- LABYRINTH II
...             ...


CHAPTER XXVI

            Sunrise arrived and nudged heavy sleepers out of their beds. Martha, Sarah, and Sir Didymus had been awake from the outset, but Leah and Mr. Hiddlebury had been more difficult in stirring.

            Things went rather smoothly; Mr. Hiddlebury wrote a few more pages of information while his wife made breakfast. Sarah offered to milk their goat and spent the next ten minutes rubbing her chin alongside Leah in an attempt to figure out how to do it. At first she nearly got kicked in the face by the creature, but she soon got a feel for it and came into the kitchen with half a bucket of milk by her side.

            After breakfast had been eaten by all, Martha unlocked a wooden chest that sat underneath a window in the living room and pulled out some pants and a shirt that would fit Leah. She complained that it was difficult to distinguish the two, so she was going to make one of them wear a different outfit. Leah was happy to wear the clothing, saying that she felt the dress didn't match her personality anyway. She even decided to put her hair in a braid to distinguish them even further.

            By noon Sarah was fidgeting, often bringing up the fact that the grasslands were not far away, and how they could be there in a day or two if they hurried. Leah finally gave in to her pleading and decided that it was about time for them to shove off.

            Mrs. Hiddlebury was stuffing a bag with bread and milk, pastries and soup, candles and soaps and washrags, while Mr. Hiddlebury watched with slightly concealed amusement. "You think they'd be goin' 'round the world for all you're packin' in that bag," he stated with a chuckle.

            "Can't be too careful," she replied with all seriousness.

            Sarah and Leah looked on with quiet amazement as their new grandparents commented back on forth on this or that referring to the journey the twins were about to undertake.

            An hour later they were outside the cottage. Martha smothered them with hugs and advice while Mr. Hiddlebury struggled to keep from going into the house to write something down that he had just thought of.

            "Well," he finally said, "before you go, you can ask me one question."

            "What would we want to ask you?" Leah said, puzzled.

            Mr. Hiddlebury looked with astonishment at his wife. "Did you hear that, Martha? I let them ask me one question, and they don't think there's somethin' they want to know. People come 'round here on their hands and knees beggin' me to tell them somethin', and these two girls who's about to be goin' on a perilous journey ain't got one thing they want to ask me."

            "I do," Sarah vocalized. She turned to her twin. "If it's all right with you."

            "Be my guest."

            "Well, go on, don't be all day about it," Mr. Hiddlebury nudged.

            Sarah took a deep breath. "Where can I find someone with magical powers? I was told that, in order to use the crystal, I would need to find someone who could use magic."

            The Bookkeeper laughed heartily. "If I ain't," he cried, "if ain't heard a funnier thing in my life! Who told you this?"

            "An elf named Sage," Sarah replied with a perplexed look on her face.

            Mr. Hiddlebury laughed harder. "And... what did he tell you?"

            "That only I could use the crystal, not to let anyone else touch it, and that I had to be gifted with magic..." she trailed off. "Wait a minute. If no one else can touch it -"

            "Then it'd be you who's gifted with magic and not someone else," Mr. Hiddlebury finished as his laughter died down. "You wanta know where to find someone who's gifted with magic? She's right here. I'm lookin' at'er."

            "It must be the necklace," Sarah said, brushing away any part that was tied with her.

            Mr. Hiddlebury crossed his arms. "Could be."

            "You're not gonna tell me?" Sarah asked hopefully.

            "You used up your one question. We're closed fer the rest'a the day." He turned around and headed back into the cottage. "Come'n see us again!" As he disappeared completely into the house he called without looking back, "Have a nice day! Maybe next time you'll give me a tip!" A chuckle and the revelling, "I kill myself," was barely audible as he shut the door.

            The small group said their good-byes to Mrs. Hiddlebury and were on their way.

***

In a castle far away, a king stood before a mirror in his throne room, gazing at an image of two walking females and a small fox.

             Sarah's face was visible, but only the back of the head of the other girl could be seen, not her countenance. Jareth occasionally glanced at the fox.

            "I've had enough of bending down backwards for you, Sarah. I will have all that I desire. If you resist, you will have nothing."  Even as he said it, he knew it was not his true self speaking.

***

The threesome stepped precariously around puddles from the rainfall of the night before. Conversation was nil for some time after their departure from the Bookkeeper's home, for no one had really wanted to leave. They were constantly driven on by a quest that they had not asked to take.

            "You're too serious," Leah remarked suddenly after the first two hours of journeying.

            "Me?" Sarah asked innocently.

            "Yeah, you," Leah replied. "You take everything too seriously. You don't stop and enjoy life. You just dwell on the bad things."

            "I don't," Sarah denied.

            "Well, say whatever you like, but I know you better than anyone else. You need to let your hair down every once-in-awhile."

            The forest was obviously beginning to thin as the day passed, as were the number of puddles in the area. Their dampened shoes began to dry as well as their dampened spirits.

            "You know, I've been noticing small animal traps in the area," Leah confessed.

            "What kind?" Sarah asked.

            "Oh, holes, nets, with shiny buttons to trap raccoons."

            "Raccoons? In the Underground?"

            They were stopped by a sudden exclamation by Sir Didymus.

             "Look fair maidens!" he cried, tugging at a small golden object that was on the ground. "I found a perfectly good gold button, laying right here on the-"

            Without warning, the ground gave out beneath him and he was trapped in a small pit. Sarah and Leah ran quickly to him and bent over the edge of the hole.

            "Are you alright, Didymus?" Sarah called.

            "Quite alright, milady!" he declared. "Just a little shaken!"

            "Here, I'll help you out," Leah said as she bent over the hole. Just as her hand was about to enter the hole, Sir Didymus and the hole he was standing in became merely a reflection in a puddle of water. Leah was not able to retrieve him, but got her hand wet with water and mud instead.

            "Didymus!" Sarah cried despairingly.

            "Where are you, fair maiden?" he called out with a voice that was a distant echo as his image jerked around numerous times to find her. "I hear you, but I cannot see thy lovely face!"

            "We can't get to you, Didymus...You're just an image in a pool of water!"

            "I am?" he declared, examining himself. "If so, mine eyes decieve me! Oh, woe! I have gone mad!"

            The hysterical conversation between the girls and the fox was suddenly ended when the water that held Didymus's reflection suddenly dried up.

            "He's gone!" Sarah shouted.

            Leah rose up and put her hands on her hips. "The snake," she spat.

            Sarah rose to her last companion's side and bit back tears. "I hate Jareth!" she screamed, clenching her fists before her chest. "I'll kill him, I'll kill him...."

            Leah reached her arms out for Sarah and drew her close in an embrace. "It's all right," she coaxed as she smoothed out Sarah's hair. Sarah continued to sob into Leah's shirt. "We'll pay him back for what he's done to you. I swear it."

***

Toby was tucked in his bed, his door closed and his lamp gleaming at his side protectively while he gazed intently at pictures in a small book. Colorful images of unicorns and princesses enticed him while lightning shot outside from a restless sky.

            The backwards image of his room at the mirror on his night stand shimmered and one of the Goblin King's throne room replaced it, Jareth himself in the foreground.

            "Reading books at bedtime, I see," Jareth remarked with a smile as warm as the lamp's glow.

            Toby closed the book and jumped out of his bed. With hopeful eyes he faced the Goblin King. "Are you gonna take me to your castle today?"

            "I'm afraid not, young one," Jareth replied sadly. "But you will be coming to see Sarah soon."

            "Is she there?" Toby asked.

            "Again, no. I would give her a day or two, though." Jareth's eyes slanted and his mouth formed a straight line. "Will you be ready to live in my castle by then?"

***

Sage sat close to one of his male companions while in the quarters and spoke of irrelevant matters while the goblins brought in the meals.

            The men and women had been separated by sixes and placed into different rooms, making it easy to count for any missing specimens. But there were few goblins that could still count.

            The map Sage had drawn two days earlier bulged somewhat beneath his shirt and he crossed his arms to keep it covered. The plan for escape had been planned out the previous evening while the Goblin King made an attempt to sleep. Half of the guards were dispersing meals throughout the individual rooms, while the other half should be rushing into another room any minute now in order to break up a skillfully acted out fight between two of the elves. The fight would expand and become a riot and all Hell would break loose.

            The fight broke out. Shouts from the goblin guards who were flanked down the hallway could be heard as they all made a dash into the room that held the commotion. Soon the goblins were yelling to the guards who were handing out food to come and back them up. The brainless goblins ran out quickly, leaving the elves behind, and the door wide open.

            Sage quickly bid his companions farewell as he rushed to the doorway of the chamber. He looked both ways down the hall to make sure it was clear and, upon confirming it, he ran to the right, went around a few corners, and opened up the map he had hidden in his shirt the morning of the banquet.

            The elf had examined the map the night before, trying to decide where Jareth would stash the elfin talismans. All had drawn the conclusion that the Goblin King's crystal room would be the most likely place, seeing that his own cherished objects of magical power were stored there. If that wasn't where they were hidden, then alternative rooms would be explored.

            The elf traced his finger down the map and upon finding his destination there, he slipped the paper back under his shirt and ran gracefully down the halls toward the crystal room.

            Upon reaching it, he pushed open the door and entered, shutting the portal behind him and staring in fixed wonder at his new surroundings.

            The stained glass windows streamed their rainbow colors of light around the room and bounced them off the dust particles, while Sage broke his wide-eyed stare and made his way to the cut-glass door at the other side of the room.

            Three stone columns shot up from the floor and stared at him suspiciously.

            "Halt!" Cantankerous cried. "The likes of you cannot come in here unless you have the password." His mustache quivered underneath his haughty, upturned nose. "Those are our orders."

            Sage began to speak, but the cranky column interrupted him.

            "You don't know it, do you? Hmm?" He turned his gaze to something behind the elf. "Guard dogs! Sick'im!"

            Sage looked behind himself. There was nothing but the closed door on the far side of the room.

            "Give him a chance to speak, Cantankerous," Altruist said warmly. "He was about to say it when you interrupted him."

            "What's more," Consiliate added spitefully, her wide eyes slanting with agitation, "there are no guard dogs."

            "Well," Cantankerous worked his face around arrogantly, "he can speak for himself. What's the password?" He directed the last question to Sage.

            Sage tried again, but again was instantly discontinued by Cantankerous.

            "See! He doesn't know!"

            "Give him a chance, you stuck-up old horn-head!" Consiliate yelled. "Your pride is just hurt by what happened last time! The girl knew the password and you looked stupid!"

            "Are you calling me stupid? Because, if you are-"

            "Ahem!" Sage interposed. "Can I give you the password and get through, my dear arguing fellow? Please save the fighting for later, because I'm in bit of a rush."

            Cantankerous scrunched his nose indignantly and eventually replied, "Alright."

            "The password is, 'Sarah.'"

            "He got it," Cantankerous said with shock. "The man with the bad hair style needs to change the password. Everyone gets it!"

            "Maybe it's because they're supposed to know it," Consiliate said with irritation. "Why must you be so suspicious of everyone?"

            "I'm telling you, it's not fair," Cantankerous complained as he sank into the floor. "I don't get to get anyone thrown in the dungeons! A little beheading would satisfy me, but nooo..."

            "Oh, pipe down," Consiliate ordered as she, too, disappeared beneath the floor.

            "What can I say?" Altruist addressed Sage after the other two columns had left. "They're not so bad after you get to know them. For two years."

            With that, all the columns were gone and Sage was free to enter the crystal room.

            The sheet of glass swung outward to reveal the elegant contents of the small chamber. In the center was the large crystal and the East and West walls were lined in bookcases. On the far wall was an iron couch and on its seat cushions lay all of the elfin belongings.

            Sage carefully closed the door behind him and went to the pile of enchanted items. He cautiously and hurriedly looked through the pile, finally retrieving from it his talisman.

            "Ah," he said with visible pleasure as he held the talisman by its chain, toward the light. "First thing is to find out what the Goblin King is up to."

***

            "Will I be ready to live in your castle by then?" Toby asked rhetorically with extreme enthusiasm. "You bet!"

            "You should start to get all of your belongings together. Your sister wants you to bring some of her favorite things. Do you know what they are?"

            Toby nodded his head vigorously.

            "Good." Jareth smiled lightly, his eyes reflecting cool certainty and control. "Is there anything you need to ask me before I go?"

            "Won't Mama and Daddy miss me?"

            "Don't worry, Toby. Everything is going to be perfect from now on."

            The five year-old clapped his hands together gleefully.

***

Leah pulled off her knapsack and tightened the brown straps as she walked. The golden sun turned the girls' hair an orangish brown as it set in the west. Strange birds and their spectacle, wire-rimmed eyes glared curiously down upon the two females as they traversed the lands beyond the Labyrinth. Their first goal was to get the stone, but their second was to go home.

            "What do you think Toby is doing right now?" Leah asked as she put the knapsack back on.

            "Probably playing with his birthday toys," Sarah said as she kicked at the passing ground with the tip of her shoe. She uncrossed her arms long enough to pull back her hair, then crossed them again. "If Mom and Dad aren't hysterical looking for me. I'll probably go home and find my face on the back of a milk carton."

            Leah laughed noncommitally. "Sure. Jareth doesn't like that much attention. I wouldn't worry about it, if I were you."

            Sarah gave her an odd look at the last remark.

            Leah saw it and said, "I'm nearly you."

            "So you say."

            "As I was saying," Leah brushed away the subject, "Jareth has probably taken care of everything. You know how he likes to fiddle with details." She stuck her hands in her pockets and grinned sardonically. "But we'll beat him in the end. We've got connections."

            Sarah looked up at her twin and smiled. She uncrossed her arms and shoved Leah playfully. Before long the two of them were laughing noisily, pushing each other back and forth.

            They eventually broke it up and continued on their way, having cleared up the ominous atmosphere that had been building up like a sand dune in a desert storm. If only for that moment, things smelled slightly of roses.

            But that ended soon.

            "What is that smell?" Leah queried with the fluttering of her nostrils.

            Sarah took a whiff. "It smells like... cigar smoke." She gave Leah an odd look and her twin returned it.

            They kept going, wary of what might lay ahead. The smoke was eventually visible and became thicker as they walked. The smell became unbearable and they stopped to reason it out.

            "What do you think could be making that smoke?" Sarah asked her counterpart.

            A monkey-like creature swung low on a branch and addressed them. "I'll ask the questions!" he mocked.

            "Who are you?" Leah asked.

            "Uh, uh, uh." He wagged his cigar at them and drew a long breath from it. "The question is, who are you?" Each word was accompanied by a puff of smoke.

            "I'm -" Leah began.

            "No time for small talk!" he exclaimed, grinning from ear to ear as he swung from the branch by his tail. "Business, business, business!"

            Sarah noticed for the first time that the animal was wearing a grey business suit without trousers. "What in the world-" she tried.

            The animal perched himself atop the branch. "Don't say a word. I'll do all the talking, you do what I say." He gave them a big smile and showed them all of his teeth before respiring through the cigar again.

            "How can we do what you're saying, when not a word you say makes sense?" Leah said, furrowing her brow.

            "Speak when you're spoken to!" he ordered merrily. "Don't play with your food! Do your work! I'm the boss!" he swung by his tail again and waved his hands emphatically, a frown forming on his face for only a few seconds. "No, scratch that. Now you're the boss!" A cheshire cat grin crossed his lips again.

            "Let's go, Leah," Sarah said, pulling her twin by the arm.

            "You can't go yet!" he cried passionately as he jumped back onto the branch and put his hands on his hips, the cigar hanging from his mouth. "Your vacation isn't for another two weeks! I pay you, so I own you!"

            As the girls walked under the branch to leave, the creature swung gracefully on his tail and pulled off Sarah's knapsack, coming back around to the top of the branch like an Olympic star and climbing up the tree with it.

            "Give that back, you crazy thing!" Sarah exclaimed. "Come back down here!"

            "Climb the corporate ladder! Pay your rent! I made it to the top through hard work! It's down-hill for you from now on!" he cried with nonsensical enthusiasm. "Show your stuff, Baby, and I'll give you a raise!"

            "He's sure got a dirty mind for a monkey," Leah said sarcastically as she looked up into the tree at the creature.

            "Come down here, you crazy monkey!" Sarah screamed.

            "You're grounded young lady! The ground has worms! The city has worms! Worms make me crazy, crazy, crazy!" He shook the knapsack around by its strap, obviously to taunt Sarah.

            "I'm going to climb up there and get it from him," Sarah said to Leah, hiking up her dress. "You go find someplace to set up camp. It'll be nightfall, soon."

            "If you're willing to be anywhere near this hammy monkey, it's fine by me," Leah replied, shrugging her shoulders and walking down the trail.

            "What comes up, must come down!" the beast philosophized. "The view isn't any better up here than it was down there! Much worse, much worse!" He climbed further up the tree and sneered at Sarah. "Ring around the rosy, pocket full of posies!"

            Sarah managed to get up to the first branch after some difficult climbing. She reached her hand up toward the animal, but was a few feet short.

            "Ashes!" he chanted happily.

            She went up another branch. With each step she took, the branches became thinner.

            "Ashes!"

            One more step and she would be able to reach the bag....

            "And we all fall down!"

            The branch snapped beneath her and she began to fall. She flung her arms about wildly in a vain attempt to grab a branch. Twigs and bark scratched at her light skin as she made the murderous descent toward the ground.

            A white unicorn came hurtling at amazing speed from the forest and arrived in just enough time to run under the tree and catch Sarah on its back.

            Leah rushed back to the trail upon hearing Sarah's screams and was amazed to see a white unicorn with her counterpart on its back. She hid herself behind a tree and scowled fiercely.

            "That looks just like the unicorn figurine Sarah gave to Toby," she whispered heatedly to herself before going back the way she came and leaving Sarah alone to deal with the situation.

            Sarah climbed off of the back of the unicorn and gained her composure before she faced her savior. The creature in the trees called out one last confusing remark, dropped the knapsack to the ground, and swung his way out of Sarah's life.

            She faced the unicorn with wide-eyed amazement. "You're so beautiful," she mumbled, reaching her hand out nervously to touch its golden mane. It neighed loudly and Sarah withdrew her hand. As if to console her, it trotted before her and prodded her hand with its muzzle. She extended her arm and brushed her hand over its mane. "You saved my life," she whispered to it with quiet astonishment as it gazed back at her with serene, deep-blue eyes. Sarah buried her face in its golden hair. "Thank you, thank you," she cried reverently and lovingly. "I owe you my life."

            The blue, slanting eyes sparkled with disguised pleasure.

***

Sage had returned to his chambers at the appropriate time. Another fight had been scheduled to break out at seven o'clock exactly, in order for the elf to be able to come back unnoticed. In the crystal room he had gathered the needed items and waited for the clock to strike seven, passing by the time by perusing some of the books that were stored in Jareth's bookshelves.

            But, finding the way back to the present, Sage was standing over his amulet, holding before him a riddle he had pieced together from the archives and Jareth's books combined, and he was preparing to bring its contents to Sarah's attention.

            He uttered a few words and the talisman began to shine with an inward light.

***

Sarah retrieved her knapsack, placed it on her back, and straightened out her dress.

            "Well, I guess we'll go find Leah," she said to the unicorn.

            Just as she began to step off, her elfin talisman started to glow with a pulsating light.

            "I wonder what Sage could want?" she said, smiling to the unicorn.

            It cocked its head inquisitively to the side and pawed at the ground.

            "My sentiments, exactly," she replied to what seemed to be its silent statement. She brought the talisman to her face and closed her eyes with strong concentration. The throbbing light ceased and the image of Sage, standing before a painting was seen in the talisman's depths. "What can I do for you?" she asked with a smile. Her smile dropped to a frown upon seeing his serious expression. "What is it?"

            "Don't look so worried," Sage advised as he forced a smile. "Just some business to take care of."

            She recognized the painting behind him to be one of Jareth. "Where are you?" she asked anxiously.

            "No time for chit chat," he beamed. "I have something to tell you concerning the stone."

            "What is it?" she asked suspiciously.

            "I have pieced together a riddle that will assist you. You see, in order to retrieve the stone, there is a key you must find."

            "Why didn't you tell me about it earlier, so I could start looking for it?"

            "There was no need to worry you over it, yet. It is somewhere along the bordering forest of the grasslands. I decided to wait until you were nearly there to tell you about it. No use in giving you another thing to fret about, now is there?"

            Sarah smiled in spite of herself. "Go on."

            He looked over the parchment, mumbling incoherent lines from the poem to himself. "No need in reading you all of that," he remarked absentmindedly. "Just a long, drawn-out speech about the stone and whatnot. Ah!" He stopped his perusal on a particular line. "Here it is. This is the line you need to find the key: 'A place where two worlds, Above and Below will meet, A place where the memory will reach out and seek, A place where the child for privacy goes, A place of which only sister and brother knows.'"

            "Is it referring to everyone in general, or just me in particular?" she asked thoughtfully, the expression on her face transforming slowly to comprehension.

            "Just you, my dear."

            Her eyes widened and she caught her breath. "I know where they're talking about. But how am I going to find it?"

            "I wouldn't worry over it, child. Things will work out for you. The prophets foretold it."

            "It's -"

            "Don't tell me the answer to the riddle, child. Only you and your brother can know where to find it. I am not a major pawn in this game."

            "Yes you are," Sarah said, beaming at him with grace. "I couldn't have done anything without you."

            "Thank you, child." He returned her smiling favor. "But you are the most important in winning this battle. I don't see your other companions. Are you alone?"

            "No, I made a new friend, sorta. Her name is Leah. You won't believe how I met her!"

            "I would like to know, but time is limited. I'm sorry."

            "That's okay. You never answered my question, though."

            "And which question are you referring to?"

            "What's going on? You're in Jareth's castle. I see his painting right behind you."

            Sage turned around to confirm this fact and revolved his head once again to meet her scrutiny. "We are simply here as dinner guests. We travel and set up market in different kingdoms. We just happened to be coming to this kingdom when we met you." He winked his eye conspiratorially.

            "I see," she replied, trying hard not to laugh at Jareth's gullibility.

            "I must go, Sarah," Sage admitted, frowning. "Becuase of my contacting you, you cannot use the talisman anymore. I'm sorry that I cannot assist you further through vocal methods. Will you be alright?"

            "Sure," she replied with a put-on smile. "I can take care of myself. I'm a big girl now."

            "So you are," he replied graciously. "but don't think there's no more room to grow!"

            "Thank you, Sage," she said softly.

            "It is my pleasure, Sarah."

            His face faded away and the talisman went back to its jade color.

            Sarah turned around and the unicorn was gone.

 

            "Sage told me where the key to the stone was," Sarah explained to Leah, the campfire flickering strange shadows across her face.

            "You say he was in Jareth's castle?" Leah asked.

            "Mmm, huh," Sarah replied, taking a bite out of Mrs. Hiddlebury's bread.

            "And where was Jareth?" Leah queried suspiciously.

            "I don't know. Probably in the castle somewhere."

            Leah got up from her Indian-style seated position and crossed her arms. "Don't you find anything suspicious about the whole thing? All of it smells fishy... the unicorn... Jareth actually letting Sage leave to have a private conversation with you... Sage being in Jareth's castle at all..."

            "Now that you mention it, when I asked Sage what was going on at first, he seemed hesitant to answer."

            "I don't like any of it," Leah admitted scornfully. "Didn't you notice the similarity between the unicorn you bought Toby and the unicorn that just saved you? Weren't you even the slightest bit suspicious?"

            "What are you talking about?" Sarah asked with a dazed appearance. "I don't remember buying Toby a unicorn. When?"

            "For his birthday about a week and a half ago," Leah enlightened her twin worriedly. "Don't you remember?"

            Sarah's face darkened. "No."

            "Jareth made you forget so he could pull this little stunt. Sent a unicorn out to save your life. How convenient. Now you supposedly owe him."

            "I don't want to talk about it," Sarah said calmly.

            "You have to talk about it. You can't ignore this."

            "I've tried thinking about it all, trying to figure it all out. It doesn't work. It just leaves me more confused in the end."

            "You can't give up," Leah said quietly.

            "I'm not giving up. I'm just putting it off for awhile."

            Leah looked sadly down at Sarah and uncrossed her arms. "You're giving up."

            Sarah pulled a blanket around her and laid down. "We'll discuss it tomorrow."

            "Sarah."

            "Goodnight."

            Leah sighed and laid down her own blanket, gazing without vision into the fire. "Goodnight, Sarah."

Jennifer Connelly     David Bowie    Jim Henson            C     C