Лабиринт - LABYRINTH II
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CHAPTER XXIII

            It had been three hours since Sarah had left, and already Hoggle was terribly bored. The walls of the cave threatened to suffocate him in their biting dampness and dreary demeanor.  Even though he knew it was wrong of him to do so, Hoggle was feeling betrayed and angry for those two to have left him there. He felt he would go insane if he had to stay there a week.

            "Feeling a bit sorry for yourself, Hoghead?" a familiar voice asked him from the shadows.  Hoggle shivered violently at the sound of the accented voice.  Jareth came out of the shadows, a black, whispery cape of translucent material covering him all around, only to be pulled back and reveal a midnight blue silk shirt beneath.  The shirt was tucked in at the waist of his tight, dark grey breeches and tied at the collar by criss-crossing strings of the same silk; the collar fell low beneath his neck to show a portion of his chest. A black, suade vest hung over it and matched with his black boots and gloves.

            He was perfectly groomed, completely emaculate, and always polite – making him all the more threatening in Hoggle's eyes. The supposed calm, genteel manner Jareth put forth was usually a way to hide secret intentions or to intimidate.

            Today he was being intimidating.

            "What're you doing here....your...Your Majesty?" Hoggle asked both grudgingly and nervously at the same time. He needn't have asked, though, because he had a vague idea of what to expect.  Maybe if I wish it hard enough, he will disappear, Hoggle thought.  He wished and wished, to no avail.

            "Come, come, Hogbrain! Can't I pay my former ensign a friendly visit without question?" Jareth replied in a mock injured tone.  Hoggle didn't asnwer.  "Your...friends leave you all alone, did they?" Jareth said, playing concerned as he loomed over Hoggle. Jareth was full of contradicting behaviors. "We know how much they truly care about you, now, don't we, Hoghead?"

            "They had to do what they done," Hoggle argued in a subdued manner.

            "Of course they did!" the Goblin King agreed affectionately. He bent over to Hoggle's ear and whispered, "But I bet you're burning inside for revenge."

            Jareth rose and Hoggle found his courage. Jumping from his sitting position, Hoggle commanded, "Come and say what you done come here to say, Jareth. I ain't going to play any fool games, and I ain't a turncoat."

            "Turncoat?" Jareth smiled sweetly then glowered at the dwarf. "No, not you, higgledy...," he poked Hoggle in the chest to emphasize, "piggledy...," he poked again, "Hoggle. You're no turncoat. Only a traitor to your own king and kingdom, my dear, former ensign. But most certainly you are not a turncoat."  Hoggle turned his head away with shame. He wasn't ashamed because he had gone against Jareth five years ago, but because he had lost his nerve.  "You don't deserve friends!" Jareth exclaimed calmly with his wicked grin. "Seeing how easily your favor is swayed, I don't think your friends would be able to trust you, my dear Hogwart!"

            Hoggle hated the way Jareth kept calling him, "my dear." By no means did he belong to Jareth, even if only in word.  "It's Hoggle," the dwarf mumbled.

            "Yes, well, Hoggle, dear fellow, I think you owe me one."

            So that's what the snake was here for! "I don't owe you nothin'," Hoggle snarled.

            "Such bravery," Jareth mocked. "I wonder where your courage was when I turned all of your friends into metal charms." He bent close to Hoggle's face, only three inches separating them, and stared quietly at him; Hoggle shivered with anxiety, not liking the cold, silent stare, yet not daring to move.  He just waited for the inevitable outburst and closed his eyes.

            "Poof," Jareth finally declared emphatically, causing Hoggle to flinch. Jareth just bent back and laughed wickedly. "Still the same, timid Hoggle who used to work for me. No need to worry, Hoggle. I don't plan to turn you into an ornament anytime soon."  Like that was really a relief to Hoggle.  "I only am curious to know about something you said to Sarah. Or rather, started to say."

            "Whadd'ya mean?" Hoggle queried suspiciously.

            "Something that concerned me. Something that began, 'I think that maybe Jareth cares...'" Jareth stared expressionless down at the dwarf. "What is it that you suspect I care about, Hoggle?"

            "It wadn't nothin' important," Hoggle replied rebelliously.

            "You'll tell me," Jareth began sinisterly, "or I will find a punishment much worse than the Bog of Eternal Stench."

            "Punish me all you want," Hoggle said, knees shaking despite his cold tone of voice.  Jareth took off his gloves carefully, without rush. Hoggle always knew Jareth meant business when he took off his gloves. The dwarf made a loud gulp.

            "You have the well-being being of your companions to consider, Hoggle," Jareth remarked levelly as he put the two gloves together and looked at something other than Hoggle. "I don't think you would wish any harm to come to them, now would you?"  Slowly, he turned to face the dwarf, his eyes piercing his the small man like knives.

            "Alright, I'll tell you," Hoggle capitulated. He prepared himself to feel pain as a response to the statement. "I told the little missy that I thought you..." he lowered his tone to nearly inaudible, "I thought you cared about her."

            Jareth cupped his hand around his ear and declared, "Speak up, Hoghead, I can't quite make out what you're driving at."

            "I said I thought you cared about her!" he burst out, flinching from Jareth's reaction.

            "Splendid!" Jareth exclaimed as he replaced his gloves. "I do believe that this repays me somewhat for your treachery."

            "What?" Hoggle said, baffled.

            "You know, Hoggle," Jareth said, bending down to make level eye contact with the dwarf, "now she'll be so confused she won't know whose side she's on." He placed his hand warmly on Hoggle's shoulder, grinning from ear to ear. "Thank you ever so much."  Jareth rose and walked back to the shadows. "I apologize for having to leave you in these cramped quarters, but I'm afraid I haven't the time to take you to the dungeons at the moment. You don't mind, my dear Hogbrain, now do you?"

            He disappeared before Hoggle could answer.  Hoggle plopped back down on the stone ground, feeling worse than ever for having said something to disturb Sarah. Jareth was probably right about the confusion she must be feeling.

***

Hoggle sure had been right about the caves being confusing. Sarah had lost all sense of direction in the caves and was feeling herself come to tears. It was much more diffivult than the Labyrinth, because at least in the Labyrinth she could see her goal high above the walls of the maze. Here she couldn't tell where she was.

            She sure wished she had listened to Hoggle.  "Stop, Didymus," Sarah commanded. "We're getting nowhere this way."  The fox did as told while Sarah sat down to think of something. She continued to hold her torch before her, causing her shadow to flicker wildly against the walls of the cave.

            "Milday!" Didymus said, seeming to have a revelation. "Why don't you use the compass the elves gave you? At least we would know North from South."

            "Don't be silly!" Sarah's voice mocked. "I've never heard such a stupid idea in my life!"

            Sarah looked up from her cogitations in horror.

            "Well, you don't have to be so rude about it!" Didymus declared indignantly to her.

            "I didn't say it..." Sarah said, looking at him with a disturbed expression.

            "Well, then, who might've said it?" Didymus wondered, cocking his head to the side in confusion.

            Sarah's shadow shimmered teasingly.  "I did, you numbskull!" Sarah's voice declared. "Can't you hear?"

            "Well, then why did you say you didn't say it?" Didymus delared in an unknightly disposition.

            Sarah jumped up from her seated position and cried, "Whoever's out there, show yourself!"

            "I'm greatly confused, milady," Didymus confessed.

            "Someone is hiding and impersonating me," Sarah explained.

            Sir Didymus's face lit up with understanding. "Yea, scoundrel, show yourself! How dare ye impersonate this fine lady!" he cried, thrusting his staff before him.

            "'How dare ye impersonate this fine lady!'" the voice mocked. "You're sure a character. Hammy. Completely hammy. Over the top, too."

            "Where'd you learn that?" Sarah demanded from no one in particular.

            "Learn what?"

            "To say hammy. And over the top. How'd you know that I say that?" Sarah turned around because she thought she heard something behind her. The torch lit up the wall before her, casting her shadow opposite of wherever she faced.

            "Quit moving around like that!" the voice declared. "You're making me dizzy!"

            "Answer my question!" Sarah ordered.

            "I didn't learn it from anyone. You say it, I say it."

            "How'd you find out?" Sarah was tiring of talking to a voice with no source, although it always seemed to be coming from somewhere behind her.

            "Come on! I know a lot of things about you."

            "Like what?" Sarah asked curiously, letting down her anger.

            "Like how you got your eyes on the Goblin King. Bad move if I do say so myself."

            "What!?" Sarah declared furiously. "Just come out here and let me get my hands on you!"

            "Don't worry. I won't tell anyone."

            "Shut up!" Sarah declared. "It's not true!"

            "Denial is affirmation."

            The two Sarahs spoke their next words in synchopation, almost as if they were operating on the same wavelength.

            "You're contradicting yourself," Sarah said contemptuously.

            "I'm contradicting myself," the voice corrected itself.

            Sarah rose her fist threateningly, jangling the bracelet that hung there. "Show yourself, dammit!"

            "Sure thing," the voice said. "Just hand the torch over to your fox friend and turn around."

            Sarah complied to come face to wall with her shadow.

            "Okay, this must be some kind of elaborate joke," Sarah said. "You can stop it now, Jareth, I'm not amused!"

            "You know very well that Jareth doesn't play games like this," the voice said somberly.

            Sarah put her hand to her forehead and declared, "I have a big headache."  She soon jerked it away from her head in surprise; the edges of the locket on the bracelet were glowing, as if something were longing to escape. She gingerly opened the locket to reveal the glittering dust that Sage had placed there.

            "Shadowdust!" her shadow declared. "Throw some at the wall!"

            "Why?" Sarah retorted.

            "I've lived in your shadow all my life," the voice declared passionately, "and I finally have the chance to possess my own identity. Throw it at me!"

            "Explain this to me first," Sarah said looking at nothing in particular and wagging her finger, "If you have your own identity, then why the heck did you wait until now to pipe up about it? Why did you have to take a crucial point and decide to waste my time by talking now? Why didn't you just do it when I really wanted an imaginary friend?"

            "Listen, Einstein, I live here, not Aboveground. I replaced your false shadow when you came inside the mountain and, if you'd hurry up and sprinkle some of your 'fairy dust' on me, then I'd be able to leave the mountain with you. Face it, Peter Pan,  you're lost and you need someone to help you out of this dump."

            "Did you sew yourself onto me when I wasn't looking?" Sarah said sarcastically.

            "Hey, you got some real spunk in you after all. We could get to be friends. That is, if you'd do the honors."

            Sarah looked at her shadow suspiciously, shrugged her shoulders and blew lightly on the glittering dust in the locket to send a sparkling cascade on the air. Instead of it just hitting the wall, it ran into an invisible barrier. Once it had spread itself evenly over the impediment, Sarah could see an invisible human form made discernable by the layer of glitter. Sarah bent closer to look and was eye to eye with herself.

            She gasped in disbelief.

            "You're me!" Sarah exclaimed.

            "Not quite. For one, my name is Sara, which you might notice has a slightly different pronunciation and which you might not notice is spelled differently, too. Like all shadows, I have at least one characteristic opposite that of yours, perhaps even more. I am a unique being, so don't expect me to agree with everything you say."

            Sarah nodded her head dumbly.

            "And don't go around looking like you're in a trance. I don't want everyone to think my counterpart is hammy, or something."

            "Sorry." She looked down at Didymus. "I almost forgot about you, Didymus. Sara, this is Didymus. He's a very good friend of mine."

            Sara, Sarah's shadow, was still like a hollow glass figurine, made up of nothing more than a thin veneer of glitter. Didymus seemed awkward about speaking to her, but politely bowed and removed his hat saying, "I am honored, milady."

            "Quite the gentleman, I see," Sara remarked. "I find that sweet in a guy, human or not. I am similarly honored." She shook his hand.

            Sarah noticed that her shadow's mocking demeanor had vanished, as if she had only been putting on a front before to see their true nature.  "Well, hey, if we want to reach the outside before sunset, let's get crackin'," Sara said courteously. "I'm just dying to see a color besides gray."

***

Jareth walked down the corridor proudly, feeling pleased with himself for successfully discovering what it was Hoggle had said and for doing such a good job of occupying the dwarf with a few days of guilt for ever saying it to Sarah. Hoggle had indeed assisted in getting Jareth what he wanted.

            The Goblin King was feeling very alive at that moment, having finally decided to spread some of his generosity. He also wanted to take a walk around his city and mingle with his minions.

            Jareth reached Sooty's door and knocked. The elderly goblin called for him to enter and he did so without hesitation.  "Yer majesty," she acknowledged him.

            "Dear lady," he said with a slight inclination of his head. "Have you yet gone to the market?"

            "Not yet, yer majesty. Though I'll be goin' soon."

            "I've come to tell you that I've decided to take on this task myself. Do with the time whatever you like."

            "Thank'ye, yer majesty. I'll finish some cleaning, if ya d'not mind."

            "Suit yourself," he said as he left.

            "Yer majesty?"

            "Yes?" he turned his head.

            "You might like t'know, the elves're in town. They're selling merchandise, me thinks."

            "That's odd," Jareth remarked. "They're not scheduled to come until fall. Why wasn't I told?"

            "I just found out m'self. I can't figure why they'd come so early either, tell the truth. I be hearin' that they're setting up at the market."

            "Thank you. I'm sure that I will have fine goods to choose from for Isabelle's gift."

            "Yes, yer majesty."

            Jareth left Sooty's chambers, passing Isabelle's room along the way. He didn't wish to speak with her until he had returned, so he passed by her open door without a greeting.  Isabelle's eyes followed him expectantly, but he did not acknowledge her. If she was listening, all she would have heard was him telling a passing guard, no doubt the general, to keep careful watch over the palace while he was gone. She was probably wondering where he was going.

            Jareth was still wearing the attire he had used when speaking to Hoggle. He undid the brooch that fastened the cape when he reached the throne room and he laid it on his throne.  With a small bag of gold coins in hand, he exited through the front doors. While he climbed down the steps a goblin who had been keeping watch over the south entrance insisted upon getting the king an escort into the city. Jareth refused the offer with a wave of his hand and continued onto the cobblestone streets of the Goblin City, passing ramshackle houses of different sizes, trashladen sidewalks, a bustling variety of goblins who all bowed in his presence, and a number of sidewalk shows.

            He walked with purpose, perfect posture and head held proudly. It was rare that Jareth walked the streets of the Goblin City, especially as informally as he did now. Most often he would be flanked by a number of escorts, while he was dressed in the most kingly of garments.

            Today he didn't want to bother with all of that nonsense, no matter how much more important it made him look and feel.  He noticed with contempt that the city was still scarred by the flood of tumbling boulders that had accompanied Sarah five years ago when she had come to retrieve her sibling. His disdain was worsened by passing the clock tower – the one from which she had assisted her beast companion in from escaping. Many things that surrounded him could be tied with her existence, could make him remember forever that she had once been there.... Too bad the memories were not ones to cherish.

            The Goblin King finally reached the town square, extremely impressed by the turnout at the sale of merchandise the travelling elves had visited his kingdom to bring.  The large square was crowded with goblins who were eager to buy the elfin products, the booths of the regular market mingling with the brightly colored ones of the gypsy-like elves. Naturally, more goblins were eager to buy from the elves than the regular sellers, but those who normally did business at the town square market were getting buyers, as well.

            Jareth walked up to one of the elfin booths and said to the elf who ran it, "Fine day to be selling such lovely goods, is it not?"

   The elf looked up at him, and at the sudden recognition he cried, "Well, for goodness sake! It's the Goblin King himself! We're honored that you would take time out of your busy schedule to come and see our travelling market! What can I do for you?"

            Jareth smiled warmly, sensing something strange about the sudden appearance of the elves. He didn't know what to make of it, but he was determined to find out.  "I'm honored to have you," Jareth nodded his head diplomatically. "I just have one question. Why the early appearance?"

            "I don't know, Your Highness," the elf conceded. "You'd have to ask Sage about that one. I just follow where he leads."

            "Where is this Sage?" Jareth asked.

            "At the booth of magical items," the elf pointed. "He's the old fella. Though, I must warn you, he's not as old inside as he looks on the outside!" The elf laughed heartily. "He's the only one here who knows a scrap about magical items. I don't know how he got stuck with us, I tell you."

            "Thank you," Jareth said, looking curiously at the items on the elf's table. He saw a jade hairpin with curving vines and blooming flowers and a lovely piece of lace ribbon beside it.  They were perfect for Isabelle.  "How much for the jade hair ornament and lace ribbon?" he asked.

            The elf seemed doubly honored to have the king considering to buy one of his items. "Twelve gold coins altogether, if it pleases Your Majesty."  Jareth opened up the small sack and dropped a handful of coins onto the table without counting. They were at least twenty in number. He then took the jade hairpin and lace ribbon, wordlessly heading for Sage's booth and leaving an open-mouthed elf behind gaping at the money on his table.

            He found the old elf giving a magic demonstration to a crowd of goblins. Sage took a stick from his booth and uttered a few words, causing the end of the stick to burst into flames. The viewers were delighted.  "This torch," Sage explained to his audience with youthful vigor, "doesn't need any trouble to light it and never burns out.  No more fumbling with flint and spattering sparks.  Thirty gold coins.  If you have any useful items to trade, we will happily try to come to an agreement. Come back later this afternoon, and I'll demonstrate some more of the uses of the items at my booth. Thank you."

            The crowd dispersed to leave just Jareth and Sage in that small area. The elf muttered a few words, putting the torch's flame out, and set it on the table before finally looking up to see Jareth.  Jareth was somewhat taken aback that the elf did not seem surprised to see him there.

            "His Majesty, the Goblin King," he seemed to announce to no one in particular. "Thank you for seeing fit to observe our travelling market. You are probably wondering why we have chosen to come so early in the year."

            "Indeed I am," Jareth replied sagaciously, inwardly amazed by the admirable nerve of the elf.  A vague feeling of deja'vu came over him at the sight of the elf's face, but he wasn't sure why.

            "The far off kingdom we usually visit at this time of year seems to have been devastated in war. I decided to bring my group here to replace the business. I hope you don't mind that we gave you no notice on the matter."

            "None at all," Jareth said. "Though I do wish you had come to see me first thing when you reached my fair city. I like to know the goings-on."

            "You would be a foolish king to wish otherwise," Sage remarked kindly. "And you are no foolish king."  Jareth wondered if he should take the remark as courteous input or false flattery. Sage did not seem imprudent enough to take Jareth's own wisdom for granted, though. Jareth forced a gracious smile.  "We were in a hurry to start business," Sage continued. "I was just going to send a messenger to inform you about it when you suddenly arrived. I had one last demonstration to perform. I didn't believe you would mind the intrusion, seeing how kindly you accepted us into your domain before."

            "You are welcome to stay," Jareth affirmed. "I shall put you up at the tavern at my own expense. And I invite you to dinner in my palace tomorrow night. I want you to make yourself comfortable in my city." Jareth had made sure that it was clear who was ruler of this kingdom in order to dissuade the elfin leader from doing anything that he might disapprove of.

            "We cannot take so much," Sage said politely. "We shall put up the money for our board ourselves, but will gladly accept the invitation to dinner. If it pleases Your Majesty, we shall bring our minstrels to repay your kindness with music."

            This is no fool, Jareth thought. He will not accept too much hospitality, for he knows that he will be indebted if he does so. He even makes sure to keep dinner an occassion which cannot be taken advantage of. Impressive.  "Do whatever pleases you," Jareth said. "Meanwhile, I am in search of a dress for a young goblin female."

***

The party reached the end of the caves by the time night came.  "God, I never thought I'd be so happy to see the Underground," Sarah declared.

            Her shadow, who had finally formed into a regular human being, identical to Sarah instead of being a mass of glitter, was staring with awe at the land, her face bathed in a pale glow of moonlight. "It's so beautiful. I've never seen anything like it."

            "You haven't?" Sarah asked. "Can't you at least come to the edge of the cave and look?"

            "We're forbidden. Someone might see us."

            "Then how come you're with us now?"

            "I'm in a human form, so it's not so odd to see me come out of the mouth of the cave," Sara explained. "Seeing a shadow walking along all by itself is too strange for most people to handle. Their hearts just go, kerplunkety-plunk-plunk and they begin to think they're insane and continue acting as if they are. You know about those legends that keep everyone away from the caves?"  Sarah nodded, remembering that the one who told her about them was stuck in a cave by himself somewhere on the other side of the mountain.  "Well," Sara continued, "as you can see, they're true."

            "And the people can't find their way out, and that's why they disappear, right?" Sarah said.

            "Bingo. But, sometimes it's not just the confusing caves that get them. You know how I told you that shadows are opposite their cohorts in some way? Well, sometimes the shadow is evil while his twin is good. Into murder and all that."  Sarah turned pale.  "Don't worry, though," Sara said as if seeing where her counterpart's thoughts were travelling. "I'm not like that at all. If so, I would have killed you already. Anyway, I'm too eager to see the world."

            "So you say. You could have just gotten us to transform you and then got on with your business."

            "Hey, you're not dead yet. And I'm transformed. Naw, I wouldn't kill you. I need a guide."  Sarah looked almost white under the moon, but she soon turned back to her normal color when she thought that her shadow had shown no violent intentions.  "Well, do we camp here?" Sara asked.

            "I suppose we should, seeing that we don't really know what's out there waiting for us. As much as I hate to say it, we ought to go back some way out of sight of the outside world to keep safe."

            Sara looked disappointed. "I guess you're right. I'll just have to wait awhile to see what it's like to sleep on the grass. I've waited twenty years as it is, I can wait one more day."

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