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

The Good Dog

by shadowlurker13 0 reviews

standoff, surprises, the end.

Category: Labyrinth - Rating: PG-13 - Genres: Fantasy - Published: 2017-07-22 - 4221 words - Complete

Chapter 10: The Good Dog

Half-hidden in the hazy smoke that made a rust-red dawn, Sir Didymus silently tip-toed up to the back entrance of the castle with his valiant little heart pounding in his throat - only to find the door locked; Hoggle had forgotten it was only used as an emergency exit now and opened one-way from the inside. The service gate built into the front portal was never locked, however, and to this entry the knight carefully made his way. Stealth in general was alien to his nature - he was, and always had been, a man of action - but he sternly reminded himself that his true opponent lay within the fortress and he therefore must needs gain it. It wasn’t easy being this quiet for another reason, however; even though Didymus could not smell the fire, the acrid substances in the air made breathing in general unpleasant and he was having to try very hard not to cough, his sleeve over his nose and mouth. Goblins were hurrying back and forth to the fountain in the square or just running in circles in panic, too preoccupied to spot his bright crimson-and-gold livery as he melted through the bronze goblin-sized door and closed it again noiselessly.

The havoc outside was instantly silenced; it was ominously quiet in here. Didymus sighed, glancing about. How often he had come up these old stone stairs, seeking a new quest or the basic favor of the mysterious monarch that was the Goblin King. How often he had enjoyed it; he had never been told so but he was fairly certain that he had been His Majesty’s favorite subject for a long, long time. The dark years of his life had not been entirely so, but this episode was obviously behind him. Resigned, he mounted the staircase that led to the Throne Room for what he was sure was to be the final time.

The room was empty except for a black chicken and detritus left about by the goblins - he quickly reflected that it had also been thus just yesterday at Lady Sarah’s trial; she had fearlessly run up the spiral staircase that led to the king’s private quarters on the second floor. He had never been allowed to even see them - all but the challengers and the sentinel were usually barred entry. If the king had had the audacity to trap that girl in his room… He took a deep breath and ran the dizzying corkscrew-tight flight.

What he saw upon gaining the landing literally took his breath away; the Enigma Chamber had been deliberately designed to deliver this precise effect. Strictly constructed to be a nuisance, the room had normal gravity but to the observer it appeared to obey no empirical laws of Newtonian physics at all due to the manner all of the bare, stone staircases that were situated every-which-way.

Gravity, of course, was no hindrance to Jareth; Didymus’ eye opened even wider when he spotted the king pacing along a landing that was technically on the ceiling, dressed all in black.

“What did I ever do to you to deserve this ungrateful insubordination, Didymus?” he called down without looking at him; the room made his voice ring all round. “I took you under my wing in your ensorcelled state, gave you work, extended your lifespan by centuries, tried to use my own power to reverse your spell out of a sense of charity - in this one act I failed you, but in nothing else.”

With a flourish he vanished through one of the rounded doorways, only to reappear walking up a flight of sideways steps. Didymus steeled his nerves and walked down a short flight into the chamber.

“Tis true you have done well by me in the past, sire,” the knight called back boldly, “but in under two days you have thoughtlessly threatened and imperiled two people I hold dear, for no honorable reason I can possibly divine. And I am here to save them both.”

Jareth walked straight over an edge, only to reappear slowly pacing down the stairs right behind Didymus. “What happened to Ambrosius,” he began, making Didymus jump, turning sharply in the direction of his voice, “you brought upon yourself for severely impeding my dealings with a challenger. And as for Sarah…” The king smiled a small, knowing smile. “She’s safe. In fact, from a physical standpoint, she’s far safer now than she has ever been in her entire life.” The smile dropped as he stopped right in front of him. “But since you have moved so far beyond the realm of my good graces…”

The king pointed away so he would look - far across the room was Ambrosius, unsaddled, seated on a right-side-up landing!

“Ambrosius, come!” Sir Didymus called to him. It was not unusual for his mount to not obey orders but the dog seemed not to even hear him; he stayed stock-still. “What on earth did you do to him?!” the knight angrily accused.

“Only what you have failed to do in all your years of attempted training,” Jareth answered coolly with the beginnings of a cruel smile. “I’ve made him a good dog.”

The thought both repulsed and horrified Sir Didymus. Ambrosius wasn’t really a dog at all, but only he and the other man in this room were the only two souls alive who knew this. Ambrosius had simply never adjusted well to his bespelled form, thinking that the world had gotten bigger instead of him growing exponentially smaller, and in consequence he had become something of a scaredy-cat (to pardon the phrase), not to mention completely driven by his adopted canine instincts. But if Jareth had stripped the knight’s beloved mount of his will he would pay dearly for such a heinous act. As if to drive the point home, the Goblin King formed a crystal and pitched it across the room - as it flew it turned into a red rubber ball.

“Fetch!” he yelled.

Ambrosius suddenly sprang into action and bounded after the toy, tongue lolling. Didymus’ heart sank, hoping vainly that this spell was more easily reversible than his own, as he began to run after him. Unlike himself, his mount was well-rested and even without the magical impetus he would have enjoyed this game. Coming to the end of the room, the ball bounced through a doorway and straight up a vertical flight of stairs on the wall - and Ambrosius followed, barking happily! Didymus blinked. It was impossible.

No, he reminded himself, nothing was impossible here, not even ruthlessly turning on someone who has faithfully served you for centuries for nothing more than the crime of having a conscience. He rapidly followed Ambrosius from below, trying to gage a point where he could intercept him again on the correct plane. This would’ve been difficult enough to do with two eyes, but with Didymus’ impaired depth perception it was a small miracle he hadn’t fallen to his death about a half-dozen times by now; the light was playing terrible tricks on his remaining eye.

At last Ambrosius caught the ball - it seemed to have given up the chase and hopped right into his mouth - and he turned to return it to his new master. Didymus suddenly, instinctively knew, having seen the clock in the Throne Room, that the moment the sheepdog reached the king it would all be over. His fears were confirmed as he spotted Jareth on a perpendicular flight to the right, readying a crystal behind his back.

Didymus mind raced furiously - he had to do something and fast but what?! Out of panic he called out to Ambrosius to stop, but he did not realize until after he’d done it that he had barked the warning instead of saying actual words.

To his blank amazement and surprise, this seemed to get through; Ambrosius stopped in mid-gallop and looked back, every bit as surprised, and put down the ball on the paving stone to bark back: ‘What’s wrong?’

In all the long years of his enchantment, Didymus had known that there was the technical possibility that he and his mount might be able to communicate this way - no doubt Ambrosius had heard some of his rider’s knee-jerk barking over the years on occasions when he was truly irate - but his pride had forbade him from consciously stooping to the animal level of his current form. Now he saw it was their only hope. He swallowed his pride.

‘You need to come with me right now, my old friend! You are in great danger!’ Didymus barked back.

‘No I’m not! My master loves me!’ Ambrosius wagged his tail, glancing at Jareth, who was looking a bit leery at this odd discourse. ‘Look, he wants to give me a treat!’

‘That man is not your master and he wants to do something so horrible to you I can’t even explain it! He wants to turn you into an even smaller creature, and uglier at that!’

Ambrosius whined, conflicted; Jareth’s spell kept him from recognizing Didymus but somehow he just knew that the strange, clothed dog talking to him was speaking the truth. He also felt the persuasive pull of the Goblin King’s power, promising a good breakfast when they were done here and games and affection forevermore. But… ‘What do I do?’

‘Remember!’ Didymus saw his time was rapidly drawing to a close; Jareth had guessed what was going on between them and was dashing for Ambrosius. ‘Jump across to me! You’ve done this before, I know you can make it! Remember the war horse you truly are!’

Something in that last phrase stirred a dim memory for Ambrosius, the incongruent impression of once being much larger, much stronger, long ago, of grazing in beautiful, lush valleys with other stallions and mares, of galloping straight at a mounted armed enemy without a trace of fear, of being comfortably ridden through forest and town by a slightly crazy but kind-hearted man…and he suddenly recognized Didymus’ clothing as the same!

He leaped just as Jareth gained the landing but came up a paw short of where Didymus stood. The knight reached out to catch him but lost his own balance in the process and fell as well. He heard Ambrosius howl and then he was gone from view.

But Didymus kept falling. He fell and fell - there seemed to be no end to it - until the very masonry around him came apart and started falling, too. Oddly, rather than smashing flat on the paving stones, he landed lightly on his feet. Quickly looking about, he saw that he was alone, trapped on a floating piece of the castle floor with broken bits of walls stranded in midair in the middle of a dimly-lit void.

No, not quite alone: Jareth stepped out of the shadow of the remaining doorway. Didymus could not remember ever seeing the king look quite this sinister. Only that apparition of Hooded Death was more chilling but not by much. The knight held his ground. If this was how it all ended, so be it, but he wouldn’t go down without fighting to avenge those whom he had loved. Although he suddenly noticed that somewhere along the way he had lost his makeshift spear…

“You should never have come here, little knight,” the king spoke ominously, beginning to circle him. “You have fallen irreparably below your title. I should offer you nothing more than a quick and merciful end to the pointless, unsung travesty that your existence has become rather than clemency. I could have had you executed already for treason but I didn’t want to believe it. You are forcing my hand.”

Didymus had never heard the precise Words of Power, the incantation necessary to defeat the rat who called himself Jareth, but he knew something of them from whispered rumors. All he had to do was successfully stand up to Jareth, and he allowed his confidence to lead him. He stood up straight, all two-and-a-half feet of him, arms akimbo, and looked his monarch squarely in the eye.

“I am Sir Didymus Delamere of the City of Berwick, twice-knighted, decorated on and off the field of duty, slayer of dragons and of monsters, both beasts and men. I claim no kingdom, nor, indeed after this, any land as my own, but my will is certainly as strong as yours and my heart is far greater. You cannot possibly bully me further; I resign from your service.”

In an almost inspired flash of irony, Didymus mentally switched to his informal set of pronouns. Whatever Jareth was, he was no longer his superior.

“Thou hast no power over me, thou vile cur! Now give back Ambrosius and Sarah before I have to fight thee off this ledge!”

Didymus’ words seemed to echo on and on as a clock somewhere chimed thirteen.

…and then two very odd things happened almost simultaneously. The Goblin King’s very magic seemed to be visibly draining away from him, beginning to form a shimmering orb far overhead, but Didymus was distracted from watching this process by the sudden commotion emanating from the orb above itself.

“No!” a small, goblinesque voice cried out. “I can’t hold him! The magic is too strong! I’ll do anything, anything for you if only-”

“YOU MUST,” a deep voice answered that chilled Didymus straight down to the bone. A blood-curdling scream tore through the air and there was a sudden explosion, the force of which knocked the knight to the ground.

Silence and darkness followed.

When he opened his eye again, Didymus was a bit disoriented by what he saw but quickly realized that he was on the floor of the Enigma Chamber. Groaning, he stiffly sat up, but upon going to assess the damage he nearly jumped out of his skin - he was a man once more! Not trusting his senses he pinched himself hard and winced from the pain. This was real! He had survived! And there, there in the corner behind a staircase was a beautiful, glowing portal. Stifling back tears, he had commenced walking toward it when he heard muffled noises like someone else coming to. Had Jareth survived as well? He turned to face what was left of his fallen adversary and had a shock that was nearly as big as the first - it was Sarah! He ran to her side in a heartbeat, cradling her fair head off the hard, cold stone floor. She seemed unwounded but there was still plenty of reason for concern; she was unconscious.

Sarah slowly opened her eyes, feeling as if she was waking up from a terrible dream, only to find a strange man kneeling at her side, gently supporting her back so she could sit up. He had obviously been handsome in his youth but age had somewhat marred his features. He looked like he was probably in his late sixties - his light-brown hair and mustache were half white - but he was dressed in 16th century costume. His right eye was a warm brown that spoke great kindness and care but there was a black patch over the left…

“…Didymus?” Sarah incredulously asked.

“One and the same, my lady,” his lowered voice almost shook with emotion, as if this was news to him as well. Sarah launched forward and hugged him, taking him a bit by surprise, but presently he returned it.

“You made it! I was so scared for you!”

“As I was for thee!” he pulled back to look at her. “But how didst thou know I was in danger? Did that rapscallion rogue tell thee of my plight in some dungeon?”

Sarah sighed, quirking an odd smile. “I’ve got some good news and some bad news for you. Actually, they’re the same thing.”

“What is it?” He was all concern. Sarah hoped he wouldn’t have heart failure hearing this.

“Long live the King,” she said with a touch of irony, bowing slightly from where she sat.

Didymus was thunderstruck. “I beg your pardon?”

“It was a guy named William Cooke for a couple of centuries, and then me for a day, and now it’s you; you not only won but managed to get rid of Jareth once and for all, so you should be safe. Can you believe that was me in there ?! That experience was definitely…something else,” she nervously laughed. “I was sort of in control at first but he eventually got the better of me. I’m sorry for how he treated you in the end; I didn’t have any say in the matter. This goofball scheme was actually Will’s idea but he didn’t have time to implement it himself and, besides, I think he got some of his information wrong, but it seems to have worked anyway,” she admitted a little sheepishly, attempting to sound positive, not sure how he was going to take this.

Didymus sat back on his hands and studied Sarah with a wary sort of admiration. Even with the magic to disguise her and lend her power, that had been quite the stunt to pull off and it had no doubt taken a lot of nerve and guts, not to mention talent. It almost made him wish he was a few centuries younger; this attractive, intelligent girl would grow into quite a woman.

“I hope never to be your adversary again, my lady,” he said guardedly but playfully, making her blush. “But what has happened to Ambrosius?”

Sarah gasped, covering her mouth. “Oh my gosh, I’d nearly forgotten, I’m so sorry!”

“Peace, dear, don’t upset thyself; I merely thought thou might know. If we are unharmed, chances are he is as well. I only wonder what form he is in,” he said, looking away thoughtfully.

“What form?” Sarah repeated.

Didymus looked back. “Both I am and my mount were enchanted by an evil sorcerer many ages ago. I fear life as a sheepdog never suited him well,” he laughed a little, looking down. “In his natural state, Ambrosius is a -”

Loud whinnying interrupted him; it sounded like it was most likely coming from the Throne Room. “Ambrosius,” Didymus sighed in relief, closing his eye a moment. Sarah moved to try to get up but Didymus was instantly on his feet to assist her. She belatedly saw the portal and what was left of the glowing orb above them, a faint whisper of what it had once been, remembering.

“Offhand, I’d say you just won the Grand Prize tax-free, but don’t let the power go to your head. What’s left of it. Will handpicked you as a suitable candidate because of your personal honor and sense of duty. He knew you would take good care of this place. I guess he was…in and out…more often than I was.”

“Don’t even think on it. It’s over.”

“Still…oh! One last thing. It’s not official, just something personal.”

“Anything, Lady.”

“…remember that unspeakable monster in the basement?”

He gravely nodded. “It yet lives?”

“Yes. Well, kind of,” she winced. “Could you just put it out of its misery for me, please? I can’t stand the thought of that thing down there slowly starving to death, but if it’s really too dangerous to set free…”

“It shall be done quickly and cleanly in his sleep.”

“Thanks. For everything. And if you see Hoggle, can you thank him for me, too? I don’t think I’ll have the chance to say goodbye and you won’t come into your power until I leave,” she said, glancing back at the portal; it had grown slightly smaller.

“I understand.”

Saying goodbye was going to be so hard. The old knight went to kiss her hand properly but she embraced him again and, standing on tiptoe, lightly kissed his cheek instead. When she let go, she could see he was trying not to cry; she was, too.

“Take good care of yourself. Don’t let them get under your skin,” she forced herself to laugh, “and remember that you have real friends in this place.” Before she could get any more emotional, Sarah swiftly jogged away through the portal and disappeared.

The golden portal closed into a thin line and shot back into the orb. And the orb slowly got bigger and bigger until it was over six feet in diameter. It came down and surrounded Didymus in a golden light, swirling about him until it had all absorbed into his skin; he felt a slight tingling as it happened but noticed no difference in himself when it ended.
The plight of a two-hundred-year-old man dropped into the modern world is almost a trite storyline to us and yet the real thing is no joke. It will take two years for William Cooke to get his bearings and back on his feet and he will need anti-anxiety medication to help him with the drastic change and the trauma at first. But he will cope. He will learn. He will survive…
Sarah Williams was immediately grounded with no T.V. for a month when she turned up unannounced in her room after having been missing without a trace for three days, offering no satisfactory explanation of where she had been but seeming sufficiently rattled that her parents let the topic go, confident that she wouldn’t do whatever it was again. She was oddly placid about the punishment, almost as if it was enough of a relief just to be back home again that she didn’t really care. She was grounded for an extra week when her step-mother caught her burning a book on the cement patio in the backyard. There was no explanation for this, either, and by the time Karen got there the cover was charred and the pages were nothing but ash…
Even if he was a man again, what Didymus had been fighting for all those years was in the distant past, he reflected as he took a few flights of stairs up to exit the room. Jareth had been right about that much. The world he was from was long gone, but, whether he liked it or not, this enigma of a kingdom was his future and he was going to invest in it. If he had any power at all he would use it for the good of his subjects. It was probable that he could not restore the goblins the way he himself had been, but they had involuntarily paid for this magic; using it to directly help them felt like something akin to justice, but he knew it would never be enough.

Upon reaching the landing, though, a funny idea suddenly popped into his mind and he couldn’t help but smirk at it: he was the ‘good dog’, willing to stay home to guard the fort and those within, to serve with no thought for himself save a little acknowledgement, to value loyalty for the sake of loyalty above all else. He had been charged with the care of this place and he knew that, for better or worse, he would do his best.

Coming back down the spiral staircase - it was a lot smaller than he remembered, he noted with a touch of humor - he beheld the chaos his grand old horse had caused in the Throne Room: goblins were hiding in crevices up in the walls to get away from Ambrosius’ huge, trampling hooves! Didymus managed to get him calmed back down but belatedly noticed that one unlucky goblin had been stepped on badly, nearly crushed. He rushed over to help, wishing he knew how to heal him…and no sooner had he thought this than a hollow, golden crystal was in his hand. He held it to the damaged and bleeding area in the prone goblin’s torso and to his amazement the crystal absorbed, healing the internal and external wounds on the spot! The goblin rolled over as if nothing had happened to him and looked up at the human knight in wonder.

“Art thou feeling better?” Didymus asked, giving him a hand up. All the creature could do was stare at Didymus’ chest, wide-eyed, still in shock. It was then that Didymus looked down and saw he was now wearing the crest of the empire. He smiled, straightening to his full height, six-foot-two. It felt glorious.

“Jareth the Tyrant has fallen!” he proclaimed. “I hereby name myself Didymus I, King of the Goblins and Lord of the Labyrinth!”

This, compounded with what he had just done for one of their fallen comrades, was enough to make the whole room erupt into cheers and general celebration. There was much work to be done in the days to come but there were willing hearts and hands to help.

As a wise man once said, you cannot always change your fate, but you can rise to meet it.

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