Chapter Thirteen: Feathers

"We made it!" Chantal said in amazement.

"Yeah! Now how do we get across?" Stephanie said at the ledge of the platform, looking at the crafted doors.

"I've found a way..." Chantal trailed off.

"But..."

"...but we have to jump," Chantal said with an uneasy smile.

"I think that was obvious," Stephanie smirked.

"Who goes first?" Chantal asked, in other words, 'Are you going to jump first?'

"I'll go. Maybe if one of us reaches the doors both of us are free." Stephanie took a deep breath as she looked at the other platform and below, into the never-ending abyss of the Escher room.

"Okay," Stephanie said walking past her friend. She knelt and tightened her shoelaces. "On the count of three, 'kay?"

Chantal nodded as her friend positioned herself to run.

"One," Chantal started. Stephanie ran past her friend before Chantal could say two. "What happened to two and three?" Chantal asked mostly to herself.

Stephanie leaped off the ledge. As she was falling, she realized that the calculation she had made were wrong, Chantal had also realized this and her eyes widened. Stephanie's fingers brushed against the stone ledge, she gasped.

"Steph!" Chantal yelled. Serek shrieked.

As Stephanie fell, she quickly looked down and hoped not to land at all on the stone floor. Then suddenly Stephanie felt a hand grab her right wrist. She looked up and blinked.

There on one knee at the ledge of the platform, was Jareth. His left hand gripped the ledge; his lips were parted, showing a flash of his canines. Stephanie couldn't believe it, neither could Chantal. The Goblin King had actually saved the seventeen-year old.

"Give me your other hand," he said. Stephanie obeyed, she handed him her left hand and he pulled her up onto the platform.

Chantal released the breath she held and looked down. In her arms, she was holding Serek, his tongue was stuck out. She had been holding him against her when Stephanie fell. "Oh Serek, I'm sorry!" Chantal said as she brought him to her eye level. Serek forgave her with a squeak and a wag of his tail. "Now how am I supposed to get there?" she said. Her bag started to glow, Serek jumped from her arms and onto her shoulder, growling at her bag.

"What the--?" Chantal said and was suddenly covered in light.

O O O

While Chantal was saying sorry to poor Serek, Jareth still held Stephanie by the arms. "Determination. Only the people who truly do have it, can make it through my Labyrinth. And you have that," he said softly. Suddenly he remembered that he was a foe and he had helped her; he pulled away and folded his arms across his chest. Stephanie unsure what to do, after the situation of getting saved by Jareth, turned around to look at her friend to show that she was all right.

Stephanie saw that Chantal had lifted Serek and he jumped onto her shoulder whereas her backpack started to glow, then she disappeared. Stephanie had a look on her face saying: Um, okay, where did she go? She turned around to face Jareth, with a questioned look.

"I haven't done a thing," He said.

Then magic faintly hummed in the air and Chantal appeared in light beside the Goblin King. Chantal backed up when she saw who she appeared beside and walked over to her friend.

"How are we supposed to get home if he's there by the doors where he could very likely stop us?" Chantal whispered to her friend.

"I don't think he would stop us. We've made it," Stephanie whispered back.

"I think he would," Chantal said grimly.

"Look Chantal, why would he turn us into goblins if were at the end? Aren't we too big to be turned? And doesn't he have enough goblins to be pestered by?" Stephanie said, a small smile appearing on her lips. Chantal looked at her friend for a moment.

"You're probably right," she said as Stephanie turned around. Jareth was waiting patiently, his arms still crossed. Stephanie headed towards the doors; Chantal reluctantly followed her friend, while eyeing the Goblin King.

The two girls finally stood before their way home. The crystal that stood between the two doors was at Stephanie's shoulder level, and was a bit larger than the usual crystal belonging to Jareth or the one that Chantal had. Chantal noticed that the doors had no handles. "Suppose that the way to open the doors is to touch the crystal?" Chantal asked her friend but it was Jareth that answered.

"Yes, that is the way it is done and that is the way you must do it," He stopped himself. "Bloody hell, I sound just like that Didymus character."

Stephanie approached the crystal, her hand outstretched. She hesitated. Jareth had seen this hesitation. "You've made it. And in impeccable time I might add," He looked at Chantal. "And I cannot stop you and turn you both into goblins. Besides, you are too old to be turned. I'm not quite sure what happens after the time is up."

It wasn't the idea that he would cheat and turn them into goblins even if he could, in order for him to win. No, the reason was: she didn't want to leave. Even though things were unfair in the Underground, Stephanie was compelled to stay. This place was far better than any mundane day in the mortal world.

Stephanie sighed. "Well, back to the drudgery of normal life," she half whispered. She touched the crystal with her right hand. The doors opened with a small rumbling for the doors were heavy. After a moment, they revealed the edge of a forest. Chantal was about to comment that they've been cheated but the sound of traffic stopped her short.

"Your adventure ends here," the Goblin King said as he walked past them, onto the pavement behind the school.

"How long did we had left?" Stephanie asked as she and Chantal followed him.

He raised an eyebrow, wondering the importance of the question. "You had three and a half hours left." Behind them, the portal doors faded and disappeared.

"Both of you were an amusing challenge," Jareth said his fangs flashing. He walked towards Stephanie. "Perhaps the next time that we shall meet, the challenge will be even greater," the Goblin King started to walk away. Chantal and Stephanie watched him.

"Well! I'm glad that we've amused you!" Chantal said, sticking her tongue out at him. She turned around and headed towards the path that would lead to the highway. Stephanie started to follow her but she stopped short.

"What do you mean 'the next time'?" she turned around. But Jareth was gone.

A few white feathers with golden tips floated slowly down around her. She looked up at the sunset filled sky. The shadow of a barn owl was soaring towards the appearing pale moon.

"Steph?" Chantal asked nervously halfway down the path.

"It's all right. I'm coming," Stephanie said as she ran to the path and caught up with her friend.

The two girls walked back to Stephanie's home. "The nicest thing he could've done is make the doors appeared in your backyard," Chantal complained.

Stephanie opened the front door. "We're back!" she said to her mother who was now sitting on the couch watching television. Her eyes widened.

"How did you get your jeans so dirty?"

Stephanie looked down and groaned. "I tripped? Definitely have to wash these."

Chantal giggled as she started taking off her shoes. "I'm never going to walk again!" Stephanie exclaimed.

"Me neither!" Chantal agreed.

Stephanie's mother gave them a strange look. "You talk as though you've been walking for hours. You've been gone barely an hour." Stephanie and Chantal looked at each other and laughed.

"What?"

"Nothing mom," Stephanie said as she went into the kitchen and came back with two large glasses of cool water. Stephanie's mother just shook her head in disbelief.

O O O

"Have you noticed that all the time in the Underground, we didn't have to...go?" Chantal said with a giggle, returning from the bathroom.

"Yeah, strange," Stephanie said from the floor. Chantal shut the door and jumped onto the bed.

For a long time, the two girls said nothing.

"I'm hungry," Stephanie said as she reached into her pocket and pulled out the red Life Saver from the crumpled paper.

"Me too," Chantal said as her backpack on the floor fell over.

The two girls stared at the bag in anticipation. They then realized how ridiculous the situation was and they started to laugh nervously. But when they concluded that the bag fell over without the help of goblins or any other creatures, something inside the bag moved. Stephanie gasped and Chantal grabbed her backpack. She opened it slowly.

"Squeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!"

"Bob!" Stephanie said aloud and giggled.

"How did he get there? I thought he disappeared after the crystal glowed," Chantal said.

"Apparently not," Stephanie grinned. "One question though."

"What?"

"How are you going to hide Bob from Jaycie?"

Chantal shrugged.

O O O

O O O

Note: I wanted to add that I had reviewed "HAAPT" for the trillionth time, I didn't want to go overboard with the corrections, but to keep it in its original form as possible. I corrected typos and a little bit of chapter one and added a bit of a prologue, (those of you who noticed, kudos!), it was meant to refresh some memories or to give "newbies" a really brief recap of the Sarah's encounter, just to understand subtle things or to intrigue to read on. I would advise to read the novel, the transcript or to rent the movie. If you're still confused about the Pikachu mention in Chapter 11, don't worry I'm not making a crossover, the even will be explained in one of the later parts.

The prologue was taken from the novel (by A.C.H. Smith), so put proper credit where it's due. Again, this is for entertainment purpose only.

Stephanie

January 2005