The King takes a Queen
(oh must I?)
All rights to the Labyrinth belong to
Jim Henson Company
(I don't see your name on the list Brian!)
I get no money for this…
It is a labor of
This story is inspired by the picture of the
Same name on Deviant Art.
A true work of art!
(From the AC Smith novel)
She stood where she was, and swallowed. "Kingdom as great ...," she muttered, " ... kingdom as great ..." She saw the crystal spinning in his fingers, and felt on her lips the warmth of his outstretched hand. She gasped, and, from some inspired recess of her mind, the words came out, blurted out.
"You have no power over me."
"No!" Jareth screamed.
"No!" the goblins exclaimed, astounded.
A clock began to strike.
Jareth tossed the crystal ball up into the air, where it hovered, a bubble. Sarah looked at it, and saw Jareth's face, distorted, on the shifting, iridescent surface. Gently, it drifted down toward her. She reached out fascinated fingers for it and, as she touched the bubble with her fingertips, it burst. A mist of water atoms floated down the air toward Jareth. But she saw that Jareth had disappeared. She heard his voice, for a last time, moaning, "Sarah ... Sarah ..."
His empty cloak was settling onto the ground. A beam of light picked out a little cloud of dust motes rising from it.
The clock continued to strike.
With a last, slow flutter, the cloak lay still. From beneath it, as the clock struck for the twelfth time, a white owl flew out and circled over Sarah.
Tears were trickling down her cheeks. The white owl was still flapping above her, but in other respects the scene had changed. She was standing on the staircase of her home, and it was dark outside. She raised her eyes to look at the owl. It circled her for a last time, found an open window, and flew out into the night. Then she was running up the stairs two at a time, shouting, "Toby! Toby!"
He was in his crib, fast asleep. She could not help but pick him up and cuddle him. He opened his eyes dozily, thought about crying, but decided that he was in good enough shape without it, so he smiled instead. Sarah picked up Launcelot from the floor and put the teddy bear in his arms, saying, "Here you are, Toby. He's yours." Then she tucked him into his crib again. He went straight to sleep.
Back in her own room, the full moon was shining outside her window.
She left the curtains open, to see it. If she went to bed quickly, it would still be shining in when she turned the light out. The alarm clock by her bed showed that the time was after midnight. Her parents would be back from the show any minute now.
She sat at her dressing table and picked up a hairbrush, but her attention wandered to the photographs she had around the mirror, her mother and Jeremy, smiling at each other like young lovers, the signed posters, the gossip stories about romantic attachment.
Deliberately, she began to remove one picture after another from the mirror. She glanced at each one before putting it away in a drawer.
On the dressing table one picture remained, of her father and mother and herself, aged ten. Sarah straightened the picture. Then she went to get the music box and put it in the drawer along with the pictures and clippings, shoved far back. Downstairs, she heard the front door open and close. Her stepmother called, "Sarah?" She didn't answer at once. She was holding her copy of The Labyrinth.
Sarah left it a moment then called back; "Yes. Yes, I'm here." She looked at the drawer, and sighed. Outside the dark window, the white owl had been perched with his claws hooked on a branch, an effigy of watching and waiting. Now he swooped away over the park, on silent velvet wings, up toward the full moon. Nobody saw him, white in the moonlight, black against the stars.
The Fairytale had come to an end, the girl had won, the boy was back in his bed and everyone lived happily ever after….. Or did they?
Chapter 1. Second helpings of misery
It was a gray day, with raining threatening; she packed up her meager belongings, leaving the one room studio apartment she'd been living in. Sarah Williams was not a happy girl, in fact she was miserable. Nothing had gone the way it was supposed to. She was not a star, nor was she even an actress. She had fallen flat in her efforts, and had made ends meet by taking odd jobs, including one in a second rate fashion house modeling for the clients who made her feel like a piece of meat.
She'd come to New York right after her high school graduation, with the idea of living with her mother, and being introduced to the names that could get her where she needed to go. Linda had set her straight on that idea from the get go. No one including her daughter was going to use her; she went as far as helping Sarah get into a rooming house for young women. But that was the limits to what she was willing to do for the girl. She refused to even introduce her to her own agent. It didn't matter to Linda that Sarah had talent, in fact that may have been what set her off in the first place. Sarah had no idea that her mother was so guarded when it came to her career. Growing up Sarah had thought her mother had it all together. Now she was finding out that Linda Williams was fearful of being replaced. It was tough enough to have to battle youngsters for jobs; Linda didn't want to battle her pretty young daughter as well.
Sarah had been eighteen, and found quickly that jobs in the city were not easy to come by; especially if you had no real training. However she refused to run home to daddy and hear Karen tell her, 'I told you so.' That would have been far too much for her to bear.
One of the girls in the rooming house was an art student her name was Della, a Bronx beauty with a great deal of horse sense undertook teaching the Suburbanite Sarah how to think, and dress and act like a city girl. Another was a young teacher; she was Daisy who helped her fill out the endless forms that auditions brought. She also helped Sarah fill out work applications for the odd jobs she'd found at first. A third was a fitness instructor who called her self Margo. Just Margo. Margo hired her from time to time to come and help her teach her fitness classes.
They took the fledgling girl under their protective wings as they all had a year or two or six on Sarah. Sarah began to think of them as her charmed friends, and she counted on them for support and guidance. She was fond of them all, each in different ways.
Margo tired to talk Sarah out of seeking a career in show business. She herself had come to the Big Apple as a chorus dancer, and had seen her dreams turn into dust. "I'm telling ya kid, it's a tough town with no heart." She'd complain to the girl one night as she folded laundry. "You know Margo is not my real name… I took it thinking how wonderful it sounded… Heard it in an old Bettie Davis movie… Margo… it just says power, doesn't it?" She shook out a bath towel. "Much more than Mary Clancy," her faced got hard and bitter. "I'm a good dancer, kid… better than some… but in this town good and better than some does not get you the jobs." Bitterly she looked at the drab walls of the laundry room. "Look at this place. Is this the way you envisioned your life?"
"No," Sarah admitted quietly. "I had thought my mother would be more helpful."
Margo laughed, it didn't sound pleasant. "Kid in this town they eat their own young." She pulled the laundry basket off the folding table. "My advice is, take some classes in one of the colleges, and get a day job."
"Acting classes?" Sarah said, thinking it over.
"No, accounting or typing," Margo snapped; "Something useful!"
Della had been sitting on the stairs of the laundry room, listening to Margo advising the younger girl. "Margo has a point," she said pulling herself off the stairs and out of the way of the woman with the laundry basket. "A few classes in one of the colleges here would do you good!" She motioned Sarah to let Margo go and then she continued. "I'll bet you could even get a few grants to cover the costs."
"Classes?" Sarah grumbled. "I thought I'd had enough of those."
"Never enough," The Bronx girl said. "Look, it could not hurt… maybe get you a degree…"
Sarah leaned on the wall, feeling confused and gloomily down in the mouth. "I don't even have the money to enroll…and I won't ask my dad… he'd be all over me for this move."
"He's a father," Della snorted, "That's his job."
"Six months ago," lamented the girl with green eyes. "I had thought I had the world all figured out. Now, here I am, working in a dinner and trying out for roles that I'm over looked for."
The pair left the laundry room and joined Daisy in the little patio of the rooming house. She had iced tea on a table waiting for them. Margo was leaning on the one tree, an ornamental little thing, doing leg stretches. Daisy poured tea for Sarah and Della.
Della sipped the tea and then looked at Daisy, "Don't you think Sarah should take some classes?"
The young teacher nodded, "It never hurts to have something to fall back on, Sarah."
The younger girl looked at her three mentors. "What is this, gang up on the kid night?"
Three pairs of eyes looked at her in earnest. "It's a tough town," Margo said at last. "One that eats you alive."
Della shrugged, "Why not go to school… it would make your father happy… and be very unthreatening to your mom." She sipped the tea and gave it some thought. "What do you like to do beside act?"
"Draw," Sarah whispered, not trying to steal the thunder from Della.
"Hey, the art school I attend has openings and a few grants too…." Came the reply. "It's a year round program, and you can move your schedule around…lots of the students are struggling young wantabes!"
Daisy smiled at Sarah, wanting her to feel supported. "There are other schools here as well."
"Art school?" Sarah asked. "What would an actress do with an art degree?"
"Work," came the swift answer from three voices.
That had been three years ago, and now at twenty one, Sarah was giving up on the city that had given up on her. She had tried every avenue to get a break into the work on stage. But Margo had been right, for every part that was available there were at least two hundred girls trying out. When she wasn't trying out for a part she was studying for the advanced courses that Della had helped her into. Or she was working at the odd jobs; usually working as a waitress in one of the dinners or as a clerk at the little store down the street from the rooming house. She had been in art class when one of the instructors asked if she'd ever given modeling a thought. She had been given a card and went to an interview. Haute couture it was not, but it paid well, in fact it paid better than most of the odd jobs she'd been doing and left her plenty of time for classes.
She settled in as the resident model of a little fashion house called 'Diana Roths'. Roth catered to the woman who wanted to look high end without paying an arm and a leg. Knock offs were their bread and butter. But even the woman buying a knockoff of a Dior wanted to feel special. And Roths catered to that need. Like a fashion house of the forties, they had live mannequins to model the garments. Sarah became one of the most popular of the mannequins.
Just before she turned twenty the rooming house closed up, and the three girls found themselves without a home. Della, who was now working in an ad agency, went to live with a cousin. Margo who'd just gotten a spot on a television exercise program went to live in the Washington Square area. Leaving Daisy and Sarah to find digs, and they found a not too expensive building not far from Margo. It was an old building, with several kinds of accommodations. Both Daisy and Sarah settled for one room studios.
It was becoming apparent to Sarah that being a live mannequin was as close to acting as she was likely to come. Her dreams of working on stage with her mother were fading fast. Linda seldom saw the girl, and when she did it was far from Broadway. Linda never acknowledged Sarah's efforts, nor did she speak of the girls work as a mannequin. The strain between them was growing. Linda never encouraged Sarah to stay, to work harder, or to try something. That fell to Della, Daisy and Margo to do. Linda wanted no one to even know her daughter was in the city. On the day that Sarah graduated from the art school with a bachelor's degree, it was her father and Karen and Toby who attended, not Linda. Della, Daisy and Margo were there as well, wanting to cheer on the girl. Linda had made plans else where, and kept to them.
Now at twenty one, Sarah had to admit that coming to New York had been a mistake. There were no agents interested in her, and no acting jobs to be had. Her modeling was leaving her feeling empty, and she hated the room she went home to.
Daisy had been given an offer from a school in Sarah's home town and was thinking of accepting the teaching position with the private school. Margo was now busy with a chain of fitness schools, and Della was traveling a great deal with her work. Sarah saw no reason to stay in New York and rot. Daisy's accepting the position was the deciding factor. She was going home.
She looked once more at the room she'd spent the last year living in. It was dismal at best, and she was glad to be leaving it. When she turned she found Daisy standing in the door with her box of belongings in her arms.
"Don't look back," the young teacher suggested softly. "Look ahead."
"Ahead," Sarah scoffed. "Yeah, to Karen saying I told you so…"
"Now you don't know she'll do that," Daisy said as she led the way to the lift that would take them down to the street level where Daisy had parked the used car she'd purchased. "She may just surprise you."
One last look at the building, Sarah could not imagine why she'd been so hopeful when she'd arrived here. "I could use a nice surprise." She murmured painfully, as she opened the passenger's door and settled into her seat for the two hour drive out of the city and out to the burbs where her parents lived.
After a half an hour of silence Daisy asked quietly. "Have you thought about what you're going to do?"
"No," sighed Sarah.
"You know," the other said gently. "With that degree you could teach art in a High School…" she suggested.
"Me a teacher?" Sarah asked bewildered, but she nodded. "It's a job…"
"It's a foot in a door," agreed Daisy.
Toby listened to his parents talking, they were discussing Sarah and how much she was to be told of what was going on. He hated that they had been keeping secrets from his sister. That their parents thought he was not aware of the problems or that Karen was ill. He hated the whispers between them. They acted like he had no idea of what was going on… but he was seven not four, like they treated him! No one in the house understood him, not now. When Sarah was there it was different. She listened to him, she told him stories, and she played with him. But all that had ended abruptly when she'd moved to New York. He missed his sister, and he hated New York, cursing it for taking his sister from him.
He'd been four when Sarah moved to the city, coming home only for Holidays when she was not working. The little boy who had been lively and fun loving had become withdrawn. Often times Karen had found him just sitting on the floor of Sarah's room staring at the walls. Now he went in there to read her old books, and look at her collections. It was his sanctuary.
There were dozens of kids his age in the neighborhood, and he was friends with many of them. However there were times he just wanted to be alone. Like Sarah he had a fondness for the park in the center of town, even if he didn't have the companionship of a dog as she had had. Merlin had died just after Sarah had moved out, and Karen had refused to have another smelly dog in her house! He resented it at first, but little by little he began to understand that his mother was not up to having a dog. There were days he was sure she was not up to having him! So without a dog, armed only with books and his imagination, the boy built a wonderful world for himself in the park.
Sarah had taken Toby to the glen in the park often. Telling him wonderful tales, sometimes adding him as a character, sometimes making him a pirate, other times a knight, but most often he was a prince. She had given him the foundations of a fertile imagination, one that accepted that there were unseen things in this world that you could find if you were strong of heart and true of spirit. And that was how he'd discovered them, the ones who kept watch over him at all times. At first they were just shadowy forms, ever present. However in the four years Sarah had been gone, they had gone from shadowy forms to sometimes comically grotesque little creatures.
He had learned to live with their presences, and had even learned not to speak about them. His mother's reactions to questions about them had taught him that. He had heard her complain to his father about Sarah's silly stories influencing poor impressionable Toby. Impressionable Toby, he wondered to himself, he often wondered if his mother had the slightest clue to his personality. Then again, she let him get away with murder so to speak.
The presence of the shadowy creatures was not alarming to him. In fact it was rather comforting. He was pleased when they began showing up out side the house, at school and at the park. But it was the presences of the owl that gave him the most comfort. It had appeared one day shortly after Sarah had moved, and just before Toby had learned how sick his mother was.
The owl had appeared one day when Toby had been brought to the park by a neighbor's mother. It had settled on the obelisk in the center of the glade, looking magnificently regal. The owl had watched him with his great round all seeing dark eyes. From the moment Toby had seen it, he felt strangely protected. The friend's mother had tried, unsuccessfully to shoo it away. The owl looked at her haughtily, unimpressed, and unmoved. After that day, the owl seemed to appear when ever Toby was at the park. It was later that Toby began to notice that it also seemed to make a home for itself in the tree that was next to Sarah's bedroom window.
Toby often found his way to the park on the way home from school. At first it was with other children, but in this last year it was alone. He would sit in the glade and do his homework, or draw, or read from Sarah's story books. One day he began to read aloud to the owl. Over the course of a month the owl came closer and closer.
One day the owl was not there, but Toby began to read aloud from a book he'd found hidden in a secret compartment of Sarah's vanity. He didn't think she'd mind, for that matter he didn't really care if she did. She was not there to scold him. The little red leather book fit in his inner pocket of his bomber jacket, and it felt good… warm and comforting, and familiar. He sat on a bench reading softly aloud. The story thrilled him for some reason, and he had not noticed the shadowy figures dancing in the trees, nor the man that was standing behind him listening.
"But what no one knew," Toby read softly with great feeling. "Was that the King of the Goblins had fallen in love with the girl…" he sighed and put the book in his lap. "I wish he had fallen in love with Sarah," he whispered with emotions that were hard to express to his family.
"Perhaps he had," a voice behind him said gently.
Toby turned; startled at the sound, but the face gazing down at him was somehow familiar. The man took a seat on the opposite side of the bench, and Toby stared at him for a moment before offing a quiet. "Hello."
Mismatched eyes, dark as a stormy sea, filled with joyous pride at the boy's reaction. The face of the stranger was beautiful by any and all accounts. He smiled at Toby, not as one would smile at a stranger upon greeting them, but as one would smile at a family member. His eyes were fixed upon the child with an intensity that was both compelling and comforting. His garments were strange in that they didn't appear to be of this day and age. The fitted breeches were tucked into leather boots, the kind one wore to ride a horse. His shirt seemed to belong to another age, as did the leather jacket he wore. On his neck was a chain of sliver, from which hung a strangely sickle shaped ornament. He sat comfortably and placed his leather clad hands clasped together over one raised knee. "Hello, Toby." He greeted the child by name.
"I know you," it was a statement, not a question.
"Of course you do," came the reply. "We met a long time ago… when you were a babe in arms."
Apologetically the little boy sighed. "I'm sorry I don't remember your name."
"I'm Jareth," the man said gently, kindly without rancor or distress. "I didn't expect you'd remember my name… you were very small the last time we… saw each other." One gloved hand extended and relieved him of the book he was holding. "What have you here?"
"Sarah book," Toby said and added. "Her secret book."
"Secret book?" One elegant brow rose. "How so?"
"She hid it so no one would know of it." Toby boasted. "But I found it, and I'm reading it."
"So I see," the stranger named Jareth said returning the book to the child. "Please read on."
For the rest of the afternoon, the boy read from the book to the friendly and oh so familiar stranger. When he reached the end of the book, he looked to his new friend. "Jareth, why didn't she just stay with him?"
Mismatched eyes gazed off into the distance, the hour was growing late and the boy would be missed. "Perhaps she didn't understand what was being offered."
"I'd have stayed." Toby declared.
Jareth smiled but stood up and motioned Toby to do the same. "It's getting late, and your folks will worry. You must go home now, my boy."
Toby placed the book back into his inner pocket. "Will you be here again?" he asked.
"Yes," Jareth said calmly. "I shall."
Smiling the little boy ran off down the path that led to the bridge over the pond and then toward home. Jareth watched him, waving until the child was out of sight. "Keep watch over him," he told the moving shadows.
When he arrived home, Toby over heard his parents in his father's den speaking of Sarah coming home. Agreeing on what she could and could not be told. He moved up the stairs quietly, stealing into Sarah's room and replacing the book before going on to his own room and calling down to let his parents know he was in the house.
Daisy pulled her car up to the curb in front of the Victorian. "This is your house?" Her voice registered surprise and awe.
"Yep," Sarah said stepping out of the car; "Home sweet home."
It was getting dark, and there was a gentle wind rising. Daisy looked about as she helped Sarah empty out her things from the trunk. "Looks like a storm is rising; hope it hold off until I get to the house that I rented." She gave Sarah a hug and made her promise to come and help her get settled in.
Sarah waved to her friend as her father and Toby carried her few belongings off the porch and up to her room. Sarah stayed at the curb, looking up at the storm clouds and the rain that was now beginning to fall. For a moment Sarah stared at the tree in the front yard. Her eyes had caught a glimpse of something white and she felt panic rise. She shook off the fear, telling herself that Barn owls only lived a year or two at best in the wild…. It couldn't be the same one.
Karen stood on the porch, dressed to go out to dinner in her favorite pink Channel suit. "Well just don't stand there!" she scolded. "Come on…"
Sarah felt fear grip her heart; she'd heard those words before. She looked at her stepmother as the rain washed over her. "Sorry…" she whispered contritely, or as contritely as she could muster.
"Honestly!" Karen said in exasperation, making room for Sarah to pass her. She looked at the girl just as she had always looked at her. "Really Sarah," she complained.
If the moment had not been so serious, Sarah would have laughed. "I'm sorry." She repeated for lack of anything else to say. She'd half expected Karen to lecture her on how untimely she was.
Instead her stepmother was grumbling something about Toby being just like Sarah, and that being oblivious of time must be in their genes. She shook out her shawl before lying it over her arm. "Do you know we almost had to send out a search party to find him this evening? I told him to come right home from his fencing lessons but no," she glared over at her son on the stair case accusingly. "He has to go play buccaneer in the park! And loses all track of time."
Sarah looked up the stairs, knowing how the kid felt. "Well, he's got a great imagination!" She winked up at Toby, being rewarded with his smile.
Settling down, and letting her irritation go, Karen smiled at both children. "I guess you're right, Sarah… after all, you are young only once…." The smile faded, replaced by an unspoken sadness that Karen worked to hide. She moved to hug Sarah suddenly. "I'm glad you're home." She whispered before calling up to Robert. "Honey we're going to be late." Pointing to the kitchen, Karen said. "There's a casserole for you and Toby in the refrigerator, and some fruit for desert. Have a nice evening and we'll see you later."
Sarah watched her father and stepmother leave before turning to Toby to ask, "What was that all about?"
"You've got me," he said honestly. "They don't tell me anything." He was not at the bottom of the stairs. "They just order me around."
Sarah opened her arms, welcoming the moment of peace with her brother. "I know the feeling kid, I know the feeling." She hugged him close before asking if he wanted dinner.
"I'd rather eat dirt than the casseroles she's been making of late… healthy…" he grumbled.
"Pizza pig-out on me," Sarah said heading for the phone before she was tackled by him, hugging her and thanking her for coming home and saving him.
Sarah sat with Toby in the kitchen, the pizza box in the center of the table. She had ordered soda as well, seeing Karen was on a health kick and had no carbonated drinks in the fridge. "So tell me all about this fencing you've picked up." She munched on the pizza savoring the thick crust and the veggies with the pepperoni. "When did you get interested in fencing?"
"I read 'The Three Musketeers'," Toby said gobbling down another mouthful. "Lot's of neat sword fighting in that!"
"I love that book," Sarah mused, remembering turning dowel rods into swords. "I used to fence in the glade where the swans are… but I didn't have a sword."
Toby looked at her with wistfulness. "You should take classes with me; they have old folks in there too…"
"Old folks?" Sarah tossed her napkin at him. "I like that."
Blushing madly, the boy changed his tune, "You know what I mean."
"We'll see," she said softly. "First I have to find a job…"
Toby had asked her to read him a story, had even pulled one of her old fairytale books off the shelf and handed it to her. Sarah had settled him into the bed, and tucked good old Lancelot into the boys arm. She read him the tale of the cobbler and the elves, and he was fast asleep before she'd finished. Sarah sat in the chair watching him for a long time, watching him breathe; watching him sleep, curled up with the bear. Sarah had missed times like this, desperately. She had not realized it until this moment as she watched him sleeping.
Turning off the light to his room, Sarah prepared to exit. Something flittering past the window startled her, and she rushed to the window to stare out. Her heart was in her throat, but what ever it was had gone.
Sarah's heart was still pounding as she descended the stairs just in time to find her father nearly carrying Karen in the front door. She rushed down and helped him take the woman into the parlor. "What happened?" She demanded as they laid Karen on the sofa.
"Nothing," her father denied, averting his eyes so as not to look into hers. He knelt down beside the couch to hold his wife's hand. "She's just had a little too much wine."
"Bullshit," she said shoving her father out of the way. She looked at Karen's fraile figure and her ashen features. "How long have you been sick?" she asked her stepmother softer.
"A while," Karen confessed in a sob. "Toby doesn't know."
"Like hell he doesn't," Sarah looked at her father. "He's not stupid you know."
"We were trying to spare him… and you." Robert said quietly as he sat down in misery.
Looking at the man and wife, Sarah felt her eyes tearing up. "What else have you not told me?"
Robert leaned forward, his head in his hands, weeping.
The owl sat quietly in the tree, observing.