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

Life Under Pressure

by shadowlurker13 0 reviews

danger in the darkness...

Category: Labyrinth - Rating: PG-13 - Genres: Fantasy - Published: 2017-07-22 - 1789 words - Complete

Chapter 5: Life Under Pressure

Sarah reappeared almost instantaneously in the castle in her human form once again. What a rush! She definitely understood how a person could get caught up in this and forget. Of course, what she had returned to was utter chaos: Ambrosius was barking his head off, chasing goblins all over the Throne Room. It looked like they had tried to create a makeshift harness and leash out of a piece of crude rope, but it was only half-attached and he was trailing it behind him.

“Ambrosius, heel!” To her complete surprise, the dog instantly stopped in its tracks and obediently walked over to her, whining. She got down on her knees and let him sniff her. “It’s okay, boy, I’m right here, I won’t let them hurt you,” she soothed him, stroking his head; he licked her gloved hand. He reminded her so much of her family sheepdog Merlin it was uncanny.

Home. The memory felt strange, distant. This place could be her home if she chose. No more powerless, lonely days. She had subjects here but she also had friends, real friends that genuinely cared about her. It was sorely tempting…

No! She had to stay focused!

With the dog under control, the goblins had reverted to their standard modus operandi: squabbling and gibbering amongst themselves, eating goodness-knows-what, drinking what smelled like some kind of ale from a keg in the corner, periodically harassing each other, the king’s presence forgotten for the moment. Sarah sighed. At least they were all in one place where she could keep an eye on them.

“Come on, boy,” she said quietly, leading Ambrosius upstairs to the bedroom. Once inside, she closed and bolted the door, then summoned Hoggle - he appeared with a slight jump, taken by surprise.

“Yer Majesty!”

Sarah rushed over, as did the dog, but she kept him from jumping on the dwarf. “Are you okay? I saw the Fireys come after you but I wasn’t sure I could intervene properly without giving you away! I wanted to!”

Hoggle blushed slightly, brushing off her concern. “Oh, I’s fine, mis-Yer Majesty,” he caught himself in time, then thought to observe her. Her manner of walking, her movements seemed…different, more regal, more self-assured, almost a little vain. But there was more than that. Her concern about the situation seemed already forgotten; she had formed a crystal and was pacing, watching Sir Didymus making his way through the outer corridors of the stone maze. A part of Sarah that was not Sarah reflected that the little knight had not seen this section at all in several centuries but he was reasonably familiar with the paths farther in; she had to make things more interesting for him.

Hoggle didn’t care for that evil little lip smile she was suddenly sporting. He knew what it was.

“Ya shouldn’t watch him so closely, yer Majesty; he’ll feel yer attention.”

Sarah closed her eyes. “I guess you’re right. Isolation seems to be part of the challenge, after all,” she pronounced, and was about to extinguish the crystal when she suddenly had an idea. “Would you mind if I send you to the hedge maze?”

“Not at all. I was gettin’ a little sick of killing fairies, anywho. A bit of honest pruning will be a nice change.”

Sarah tossed him the crystal without another word and he caught it, vanishing again. Ambrosius jumped up on the bed and lay down, resting his head on his paws. She went over and shooffed his shaggy head, then began to manually remove the elaborate, showy heraldic saddle; the dog got up and stretched in relief once it was off before settling back down, leaning against her. Sarah almost didn’t notice him; she was lost in thought. Hoggle was right about Didymus not belonging here, that much she knew, but where he came from and why was a complete mystery. She felt more than heard the dark whispering begin again but quickly willed it silent, pleased that she could do this, and calmed Ambrosius once more; he had literally begun to shake at Jareth’s presence…
Sir Didymus was an optimist by nature, not experience, and once he had shaken off the shock of what was going on, he had thoroughly enjoyed the brisk walk and the change in scenery, as well as the chance to hone his long-neglected tracking skills. Completely unbeknownst to Sarah, she had left something of an obvious trail through the dirty debris of the outer hall and Didymus’ sharp good eye picked it out instantly; he successfully followed it and entered the outer stone maze. Unfortunately for him, this also included making the same error in judgment his immediate predecessor had, albeit with even less information to go by. He briefly felt someone watching him but ran into no one.

Only a few steps into the new section, his ears perked up. He realized that he could faintly detect the stone walls moving, the shifts so swift and clean they made just the slightest shuffling noise now and again. The sound was coming more frequently from a certain direction and he headed toward it.
Slightly bored and with nothing to do but wait - she couldn’t seem to concentrate well enough to read - Sarah was exploring what little there was of the castle. For all the outer defenses and extended fortressing surrounding it, the Castle Beyond the Goblin City really wasn’t that large or impressive once inside. The King’s Chamber and a short hallway leading to the ‘Escher Room’ were al that was on the second floor. Tentatively apprehensive, she quickly discovered that she could walk on all the surfaces in the latter, but the effort was apparently futile for none of them led anywhere. In fact, the room seemed to wormhole in on itself - how odd. She successfully exited, though, once she actually wanted to.

The first floor’s main attraction was, sadly, the Throne Room, such as it was, which she managed to sneak past without being noticed. It didn’t really make any difference where she was right now; goblins did what they did mostly with callous disregard to anyone, and Ambrosius was safe for the moment, sacked out on her mattress, dead exhausted. She’d have to provide him with food and water somehow but thankfully not right away.

The flight of stairs leading down ended in total darkness. Sarah gulped and grabbed a torch off the wall; if she was really ruler here there should be nothing she need fear, but that blackness still made her nervous. Almost without thinking, a crystal appeared in her left hand, ready to become whatever she might need…and then the answer occurred to her: a sleep spell, not the hundred-year variety, just something to temporarily knock out anything that might be hiding down there long enough for her to look around. She held the crystal up to her face and blew it away like a bubble; it floated on down the stairs and around the corner to the left and she followed it into the dank gloom.
Didymus had been right to follow the sound of the walls; he had correctly remembered that the most frequent changes always occurred around the points that led to the next section over. He was currently trapped but was satisfied to be so; the Guardians of the Hedge Maze stood before him.

“Sir Didymus!” they had saluted as one, surprised by his presence; the exploits of Sir Didymus the Sojourner were legendary.

“At your ease,” he promptly excused them of their difficult pose; the upside-down creatures stiffly got down, their upright counterparts resting their heavy shields on the ground in obvious relief.

“Bless you, Sir Knight,” said old Alph Blueshield in his peculiar brogue, “you’ve no idea how long we’ve been standing like that with no further orders or even a change of guard!”

“It is not our place to question His Majesty’s choices in defense policy,” Didymus automatically began to reprimand their weak-willed determination, then remembered his own place in this situation. Specifically where he was not, where he should be right now. Goodness knows what ruffians could be encroaching on his previously well-guarded footbridge even as they spoke. Well, footpath now really…

For a moment Didymus was ashamed: he had just let a long-standing friendship come between him and his king and country and now he had to abide the consequence.

“What ails ye, Sir Knight? Surely not weakness of heart or limb?” Ralph Redcrest asked, peering from behind his shield at the diminutive, crestfallen figure.

“Envy me no longer, my fellow countrymen; I undergo The Great Trial and I’ve no time to waste in pleasantries.”

There were shocked looks all round.

“Ya know we can’t help ye,” apologized Jim the Red.

“I would consider you even more traitorous curs than I if you did,” was the crisp, bold reply. The sentiment was appreciated but honesty had to be above all in this; his conduct had to be irreproachable. Didymus knew there was a way through, but what was it? Had he ever known? His liege lord had always delighted in logic puzzles as wizards often did; all of his direct challenges were technically surmountable, but such intellect was scarce. In retrospect, even his most recent oath had contained a subtle, built-in loophole. There was a trick to this living riddle in particular, but he only vaguely remembered, something the king had once alluded to in a rare moment of good-humored jest at banquet, something about a question that forced both guards to tell the truth about what lay behind the doors they were sentry over. Didymus could not even conceive of such a question but Lady Sarah must have. The sudden thought cut him to the quick - young Lady Sarah! Whatever had become of her? Had she failed in the end? Was she still there?! Sir Didymus quickly brought his racing thoughts to rein. He could ask the king himself in a few hours. One thing was becoming very clear, though: he had no time to waste here. He instinctively chose a door strictly by livery color - red, the color of the Goblin Kingdom. Ralph Redcrest shuffled aside to let him pass as the door opened; all were silent as it closed.

The place Didymus had just walked into was pitch black.

“I say, does anyone have a light?” he called out; his voice echoed as if in a closed chamber.

Two large, red eyes opened on the far side of the room.
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