A/N – This is a little side piece to my story "The Catalyst". Building on one of the ideas I established – that many of Jareth's subjects were not native to the Goblin Kingdom, but sought asylum under his protection – I wondered whether it was not only the Bog that Hoggle had to fear when he defied Jareth for Sarah. Given that in the movie, the party happened almost immediately after Sarah returns home, it seems that Hoggle, Ludo and Didymus escaped punishment…
Disclaimer – I should think it fairly obvious that I don't own the Labyrinth.
"I'm a coward, and Jareth scares me."
Hoggle, from the Labyrinth.
The last of the rubble had finally settled some twenty minutes ago, and the clouds of dust and smoke had dispersed, drifting with the wind away from the Labyrinth and out over the plains, where it could do the least harm.
Goblins and fae and other, stranger beings scurried around purposefully in a surprisingly efficient clean-up operation, trying to assess and repair the damage caused by one stubborn mortal girl and her misguided self-righteousness. But for all their efficiency there was an edge to their actions, a tension that they did not want to even acknowledge, let alone try and address…
The Goblin King, flyaway hair even more disheveled than usual, observed the utter ruin that had once been his Castle in grim silence. Had its downfall been caused by one of the many disasters that could befall a country full of goblins, he might have been able to affect a wry, rueful amusement –
But this was something entirely different.
This was the result of Sarah Williams' stubbornness, his own reckless folly, and the treachery of three of his subjects. The first two he could excuse, but the third – the third was not something that he could allow to go unpunished.
And they all knew it, all of his loyal, hardworking subjects – it was in the way they could not look at him, in the way they could not look at the three…beings…who had chosen to serve and assist their newfound friend rather than remain loyal to their King. At the moment, the dwarf, the fox and the monster were standing by themselves, very much alone, and very much afraid to even glance his way lest they draw his attention. It seemed that now the hot-blooded rush of courage and bravado had worn off – now that Sarah had gone and she had taken her blind, passionate determination with her – his three wayward servants had finally recalled their place, and the perils of forgetting it.
Jareth let the silence extend further, drawing out their uncertainty with cruel satisfaction. It was petty, true, but at the moment he felt in need of such small victories. And then, when they were all but squirming, he finally turned his head, fixing them with mismatched, predatory eyes.
"You three," he said pleasantly. "Come here."
All around him, the purposeful bustle slowed and stopped, as the workers gathered to see what was happening, but he spared them one glance – one glance only – and they hurried quickly back to whatever they had been doing before. There was, very pointedly, no more eavesdropping.
He looked down at the three of them – the cowardly, ugly dwarf, the small, hot-blooded fox, and the huge, timid monster. He knew them all, knew their pasts and their secrets, knew what they had fled when they came to him seeking asylum –
And now this.
"Hoggle," he said icily, addressing the dwarf, "what did you think you were doing?" He was utterly serious now – no jokes, no teasing, no more playing with his food.
Hoggle could not meet his eyes. He mumbled something into his chest, but then flinched as Jareth placed the riding crop under his chin, forcing him to look up, into his eyes. There was fear there, and the last, fading traces of defiance, of waning courage.
Jareth forced the riding crop higher.
"I was…" the dwarf choked, swallowed, "she was my friend."
"Oh?" He turned to look at the other two recalcitrant rebels. "Your friend. Is that what you two have to say as well?"
Didymus and Ludo nodded.
"And this friendship," he asked, dangerously softly, "is it worth your while? Is betraying your rightful King, tempting my wrath, risking my punishment – is your friendship with sweet Sarah worth all this?"
Didymus put his hand on his heart. "A thousand times over, your Majesty," he declared grandly. "I shall remain true to my Lady Sarah no matter what may come of it."
Ludo moaned in agreement.
Hoggle looked terrified. But there was a sullen determination in his eyes that said he would never, ever give in again. Jareth held his gaze a while longer, and then dropped the crop.
"Very well," he said flatly. "Go."
He turned on his heel and left, walking away towards the rubble. Behind him, he could sense their puzzlement, and the growing fear that he had tricked them somehow, that he could not be giving in so easily. He was the Goblin King: cruel, devious, and manipulative – he never gave in this easily.
"Your Majesty," Didymus called nervously after him. "We are free to go back to our homes?"
He turned. "Back to your homes?" he repeated, tilting his head. "No," he said, once again pleasant. "But you are free to go – wherever you wish, so long as it is outside my Kingdom." He waited until the sense of it struck them. "You have chosen another allegiance, and are no longer welcome in these lands. Go."
This time as he walked off, there was no longer even the pretence of work from the silent witnesses. They parted to let him through, fearful of coming too close, of attracting attention – there were worse punishments in the Goblin Kingdom than a dunking in the Bog of Eternal Stench. There were more things to fear than the sudden and unpredictable flaring of their Sovereign's wrath. To those who had come here seeking shelter, seeking asylum from the outside world, the most terrible punishment conceivable was the withdrawal of their King's protection.
Hoggle, Didymus and Ludo – exiles all – would no longer have any shields against the enemies they had made outside the Goblin Kingdom.
One only hoped that Sarah – sweet, young, naïve Sarah – would accept their offers of friendship and give them a place. Because they no longer had one with him.
But should you ever need us, Sarah…
Yes, should you need us…
I'll give you a call.
A/N – hmm. Well, this just popped into my head. Feedback would be greatly appreciated.