The very last chapter, friends! I hope you enjoyed the story! Thank you!
Chapter Twenty-three: There Inside
Vesper and Chalce's return to the Labyrinth was a surprising one for the newlyweds. They found themselves standing at the entrance of the castle in the Goblin City, and they recognized the castle, but somehow everything had changed. The castle was still made out of bricks, but the bricks were white and shining in the light of a full sun. Rose vines trailed up the walls for as high as the couple could see, and tiny white and pink roses were intermingled in the green foliage.
"Chalce, are we at the right place?" Vesper asked, squeezing his hand as they moved to the gold doors of the castle.
"The curse was ended," Chalce smiled understandingly. "Everything is the way it once was."
Vesper nodded and then turned her body and gasped.
The Goblin City was the most beautiful place she had ever seen. Beautiful large homes loomed up above cobblestone streets, glistening in the sunlight and covered with flowers. There were large fields up on the hills behind the city, and a large herd of horses galloped across it, tossing their heads up and neighing happily. Lovely children raced back and forth in the streets, laughing and playing tag. Men and women could be seen hanging up laundry and chatting; exquisite creatures without a mar to their features.
"Chalce, I cannot be the queen of such a place!" Vesper exclaimed. "I don't have the power or the beauty!"
"You have both," he smiled, kissing her temple and nuzzling his nose against her cheek. "And so much more," he whispered, putting his hand to the door of the castle. "Let's get inside."
He pushed the door in and then turned Vesper towards the castle. He looped his arm through hers and then led her inside, to a gorgeous corridor with marble cloisters, small water fountains, and guards at every pillar. Each guard bowed and remained silent as the new king and queen walked through the immense room and then moved up a flight of stairs. They arrived at another set of doors, these being watched by two elegant men who moved forward and opened the stained glass doors to permit the king and queen entrance to the throne room.
There they stumbled upon an adorable view. Jareth was seated on his elegant throne, dressed in a simple poet shirt and breeches. He was stretched out on it, one leg over one of the armrests, and he had a dazzling smile on his face. Seated on the other armrest, with the Goblin King's head in her lap, was Sarah. Her fingers stroked through Jareth's golden mane even as he took her other hand and kissed it before bringing it to rest on his chest.
"Jareth, my king, I do believe we have visitors," Sarah said, turning her head to smile at Vesper and Chalce. "How was your journey Aboveground?"
"Delightful, Queen Sarah," Chalce bowed. "It is good to see you and his majesty together again."
"And indeed, it is good to be together again," Jareth nodded, standing up and stretching. "There is a matter to settle before Sarah and I leave you to reign over your kingdom."
"You will be leaving us?" Vesper asked, suddenly afraid.
"When one heir rises to take the throne, the parents leave," Jareth said. "Our time here is over, Queen Vesper. It is yours and Chalce's turn to continue over the kingdom."
"But we just met! We just met, and you're leaving again!" Vesper whispered. "Will I ever be able to see you and Mom again?"
"Whenever you need us," Sarah said, putting her hand on Jareth's shoulder. "You have only to look into the crystal, and once every year, you can come visit."
"This has all happened so fast!" Vesper sighed. "I had wanted to get to know Father better."
"And you shall. We have until tonight to relax and enjoy each other's company," Jareth smiled, taking his daughter's hand in his own. "Sarah has agreed to spend time with Chalce. You and I, Vesper, are going to spend some quality time together."
Vesper smiled happily and threw her arms around the goblin, squeezing him tightly.
"I would like that so much!" she said excitedly.
"I am glad," Jareth grinned. "Sarah, Chalce, we'll be back tonight."
A crystal appeared in the king's hand, and he and Vesper disappeared.
The Goblin King and his daughter rode horses for several hours, Jareth showing Vesper every part of his kingdom. He brought her to the glittering diamond caverns hidden beneath the ground. He showed her the flower-filled mazes that protected the Goblin City and added beauty to the world. Vesper met Hoggle in his hut deep within the glittering woods, and he introduced her to the Fireys, who weren't puppets at all, but were a group of red-haired goblins who had a deep love for musical instruments and dancing. She met Sir Didymus, who was still very much a fox, living in his intricate tree home just next door to an endless, clear sea that had once existed as the Bog of Eternal Stench. Ludo lived in a large butterfly-filled meadow that seemed as endless as the sea had.
Jareth and Vesper had a picnic lunch out in the field, and it was there that they spent most of the afternoon. In that time, Vesper learned all she could about her father. He told her about how he felt when Sarah entered his world for the first time. He explained his grief when he had left her. He informed his daughter of his love for horses and of how Chalce had been like a son to him ever since they had first met. He expressed his gratefulness and pride for Vesper, and he told her all he could to help her rule the Labyrinth successfully. Once he was finished, Vesper changed the attitude of the conversation entirely, focusing only on Jareth's likes and dislikes.
A proud father listened as his daughter told him all the things he had missed out on in her life. Vesper spoke on and on, much to Jareth's delight, about her life in the Aboveground. She told him of her life by the beach, her acting, and her school. He learned, as he listened, that he and his daughter really had quite a bit in common, and when the time they had together came to an end, he was sorry to see how quickly the day had gone. He and Sarah had produced a fine young woman, and he couldn't have been prouder of her.
"I really wish you and Mom didn't have to leave, but I guess that's how it's done," Vesper sighed as Jareth helped her off her horse once they were back at the castle.
"You and Chalce won't need us, my darling," Jareth smiled, kissing her hand before he released it. "You have chosen a wise man for your husband, and you both will keep each other happy. It is high time your mother returned home, and I want to spend the rest of my life with her, so we shall both be happiest in your world. You will find, with every passing day, that this is the place where you truly belong. Anywhere that Chalcedony is, that is where you shall be most content."
"I'll still miss you," Vesper said, wrapping her arms around him.
Jareth held her for several minutes, both standing in silence, absorbing each other's scents and memorizing how it felt to be in each other's arms.
"If you ever need me," Jareth whispered to the girl within his arms, "just say so." He smiled as he stroked his fingertips across the ornament on her ear and then stepped back. "You must prepare for your introduction to the Labyrinth."
He tossed a crystal to Vesper, and she caught it and was immediately transported into an immense dressing room. Sarah stood there, with her back turned towards Vesper, but she turned around as soon as she heard her daughter enter, and she smiled beautifully.
"Let's get you dressed, Vesper. You'll have servants to help you dress any other time, or Chalce," Sarah winked as her daughter blushed. "There's a gown here that was requested for you to wear."
"Who requested it?" Vesper asked as Sarah pulled a lush, dark green gown out of a wardrobe.
"I did," Sarah smiled gently as Vesper quickly undressed. "This color always suited you so well."
She waited as Vesper pulled the dress on, and then she moved to her daughter's back and tied up the laces she found there. It seemed the dress had been designed perfectly for Vesper. It fit her curves gorgeously, and the color brought out the best in her skin tones and eyes.
"It seems the whole Labyrinth cannot wait for you to be presented to them," Sarah said, running a brush gently through her daughter's hair. "I'm going to miss you, Vesper."
"And I you."
"I'll make sure Hamlet is brought here for you," Sarah smiled, beginning to braid Vesper's hair. "You look absolutely lovely, my darling. You make your father and I so proud. And we can't wait for grandbabies," she grinned, and Vesper gave out a little squeal when her mother tugged her hair playfully.
"You'll have the most beautiful grandbabies ever, and I have a feeling it won't be too long until then," Vesper said, turning and hugging her mother.
"You have no words of wisdom, my king? Nothing you can tell me that will help me as the servant of the Labyrinth?" Chalce asked, straightening the ruffles at his throat.
"You have been a servant to the people since the day you were born. You bear scars of a reminder of that," Jareth said from his seat in Chalce's chambers. "You have been groomed and primped for this position from the very beginning. There is on other man I could want to take my place more than you. And you have won my daughter's heart, which is the most important thing to me. She adores you, and because of that, you both will serve the people to your utmost abilities, and they will love you."
"I am grateful for everything you've done, sire," Chalce said, turning and smiling at Jareth.
"Not only are you my son-in-law, but you have been my dearest friend through times past," Jareth said, putting a hand on Chalce's shoulder. "You have a wisdom and maturity that surpasses any other being I have met. You have protected my life with all of your strength, and you will do the same for Vesper, your children, and your people. I have no fears whatsoever about leaving you here in my stead. Now the time has come."
They vanished from the chambers and appeared on the roof of the palace, overlooking the whole of the Labyrinth. Chalce looked out to see hundreds of people, whether they were goblins, dwarves, monsters or dragons, gazing up expectantly, looking to him and studying him. They knew him. They knew him as the man who had rescued their past king from an untimely death. They understood him to be the one that had ventured through great dangers to return them to the way they once were. They had nothing but respect for him, and they cheered for him as he moved closer to the edge of the roof, where they could see him better.
Their cheers turned into whistles and applause, and Chalce turned to see his wife, his darling Vesper, walking onto the roof, dressed like a queen, equipped with a crystal crown and an exquisite gown. She blushed as the whistles intensified and Chalce's eyes never left her body.
Pride could be felt radiating from the crowds as Vesper moved gracefully towards Chalce's side. Her head was held high, and the parts of her hair that weren't braided were waving peacefully in a gentle breeze. Her eyes sparkled, their extraordinary color dancing with joy. Her smile was radiant, gorgeous, and showed her father's traits. Her beauty was all her mother's, however, and the Labyrinth couldn't have been prouder of their new queen.
The whole world erupted into applause and joy as Vesper took Chalce's hand in hers, and he raised her hand to his lips and kissed her lingeringly.
"Long live King Chalcedony and Queen Vesper!"
The cries resounded far beyond the borders of the Goblin City and reached the very soul of the Underground. And when King Chalcedony pulled his wife against him and kissed her lips, loving her there before all of their people, the delight of the world was nearly deafening.
Jareth and Sarah stood a safe distance behind, out of sight, and Sarah smiled up at Jareth as she interlaced her fingers through his.
"King Jareth of the Labyrinth, you have done well. And now, I do believe it's time that you picked up where you left off," Sarah smiled up at him.
He smiled and drew her close, no longer hearing the applause or Chalce addressing his new people.
"Where I left off, my queen?" he asked, nuzzling his nose against Sarah's.
"You were with me, in my world," Sarah said, closing her eyes as his breath tickled her lips. "And I believe, the last sensation I felt from you, before you disappeared, was something like this…"
She stood up on her tiptoes and softly kissed his forehead, then his nose, then his cheek, and then his lips.
"And then you left," she whispered. "I fell asleep, and you were gone the next morning."
"I will never leave you again. But I would like very much to pretend that I never did leave," Jareth said softly.
"Our daughter might never have become queen. I will miss her, Jareth."
"Yes, but she won't be far, because even if you can't see her, she's there," he said, putting his hand over her heart. "There inside."
And then he pressed his lips to hers and smiled into the kiss, loving his wife, holding her close even as the world he once knew fell down, and they reappeared in a new world, just as a new day was beginning.