned to the situation, her eyes still locked with Jareth's. The goblins began to mumble, some wondering if the king had hypnotized her, even though she had been silent for only a few seconds. To Sarah it seemed as if minutes had passed. Jareth looked amused by what seemed to be, and indeed was, Sarah's trepidation.

            While on the balcony, Jareth had asked Sarah what was angering her. If he could read her thoughts, then why would he ask her anything? He would already know. Unless, that was, if he were trying to get her to willfully say it herself, in order to test her obedience. During most of her stay she had been blunt about her thoughts of him or had publicly gone against his will. Only when she realized her friends would be in danger if she did say anything was she the least bit restrained, though not enough, for they had been turned into metal anyway, or whatever it was that had happened to them. Perhaps he had been trying to see if she had finally become afraid enough of him to do as he ordered. Yet, he gave no signs of knowing what she thought.

            Perhaps she was just making wild assumptions because she really was terribly frightened of him. That was obviously the purpose of the mind communication Jareth had performed. If so, she had fallen under.

            Still, she was horrified by the thought of him reading her mind.

            Stay out of my mind, she commanded by way of thought while looking at Jareth. He gave no indication that he had received the statement. Even though it seemed as if he could not read her thoughts, she put it on her list of things to protect herself against from him.

            He walked down the steps leading from the throne and led her to the main doorway.

            "The map is in your bag," he explained, an unreadable expression on his face. "I suppose it is time that you begin your journey. You have two weeks, until the full moon."

            The doors swung open in response. Sarah placed the knapsack on her back and began to walk away.

            "Sarah," Jareth called. Sarah did not turn around. "Do I get a farewell handshake?"

            Sarah did not wish to touch him. Although she did not want to anger him more, she did not want him to believe he could frighten her into submission. Yet, he had powerful magic that she didn't, and he could do anything with that power. He had proven it already.

            She had started to turn around and move her hand to grasp his when a thought struck her. He couldn't do anything to her because he obviously needed her for this mission and, until she returned with his treasure, he would have to put up with her. With that thought in mind, she returned her hand to its former position at her side and continued to exit the room, giving no evidence that she had heard him.

She had defied him once again. Damn her! Yet, he could do nothing about it. She had heard him and had willfully disobeyed him in front of his servants for the umpteenth time. He had no way to counteract this abuse at the moment, but when she returned he would.

            A goblin came up to him. "Do you think she heard you?" it asked in a squeaky voice. The other goblins awaited his response with curiosity.

            Jareth continued to stare at the back of the departing Sarah, but finally pulled his gaze away with hesitation. "No....no, I don't believe she heard me," he eventually replied. The goblins easily accepted his answer, for they were not the wiser.

            It was unfortunate that he could not have said it in all honesty.

Jennifer Connelly     David Bowie    Jim Henson            C     C