Categories > Movies > Labyrinth > The Rat Who Calls Himself Jareth

Well-Meaning Machinations

by shadowlurker13 0 reviews

baboozling Didymus into the game...

Category: Labyrinth - Rating: PG-13 - Genres: Fantasy - Published: 2017-07-22 - 2737 words - Complete

Chapter 4: Well-Meaning Machinations

Hoggle started a bit from the slight shock of suddenly being somewhere else but it was a sensation he was definitely used to by now and he shook it off quickly, trying to ascertain where he’d landed. He was a little uneasy at the prospect of being back in the forest, even with the little knight, because there was no way of telling which side of the Great Goblin Wall they were on at present and that could make a huge difference in terms of how safe they were.

Sir Didymus was dismounted in a small clearing a few yards off but in plain sight, seemingly in the act of trying to get his ‘steed’ to graze properly. Ambrosius was having none of it and presently ran off to chase a squirrel-like creature. Didymus whistled after him.

“Ambrosius, heel!” The sheepdog stopped running but still didn’t come; he merely stared back, torn between doing what he wanted and what his master commanded. The knight sighed, shaking his head in tired irritation. Hoggle knew this would be painfully easy; he only needed to stick around for the opportune moment. The dwarf swaggered on over, forcing a little lip smile. He still felt like dirt for doing this but for once it was actually for a decent cause. Sir Didymus heard someone coming and turned around. His remaining eye widened in surprised delight.

“Sir Hoggle! Well met, indeed! It is good to see you again so soon, and in one piece, no less, especially considering that fall!” Hoggle blushed a little, then tried to cover it by
sounding brusque.

“I got a tough hide and tougher bones. It’d take a lot more than a fall ta break me!” He guffawed just a little for good measure. “So…headin’ back to yer post via the scenic route, huh?”

It was Didymus’ turn to look a little sheepish. “To be truthful, Sir Hoggle, I hadn’t entirely made up my mind on that point. About returning, I mean. Perhaps ‘tis finally time for me to move on, to find another sorcerer to work for. I’m afraid I may have just worn out my welcome here”

“You, afraid? Never! But I’ll walk with ya to the entrance gate, all the same. That’s where I’m headed.”

“That’s very kind of you, Sir Hoggle. Ambrosius, come!” Ambrosius, who finally took the hint that his master was leaving whether he came or not, obediently trotted back over. “That’s better.” With a little yell, Sir Didymus vaulted easily onto his ‘steed’s’ back and in no time they were all winding their way through the meandering footpaths of the Firey Forest. Those paths were made by them.

The wrong side of the wall, Hoggle thought, starting to glance about with more than just a little trepidation. The Fireys honestly meant no one harm but they were wild and played far too rough for physical safety, even accidentally killing people by decapitation on occasion. And they attacked everyone who came through their part of the forest. “Hey, uh, you know you can ride a little faster if ya want; I can keep up. The sooner we’re through here the better. This part of the forest has always given me the creeps.” Didy’s leisurely pace was doing nothing to help the dwarf’s nerves.

“Tut, tut! I have ridden these paths a thousand times and never been bothered beyond a ‘how-do-you-do’.” But he paused, bringing up Ambrosius and giving the air a few vain sniffs. “Although I’ve never been here so late in the day…” He kicked Ambrosius’ sides and got off to a decent quick-trot and Hoggle nearly had to run to keep up, grateful that the little knight had deigned to countenance their imminent danger.

Didymus had always had a bad habit of thinking he could leap into any fray and walk away unscathed. Perhaps he was finally having second thoughts. But even at their accelerated rate of progress, they couldn’t possibly get through before the sky fully darkened; the sun had already gone down. The forest shadows deepened and strange birds began to call at intervals. There was a little arachnidish scurrying in the undergrowth at times but it was nothing compared to what they were trying to avoid. At last the sky went black. There was the briefest rustling in the trees about them, no other sound.

And the Fireys descended on them, cackling and hollering and wolf-whistling. They were surrounded by dancing, capering, skinny fire-red-and-orange creatures who, while not being much bigger than Hoggle in stature, were capable of quite a lot more damage. As usual, one struck a bonfire so they could properly see who their ‘company’ was and - ostensibly from the reports of those who had survived such an encounter - so the people they played games with (for this was only a game to them) could better see them and their antics and, they hoped, learn to act accordingly. To make matters even worse, at least one of them seemed to remember Didymus.

“Hey, Didy, my main man! How’s it shakin’, yo?” one addressed him, bold as brass, slapping him good-naturedly - and just a little too hard - on the back. It had begun.

“Things are going tolerably at the moment,” Didymus primly replied, “but we’ve no time for frivolity; my companion and I are journeying to the beginning of the Labyrinth, and from thence I know not where my travails shall take me.”

“Hey, if you don’t know where y’all headed, what’s with the rush to get there?” a different Firey countered.

“Yee-ah, if the destination don’t matter, why not take a load off wit us?” another chimed in.

“You always been too stiff,” they heard a husky Firey bass in the back, “you need to learn to loosen up, bro!”

“We can show you how!”

“It’s easy!”

“Fo’ sho’!”

“You got the time now!”

These creatures weren’t colloquially called The Fire Gang for nothing. They were circling in on their victims, wild-eyed as drug addicts, jabbering pseudo-friendly nonsense and euphemisms about living only in the now, starting to take each other apart in show and putting themselves back together; some had started to sing and drum on any surface, including Didymus’ leather saddle - just a little too close for comfort. Long fingers were beginning to reach for them. Ambrosius was definitely shaking in his little furry boot by this time and probably would have bolted except there was no place to escape.

“Calm yourself, Ambrosius,” Sir Didymus addressed him quietly and placidly, “these hooligans are no match for the likes of us!” Ambrosius clearly didn’t believe him at all and Hoggle seemed to be having similar sentiments although he was hiding it better, his big scrutinizing eyes still looking for a break in the line.

After the event, Hoggle could never bet quite certain who had started it. Had Ambrosius tried to run? Had one of the Fireys made the first grasp at Didymus, or had he swung his staff prematurely at them in preparation of defense? It was a pointless piece of conjecture, really, because within the next two seconds there was sheer pandemonium, a fight as ridiculous as it was dire. Sir Didymus was fast and agile in spite of his age, but he was severely outnumbered and few of his blows were landing. The dwarf, on the other hand, was fairing a little better, being slightly larger than his current companion and sturdily built, but still there were far too many of them; more were coming at the sound of the ruckus, dropping out of the trees screeching and hollering. Punches were flying, as were Firey body parts, but they were reassembling themselves in midair and coming back for more. Any minute now one of them would think of fighting with fire and it would all be over. And, just when it couldn’t possibly get worse, Ambrosius reared, bucking off Didymus as per usual, and tore off through the underbrush for safety, leaving his rider in a mound of Fireys that were literally trying to rip him apart, jabbering nonsense at him, cackling wildly all the while. Hoggle somehow managed to shove his way through to him again and together, alone, they fought the oncoming horde back-to-back.

It didn’t take a psychology degree to deduce that Didymus was pissed and just distracted enough that the ‘king’s’ scheme might actually work; he’d been barking excitedly for about a minute now, something he was normally too self-conscious to do in a more composed frame of mind. Hoggle momentarily reflected with a twinge of irony that the previous Jareths had allotted him hazard pay for placing himself in dangerous circumstances like this; the job had not entirely been without its perks. But his was for Sarah; that was payment enough. He took a deep breath as one of his punches connected with another head, sending it flying.

“Doncha - ever wish that you could - be rid of - that stupid mongrel?” he gasped out, ripping a randomly separated hand off his throat.

“Sometimes I do indeed! Cowardly, shaming beast!” Didymus rejoindered, freeing his left arm by biting his opponent while other tried to wrench his staff from him.

“Like, wish the - goblins would take - him - away?” Another Firey got an elbow to the chest, but Hoggle made the mistake of trying to kick one and they caught his foot, threatening to topple him.

“Right this instant!”

There was an immediate lightning bolt and clap of thunder directly overhead; the Fireys froze, listening, then instinctively took to the trees and tore off into the forest, screaming like a flock of frightened birds. Didymus turned to Hoggle slowly, catching his breath, shell-shocked at what had just passed between them.

“Hoggle,” he whispered, looking supremely lost, “what hast thou done?!”
Sarah felt the summons instantly, as surely as if she had just been struck by the lightning she had heard fall off in the distance. An odd, dark joy surged within her as she effortlessly shifted back into her owl form and took off through the open window.
Hoggle was feeling mighty low as he rubbed his aching arms and neck; the verbal abuse that was being heaped upon him at present was entirely deserved - he had just sold out his friend. He only hoped that ‘Jareth’ wouldn’t take his time in getting here.

He didn’t have to wait long; the ominous white owl was already flapping its way into the clearing and transformed in a dazzling electrical display into the Goblin King. Even knowing it was Sarah in there, it just astounded him that he couldn’t see her past the glamour. That was one heck of a spell.

The ego-rush that always seemed to accompany these metamorphoses had taken Sarah’s brain by storm, and she was so caught up in the glory of the aftermath that it didn’t even strike her as strange that she knew so much about the little knight.

“Sire,” Didymus addressed her gravely, bowing with his hat removed.

“It is indeed an unexpected pleasure to find you come to your senses at last, Sir Didymus,” the king warmly greeted him, “but this is no place for such an interview. If you forfeit, come to the castle with me now and re-swear your fealty to me in the presence of the Goblin Army, you can have your pick of any saetasaurus in the stables regardless of who it currently belongs to. Having you off that filthy mutt of yours and on a proper, reliable mount is sufficient payment for your recent incursion of my displeasure. You have served me too long and too well to have your career end in so ignominious a fashion.”

“Begging your indulgence but a moment longer, Sire,” Didymus spoke elegantly but a bit tersely, standing up straight, “I merely desire to confirm that this was in fact a setup.”

Jareth’s gaze swung over to the dwarf. “Yes, and he executed it adequately enough, although I’m garnishing his wage this time. This was his test of fealty, you see; if he could betray his recent confederate in the name of my service, he could have his job back. Really, this one should be doing laps in the Bog, but frankly it’s next-to-impossible to find even a moderately competent gardener in these parts. Your duties resume immediately upon our departure, Hogwort.”

Hoggle didn’t even bristle at the callous mispronunciation of his name; Sarah was doing a splendid job of mimicking the king. Guess those acting skills were coming in handy after all.

While Jareth had been speaking, Sir Didymus had been screwing up his nerve to do something he had never dared to do before, and in the face of so generous an offer of full pardon

“I…” he faltered for a moment, then steadied himself. “I cannot accept your terms, gracious as they are, Sire. I must have Ambrosius back.”

The king scrutinized him. “It is ill-advised for you to challenge your monarch thus, Didymus, especially in light of recent crimes against the Crown which could potentially be expunged otherwise.”

“I understand that, Sire, but surely you remember what Ambrosius truly is…was…what he means to me. In spite of the difficulty of keeping him in this state I have never abandoned him, never given up on the hope…”

Jareth gave a clipped sigh, crossing his arms. “We have been through all of this before. What you ask is far beyond my power to grant even if I wished. You are foolishly clinging to a distant past you cannot possibly re-attain. Accept my terms of pardon quickly before you anger me; I will not offer it again.”

Didymus was torn. On the one hand was Jareth’s familiar favor and the honor bestowed by him, and the rational part of his mind knew that he could not possibly best this wizard-king and it was indeed a fool’s errand to try to. But his heart knew better than his logic.

“I know I have no right to ask you to forgive me, Sire, but I cannot abandon Ambrosius to so hideous a fate. You know that.” He could’ve been imagining it but he was ready to swear that the king stifled the tiniest of smiles before turning stern.

“So be it.”

In a burst of power, they were all standing outside the Labyrinth proper, just beyond the gates. The king gestured and the ceremonial thirteen-hour clock appeared in midair.

“You should know the rules by now. Fail and I’ll have quite an exotic and particularly useless goblin on my hands.” He turned and began to fade as he paced away from them with his hands clasped behind his back. “You should have just surrendered,” his voice echoed, “I would have kept him as a dog myself.”

Sir Didymus canine jaw could have hit the ground. He glanced about for Hoggle and saw him some yards away already, his fairy extermination around the creeping starflowers resumed. Hoggle felt the intense, burning gaze from that little eye and looked back: Didymus was standing akimbo, glaring at him, tapping his foot impatiently.

“Oh, no way - nothin’ doin’, Didy!” he shook his head. “You can stare holes in me but I ain’t helpin’ nobody again - you heard what he said!”

“Sir Hoggle, I fear I must take back what I said about thee. Thou art a craven coward after all,” he glared. Hoggle turned around and resumed his work.

“A coward that doesn’t stink, though.” He pointed at the gates and they opened automatically; Didymus sighed and paced through the portal. “Good luck!” he called after him. No response.

The doors slammed shut behind him.

Hoggle looked down at the pixie he’d just sprayed and gasped, wide-eyed: even with the pale hair, she looked so much like… He wouldn’t let his mind go there but it was already too late. He buried the delicate little creature with a toe-full of soil, suddenly repulsed by what he had been doing, throwing away the spray can.

“She’s going to need it.”
Sign up to rate and review this story