- LABYRINTH II
...             ...


CHAPTER XXIX

            Sarah traveled for many hours without stopping, her boots caked in mud from the long journey, her dress a dingy white with an edge of sienna where brown dirt had stained it. Her nails were long from the extended time in which she had not groomed them, her lips bright pink from days of chewing them. The figure the dress outlined was slimmer from a week of walking, the legs that protruded from the leather boots more muscular. Her gait was more certain, her head held higher and with more dignity, her eyes no longer awash with the maudlin hope of a bright future.

            At times one could see her gazing straight ahead, her sight stretching out ever so strenuously for the goal that was so close to her grasp. The ground may tumble and sway beneath her, the sky turbulent overhead, but Sarah was growing in self control, her mind and body an imperturbable juxtaposition of rock and clay. Only she would decide what molded these elements and no amount of force could chip away the stone or pressure the clay unless she allowed the hands to touch her spirit, unless she gave the ultimate permission.

            The East horizon was tinged with pink, announcing the approach of another day. Whether it was a glorious one or not would be the decision of time. And time was no more easily influenced than Sarah at the moment.

            The sound of voices drew nearer. Sarah stopped when she discovered the source and hid behind a tree.  The figures were far off, but she was able to make out a white unicorn with a boy atop his back.

            "Toby," the unicorn began tactfully, "are there any secrets that only you and your sister know about?"

            Sarah blocked out the surrounding noises, but still couldn't make out the conversation.

            "What do you mean?" Toby asked, holding tightly onto the mane of the elegant steed.

            Sarah moved closer, squinted her eyes, and cocked her ears.

            "A secret between you and your sister. Something she told you not to tell anyone, or perhaps something you told her to keep hidden?" the unicorn expounded as he walked calmly and gracefully through the forest. "Maybe something that could be found in a forest?"

            Sarah's eyes widened as she recognized the voices. She stepped boldly out from behind the tree that had served as her hiding place.

            "Don't tell him, Toby," she ordered, her legs spread apart in a powerful stance, her hands gripping the straps of the knapsack.

            "Sarah!" Toby cried happily, squirming with extreme pleasure.

            He tried to get down, but Jareth restrained him. "Don't get down, Toby. That is not Sarah. It is an illusion."

            "Don't believe him, Toby," she counseled. "It's me, your sister."

            Toby squirmed more. "Let me down, mister," he bid the unicorn, a little frightened.

            "Toby," Jareth warned, "it is a creature who will take you away from me if you come to it. It changes into the form of your most revered friend or family member, draws you to it, and kidnaps you."

            "If there ever was a kidnaper," Sarah snarled, "it's the man whose back you're riding on. It's the Goblin King, Toby. Do you remember the stories I told you, Toby?"  Toby nodded his head uncertainly.  "You are the little boy in the story, Toby. I was the girl who saved you. And that is Jareth, the man who kidnaped you." She reached her hand out pleadingly. "Come here, Toby. I won't let him take you away from me again, but you must believe in me."

            Toby crawled with difficulty from the unicorn's back, his loyalty to his sister overpowering any devotion to the Goblin King that might have developed over the past few days.  Before he could run to her outstretched arms, Jareth transformed in a sparkling cascade of light to his human form and grabbed Toby by the wrist.

            "Let go!" Toby screamed. "Let go, let go, let go!" He broke into wild tears and beat his free fist against the Goblin King's stomach.

            Jareth looked down at him with a mild, detached interest, as if he were watching a bug in a jar.

            "Let my brother go!" Sarah yelled with fiery eyes. "I'll kill you if you don't!"

            The Goblin King looked suddenly up at her, all concern over the fighting, tantrum-throwing Toby immediately dissipating. "You'll kill me?" he said challengingly, intimidatingly.

            She swallowed hard and gazed, headstrong, into his eyes.

            "I will."

            With those words, all control the Goblin King had ever had over her because of her fear of him had vanished.

            There were other means of causing fear.

            The two rivals faced each other from their statuesque positions, one strong with hatred, the other with age.

            "Tell me the secret that you and your brother hold and I will let him go."

            I'm going to show you, Toby's past words referring to the clearing echoed through Sarah's mind, but you can't tell anyone about it.

            I won't.

            You promise?

            Cross my heart and hope to die.

            "Tell me, Sarah," Jareth reminded her, "and you and your brother are free to go."

            Sarah looked up at the Goblin King as if she had suddenly had a revelation. "And if I don't?"

            Jareth seemed to consider it. "I take away all of your memories," he finally decided, "Except for that of your brother, your identity, and the last few days of your journey. You will always remember how you failed him."

            Sarah thought about the alternatives. If she defied Jareth she would lose most of her memory, but would be able to get the stone and bring her brother to safety. What was more, the Goblin King could be bluffing. But, if she told the whereabouts of the key to the Goblin King she would fail her brother much more miserably by destroying his trust, not to mention just about handing the entire Underground over to the wicked man. To others it may not seem an important enough promise to keep, but to her, swearing something to her brother couldn't be broken by all of the Goblin Kings in the world.

            "Alright," she said, swallowing. "I'm not going to tell you."

            Jareth gazed at her circumspectly before releasing his grip on the boy and revealing a crystal sphere. A throbbing, pulsating light overwhelmed Sarah's senses, filling her vision with a blinding light that was oblivious. The void swept over her mind and snatched from it, leaving her dazed and confused.

            When she opened her eyes, the Goblin King was standing in the clearing, but her brother was gone. She remembered exactly what Jareth had said she would remember and that was enough.

            She feigned dizziness and stumbled toward him, flailing her arms about drunkenly. When he reached out to steady her, she grabbed the crystal sphere from his hand and threw it with powerful force into the forest. It just took a slight concentration, and, where the globe last shimmered, a horse emerged, trotting past her swiftly. She grabbed the reins as it passed and hopped on gracefully as they sped away from the Goblin King's sight.

            With his crystal gone, the only parlor trick Jareth could perform was that of transforming into the golden owl and preparing to meet Sarah at the plateau. It would be the last chance he had to get the stone.  Only part of him truly wanted it.

            The forest whizzed past Sarah in a blur of color as her magical horse galloped through the forest. She let the crystals lead her to Toby's clearing and, upon reaching it, she pulled back on the reigns and looked around her.

             The scent of honeysuckles found its way to her nostrils along with the strong odor of rich earth. She dismounted and looked about her.

            "Where is the key?" she mumbled.

            At the sound of her voice, the golden key she had found in Jareth's castle floated from her knapsack and spun in the air. It twirled madly, faster and faster, until it was just a spinning mass of glittering light. It glowed ever more brightly with the splendor of a kept promise, with the magnificence of God's very oath to watch over his children. Once it slowed down and eventually laid itself in Sarah's palm, it was no longer made of gold, but instead was solid light that responded with a flicker of orange to Sarah's touch. It was the concentration of goodness and love, the things brothers and sisters shared, the objects that all humankind would be able to one day touch. It touched Sarah somewhere deeper than the flesh and lavished understanding and hope on her with the extravagance of a loving parent and made the promise that things would come to always break away at the sorrow that would ever form in her heart.

            "I had it all the time," she mumbled to herself in awe.

            She held the glowing treasure with relish and rode her grey steed into the horizon and its rising sun, where the grasslands and their high-reaching plateaus awaited her.

***

Vindar was alongside his father, battling one of the king's remaining henchmen. When the king had left his castle, disorder ran rampant and Sage and the captive elves had easily escaped. The fortress was nearly theirs.

            Vindar parried a blow by the goblin he was fighting, then lunged, missing his aim.  The goblin promptly became arrogant and taunted the elf. Vindar brought the tip of the blade close to the guard and whipped it about a few times, cutting the goblin's belt and sending his trousers to the ground.

            Sage tapped his son on the shoulder and Vindar veered around.

            The remaining goblins were in one huddled mass, their hands in the air and fifty or so of the elves surrounding them with swords.  "We surrender!" they cried.

            Vindar ran to the top of the steps that led into the castle beyond the Goblin City and rose his sword triumphantly toward the sky. "Victory is ours!"

            Sage slipped away with another older member of the elfin tribe and led him to the crystal room. The stone columns tried once again to block their way, but once they learned that the gentleman with the bad hair no longer controlled the castle, they were much obliged to disappear fearfully out of sight.

            The two elves went into the room and one of them brought out a wand. Sage crossed his arms and looked on in silence as his companion muttered a few words over the large crystal sphere whose power dominated over the kingdom. Once he was through, he said to Sage, "No longer may the forces of evil draw power from this enchanted item. And no longer will the evil of this enchanted item be able to taint the mind of its user."

            Sage let his hands down at his sides. "There is one last thing to be accomplished before the spell is broken." He looked ceremoniously to the East. "Our thoughts go with you, Sarah."

***

Sarah reached the edge of the Whispering Forest, breaking free of its tyrannous grasp as her horse shot out of the greenery like a ghost becoming more tangible in the presence of light. She looked up at the highest plateau with amazement, feeling so small and meaningless beneath its forever-stretching clay. It was high and mighty, a calm, reassuring power over the world, a long-standing and forgotten memory that vowed to one day return. It rose higher and higher over her as she drew nearer, but it did not frighten her. Its shadows were eerie and magnificent and placed their soothing hands over her fears like a damp cloth on a flame. Her trepidation sizzled away and she tossed back her hair energetically, tossing with it the chains that had bound her since the first moments her quest had begun. Yet, it was not the ending of a quest, but more the beginning of a new one, a journey with such hope and promise that the silhouette of the plateau grew darker as the sunlight that shone around it seemed brighter than the sun had ever seemed before to her.

            At the base of the plateau she called for her horse to halt, his gallop slowing to a trot and finally the end of a slow prance. She patted him on the head and relieved him of his harness and saddle, leaving him free to roam the wide world. He sped away at her prompting, running with the sweeping winds and rolling grasses to find his destiny.

            Sarah held the key before her and a small keyhole opened up in the wall of clay. She placed the magical item into the hole and its heavenly brilliance died away as outcrops of rock began to protrude from the side of the plateau, forming a makeshift ladder. She put the golden key into her knapsack and put the bag on the ground. Not a moment did she hesitate in climbing up, up, and up the high formation of nature with never-ending stamina.

            The air thinned as she climbed for what seemed an eternity, but she pressed on, not halting for air until she had reached the top.

            She stood back from the edge and shielded her eyes from the sun with her hand. Turning her back to the Shadow Mountains and giving the area around her a sweeping glance, she saw the grasslands surrounding her on all sides, making her fearless of the height for there was nothing else with which to compare her height. She gave the west one last look and saw a small speck of a bird approaching at tremendous speed.

            She hurried and stood before the cave, walking proudly yet anxiously into the depths of the hump of red stone. She reached out blindly in the dark for the treasure and was rewarded with a dazzling burst of violet light as she wrapped her fingers around the stone's jagged surface, her memories flooding back with amazing speed into her mind.

            She stepped out of the cave and held the powerful talisman high above her head.

            The owl reached the plateau and transformed into Jareth.

            "I have won!" she called out exultantly to the Goblin King.

            Jareth approached her slowly with an outstretched hand. "Give me the stone, Sarah. You cannot fathom its power. It will destroy you."

            Thats something, this time youre asking me for something. Each forward step he took, she took one back. "Don't come near me!" she commanded. "I will use the stone against you!"

            "Sarah," Jareth said with a painful expression on his face, his hand still held out toward her, "Don't you realize all that has happened over the past few days?"

            "Stand back!" She held the amethyst stone before her threateningly. "I won't fall for any of your schemes!"

            "Do you remember the night all of the voices in the Whispering Forest nearly drove you mad?" he asked quietly.

            "No thanks to you," she replied with venom.

            "Remember the voice that brought you back to sanity? I was that voice. I called you back."

            "I don't care," she spat. "If you did, it was for your own selfish reasons, not for my well-being."

            "I personally went to help you when the Spangore crashed," he said with pleading eyes. "Would I have done that had I not truly cared? Wouldn't I have sent out someone else to take care of it?"

            Sarah took another step backward. "It doesn't matter. I don't believe anything you say."

            "I saved you again as the unicorn," he continued. "And Hoggle! Hoggle even tried to tell you once that he thought I cared for you! And I do. And you for me. So please, Sarah, I beseech you, hand over the stone."

            Sarah laughed in his face. "I don't love you! I want you out of my life forever!"

            "But I love you!" he declared, thrusting his hand out for her as she took one fatal step backward. As she toppled over the edge, the stone fell from her grasp to the ground far below and Jareth grabbed her free hand. Once he could reach it he grasped her other hand and steadied her on the edge, finally pulling her away at a safe enough distance so that she would not fall over.

            She clutched his shirt tightly and put her chin on his shoulder instinctively, her eyes wide with terror and her breathing rapid. 

            "My God..." she whispered over and over again. "My God, my God..."

            "It's all right, I have you," he soothed. "I won't let you fall..."

            She stared fixedly at the edge while nightmares she had been having the past few nights flashed across her mind's eye.

            Sarah stood back from Jareth and took a good look, a searching gaze into his face, his eyes.  Green irises returned her own intent stare, soft and hazy.  As she gazed at him, she remembered everything that had formerly happened.  His kindness toward Isabelle, the sweet dreams he had sent her the night in which nightmares plagued her most, the caressing words in the Whispering Forest, and, finally, the time in which he had looked down at her within his castle, holding her face in sad contemplation.

            I am sorry that you, too, must suffer for my past, Sarah, he said aloud, as if following her train of thought.  All I can hope is that you shall someday understand.  You saved me.

            Sarah cocked her head to the side, smiling wanly.  How long had it been since she had felt like smiling?  But, then again, when had Jareth ever been remotely approachable during her stay in the Underground? I dont understand what you mean, Jareth.  How did I save you?  What did I save you from?

            From myself.  He brushed her face gently, and a smile widened on his thin lips.  I must go, now.  I do not know what will happen...  I am so old... No longer can I control time as I once did.

            Where are you going? she asked.  I... there is still so much I dont understand... Oh, Jareth, if this is another scheme!  I... I dont know whether or not I should trust you.

            Do not worry over it, Jareth replied sadly.  There is so much that neither of us understand.  I know now the limits of my wisdom.  Suddenly, he gazed at her with a vibrant intensity, his eyes mirroring such a strong amount of emotion, that she found herself turning her eyes away in uncertainty.  He did love her!  How should she take the knowledge?  What could she think of it?

            Without warning, tears began to trickle down her face.  He wrapped his arms about her tightly, and smoothed out her brown hair.  No words were said for some time... they both knew that this would be the end.  After all, it must.  In reality, endings are bittersweet.

            Sweet Sarah, Jareth whispered as he pulled away.  Sweet, sweet Sarah.  I give you everything that was once mine.  My castle, my kingdom, my labyrinth, my minions.  With me gone, they shall all become as splendid as they once were.  And they shall have a splendid queen, if you accept the offer.

            I could never

            Yes you could.  It is your dream.  He smiled down at her knowingly.  It is your turn to find your way into the part.  Have at it.  With that said, he promptly lowered his head and kissed her potently.  After a moment, he released her, giving her his famous flirtatious grin.  Know, my dear Sarah, that truth sometimes takes on the path of the labyrinth.  Its always changing. Yesterday is yesterday... and today is beautiful, no matter tomorrow.  I give you your dreams...

            He turned his back, and Sarah found her tongue.  What must I give you in return?

            Jareth merely turned his head to face her.  After a seconds pause, he grinned and replied, Nothing, my love.  Nothing at all.  Those were his last words.  Silently, gracefully, he transformed into a golden owl, and flew into the morning sky.

***

After climbing down the steps that lined the side of the plateau, Sarah had searched thoroughly for the amethyst.  She found that it had broken into three separate pieces, two of which she put into her knapsack.  Sarah concentrated on the image of Leah, holding the amethyst stone between her slender fingers, and suddenly found herself no longer atop the plateau, but within the castle at the center of the Goblin City.  She was in the throne room, just as she had been at the completion of her last journey.  A small laugh escaped from her lips.  Its mine...  But, do I truly want to rule over a bunch of boggling goblins?

            Without ado, she hopped down the stairs and out to the castle doors, where Leah and Sage were awaiting her return, ready to hear the tale of her success.

Jennifer Connelly     David Bowie    Jim Henson            C    C