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

What Lies Below

by shadowlurker13 0 reviews

letting sleeping monsters lie... and dispatching those that wake.

Category: Labyrinth - Rating: PG-13 - Genres: Fantasy - Published: 2017-07-22 - 2281 words - Complete

Chapter 6: What Lies Below

The dungeons of the Goblin Castle were roughly three times the size of the structure sitting above them and far dirtier and moldier. In spite of the size, from what Sarah could see, most of the simple-barred cells were currently vacant, although there were skeletons in several - goblin, human, and one that took her breath away: a medium-sized dragon! It just barely fit in the room it was locked in, with its long tail curled around its body. The place reeked almost as bad as the Bog farther in - her eye suddenly picked up on movement in the very back of the room. She froze instinctively; even in spite of the spell, whatever was back there was strong enough to stir in its sleep. Just taking a couple steps closer, she held the torch high to get a better look. The form was mostly indistinct as it lay in repose but the size, even partially curved away, was definitely intimidating. Information crowded her brain before she had a chance to object: it stood nearly twenty feet high and had the strength of as many men. It had immense sharp-spiraled horns like an ibex and masses of long, thick black fur, which currently enshrouded it. It had been a terror in the Labyrinth, had somehow wandered in from the outside world, had caused destruction in its wake and indiscriminately killed goblins - something even Jareth couldn’t stand for. Many lives were lost before the beast was captured, and Jareth had shorn it himself and made a cloak of its fur in lieu of a trophy. Clearly it had all grown back. He was letting it die slowly out of spite and a petty, self-flattering sense of having avenged something.

The beast rolled over, facing her now. One large eye opened languidly in her direction - it glowed a bright cobalt blue - then closed again.

Let sleeping monsters lie…

For once she had to agree with him as she quickly exited the dungeon.
If Didymus had had any sense of smell at all, he would have already been knocked over by the stench of death. His remaining eye slowly adjusted to the darkness; it wasn’t total but it was hard to say where that faint glow was leaking in from. Besides the eyes of the Minotaur, of course.

The abomination was a relic of an earlier age, predating even the colonization of the Labyrinth and the coming of the King, its lewd and profane origins buried in antiquity. Jareth had initially kept it as his first standing threat against disobedience, then as a historical curiosity and a hazard to the runners - it was an easy way to feed it. He had even been known to send off a branch of the army as a hunting party to track down big game for it if no one had accidentally stumbled into its lair for a while, but the large apelike creatures they used to give it were becoming scarce. Once in a great while a goblins or two would to missing very quietly, but privately Jareth loathed having to sacrifice his minions to any cause but his own. Over time he began to neglect the monster, sometimes even forgetting to feed it at all. It had been out of mind for some time now - it probably shouldn’t have even been alive - but here it was, larger than life and bellowing in hunger when it caught scent of Sir Didymus.

It rushed him headfirst like the bull its father was, but Sir Didymus easily darted out of the way, straight between the monster’s legs. Fighting an entire mob single-handedly may have appealed to his ego slightly, but duels to the death were his forte; he had yet to lose, after all. Honorably facing and dispatching a scurrilously dishonorable opponent was even better; it smacked of chivalry. Didymus recklessly charged at his enemy, prepared this time, and hung on for dear life, peppering the monster with blows wherever he could reach him, daring to climb higher as the Minotaur tried to grasp for him with his large, humanesque hands; it had been a long time since his food had tried to fight back. The knight had gained the beast’s shoulders and was currently attempting to knock him unconscious (he would have much preferred swordplay but he had been forbidden by the king to even carry one for years, a questionable sentiment about him being too dangerous) when his opponent finally caught hold of him. The monster tried to crush his windpipe but got bitten instead; it howled in pain, dropping him. Didymus spit on the ground - the creature tasted terrible - and quickly plotted his next move as the monster came at him again, truly angry now.

“Not had enough, eh? Come and get me!” he taunted it, dashing away in a feigned retreat, then veering sharply left, gauging how long it took the Minotaur to stop. His naked torso had felt emaciated with exposed ribs but it didn’t seem to have diminished its strength much. Correction - the malnutrition made its reflexes a bit slow. Good, he could work with that. Didymus took a flying leap right past its face, narrowly escaping the monster’s sharp teeth, baiting it to give chase, dashing for the back wall, only turning away to the right at the last possible second. As he hoped, the Minotaur plowed straight into the wall before seeing its blunder but, to Sir Didymus’ horror, it was so tough it didn’t even fall; it just grunted and shook its head clear before resuming.

Under normal circumstances, Sir Didymus would have easily had plenty of stamina to spare, but deprived of his mount as he had been the past few hours and having traipsed a long and weary mile by foot unaccustomed, the miniature knight was already starting to flag a little and knew he had to watch himself; he had to end it quickly. Above such things on principle, he reflected that in a true life-and-death scenario with a senseless beast other rules applied, and he only winced slightly when he tripped the monster with his staff. If he could only get him stationary long enough…

He misjudged which way the Minotaur would fall, however, and with a sickening crunch (which was luckily no part of him) he heard his staff break in two under the beast’s right leg. The monster was instantly scrabbling back to his feet, but, in a moment of sheer brilliance, Didymus grabbed one of the larger wooden shards, ignoring the splinters that cruelly dug into his paw, and, leaping fearlessly onto his enemy, drove the jagged point deep into the neck artery. The Minotaur roared, automatically bucking so hard that it threw Didymus clear across the room and into the stone wall. The world went completely dark and still.

When Didymus came to, it took him a second to remember where he was. Even more confounding, light was streaming in from the open door to his right and a human-sized figure stood in it.

“Even in your one treasonous act, you continue to provide me immeasurable service,” the Goblin King remarked, shaking his head almost in disbelief at the tableau. To Didymus’ amazement, he came in and actually helped him to his feet; the knight dug a few splinters out of his gloved paw with his teeth. “I had been trying to forget that wretched thing was in here. It simply wasn’t worth the trouble it was to look after it anymore,” he stated pointedly. “We all outgrow certain hobbies.”

Sir Didymus’ hackles raised briefly at the casual flippancy with which his monarch was so obviously insinuating he should do the same with a certain beast.

“Do not speak so of such a good-hearted animal as Ambrosius in the same context as that…thing,” Didymus spat in disgust, glancing behind him - and finally got a good look at what he’d just killed. The monster was an albino about seven feet tall and still surprisingly muscled in spite of its forced starvation, the famous bull’s head and tail on the oversized body of a naked man. Didymus reflected that he could’ve taken some rather cheap shots but his honor had prevailed. Turning away from the horror (not just the monster - he could now see that the walls and floor were hopelessly stained with blood and entrails but there wasn’t a single bone in there), he walked out into the sunlight, briefly shielding his eye. The guards were simply dumbfounded. Alph Blueshield was already shuffling aside - the illustrious little knight had clearly won the right to continue through - when the king spoke again.

“Where would you go, even if you succeeded?”

Didymus stopped and glanced over his shoulder. “I cannot see how that could possibly concern your Majesty any further,” he answered a touch coldly.

“The outside world no longer believes in magic, nor chivalry, nor honoring an oath to the death even for love. You would not find what you seek. Perhaps you could have once, but not now. We are both relics of another time in our own ways,” the king noted a bit wryly. “ I have withstood its passage for over two millennia and I have never seen another man your equal. There it nothing you truly want out there.”

“Pardon my bluntness, your Majesty, but you are stalling me,” the knight observed, turning back around as he began to walk through.

“Watch your first step,” Jareth advised and vanished.

That caught Didymus a bit off-guard. Why in the world was his Majesty trying to help? He belatedly realized he had forgotten to ask about Sarah; he would not be so remiss given the chance again. Nevertheless, taking the odd warning to heart, he pressed along the stones in front of him tentatively with one foot; the first two opened down like trapdoors almost instantly - oubliette opening. He neatly hopped over it and, after only a few turns in the stone passage, came out into the hedge maze. Never in all his life had he been so grateful to see the living green again but he had always thought it a bit sad that there was never any birdsong out here; all that lived in these outer sections were sparse flocks of carrion crows.

Trusting to his senses again, Sir Didymus followed his ears to a much more mundane sound this time: the snip-snip of a pair of pruning shears. He could scarcely believe that Hoggle had come all this way more quickly than he had, then reflected that the king had often used this old dwarf in the past as a decoy to try to dissuade the runners; bumping into him occasionally was simply part of the course, but Didymus was determined to get some answers out of him this time. He didn’t have far to look: Hoggle was in the large open central section, doing spot-trimming high up on a ladder on a topiary toy soldier, and , in consequence, was visible above the hedge-line.

“Sir Hoggle! A moment, please!” Didymus hailed him while still far off, carefully winding his way over to him. Just as he came into the clearing, the dwarf finished slowly descending the ladder.

“Ya already know I can’t help ya,” Hoggle automatically reminded him, “but considerin’ the fact that you’re already here, I’d say you probably don’t need much. You’re almost on home turf, ain’t ya?”

“Sir Hoggle,” the little knight began sternly, “I know perfectly well thou art in my path for a reason. What does the king seek to accomplish by trying to delude me thus? His majesty was oddly kind to me just a few minutes ago, even in spite of the fact that he was still trying to dissuade me from continuing. Something here simply doesn’t smell right, and I believe thou knowest what it is.”

The dwarf had continued with a little superficial pruning as Didymus talked, and he replied without even turning around to face him.

“Jareth’s probably watchin’ us right now; I felt it ever since you got here. Make like you’re getting nowhere talkin’ to me and I’ll try ta tell ya,” he managed to quietly say without moving his lips too much.

Didymus good eye glittered at the ruse. “I never heard such impudence!” he declared theatrically, crossing his arms and turning his back on him as if mortally insulted. Hoggle stopped snipping for a minute.

“He’s got Sarah.”


“Pipe down!” Hoggle whisper-shouted through his teeth. “That’s about all I can say. I can’t explain it; this whole world would probably come crashing down about our ears. All ya have to do is make it to the center and-” He suddenly stopped. That attention he’d been feeling had just turned icily sinister. “Just get goin’!”

Didymus took off at a run, his fatigue and soreness forgotten. There was for more to this obscure challenge than met the eye it seemed, and, whatever lay at the end of this quest, he had to face it with valor and honor and expose Jareth’s secrets to the bright light of day. It was so strange but the more he thought about it he was starting to get the distinct impression that the king finally wanted his own darkness vanquished and had arranged for his most trusted knight to do the job. Sir Didymus could imagine no higher calling.
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