Disclaimer: All things Labyrinth belong to Jim Henson Associates, Inc. and George Lucas. Though I get the feeling that Sarah and Jareth belong to themselves, no matter what anyone says.
Beta: Thanks to my wonderful beta reader Devil Girl, I couldn't have done it without her.
Rating: pg-13 for the chapter/R- for the story
For Love Of Sarah
Ch 1 Coming Storms
It was almost 3 am on a cool May morning when Sarah Williams parked her car in the driveway of her family home. She hadn't visited since Christmas break and missed Toby dearly. As she cut across the front lawn, her backpack slung over her left shoulder, she absentmindedly waved to the police car that was parked in front of the house. There had been one stationed there twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, for the last six months. Her father was the lead prosecuting attorney in a high-profile stock fraud case that was believed to have mob involvement. No one was taking any chances with the safety of the Williams' family. Sarah had taken the precaution of calling ahead so the security team on-duty would know she was coming.
The young woman was exhausted, which may have been why she didn't notice that the officers in the car didn't acknowledge her greeting. It may have been why she didn't pay any attention to the dark gray sedan that was stopped farther down the block with its engine running. Maybe the twenty-one-year-old didn't notice those things because finals were over, and college graduation was only three days away. Instead of joining the rest of her class in celebration she'd driven 200 miles, worried and shaken, haunted by a premonition that her family was in danger.
She stood on the landing halfway up the stairs and let her muscles relax. All was quiet and safe. She'd rushed home for nothing. With a smile on her face, she noiselessly made her way to the second floor and down the hall to her bedroom. Her father and stepmother had kept it just as she'd left it when she went off to college three and a half years ago. Her tiny apartment, not far from campus, felt more like home to her, but this room would always be special, because it was where she grew up. Granted, it had gone though some major changes in the last six years. Gone were most of her toys and costumes. She'd packed them away the summer after she turned fifteen. About the only things that remained were the basic furniture, her Escher print and a few stuffed animals she couldn't part with. Though if she were honest, she'd admit that hidden in the back of her closet, where no one would see them, were her music box and a statue of a magical Goblin King. Those two things, along with her Labyrinth book, she'd been unable to pack away completely.
"Sarah, is that you?" Her brother's head popped up from the pillow when he heard the door open. Toby had been curled in a ball on Sarah's bed with Lancelot clutched tightly in his grip.
"Sure is, Big Guy." She put her backpack down and gave her brother a hug. "What're you doing sleeping in here? You've got that brand-new bed and a great room down the hall. It's got to be more comfortable than this old one of mine."
"I had a nightmare." He rubbed his eyes. "I hope you don't mind. 'Sides, dad said you'd be home tonight and I wanted to see you." Sarah's room always made him feel safe and it wasn't just because it belonged to his sister, though that was a big part of it. The night he'd lain on her bed crying because she'd moved away to college he'd made a discovery. He'd met her friends who lived in her mirror. Ever since then, whenever he was lonely or afraid, he'd gone to Sarah's room and talked to Sir Didymus, Hoggle, or Ludo.
"You can sleep here anytime you want." Sarah sat on the bed to reassure him and kissed him on the forehead. "What did ya dream about?" Even though it had been six years since it happened, she worried that her brother might retain subconscious memories of being wished away to the Underground and the time he'd spent there. It was something they'd never talked about and she hoped he'd never discovered.
"I don't remember." The boy scrunched up his face. "I just woke up scared. You won't tell anybody, will you?"
"It'll be our secret." Sarah smiled and pulled her favorite book from her purse. "Do you want me to read to you so you can fall back to sleep?"
"Yeah, that'd be neat." Toby grinned as he watched his sister caress the cover of the old red book. It was too dark in the room to read, but both young people knew Sarah didn't need to see the printed pages to tell the story. She had committed it to memory long ago, but both found the battered old text comforting to be able to see and touch.
She began reading. "Once upon a time there was a beautiful young girl, whose stepmother always made her stay home with the baby. The young girl was kept as a slave, but what no one knew was that the King of the Goblins had fallen in love with the girl and he'd given her certain powers." Her voice always cracked when she recited that part. Had he loved her? Was that what it had all been about? Because she knew she loved him, even as a child of fifteen she'd known, but it had been an innocent love and he had overpowered her senses. It had broken her heart to say the words necessary to get Toby back. She was just thankful that, at the time, she hadn't realized they would destroy Jareth. Sarah knew she loved him still. It was why she never dated. Her heart belonged to a tall blonde Fae King, whom she'd killed six years ago and it always would. Why bother with lesser males who held no interest for her? "So, one night when the child had been particularly cruel to her she called on the Goblins for help."
"Say your right words," the Goblins said. "And we'll take the child to the Goblin City and you will be free." Toby always laughed and clapped when she imitated the Goblins. Not only did her voice change, but she hunched her shoulders and pulled her long hair over part of her face until only her eyes were showing.
Suddenly a loud crack-bang filled the air, then another and another. The house shook and the windows exploded outwards. Shockwaves from three carefully placed explosive devices pounded against solid surfaces and turned the quiet home into an inferno. Sarah was knocked across the bed and Toby's head was thrown back to hit the headboard. Lancelot slipped from his hand and landed on the floor next to the Labyrinth book that had fallen from his sister's grip. The last thing Sarah remembered seeing was the view from her window of the street below with a dark car speeding away from the curb as smoke filled the room from the crack under the door.
The concussive force from the blasts stunned Sarah until violent coughing shook her awake. Her room was filled with smoke and her brother lay motionless beside her "Toby," she shrieked as she shook him. The house was on fire and she had to get them out. "Toby, answer me!" she choked out, but he lay unresponsive on the bed.
More smoke was filling the room and flames licked at the walls. In a moment of panic she picked the boy up and clasped him tightly to her. His chin was supported on her shoulder and her arm was wrapped around him. She used her free hand to rip the blanket off the bed and throw it over his body to protect it from sparks that were flying everywhere. Without a thought, she slipped her backpack over her shoulder as she stood, and turned towards the window, her closest means of escape.
The glass had been blown out, and she was planning to climb down the tree to safety, but two feet of fire danced in the frame, fed by oxygen from outside. Turning quickly, she headed for her door, but holes were being eaten through the sturdy wood and she could hear the sound of crashing on the other side as the rest of the house was falling to pieces. In her mind's eye, she could picture a blocked and burning corridor as she touched the door to test it as she'd been taught in first aid class. Her primary exit was hot and getting hotter all the time. There was no safety in that direction. She knew she was screaming, because a high-pitched noise filled her ears and almost drowned out the heat and roar of the flames.
From somewhere deep inside of her, a magical name filled her mind. For one wild moment she wondered if she could call again to the Goblin King and he would protect them. But as quickly as the frantic thought came, she remembered the impulsive lie she'd told to win Toby back, six years ago, and killed Jareth in the process. Tears filled her eyes and ran down her cheeks, unheeded. Instead of calling his name, she prayed silently to his memory, 'please help me have the strength to do what needs to be done.'
Far away in a land to which only a select few could journey, a Goblin King turned restlessly in his sleep. A feminine voice whispered through his dreams and then was blocked by fire and fear. It brought him awake with a start. Someone within his realm of power was in trouble and needed him. He threw aside his covers and before his feet hit the floor he assumed owl form. With a flap of great white wings, he soared out the window and deep into the night. But no matter how carefully he searched the Underground, there was no evidence of smoke or flames and all his creatures appeared asleep and content.
Sarah tucked away the image of mismatched eyes that were burned into her soul and concentrated on what needed to be done. She turned and headed once again for the window. There was safety on the other side of the wall of fire, which had replaced the blown-out glass. Going thought it would singe her hair and burn her skin but already the ceiling was turning black from heat in the attic. If she didn't get them out soon, they would die, because her movements were growing sluggish from smoke inhalation. It was only a matter of time until she lost the ability to think and passed out. If that happened, when the ceiling caved in and the beams fell, she and Toby would be buried beneath tons of burning rubble.
When she'd almost reached her window, a pop and crack of bursting wood exploded in front of her. Red-hot splinters bit into her arm, chest and neck. She thanked God she'd taken the precaution of covering Toby for their escape through the fire. It was all that saved him from being burned too. But the window explosion knocked her back until she bumped into her dressing table. As she lost her footing, her shoulders hit her mirror and suddenly she fell backwards. The weight of the boy in her arms had caused her to over-balance. But when she fell, she didn't land on the floor of her burning room, instead she slid through an opening in the mirror and moments later it closed behind her. Just as quickly as the chaos of the fire had erupted, it disappeared. There was nothing but darkness and quiet as Sarah tumbled downwards headfirst.
She gripped tightly to the blanket-covered bundle that was her little brother. She was disoriented and frightened. Her scream echoed around her as they fell deeper into a black pit. The air was cool after the fiery heat of her room and she shivered as it touched her burned skin.
Suddenly she felt hands reaching for her. They were everywhere trying to break her fall and catch her. She didn't know which was worse: the fear of hitting the ground or the pain caused by gripping fingers as they held tightly to her badly damaged skin. Finally her downward motion was under control as the hands lowered her carefully by the arms, waist and legs. She gasped at how familiar it all felt as they passed her from one level to the next. She'd done this before, or was it a recurring dream? She didn't know, and stopped caring as they finally let go of her and she slid the last three feet to a stone surface. All the while they made soothing sounds, "hush it's all right. You're safe now."
"Noooo," she knelt on the cold floor and hugged Toby, still wrapped in his protective cocoon, to her breast as she rocked him. Tears tracked down her soot-covered face and her mind couldn't take in all that had happened to her in the last few minutes.
"What's the matter, Miss, didn't you want to go down?" Two blue hands at eye level formed themselves into a mouth and talked to her. "We were only trying to help."
"Not again, not the Labyrinth, again," she wept. "Please I can't do this, not without….not without…him," she whispered, afraid to say the King's name for fear her heart would break. She knew he'd died when the rocks had tumbled and he'd disappeared six years ago, taking a piece of her soul along with him. He was still in her dreams and thoughts, even all these years later. The impulsive game she played by wishing her brother away to the Goblins had had far reaching effects that she was still feeling. It was the one thing she would do differently if she had her life over again, because it had cost her in ways she was still discovering.
"'Course it's the Labyrinth, where else would it be?" A pair of green hands shaped like a mouth kept on talking. "When you come from above like that, there is no place else you could end up."
"Oh God," Sarah staggered to her feet, with her brother in her arms and ran down the dark corridor. She had to find the oubliette with the ladder to the surface. Too many memories haunted the tunnels that ran beneath the world of the Underground. If she spent much time in the darkness, she knew she'd be lost forever trying to find a way to undo the damage she'd done six years ago.
"Come back, Miss," green hands called out to her, but she didn't pay any attention.
"All she had to do was wait until we got a message to King Jareth. His Majesty would have come for her." One green hand and one blue hand continued the conversation between themselves. "I guess she didn't want a helping hand." They all chuckled at their joke and never thought of Sarah again
As she ran, Sarah could hear the hands chattering and laughing among themselves, their voices indistinct and growing more so as she ran around one corner and then the next. Finally she was in the corridor of the False Alarms, but this time they appeared to be nothing but rock shaped faces. No deep voices called out to her to 'turn back,' or that she was 'going the wrong way'. She stood for a moment and studied them carefully, afraid that they had died when Jareth had. Then the one on the end began to snore and she noticed that if she looked carefully she could see dust moving on the ground below each of them. It rose and fell with a regularity that reminded her of breathing. They were sleeping soundly, so Sarah walked carefully past, Toby still held in her arms.
When the sparkling black walls that surrounded the Alarms became a curved brick tunnel, she felt a chill run up her spine. The last time she'd been there, Hoggle had been with her and Jareth had been waiting for them. This time no crystal rolled down the path to jump up and land in a beggar's out-stretched basket. But the basket was still there, along with an old hat, mask and a blanket.
With a trembling hand, Sarah picked up the blanket and shook off the dust. It was as bright a blue as it had been six years ago. When she held it to her nose it still carried an unmistakable fragrance, like the one that had always clung to the Goblin King. She breathed deeply once more and shivered as she remembered being held in his arms as they danced. That was when she'd first realized he smelled of moonbeams and magic. Her fingers tightened on the material and she looped it through the strap of her backpack to take with her. Now both she and Toby had something to keep them warm at night.
If she remembered correctly, what she was looking for was down the next corridor. She put the blanket out of her mind and forced herself to go on before fatigue overtook her. A few minutes later she reached her destination. The wall was still caved in from where she and Hoggle had shoved at it to get away from the cleaners. The ladder was still leading upwards for as far as the eye could see. Sarah's legs gave out in exhaustion. She'd gone as far as she could until Toby was awake enough to climb by himself. She laid her sleeping brother on the ground beside her and straightened the blanket she'd had him wrapped in since she woke in a flaming room. With a sigh she let Jareth's blanket settle around her shoulders and could almost feel the presence of the last person to wear it, the vibrant, captivating Goblin King. As she curled up next to Toby she stopped trying to fight thoughts and emotions that had been bombarding her since landing in the Underground and cried herself to sleep, with her body curved protectively around her little brother's.
At dawn a large white barn owl landed on the balcony of the King's chamber in the Castle beyond the Goblin City. As he morphed into human form Jareth used an extra moment of invisibility to dress, a thing that he hadn't done in his haste when he'd woken in the middle of the night.
His flight had taken him over every inch of the Goblin Territories and a little bit beyond into the land ruled by the Elves, but he'd found nothing amiss in his Kingdom. There was only one other possibility, but he'd dismissed it the night before, because the feeling of danger had distinctly come from one under his power. He had no reason to search the Aboveground, since no one lived there who bowed to his rule. If things had been different, that would have been the first place he'd have looked.
He conjured the crystal that held Sarah's dreams and studied it carefully. He could see himself holding her and she was gripping tightly to him, as well. A sensual smile crossed his lips as he gazed at the dream she was having about the two of them. Once or twice in the last year he'd watched them make passionate love in the confines of her dreams. But those dreams were new, a logical progression of her feelings for him as she matured. And they gave him hope that someday she would come back to him.
He'd been watching Sarah for years, even before she wished her brother away. For a long time he told himself it was fascination with a human who believed entirely in his existence, when all that was logical in her world would have denied him. It was only after Jareth met her that he was forced to face the ramifications of his feelings for a being so different from his kind. Love with a human would be messy and intense. Very unlike the simple lust he had always preferred. At first he'd been furious. That was why he'd been so harsh with her when she was forced to fight for Toby.
When he had been left standing alone in the ruined Escher Room, emptiness had crept in so he'd followed her to the Aboveground. That night as he'd watched her dance with her friends, emotions of longing and love had swept through him. It was those emotions that had guided some of his actions in the last six years. His love for Sarah was why he refused to marry, when the High Court suggested that it was time for him to settle down and provide an heir for the Goblin Kingdom. A year later when their suggestions became demands, he'd stood his ground and refused them again. He would have the woman of his choice for his Queen, or none at all.
In an unprecedented move, the High Court had backed down. Jareth was a popular, strong king and his people believed and trusted in him utterly. All knew it would have been civil war should attempts have been made to replace him.
Now, he looked again into the sphere in his hand and studied its occupants. As they turned he could see that the hold he had on the woman in the crystal was tender, not erotic, and that the tears running down her face weren't ones of joy, but sorrow.
With a sigh he realized that this couldn't have been what had woken him in the night. Even if Sarah had had a nightmare and in her dreams had turned to him for comfort, it wouldn't have called to him across worlds, because no matter how much power she had over him, he yet had none over her. She had told him so six years earlier and that hadn't changed. It wasn't the answer he was seeking but he couldn't help watching for a few more moments. Tenderness softened his face as he saw himself kiss away her tears and hold her closer.
As the pain of what he was seeing became too much for him, he disbursed the crystal, but not before he murmured, "Soon, my love," to the vision hidden in the depths of finely crafted magic. "Soon you shall be in my arms where you belong. Then I will once again turn the world upside-down for you."
"Sarah, wake up, Sarah," Toby shook his sister's arm. They were alone in the dark. He didn't know where they were, but had an awful feeling that things would never be the same again. "Please, Sarah, wake up."
"Ohhh!" She cried as she sat up, more asleep than awake. Past and present had met in a head-on collision. She had been dreaming she was in the Labyrinth again, but there was fire everywhere. Then Jareth was by her side and he'd been holding her and kissing away her pain and fear as his voice echoed through her thoughts.
With a shake of her head she forced herself awake. Dream separated from reality, but as pain returned to her mind and her body, she would have much rather continued on with the dream. "Oh, God, Toby," she gasped as she pulled him close and held on tightly. "It was all real, the fire, the fall, all of it." 'Most of it anyway', she added to herself as she pushed all memory of the Goblin King out of her mind, no matter how soothing it was.
"What happened?" The boy looked at his sister and tried not to feel scared. "Where are we and where are mommy and daddy?" He snuffled against her neck. He could feel the tears coming and he hated it. He was a big boy of almost eight, and in his opinion only girls cried.
"I don't know what happened." Sarah pulled from deep within her to be strong. Her brother needed her. If she fell apart he would too. "The last thing I remember was reading to you and the house bursting into flames." Her lungs hurt and her voice was croaky from all the smoke she'd breathed in the night before. Her skin felt crisp and burned along her arm, neck and chest.
"Did mommy and daddy get out?" Toby wiped his eyes on the hem of his pajama top, leaving a smear of soot across his cheek.
"I don't know." She bit her lip. It was only a small lie, but at the moment she couldn't face the fact that they were both probably orphaned. She knew her dad and stepmother. Nothing would have stopped either parent from getting to their son if they'd been physically able to do so. If they'd been alive, one or both adults would have been pounding on Sarah's bedroom door when she and Toby were trying to find a way out of the fire. Though the child didn't realize it, his parents and sister were well aware that he almost never slept in his own room, preferring the comfort of Sarah's at night.
"Hey, Big Guy," She smiled at her brother. "Are you strong enough to climb that ladder over there?" She pointed to the only way she knew out of the oubliette they had slept in.
"Sure," he grinned, glad to have something to take his mind off the fire and his parents. "Where does it lead to?"
"I'm not 100 percent sure," she folded the blanket Toby had slept in and stuck it in her backpack, using up the last little bit of space that remained. Sarah looped Jareth's under the straps to use as extra padding and then slung the pack over one shoulder. "I'll tell you more when we reach the top." She nodded for Toby to start climbing. Before he could go more than one rung, Sarah stepped onto the ladder. Her arms were at the same level as his and her body was around his as protection in case he slipped, as Hoggle had done all those years ago, should a rung break. It was a long climb, but it was the only way out.
"How much further, Sarah?" Toby felt as if he'd been climbing for hours and the rungs hurt his bare feet and hands.
"I think I see the top now." She squinted into the dark and hoped she was right. The muscles in her arms throbbed from carrying the dead weight of her brother the night before and something was very wrong with her left arm. She knew she had burns, but it was more than that. It felt as if she'd been stung by bees from her elbow to her hand and a few places on her shoulder and neck, but she needed more light to see what was wrong.
Finally Sarah's head brushed against a hard surface. She pushed against it and heard it slide. The sunlight and fresh air that streamed in made her blink. "Go on ahead, Toby, but be careful. Once you're through the opening, there is a drop of about three feet until you're on the ground."
"Wooh…this is so cool," the boy gasped as he got his first good look around. "It's magic isn't it?" He could hardly contain himself as he watched his sister crawl out of the top of an urn, which had a base of only a few inches. It was impossible that they'd come up through it, but they had.
"Oh, goodness," suddenly Sarah felt fifteen again. She slumped against the side of the pot and just looked around her. They were exactly where she'd feared they were.
"Wow," Toby danced over to the sundial. "Sarah, this thing has thirteen hours on it! That means….that means….gosh, we're in the Underground!"
"I'm afraid so," she slid to the ground with her back against the urn. Both she and her brother were covered in soot, though Toby was a little cleaner because when the fire had first broken out she'd covered him with a blanket. But unfortunately he'd only been wearing pajamas at the time. Sarah considered herself lucky that she'd still been dressed in jeans, tank top, and her sturdy boots. She reached up and undid the cardigan sweater she'd forgotten she'd tied loosely around her waist before leaving her apartment, forever ago.
"Why afraid?" Toby was bewildered. Sarah had read that book to him hundreds of times; he'd figured she would be as excited as he to see the place for real. Especially since he knew that she already had friends that lived here.
"In the Labyrinth, things aren't always what they seem." She bit her lip when she remembered Jareth saying those words to her. She hadn't meant to repeat them, but somehow they'd just come out.
"That's okay, but I want to see…"
"Toby!" Sarah cut him off as she searched through her backpack. She was tired, thirsty, and in pain. Now was not the time to get into all the reasons why they shouldn't be where they were. "Here, drink some of this." She handed him the liter water bottle that she always carried. "And eat one of these." She held out one of the protein bars she'd packed before leaving her apartment. She was thankful she'd been too sick with worry to eat or drink anything on the drive to her parents' house. It looked like she and her brother were going to need whatever rations she had squirreled away to stay alive until she figured out a way to get them home.
"But Sarah, look, we can see the Castle beyond the Goblin City. It's way in the distance beyond those hedges. I bet we could walk to it." He pointed with the bar he'd just taken a big bite out of. "That means there really is a King and he can grant wishes."
"And turn little boys into Goblins, too!" Sarah burst into tears. Her past had come back full force to haunt her and she didn't know if she could take it anymore.
"Aaahhh…" Toby gulped and rocked back on his heels. "No, wait; he only does that if someone is wished away." For one terrible moment the boy froze. He had no idea how they'd gotten to where they were. "You didn't wish us here did you?"
"No, Big Guy, I wouldn't do that." She wasn't sure how they'd gotten into the Underground, but she was positive she hadn't wished them away. Wishing was something she'd given up six years ago when she realized the damage it could do.
"Then how did we get here?"
"I don't know." Sarah shook her head trying to clear it. Those last minutes spent in the fire where fuzzy. "I was trying to get to the window, but the smoke and flames were everywhere. Then suddenly sparks were flying. They hit my arm. I feel backwards and just kept on falling," she muttered as she examined her damaged left arm.
"Well, all the more reason we need to get to the Goblin King. He can use his magic to mend your arm and then he can send us back." Toby nodded; sure he had a plan that would work.
"I don't think he grants those types of wishes." Sarah fought to get her crying under control.
"We could try." Toby said firmly, and stood up. "We could wish it. What harm could come from one small wish? Then he'd have to help us."
Sarah stared at him in shock. If he knew the truth, he wouldn't be asking silly questions like that. "I'm only going to say this once," her voice cracked with unshed tears. "We're in the Underground: it is a magical place. The rules are different here. We have to be very careful what we say and do. You must never, ever start or end a sentence with 'I wish'."
"But the Goblin King…"
"The Goblin King doesn't live here anymore," she whispered. It was the closest she could get to telling her brother that she'd killed Jareth six years ago. The child wanted badly to believe, so she would let him. She was sure their parents were dead; she didn't have it in her to take away Toby's hero, too.
"How do you know?"
"I just do, that's all, and you're just going to have to believe me." She wiped at tears she could no longer control. "You have to promise me, just in case I'm wrong, that you'll stay away from the Goblin City and especially the castle."
"But…" He wanted badly to meet the King, but the mention of him seemed to frighten Sarah and he didn't think he'd ever seen his sister afraid before. He was well acquainted with the pictures his sister had drawn in the margins of the Labyrinth book. The king didn't look so frightening there.
"No buts, Toby, I can't get us out of here without your help." She gripped his shoulders and pulled him close to her. Intellectually she knew that Jareth had been destroyed, but emotionally she'd always felt his presence. Now that they were back in his Kingdom, the feeling was stronger than ever and she wasn't taking any chances with her brother's safety.
"All right, Sarah." Toby pouted. He'd do as she asked, but she hadn't said a word about not trying to contact Hoggle, Ludo or Sir Didymus. He planned on keeping his eyes peeled for them. They were his friends and he couldn't believe that they wouldn't be missing him sometime soon. It was only a matter of time until they come looking for him.
"Thank you," Sarah breathed a sigh of relief. "Now, would you help me get these slivers out of my arm?" She held up the tweezers from her Swiss Army Knife. As the sun rose higher in the Underground sky, the Williams children sat drinking water and eating a protein bar each as they worked to get ten nasty chunks of the window casing from Sarah's room out of her left arm. There was nothing they could do about the rest of her burns except keep them covered with her sweater.
They were blissfully unaware that authorities were, at that moment, pulling two bodies from the shell that was all that remained of their house. They were spared the discovery that Karen and Robert Williams hadn't died of smoke inhalations, but of gunshot wounds to the head. They never learned that the bombs, which had ripped through their home, had been an attempt to cover up the murders. And they never knew that Toby and Sarah Williams were declared dead, their bodies apparently incinerated in the blasts that had triggered the fires.
"Cone on, we need to get going." Sarah had repacked her backpack and hefted it onto her right shoulder. Her entire left arm was swollen from the poking and prodding that had been necessary to get all the splinters out. She turned and headed away from the Goblin City. She wasn't taking any chances with her brother.
She was surprised when a few minutes later they came across Wiseman's chair. It was empty. She tried calling to him, but he didn't come, nor did she get a wisecrack answer from his Hat when she called for him. She and Toby walked for hours, but in all that time didn't see one living being. There were no odd footsteps heard behind her. No little men who came to the surface and flipped over tiles as they walked past them. No wild animals howling in the wind and no laughter and singing from deep in the woods. Nor did they discover doors with strange beings that were alive instead of inert ornamentation.
It was late afternoon when Sarah and Toby finally, came to a small farm on the outskirts of a tiny village just over the boundary of the Labyrinth. Both young people were covered in dust, which added to the soot from the fire the night before made them look like a pair of beggars.
"Just a second, Big Guy," Sarah knelt beside her brother and pulled the water bottle out of her pack. Using a clean t-shirt and some of her precious store of water, she went to work cleaning up his face. "If we want whoever lives there to help us, we have to look a bit more respectable." She sat back on her heels and nodded when she could once again see Toby's freckles.
Making herself more presentable was going to be a bit of a challenge. She knew there were burns on her face, arms, chest, and shoulders. Her left arm was still a mess from all the splinters, but she needed to be cleaner if they were going to have a chance of finding a night's lodging, so she gritted her teeth at the pain and went to work.
"Who's at my gate?" A voice called from the house twenty feet away. Sarah had been concentrating on washing away soot and dirt as painlessly as possible. She hadn't noticed the door open, nor the woman standing half-hidden in the shadows. "Be gone with ye, I don't allow beggars on the Queen's property."
"Queen's property?" Sarah gasped. She'd never thought that Jareth might have a Queen. How was she going to face the widow of the man she'd killed? Worse yet how was she going to face the rest of her life knowing Jareth had never really loved her, but had been using her?
"We're not beggars," Toby ran forward, unsure why his sister looked so sad, but knowing he needed to do something about it. "We…well, we're travelers who've lost our way." He nodded, liking the sound of that.
"Come closer, both of you," the voice from the shadowed doorway ordered.
Sarah stood and squared her shoulders. She'd deal with her conflicting emotions later. Now she needed to secure a place for them to sleep and maybe buy some food. Reaching out a hand to Toby, they moved through the gate together.
"Humphf, you're from the Aboveworld." The woman who stepped out of the door was about Sarah's height. She had long brown hair that was pulled into a bun at the nape of her neck.
"You're an Elf," Toby gasped in delight when he spotted her slightly pointed ears.
"Hush, that's not polite," Sarah whispered and gave her brother's hand an extra squeeze. "My name is Sarah and this is my little brother, Toby."
"And you're very observant for humans." The woman crossed her arms across her plump body. "Your brother, you say. What are ye doing here? You on the run from the King?" She nodded toward Sarah with a quick look at Toby. "I don't help those who 'wish-away'. They get what they deserve."
"No, no," Sarah gasped. "You've got it all wrong."
"Do I?" The Elf met Sarah's gaze head on. Things were not what they seemed with the human woman. It didn't take magic to see that something was amiss. "Then how'd you get here?"
"We don't know." Sarah was exhausted and needed help badly, or she would have left. The Elf seemed to know too much about things that she would rather leave locked in the past. "We were caught in a fire and somehow fell here."
"The fire part I can see for myself." She nodded at their soot-covered clothes and the damage to Sarah's skin. "Well, come in. My name is Ellamora. I can make you a poultice to take the pain outta those burns. It'll help 'em heal, but I'm not the one you need to see if you want the scars removed. Only His Highness can do that."
Jareth, the Goblin King, sat behind his desk in the large office off his throne room and rubbed his eyes. He'd gotten very little sleep the night before and all day long something had been nagging at him that he couldn't place. But he had work to do so he spent the day behind his desk. That was where he did most of the real business that was involved in running the Goblin Territories.
With a sigh he went over next year's budget one more time. The last-minute expense of stress cracks beginning to form on the surface of part of the Labyrinth's extensive aqueduct had been an unpleasant surprise. Since he refused to defer maintenance on any of the structures that were needed for the activities of daily living in his kingdom, it was necessary to make a few adjustments to his figures. When he'd taken the throne, the Goblin budget had been running in deficit for years. Getting it balanced had been his first official priority as King. It had taken him a century to accomplish, but he'd done it, and this year wasn't going to be any different, if he had to stay up all night.
He took a break from business to lean back in his chair and sip the cognac that had been on his desk since dinner, an hour earlier. In a moment of weakness he conjured his favorite crystal again. It was the one he'd offered Sarah Williams six years ago. It contained her dreams, usually not the ones that filled her sleeping hours, as it had in the early morning when he'd looked last, but the ones that filled her heart. As he breathed deeply of the heady fragrance of the amber liquid in the snifter in one hand, he looked with heavy-lidded eyes into the crystal in his other hand.
Jareth smiled at what he saw. The two people deep in the interior of the sparkling sphere were always the same, but over the years the dream had changed. In the beginning it had been Sarah dancing with him as they had in his ballroom when she was fifteen. As she had matured, in real life, so had the woman in the dream, until she was now a lovely adult. The scene that met his eyes tonight was of Sarah held in his arms. One of his ungloved hands held her shoulder as she kissed her way up his neck.
"Your Majesty?" A tall slim sandy-haired Fae stood in the doorway to his study. "I'm sorry to disturb you at this late hour."
"Galen, what are you still doing here?" Jareth quickly disbursed the crystal as he addressed his aide and best friend. "I sent you home to your wife and child, hours ago."
"Yes, but I had a visitor." He approached the desk, a look of worry on his face. "A dwarf by the name of Hoggle came banging on my door. It seems he needs to see you on an urgent matter and the castle guards wouldn't bid him enter. He came to me for help."
"Did he say what he wanted?" Jareth felt a rumble of disquiet shake the Underground, but couldn't identify it. This, added to his unusual dream, made him uneasy.
"No, he would only speak to you."
"Give me few minutes and then show him in." When he was alone again, he took a moment to let his magic wander through his Kingdom searching for whatever was amiss. But all he found was a deep longing for Sarah. It was almost as if he could feel her presence. He shook his head and chided himself for letting his imagination get the better of him. He was out of time and refused to let the pesky dwarf catch him unawares, so the King carefully schooled his face into the mask of calm indulgence he wore when dealing with his subjects.
"Your Highness," Hoggle bowed slightly and removed his cap. It was hard for him to come to Jareth. There was no love lost between the two beings since Sarah had been in the Underground. Both cared deeply, but in different ways, for the human female, both considered feelings for a woman a sign of weakness so they'd kept them to themselves, and both blamed the other for her return to the world above.
"To what do I owe the honor of this visit?" Jareth's words dripped with sarcasm. He was jealous of the dwarf, but it was something he'd never admit, even to himself. Sarah had kissed the little man, and it had torn at his heart. The King had always known that the human female was fated to be his Queen, even as he'd denied it. His denial had been why he'd been cruel and unfair to her when she'd been in the Underground. His actions had been his undoing, but he was too proud to admit it. By some miracle she'd grown to love him in their years apart, he was certain of it. Now she loved him as deeply as he'd always loved her. The dream he'd viewed moments ago was what was in her soul now, not days or months or years ago. He just needed to find a way to get her back to him. Maybe the dwarf could be of use to him in this matter.
"The portal is gone!" Hoggle gasped.
"To what portal are you referring?" Jareth didn't want to admit he'd left an opening through Sarah's mirror for her friends years ago. When she'd said the words that took her away from him, it bound his magic so he could only see her dreams in the crystal he'd made for her, or go to her in owl form. Her friends were free to use the portal whenever they wished. He loved her too much to take that away from her, even if it excluded him. Until she called to him by name and accepted his power over her, he was forced to be an onlooker in her life, never a part of it.
"You knows what portal I's talking about." The dwarf frowned, maybe Ludo had been right and it had been Jareth's doing after all. "The one in Sarah's mirror, Ludo tried to look through it this afternoon and couldn't find it. We's been looking all day. We's finally found a cracked and melted surface, but it's solid as a rock. We's can't even see through it, and there's no way we's could get through it."
"Are you sure you're looking in the right place?" Jareth had been towering over the little man, but as he heard what was being said his legs felt suddenly weak and he was forced to sit on the edge of his desk if he wanted to retain any dignity at all.
"Of course!" Hoggle shouted, but his anger dissolved when he took a good look at his King. He'd never seen Jareth as anything but strong and intimidating, but now the ruler was pale and worry ghosted his mismatched eyes. "I knows the Labyrinth like the back of my hand. I knows where to look, Your Majesty."
"Thank you, Hoggle. I'll look into the matter." He nodded in dismissal.
"Your Majesty, could yous let me know what you finds out?" When he looked at the Fae King, the dwarf finally realized that his monarch loved the human woman. "I's her friend, you knows," Hoggle whispered. He didn't know which surprised him more, the idea that Jareth had a heart, or that the powerful man would let it show.
"Of course," Jareth's voice was rough with emotion that he was unable to hide. It would take great power to destroy the portal; if Sarah had been anywhere nearby at the time of its destruction, it would have killed her.
As soon as the dwarf was out of the room, Jareth conjured a different crystal. He knew when Sarah had denied his power she'd blocked his magic. In the past, pride had kept him from ever attempting to see her when he knew that it was impossible, but tonight was different. The disappearance of the portal coupled with his dream of the early morning was too much of a coincidence to ignore. "Show me the human world. Show me Sarah, right now," he commanded. But as he expected, he was only able to see fog. In frustration, the King sent the uncooperative crystal crashing against the wall. Before the shards could hit the floor he'd changed into owl from and was winging his way out of his tall office window.
Hoggle was almost all the way down the castle steps when he saw a large white barn owl fly out of a window and head high into the evening sky. For the fist time in his life, the dwarf wished the bird good hunting.
In the Aboveground it was a dark moonless night, but Jareth's sharp owl eyes saw the burned-out shell of a house that was all that was left of the Williams home from far away. He saw it before he was close enough to smell the stench of burned wood and flesh that still emanated from the place. The tree outside Sarah's bedroom window where he had sat on countless nights watching over her sleep was blackened and its leaves shriveled from intense heat. His only hope was that she had been away at the 'other place', where she'd been living the last few years.
He took human form as soon as he flew through the window and gasped at what he saw. The room, like the outside of the house, had been caught in a holocaust of flames. He discovered immediately why Hoggle, Ludo and Sir Didymus had been unable to locate the portal. All that was left of Sarah's mirror was a dried puddle of cracked baked-on glass on the blackened floor.
Jareth looked around grimly. "Oh, my dear girl," he whispered and shook his head. "What happened here and why didn't you call to me?"
As he moved through the room, the only sound that could be heard was the crunching of his boots on the charred remains of Sarah's possessions. He knew enough about fire to know he'd discovered the source of his nightmare from early that morning. Though it made no sense, for he had no power over Sarah. She had told him so in no uncertain terms six years earlier. The stab of fear that had wakened him had come from someone who was very much within his power, or he'd never have felt it. Jareth shook off the questions that were bothering him. He had to be sure that Sarah had not been caught in this house when it went up in flames.
There was odd yellow tape marking off the room, which carried warnings from the law enforcement agency of the Aboveground. None were to enter the premises, but he didn't care. He was a Fae King and he went where he pleased.
For a moment he closed his eyes and let his magic search the world of man for her presence. It was how he'd found her when she'd moved into the huge group living situation when she'd first left her father's house and then again when she'd moved to the small abode that gave her privacy, but had little else to offer, as far as he was concerned. Nothing…he could feel nothing of the gentle essence that was his Sarah.
"No!" He cried out and dropped to his knees. He refused to believe that she was not of the human world any longer. "No," his voice was raspy as he began a frantic search for anything that was left that had belonged to her.
Finally, his clothes covered in soot, Jareth moved aside what was left of her bed. His heart stopped when he found Sarah's Labyrinth book, buried beneath a singed Lancelot. He gripped the bear in one hand and the book in the other. Less than a week ago he'd watched as Sarah read herself to sleep in her small living quarters, in the city where she was attending school. She had been reading from that very book that night. He'd also stopped in to check on Toby as he always did when he visited Sarah. The youngster had been sleeping soundly in this very room, with the bear held tightly to him. It appeared as though both Sarah and her brother had been here when it burned.
Pain exploded in the Goblin King and he acted without thinking. One quick swipe of his hand and the portal between his world and the Aboveground was opened. He soared to his feet and jumped though. As he materialized on the other side he dropped both the bear and the book and used two hands to form a powerful crystal spell then threw it at the offending portal with all his might. The clouded, cracked surface that was at his feet popped and jumped as it locked, shriveled, and disappeared for all time, sealing forever any and all human portals between the worlds. Now the only one that was left was the ancient one and not all the magic in the Underground could touch that one. It had been created at the beginning of time, for the passage of a white barn owl and wished-away children. Beyond that, the worlds were severed.
As his temper raged on, wind and rain surged outwards from him until the entire Underground was pounded with his pain and anger. Lightening split the sky and thunder rolled until it echoed off the hills. Above all the frightening rage of the storm was heard the anguished cry of a Goblin King denied his Queen for all time.