A/N: My first Labyrinth story— also a Phantom of the Opera story, since I do more of those than anything and it's a hard habit to kick. Please, if you liked it, or even if you didn't, leave me a review. Just for your peace of mind. :smile:
Chapter One: Bespoke
...she came upon him lying there, and bespoke the words of madness; her tender care did convey the warmth of beginning, past the pale years gone by.
Once upon a time, there lived a young girl with a thousand pretend woes and too much time on her hands. She spent it mostly reading, a rather unusual thing for a girl her age, which was just this side of sixteen, and had already gathered much more information than was good for her. She had her own opinions about basically everything, and wasn't too shy to make them known. She had her own ideas about how the world should be run— some good, some bad, most misguided, all born of a generally optimistic heart and a slightly selfish mind. She believed in miracles, handsome strangers, knights in shining armor, wishes, peanut butter, making her bed, and stories that began with "Once upon a time."
Her name was Sarah.
She was tall for her age and with a sweet and wistful face that concealed nothing, no matter how hard she tried. To the casual observer she was perfectly normal in every respect except one— at the moment, she appeared to be reciting lines out of a book, which she had hidden up one broad sleeve. Every so often she would appear to forget the words, and have to dig the book out, accompanying the action with disgruntled muttering as she berated herself. Along with the words she tossed in a few violently theatrical motions of the arms, once nearly hitting an old lady who was passing by, and later on startling a flock of small birds. She persevered despite these setbacks, however, and eventually reached the ending of the story she was acting out. Clearly it was a good and properly dramatic one, and she went into it with serious features and misty eyes.
"Through dangers untold—"
There was a rustle in the grass behind her but she didn't look around.
"Through hardships unnumbered—"
A very tiny and upset voice said, "Would you please sit still!"
"I can't help it, she's standing on my tail!"
Sarah went on, oblivious to the voices near the ground at her feet. She did step forward, however, and there was a sigh of relief.
"I have fought my way to the castle beyond the Goblin City, to take back the child you have stolen—"
"Its an interesting story, isn't it?"
"For my will is as strong as yours, and my kingdom as great—"
The flow of words suddenly seemed to dry up, and Sarah stood still, a puzzled expression creeping over her face. "My kingdom as great—"
"Doesn't she know that repeating the words she does know won't help the words she doesn't know suddenly come back to—"
There was a tiny, unidentifiable sound that was, in fact, a furry paw clamping a furry snout shut.
Sarah sighed to herself and dug the book out again, thumbing through the pages. They were bent and dog-eared, testament to how often she had done this very thing. She found her place with little difficulty, ran a finger under a few lines, smiled to herself a little.
"You have no power—"
A few raindrops pattered over the pages, and she shot a glance up at the threatening sky. It responded by dropping more rain in her face, and she sputtered and shook her head. Closing the book quickly, she stuffed it back in her sleeve and headed for the trees. She had time, she could wait it out—
No. No, she couldn't.
Memory broke over her with punishing force, and she clapped a hand to her forehead and started to run. Late— over an hour late, she must be— she pelted down the path, heedless of the stares she was gathering from the people with umbrellas who clearly had been thinking ahead, a trait Sarah, like most right-minded people, found highly annoying.
It was a ten-minute run to her house from the park, and she completed it with all possible haste— but there was no way, short of time-travel, she could have managed to be punctual. She ran up the path only to find her stepmother waiting for her with folded arms and the dreaded Patient Expression. The Patient Expression meant she was in for a lecture, and immediately Sarah's defenses went up.
"I'm sorry!" she said.
Her stepmother sighed. "Sarah—"
"I said I'm sorry!"
"Sarah, please let me finish. Your father and I—"
Sarah pushed past her into the house, kicking her shoes off with such force they hit the wall, leaving muddy marks on the wallpaper. She sucked in her breath, automatically sorry, but decided she wasn't going to care about it right then, and instead marched off towards her room. Her stepmother followed her, still talking and getting more upset by the minute.
"We don't go out that often, Sarah, and I would appreciate it if you—"
"You go out every weekend."
"I would appreciate it if you would put just a little effort into doing what we ask of you. We were only planning on being gone a few hours tonight—"
"What do you mean, planning?"
"Well, we're too late to go now."
"You mean you're not going? After I came home to watch the baby, you turn my taking the trouble into a completely pointless exercise in futility? Why do I bother?" Sarah flung her hands up and stomped into her room, slamming the door behind her.
There was the sound of discussion on the other side of the door, and then her father's voice.
"We're going to go after all, Sarah—"
"Figures!" she called back. "You would leave me when I'm so obviously upset."
Her father paused, and then went on, "We should be back before too late. Just make sure Toby is alright, he's already eaten—"
"Don't you think I know how to take care of my own brother? How old do you think I am, six?"
Another pause, and then her father's gentle voice went on, "We'll see you, Sarah."
Sarah sat down at her desk, retrieving the book from her sleeve and throwing it down. She put her elbow on the desk and leaned her forehead onto her hand, thoughtfully smoothing the edges of the book cover, tracing the gilded lettering of the title with her finger.
"Anything," she whispered to herself. "Anything but this."
There was silence in the house; her parents had gone. For a long time she sat and stared at the book, her eyes half-closed as she sank into a reverie. For a moment she found herself surrounded by the characters she saw only in her mind; they popped into life next to her, touched her hair, poked around her room, sat on the bench next to her, twined their arms around hers and leaned their foreheads on her shoulder. She smiled—
From the room across the hall came Toby's unmistakable wail, and Sarah's fantasy was abruptly and unpleasantly shattered. Toby had phenomenal lung power for a boy of one and a half years of age— once he got going he was apt to go all night. Sarah pushed herself to her feet and flung open her door, marching into her parents room where Toby stood in his crib, arms out, displaying a gap-toothed grin at his sister's entrance.
"Toby!" She spoke harshly, still irritated with her parents and more than slightly irritated with herself. "Don't cry, Toby, its obnoxious and annoying."
This, of course, made him start crying again. Sarah sighed and turned on her heels, ready to leave him to his own devices, but the thought of spending an hour listening to nonstop wailing was not attractive, and she turned to him once more, scooping him up in her arms and jiggling him on her hip.
He kept crying. She shook him a little. This didn't help.
"You want a story? I'll tell you a story, Toby, if you stop crying. Okay. Listen. Once upon a time there was a beautiful young girl who was forced to work her entire life, cleaning the house and taking care of the her spoiled younger brother. Everyone thought she was just a normal girl, but what they didn't know was that the Goblin King had fallen in love with her. One day when she was tired from working and her brother wouldn't shut up, she called out to the Goblin King for deliverance, and he came and took the child away forever, and she lived happily ever after, the end."
This didn't help. Nothing helped. Finally she cried in frustration, "Toby, if you don't stop, I'll—"
This was where the hangup was. What could she do? He was only a child, after all.
The slight softening she felt towards the soggy, hiccuping face of her brother was destroyed by a renewal of the wail, and suddenly she knew what she would like to do.
"If you don't stop," she said slowly, "I'll ask the Goblin King to come and take you away."
The words sounded terrible and glorious, at the same time. She'd thought for years of what she could do, or would do, if she had the ear of the infamous Goblin King— but something in her held her back from ever speaking these things: fear of being thought foolish, perhaps. But now that she had said it out loud it seemed perfectly realistic, as though it could actually happen—
Perhaps that was what gave her chills up her spine. Then again, perhaps it was the breeze through the open window, which moved the curtains till they billowed like a ghost.
Toby, however, kept crying. Clearly he didn't believe her. So she held him up and she spoke clearly and distinctly.
And she said, "Goblin King, Goblin King— take this child far away from me!"
There was a stir around the room, though she didn't notice, and the same tiny voices from that afternoon in the park said, "What's she saying it like that for? That's not proper wishing."
"If she wants Him to listen, she had better say it right."
Sarah gazed into Toby's eyes, willing him to be silent. He gazed back, blinked slowly like a frog, opened his mouth wide and screamed, drooling on her in the process. She sighed sharply in disgust and put him back in the crib.
"I give up," she said. "Do what you want. I don't care anymore." She walked towards the door, wiping at her face, tears of frustration finally breaking.
The voices were having fierce discussions amongst themselves.
"After all that, she's going to walk away? She can't just—"
"Leave now? What bad—"
"Timing is everything, I think. And she hasn't—"
"Got it!" This voice sounded triumphant. The owner of it had been looking through a large manual that listed the proper ways for addressing various deities, entities, and personalities. "Listen to this. In order to make a request of the GOBLIN KING, namely JARETH, the GIRL, namely SARAH, must preface said request with the words 'I wish—' For best results the request should be stated clearly, in at least three different languages, between the hours of midnight and three in the morning and after a good meal—"
"I can't believe it."
"Why not? That's what it says."
"No, I can't believe she's giving up."
But Sarah paused at the door, half-turned to glance over her shoulder at the still room, the piercing voice of Toby still going at it. She reached for the light switch, and as she turned it off, said, quietly, "I wish He would come and take you away."
She took two steps into the hallway and stopped dead.
There was only silence, absolute and pristine.
Far away, voices were conversing, a meeting of minds, namely that of a ruler and His minions.
Why would you do something like that?
Because I can.
The words echoed around the empty spaces, where the wind howled like a wolf and cut keener than any knife. They bounced off rocks, and only rocks, because only rocks were there. Nothing grew in the vast emptiness, nothing lived; but the wind cried like a child, lost and far away, barely clinging to the hope that he would be rescued someday.
At the side of the castle, a door opened and a lone figure stepped out. Cloaked in darkness, he moved fluidly down the crooked path, footsteps soundless, only the slight hiss of breath marking him as living. Passing through an arched gateway, he paused and glanced back towards the window at the top of the castle, and light glinted briefly off the mask that covered half his face.
The voice came again, a whisper from sullen lips and hungry eyes.
Because I can.