There is a knocking in the skull,
An endless silent shout
Of something beating on a wall,
And crying, Let me out.
That solitary prisoner
Will never hear reply,
No comrade in eternity
Can hear the frantic cry.
No heart can share the terror
That haunts his monstrous dark;
The light that filters through the chinks
No other eye can mark.
When flesh is linked with eager flesh,
And words run warm and full,
I think that he is loneliest then,
The captive in the skull.
Caught in a mesh of living veins,
In cell of padded bone,
He loneliest is when he pretends
That he is not alone.
We'd free the incarcerate race of man
That such a doom endures
Could only you unlock my skull,
Or I creep into yours.
Chapter One: Reflections.
The library was quiet, as libraries often are, but this was the quiet of closing time, those precious few hours when the building stood empty, aside from the lone librarian who was straightening books and a few straggling patrons.
In the corner of a lonely stack, someone muffled a shriek.
The world was changing again, becoming more and less than it had once been, the air holding a promise of impending disaster. He no longer had any concept of time, events blurred into one another until his entire life seemed like a senseless jumble. Distantly he could hear himself talking. He was just so tired, he thought, overdrawn and worn out, battle-weary.
The self-awareness that was left of the creature known as Jareth plunged deeper into the quiet abyss of himself, wanting nothing more than to sleep.
His lips continued to chant while his mind wrapped itself tightly in a web of numbness. The words repeated, a hundred times over, his voice giving life to a fact that his mind was already hiding from.
"Sarah is gone."
His consciousness trembled before being drawn deeper into himself, away from the pain and the torment, away from everything.
"Sarah is gone."
But the words never stopped.
Sarah placed a trembling hand on the bookshelf to steady herself.
She had been going about her job as usual, re-shelving books before the library closed. As she had mounted the small stepladder her mind had been tripping over mundane details, like what she might have for dinner that night or how many boxes she should bring with her when she went to visit her family. Steady hands had been going through the routine of straightening and organizing books, mechanical in their seeming practice, when something had streaked past her.
Something that had looked like a goblin.
It was not the first time that she had seen a creature of the Underground out of the corner of her eye or flitting from shadow to shadow, and it wasn't likely to be the last, either. Over the past year or so it had become an increasingly common occurrence.
Memories welled up inside of her, but Sarah pushed them down with the same iron-strength determination that she always wielded when the past tried to catch up with her.
With a sigh she straightened herself on the stepladder, ignoring the amulet the slipped out of the folds of her blouse. The incident meant nothing, she reassured herself, quickly falling back into the steady pace of her work. It had probably just been her mind playing tricks; by the time she made it back to her apartment she would probably have forgotten the whole thing.
But in her heart, she knew it wasn't true.
He was not a man. Undoubtedly he was the proper shape for it, and certainly male in any case, but not a man. His skin was a midnight blue, a startling contrast to his straight fall of pure silver hair; his face was angular, with high cheekbones, a straight nose, and brows that flared aristocratically over iridescent eyes; his body was tall and lithe, always covered in light flowing clothing. He was a child of the night, as dark and mercurial as the full moon that danced through fields of stars.
Oran the Brash, they had once called him; Oran the King, Oran the Lover, Oran the Celestial.
His gaze fell to the bed that he was currently holding a silent vigil over. Jareth—his eldest son, his heir, his greatest achievement and possibly his greatest failure—laid in a sea of pillows and blankets, a relative invalid, and he began to wonder if perhaps he should have been known as Oran the Fool.
How was it that a man could give all he had, teach his son all he knew, and still have to face the horrible reality of a situation like this?
Sarah Williams had blasted in and out of their lives in the blink of an eye, and for five years Jareth had steadily been losing his mind. In that first year it hadn't been so apparent, then there had come a day when he hadn't recognized his own brothers—a memory that still made Oran heartsick—and these days they were lucky if the man was able to get out of bed at all. Whatever had happened between him and the girl had robbed his son of something that was integral to his very being. It was as though what essentially made Jareth who he was just wasn't there anymore.
Oran was no fool. He knew Sarah had spent too much time Underground to be able to return back to the Above; Jareth, already overwrought by defeat, had done something to allow the girl to go back, something that had cost him dearly.
A pained moan brought his attention back to the bed. His pale child of winter, usually so brilliant in his silver and gold coloring, was barely even a shadow of his former self. He looked washed-out, his radiance faded, ill.
Oran would have been lying if he said wasn't upset with the Williams girl for what was happening, but he also knew it wasn't her fault. Jareth had created this own hell for himself, Sarah had just been the innocent that accidentally pushed him into it. She was doubtlessly suffering as well, just as they all were.
It didn't seem right, really, how the grand resolution left everyone wounded.
Sarah settled on her couch with a sigh, ready to go through the old boxes of her things. She had only recently gotten her own apartment—a tiny little thing that was just one town over from her family—and every time she visited home Karen seemed to have a new box for her to take. This trip had been no exception.
The sealing tape came off easily, the cardboard flaps springing open instantly. Only the two items on the very top registered to Sarah: an hourglass of green glass and black sand, and a note.
Her heart stopped; the flood of memories rushed up and refused to be dammed this time.
She had killed him. Perhaps not in the literal sense, but Sarah knew Jareth wasn't well, wasn't whole. They had faced off in the Labyrinth of his heart, him determined and desperate to win, and her running from the horror of finally glimpsing what was perhaps his truest face: a depth of power she couldn't even begin to understand and no moral boundaries to keep it in check. What had horrified her even more was that, in some way, she hadn't wanted it to come down to that; she had been starting to trust him, had realized that she wanted him in her life. But the situation with Toby, the fact that Jareth had put a splice of himself into her brother, had shocked her beyond comprehension, and her reaction had caused something within the Goblin King to snap. He had become bestial, aggressive, and she had been too overwhelmed by the circumstances not to have become afraid of him. So she had plowed through the maze his heart had presented, defeating him with the cruelly timed realization that he loved her as perhaps no one else ever could.
Her eyes stared blankly at the final note he had left her. The words had long since burned themselves into her mind, a fiery brand of guilt that she could not escape.
You have destroyed me in more ways then you could ever imagine. You may have won your freedom, and that of your family, but know this: it will never end, this is not something you can escape.
God, wasn't that true. Even now, years later, she could still feel him, the cool tinge of his chaotic emotions rising through that strange connection they shared. She could still feel the emptiness in her life where he had once been, and the longing for him to resume that position that made her guilt even worse.
And no one was really free, when she thought about it. She was plagued by doubts, regrets, nightmares, and an empathic link with a man who was slowly going crazy because of what she had done. Karen and Robert went about their daily lives doing their best never to speak about the event. And Toby…
The boy had good days and bad days. Most of the time he was just a normal ten year old, but sometimes he seemed to be trapped within a terror that he could not escape.
Is it possible for a woman to never be ready enough to accept her destiny?
Was it? She didn't know. She wanted Jareth like she had never wanted anyone before (or since), regret over what had happened was a living thing within her, but she was still afraid of him, of his callous disregard for others and his careless use of questionable powers.
Keep the amulet close; it is a sacrifice that will keep you safe. Understand that I have given you what little I have left, and it may very well haunt you until the end of your days.
Keep it close? She hadn't been able to take the damn thing off!
In the days following her final confrontation with Jareth, Sarah had tried with everything in her to forget those events; she had packed away anything that had reminded her of him, and had tried to be rid of the amulet. Perhaps it was Jareth's own magic, or perhaps the amulet had simply been designed never to be taken off, but every time she had tried the chain had either shortened itself or snagged on her clothing; either way, in five years the thing had never left her skin.
Our paths will cross again, Sarah. Fate is uncanny in that way. Will you be ready to accept responsibility for what you've done when that day comes?
She shuddered at the very thought. Jareth's disordered feelings pouring into her and mixing with her own had almost made normal living impossible, but she had tried her best to put the past behind her. Facing the man again might very well kill her.
Remember the mirror.
She didn't want to.
Sarah had faced many mirrors during her time with Jareth but, somehow, she knew which on he had been referring to: one Jareth, angry and frightened, another Jareth that was a broken shell of the man he had once been, and Sarah herself absolutely nowhere to be found.
The hand that had signed that name had been shaky, lacking a certain flourish that she somehow knew it had previously possessed. She had done that; reduced a king to a man who could barely sign his own name because he was wounded so badly.
A pain gathered at the corners of her eyes and, for the first time in five years, Sarah finally allowed the tears to fall.
It had been a vague miracle that Jareth had managed to hold on to himself enough to continue ruling his kingdom, but that miracle had come to an end. Oran was faced with two options: resume the crown himself and wait for the monarchy to die out with him—for he knew neither of the Twins would wish to take the throne—or swallow his pride.
The fact of the matter was that, though Jareth himself was in an awful state, his shade—the spirit of the Labyrinth that he had never been able to approve of—was fit enough for the task.
"The shade can rule by proxy," Oran explained to his wife. "No one will know the difference. The kingdom will continue on it has, no one knowing what has become of Jareth aside from those who must know. With the Labyrinth handling the land, we can put all of our efforts behind finding a way to help our son."
"Is there nothing else we can do?" Leshia asked on a sob.
He comforted her as best he could, not sure his own heart could bear any more of this torture. "She must return," Oran said grimly, "Sarah maybe the only one who can undo this."
Shadows had a life of their own, dancing through the darkness and collecting in convenient pockets. All the same, the shadows that collected on Sarah Williams's balcony were not natural. A dense darkness had rolled over the area, cloaking that which wished to remain hidden.
Two sets of knowing and concerned eyes watched as the mortal woman dissolved into sobs. Two sets of eyes regarded each other in the enveloping darkness and silently reached the conclusion that it was time to do something.
A/N: Welcome to the much-anticipated sequel of Dramatic Orchestrations! I have two very important things to say, so I ask that you listen carefully: first, I recommend that you re-read D.O., skim it at the very least, if for no other reason than to brush up on what happened (if you don't have that kind of time on your hands or simply don't want to, them just read the last chapter or two); second, I didn't intend to start this for another month or so, not until Bodice Ripper was done, but I was re-reading D.O. over the last few days, and the itch to continue completely snared me. I can't promise that there will be more or consistent updates until Bodice Ripper is finished, so this may be it for a few weeks.
Disclaimer: The poem 'Listen' belongs to the late Ogden Nash, just as Labyrinth belongs to the late Jim Henson.