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

Knight of the Soul

by shadowlurker13 0 reviews

dark dreams, flashbacks, and the cavalry

Category: Labyrinth - Rating: PG-13 - Genres: Fantasy - Published: 2017-07-22 - 3782 words - Complete

Chapter 8: Knight of the Soul

Before even venturing through that ominous stone portal, Sir Didymus knew from the types of trees present and the lack of any trail - even in the dark - that he had been deliberately placed in immense danger. This was The Dreaming Forest, a natural landmark that ran for miles on the opposite side of the Castle Beyond the Goblin City, far beyond the Labyrinth proper and any prospect of illicit help. In fact, there was no way to tell where he had even been dropped off. The forest predated the Labyrinth itself. This was old Faerie country, and any brave or foolish enough to wander these woods at will was near-certain to incur something’s wrath for trespassing. Especially at night. And if the glamours didn’t kill a person, the wild beast would given half the chance. Since he had no way to determine north and so obtain his bearing, Didymus simply struck out in the same direction he had come through the portal.

There was one rather familiar danger out here as well: Fireys. This forest directly connected to the smaller inner forest wedged between the outer Labyrinth and the Great Goblin Wall, a defense built to protect the Goblin City from magical attacks more than anything else. Like more earthly apes, there were many different troops of Fireys; most of them were out here, actually. Jareth had presented him with a fitting challenge indeed, one which would require all of his skills as a knight to survive, almost a quest within a quest, and Didymus briefly reveled at the thought. If only he weren’t so tired…

Shaking himself alert, for he had been awake a day-and-a-half now on top of the exertion, he carefully beat the bushes and foliage ahead of him with the blunt end of his walking stick so as not to step on anything or anyone as he progressed; more than large spiders were known to hide in these plants. The canopy was so thick not even starlight was visible - he was literally going forward in the dark. A trail of will-o-wisp lights glowed a faint ghostly white off a ways to the left, offering deceptively friendly passage, but the knight forced himself not to see them, keeping his eye glued to what was directly ahead. A couple paces later he spooked a small animal he couldn’t make out in the dim light; fortunately for him it only flashed its sharp teeth - which took up over half of its face - before disappearing into the brush. There was beautifully haunting singing in the clearing coming up on the right but he stopped his ears and took off at a run, careful to avoid stepping on some very large fairy-ring mushrooms. But he couldn’t avoid everything: a tree root actually lifted out of the ground and tripped him and he landed on his face. There was cackling laughter nearby, and once Sir Didymus had retrieved his walking stick/spear he was actually irked enough to look about for the culprit.

He didn’t have to look far. Perched on a low tree-limb, still laughing, was a young-looking pwcca, nearly humanesque in his appearance currently, save for his long pointed ears and light-green skin. He was about the same size as the little knight, actually, although the creatures were rumored to be able to manifest many, many times larger and in a variety of forms.

“I know I am not welcome here and being here gives me little pleasure,” Didymus addressed him, “but thou couldst have the decency to allow me to quit this place with dignity.”

“Not on your little, furry life,” the impudent rascal answered, dropping easily to the forest floor; Didymus belatedly noticed that the fellow glowed slightly. “Mischief is my nature and purpose, and whether you like or no, you are in my realm. But I also delight in games. Would you challenge me, little mortal?” his wild, dark eyes sparkled with excitement; his opponent had the unusual nerve to stand his ground before such a creature as himself and he was curious.

“On any other day I would gladly school thine impertinence, but presently I don’t even have the time for this converse, let alone what inane foolishness would please thee. Let me pass.”

“Wrong an-swer!” he sing-songily shouted and acorns rained down about Didymus, a few hitting their mark as he made a hasty retreat away from the tree.

“Why canst thou find some Fireys to harry to amuse thyself?” he called back over his shoulder - but gasped in surprise when he turned forward once more: the pwcca stood right in front of him.

“A pretty notion it is! I should fetch some right here in a trice - they’re always up for a lark and not the least bit afraid of me! I can watch as they joyfully tear you limb from limb. Would this be more to your liking?”

“What would be to my liking,” Didymus began to growl, “would involve you and the Bog! Now stand aside.”

His opponent simply tisked, shaking his head. “Hardly a sporting offer for such an honorable knight. I shall teach you better here.”

Didymus readied to defend himself this time but the imp simply vanished. Save for some chirping insects, all was quiet. His nerves slightly frazzled, he quickly decided that he could not wait about here to be ambushed; he had to go on as best he could under the circumstances. His eye had begun to droop slightly but he blinked, forcing it open wide. Remembering Sarah, he picked up his pace again. Just off beyond the next hill he heard the sound of running water and, heedless of the dangers of water sprites, he ran for it like the proverbial man in the desert. True, it could have been only an illusion to distract a weary, thirsty traveler but, fortunately for him, it was real: there was a shallow, slow-moving stream running along the forest floor here with willow trees growing along the bank. The rustling sound he made as he strode forward through the ground cover startled a doe who had been drinking; she instantly bounded away. Or had it been a female satyr? It had happened so fast and the light was simply abysmal…oh well. Glancing about to make certain nothing else was about watching him, Didymus got down on his paws and knees and gave the water a single lap. It was clean enough to be safe. The knight quickly drank his fill, the cool liquid soothing his parched throat and helping to fill his empty stomach. Standing again presently, wiping his whiskers dry, he suddenly had an idea. He tested the depth of the streambed with his walking stick - the body of water was wide but would only come up to about mid-thigh on him. A sure way to get a faery to stop following you was supposedly to cross a stream - considering the encounter he had just had, it was worth a shot. Carefully wading out, he took his time and found enough decent footholds to ford the stream to safety on the other side; gaining the opposite bank, he shook his legs dry and continued on.

But even though he could feel his limbs moving forward in the dark, he no longer felt truly awake anymore, a dangerous mixture of physical and mental fatigue and the enchantment that the woods were named for. Soon he came over a ridge and, to his astonishment, full sunlight greeted him there! Just at the edge of the forest there was a decent-sized gated medieval city with a pristine fortress in the distance, a sight that he knew all too well. Somehow Jareth had set everything right and this had just been part of the process; the knight had followed the old ‘primrose path’ home at last! Didymus joyfully ran to the gate, his current troubles presently forgotten; upon recognizing him, the guard there saluted as if he had only been gone a day. Didymus was suddenly struck by the fact that he was the same size as the man and almost didn’t dare look down at himself, the truth making his eyes a bit misty - both eyes! He was a whole man again!

His next thought was for Madelyn and his hand automatically reached for the hilt of his sword. If the sorcerer who had stolen his true love’s heart by his dark cunning and transformed Didymus so that he was run out of town in fear yet lived, he would rue the day he had first gasped life. Quickly making his way down the familiar cobblestone streets, Didymus came at last to his lady’s old abode, hoping against hope that if time had turned back this far perhaps she would still be there, and rapped smartly on the iron doorknocker that was carefully cast like a fist. His heart was practically in his throat when he heard the latch go up and the door opened…

Hooded Death was staring him in the face. The skeletal spectre gave an eerie shriek of a laugh and flew right past him, straight up into the broad daylight! Didymus burst into the room, blade drawn, but there was nothing left to defend.

All the furniture and belongings he remembered being here had been vandalized or stolen. The room was in serious disarray and clearly had been so for quite some time from the layers of dust and thick cobwebs all around. But it was what he saw near the cold fireplace that made his breath catch: there was the mostly rotted corpse of an old woman kneeling there on the hearth, propped against the stone mantle, the remnants of her once-rich clothing in faded tatters. She was covered in heavy cobwebs along with what was left of her home and the stench was overwhelming. In her open hand was a cheap locket that Didymus instantly recognized; he had given it her long ago as a boy before he had regular employment at the fortress. From her stance he could tell that she had died looking at it, and the subsequent thieves had left it alone because it was intrinsically worthless. The knight felt nauseous and heartsick, fighting back tears, as he slowly strode back out of the house of death and carefully shut the door.

The city instantly melted away and he heard himself addressed by a male voice that he hated by instinct.

“You still search for me, little knight? How quaint. Even against any better judgment you never give up on a quest.”

“Foul villain!” Didymus brazenly answered the sorcerer, blade still drawn, “if thou hast any courage at all, face me like the man thou art not! It is thou who shall soon face judgment!”

“She was lovely for a time,” the voice continued teasingly from seemingly no direction at all, “and I took great pleasure of her, but at length even my power could not fully keep her from aging. She grew ugly and infirm as all women do given the chance, and you could have had her then with my blessing if you hadn’t run away like a coward. You would’ve made her a nice pet in her declining years.”

“I was nearly burned alive for what you did to me!” Didymus angrily shouted into the darkness. “And for what thou didst to her, thou wilt answer for now!”

“Very well,” the voice whispered.

Sir Didymus kept his eyes glued to the darkness in front of him; there was movement, it had begun to coagulate into a human form. It took on flesh and robes and was at last the sinister embodiment of the itinerant sorcerer who had ruined a random knight’s life strictly for his own twisted entertainment. The apparition had had many names in the dim past but all had been given by his victims and none were decent enough to record. Without any preliminaries or warning, a bright red light shot out of the sorcerer’s staff straight at Sir Didymus, but even in a man’s body the knight had always been agile and he easily leapt out of the way to the side. Bright fire flew again and this time he was not so lucky; it pierced his ribcage and he felt rather than saw the thick fur that began to grow and spread like a dread disease that he had indeed grown sick of.

Not this time, he thought as his blade sang through the air and bit into the staff, causing it to splinter badly but not fully break in two. The sorcerer laughed.

“You are a trite fool if you believe destroying this toy will defeat me,” he tossed the damaged staff aside and began to form a ball of red light in his bare hands.

Didymus was ready for him this time, and before he could complete the hex the knight went for a bold double-handed frontal assault that could have cleaved his head in two or at least lopped it off, only to be promptly thrown back by an invisible shield, the force knocking him to the ground, making him an easy target. The sorcerer loomed over his prey, seeming to savor the moment right before robbing him of his humanity again, but Sir Didymus suddenly noticed the discarded staff lying there on the ground and an idea struck him first. If only he could reach it…

“You really should’ve quit while you were ahead,” the sorcerer tauntingly reprimanded him, aiming, “you will be far more hideous this time.”

But before he was hit, Sir Didymus rolled, grabbed the staff, and, willing it to destroy the real monster, leveled its power straight at its owner…

Who turned into the pwcca, laughing and jeering, rolling on the forest floor, kicking it with wicked merriment!

Sir Didymus just lay there in shock, catching his breath, slowly regaining his senses. He looked over at what he held in his right hand: he was only grasping his roughly-made walking stick. He felt his face with his free hand: he was still in canine form with a ruined eye and a decrepit nose and he was hopelessly lost in this accursed forest with no companionship save this maliciously mischievous imp. He heaved a great sigh and closed his eye.

What was the point to any of this anymore? He knew not how she came by her end but sweet Madelyn had most likely been dead for centuries; by rights, he should have been, too. And now he was up against another sorcerer, one he had served well, one who had been relatively kind to him in his distress. One who knew him inside out, knew all his weak points. How could he possibly hope to defeat him?

“Poor little knight,” the pwcca suddenly spoke, “I pulled a great deal of that from your memory. But you played the game well and far more virtuously than you dealt with me before. A heavy heart is a silly thing to carry for so long. Shall I reward you with a pleasant dream? Something to make you forget? There are lovely faerie maidens to be had in this wood, far lovelier than the little old woman…”

Didymus cracked open his eye; the pwcca was sitting easily on his heels right next to his head. The knight was too tired to take a good swing at him with the walking stick.

“Torment me no more, night-waif,” Didymus sat up on his palms, then stood up. His back was a bit sore now; that last fall had obviously been real. “Thou hast had thy sport. What point is there in harrying a doomed old man?”

“Ya ain’t doomed yet, Didy!”

Didymus’ ears perked up at the familiar, gruff voice. The pwcca was trying to bug him to get his attention but he could ignore him now.

“Sir Hoggle! Over here!”

“I’m a-comin’!” he heard him call back. Did his eye deceive him or was the dwarf carrying something smoldering besides a light? There was a general exodus of all manner of creatures and sprites in his wake, as if he carried something which repelled them. The pwcca at hand seemed to sense it as well and openly snarled at Hoggle as he came into the clear. The dwarf had relit the remnants of his pipe and was burning it freely; it may have been generally unhealthy for a human but this herb was a positive anathema to faerie creatures other than dwarves. He advanced on the pwcca, who hissed, standing his ground.

“I can curse you from here to the Labyrinth if you don’t snuff that out,” he threatened, doing his best to look menacing in spite of the fact that he was currently unable to change size or shape with the substance so near.

“If ya don’t clear out right now I’m gonna hurl this thing right in yer face,” the dwarf coolly countered.

“May all your children be born with their feet backwards!” the pwcca screamed and vanished into the trees. Hoggle just chuckled, shaking his grizzled old head.

“He’s a few centuries late for that one.”

Didymus walked over to him, amazed. “How in the worlds did you ever find me?”

“Spied ya in one of Jareth’s crystals - don’t ask, yer better off not knowin’ - but we gotta get you to that castle fast; time’s runnin’ out!”

Didymus bowed his head. “Thy bravery is commendable, Sir Hoggle, but I’m afraid it is wasted. I have no desire to continue, and even if I had I lack the strength.”

Hoggle was dumbfounded. “What?! Ya can’t possibly mean that!”

“I fear ‘tis quite true. I was very cruelly reminded just now of why I am here in the first place and the truth is shaming beyond repair. Please leave me in peace.”

Hoggle had never seen the little knight so low-spirited and had no intention of leaving him out here like this, but at the moment he was desperately struggling to come up with something helpful to say.

However, from the sudden rustling in the trees, offhand he had to admit that they had bigger and much more immediate problems, and those fuzzy, manically happy problems had been attracted as much by the lit tallow candle in the lantern as by the burnt herb in the pipe. Probably any drug would have drawn them; he should’ve snuffed it sooner but it was too late now. Fireys dropped out of the trees all around them.

“Hey, what’s goin’ on? We havin’ a party?” one came down right in front of Hoggle and whiffed the pipe before he got it out all the way.

“We bring the party to you!”


In spite of their imminent physical danger, Didymus was beyond caring at this point and simply didn’t respond.

“Hey!” one of them saw him, tipping up his chin with long, thin Firey fingers, “what gives with the long face?”

“Who you callin’ long-faced?” another quickly chimed in. “We all long-faced!”

“You call that long-faced?” a treble voice asked, stealing his neighbor’s long snout-and-mouth and attaching it to his own. “Now that’s long-faced!” he spoke, looking rather like a hairy gavial crocodile.

“Far out!”

“Groovy, man.”

They all cackled as the extra mouth flew back to its owner.

“Sir Hoggle,” Didymus said very quietly, “fall back and retreat while you still have the chance. Let them have me.”

“Nothin’ doin’,” his companion responded positively, scoping out how many Fireys there were, “you’re gettin’ outta this mess whether you likes it or not. We still need ya here no matter what Jareth showed ya. If we-”

“All ya need is a good time!” a Firey cut him off, trying to make Didymus dance like a doll, but the knight’s honor could take no more and he shook off the creature out of habit.

“I’m too tired for any of this nonsense, now if you’ll just excuse me…”

Watching them manhandle Didymus like that made Hoggle cringe. These creatures were bigger than the Fireys they usually got in the Labyrinth proper, most likely had more to eat out here. They were probably strong enough to lift the little guy right off his feet…

Hoggle’s large grey eyes suddenly widened in dawning comprehension; it was absolutely brilliant! Why had he never thought of it before?

‘Cause it’s suicide, he thought a bit cynically. But then again, it just might work. There was only one way to find out. If he was wrong they’d have to run for their lives. The dwarf put two fingers in his mouth and whistled to get the troop’s attention.

He had it; it was so quiet you could’ve heard the proverbial pin drop. He swallowed, his throat suddenly dry. “Ah…heh…how would y’all feel ‘bout comin’ to the Goblin City with us?” he stuttered nervously. “Didy here might have some of his energy back by the time we get there if one of ya could just carry ‘im. Plenty of fun to be had in the City.”

Sir Didymus was openly staring at the dwarf as if he had just lost his mind. Hoggle was wondering the same thing. A couple of tense seconds ticked by as the Fireys passed looks around at each other before coming to their conclusion.

“Why, shoot, course we’ll help!”

“Nobody ever asked us for help before!”

“A city? Wowee! We ain’t never even been to town!”

“Which way, lil’ dude?”

“Thataway,” Hoggle pointed behind him, “‘bout two or three miles.”

“That’s easy!”

“Come on, y’all!”

Before Didymus even had the time to object, he was grabbed by long Firey fingers and swiftly hoisted aloft into the trees with the troop, carried in one skinny, strong Firey arm against a fuzzy pink-and-red body as they tore across the canopy in the direction of the Goblin City, hooting and hollering all the way. Far below, he saw that the dwarf was running to keep up with them. Didymus couldn’t quite decide if this was more like the cavalry or the Golden Horde that was about to descend upon Jareth, but either way he was along for the ride of his life. He didn’t even notice that on the far eastern horizon there were the first, faint trailers of the new day.
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