NOTE: This is for the Indirect Challenge which is all about writing a short piece of fan fiction that is in the Labyrinth universe, but doesn't focus on any of the main characters.
The man in the dark imagined the forest with its woodland critters, fleeting fairies, and terrifying beasts. The cold had seeped into his bones long ago, though he couldn't be sure just how much time had passed, and every movement ached from tight tendons and cold joints. He missed the warm sun on his face and blazing trails through the dense Forbidden Forest.
The oubliette provided only stark light from the shaft that had delivered him to the cell. Compared to the dark it was blinding and at night it was sad. Aaron spent a little time each day under the glare of the beam of light, hoping to absorb something akin to hope. His mind, again, played over the detrimental events that took place between him and his older brother, the Goblin King. A lovely lost runner of the Labyrinth looking for a way through the forest. Aaron didn't always spend time in his brother's kingdom, but he had that day. It had been nothing more than being in the wrong place at the wrong time, meeting the wrong girl, and making the wrong decision.
Moonlight was shining down through the shaft at the top of the oubliette. Aaron could tell from the dim glow. He sat with his back up against the uneven rocky wall of the cell and let his head hit the protrusions a few times. He wanted nothing more than to fly out of the oubliette, but the heavy metal grate at the ceiling prevented the journey up the shaft. Even if he could get up to it, it was locked with a very large padlock.
Aaron had been trying to figure out how to escape since he had been clean-shaven. He had taken to stroking his beard while he thought things over. It hung below his collarbone now, giving him the only sense of passing time aside from the beam of light from the shaft.
Jareth, his older brother, was a sly one and often had booby traps or riddles or something that would allow for an escape or certain death. So far, as Aaron could tell, the oubliette was simply as it appeared to be, nothing more.
A pinpoint of light came from the opposite side of the oubliette. Aaron watched through narrowed eyes as it grew larger and brighter, finally illuminating the tall lithe figure of his brother.
"Hello Aaron" Jareth said with a cool smile. He kept his distance from the man curled up in the corner.
"Jareth" Aaron greeted dully. He wanted to stand up and glare at his brother, but his back and knees would protest greatly. "What do I owe this honor?"
"I've just remembered that you were down here" Jareth replied. He was pacing ever so slightly. He paced as one might imagine a large jungle cat might. "I suppose I should let you out of this rather dull cage."
"How kind of you to think of me" Aaron said through gritted teeth. Aaron watched as Jareth produced a crystal and tossed it up into the air. It hovered and acted as a light for the oubliette. Jareth grimaced and shook his head at his brother.
"You look terrible" Jareth said with an accusatory tone. His brother was tall, like him, but very tan since he spent a great deal of time roaming the lands. Aaron kept his hair rather plain and long, but it was now nothing but a brown matted bird's nest. Tangles and feathers perched upon his head. The beard Aaron sported made him look like a wild child. "You're a disgrace to be held."
"I don't believe I had a brush" Aaron retorted. "Perhaps you could do me the favor of sending me to a groomer."
Jareth twisted his hand in a well-used gesture and Aaron rose to his feet, his joints creaking and popping. Aaron's earth-tone garments were soiled and tarnished with holes and dirt. Jareth's face was one of contempt and disgust.
"I should let you take a bath" Jareth said. "In the Bog of Eternal Stench."
"More of a disgusting wallow" Aaron replied. Jareth's fingers flinched and Aaron was lifted off the floor by a few inches.
"The penalty for disturbing royal affairs" Jareth growled at him. Aaron narrowed his eyes and let his brother circle around his suspended form without interruption. "Perhaps I should chain you to a boulder and let the Fireys play around with you, tear you limb from limb."
"You don't scare me" Aaron said. He struggled against Jareth's magic, but that was it. He hadn't studied magic as his brother had.
"You will never talk to anyone who is running the Labyrinth" Jareth hissed. He emphasized it by saying "Ever!" He flicked his wrist and let his brother fall to the floor. "In fact, from now on, every time you're in my kingdom and you come across someone you should not have any business with; you will not be able to communicate with them in the slightest."
Aaron felt a burning sensation on his neck. He quickly felt the area, not fully surprised to feel some sort of mark. He glared at his brother, the blonde king who looked all the part of Fae royalty. He moved to his knees, facing his brother.
"Just let me go Jareth" Aaron grumbled. "I'll head north to Annwn or even further to the mountains."
"Don't wander too far, brother" Jareth ordered. "I'll ask you to pay for the treachery in some manner."
"It was just a simple mistake" Aaron pleaded. Jareth turned on his brother and, without hesitation, threw a crystal at him.
Aaron found himself in the Forbidden Forest near a small pool of crystal clear water. He crawled over to the water and was able to make out his reflection in the moonlight. He looked terrible. Aaron dipped his hands into the cool water and closed his eyes. It felt wonderful. He splashed his face and sat back on his knees. The moonlight glimmered off of something metallic. He leaned closer to the shimmer and smirked. Jareth had sent him with his belt that held his small supply pouches and dagger.
"Thank you, brother" Aaron said with a small smile. He wasted no time in retrieving the belt and pulling out a small straight-razor and a bar of soap. In the dim light, he undressed and waded into the water. He scrubbed himself until he was sure he was pink, and then started in with the straight-razor. He managed, skillfully, to not cut his face open too badly while taking off the scraggly beard. He left the sideburns, knowing full well that Jareth would despise the style. He ducked his head under the water and used the soap to scrub at his hair. It soon was untangled, hanging long down his back.
Aaron grabbed his dirty, smelly clothes and soaked them in the water. He scrubbed at them until he was sure they were cleaner then they had been. Stepping out from the water, he moved to a tree and draped his clothing over a sturdy branch, along with his belt.
Coming from the same family as Jareth, he was able to do one bit of magic. It was family magic. He leapt and transformed into a medium-sized great horned owl. With tired wings, he flew up and perched in the tree, determined to catch some sleep before leaving the Labyrinth.
"I've decided on what you shall do for me" Jareth said from behind Aaron. He was in the midst of dressing in his clothes, now that they were dry. Aaron turned around, shirtless, to face his brother. Jareth's eyebrows rose up. "You look…bathed."
"Get to it, Jareth" Aaron said. He pulled on his undershirt, a thermal base layer, before pulling on his overcoat and cape, short by Jareth's dramatic standards but long enough to hide the length of his dagger.
"For the next five years, you will be my extra set of eyes and ears aboveground" Jareth ordered. He smiled when Aaron's lip twitched. "I want more people to meet."
"You want more mortals to mess with, you mean" Aaron sneered.
"To-may-to, to-mah-to" Jareth replied. "Five years." Jareth held up a hand, revealing another crystal. He tossed it to his brother, who ended up catching a little red book. "That will always be in your possession, though temporarily I suppose you will leave it for whomever you find."
"At some point, Jareth" Aaron said gripping the book. "Someone will get through your Labyrinth and you will be the fool."
Jareth laughed. Even when Aaron secured his belt and flew away in his owl form, he still heard his brother's laughter.