"let us be silent, let us be still"
Genre: Drama, Fantasy
Time Frame: Post-Canon
Characters: Sarah, Jareth
Summary: She had become quite proficient at blocking out the sounds of children.
Notes: The third in a series of uploads this evening, done for a Shuffle Challenge on another site. Of course, the glitter and glorious campiness that is this fandom made its way into my flash fiction. And it was brilliant. ;)
Disclaimer: Nothing is mind, but for the words.
"let us be silent, let us be still"
Toby still cried when left in her care, even long after she defeated the great Labyrinth for his sake.
The child, her baby brother (just brother now, for she had left the halfof his relation to her behind in the twists and turns of hedge mazes beyond), had a cry that could wake the dead, on that note. For such a small thing, he seemed to hold all of his power in his lungs. She could feel them expand with hiccuping breaths from where she held him close to her; making shushing noises into his hair, and rubbing soothing circles into his back. His screams echoed in the deep part of her bones, in the soft places behind her eyes . . . in the magic that waited on the air. Patient. Confident.
Sarah gritted her teeth against the rise on the air. The smell of rain and hearth smoke. Upon her tongue she held the burnt taste of sugar. Glitter and starlight.
Still jugging the child in her hold, she turned away from the window, as if by doing so she could avoid the presence in the night. "I will give you a hundred bucks to stop crying, Toby," she offered the baby hopefully, her lips turning up to sell her bribe even as Toby's red mouth twisted into a painful looking shape, ready to cry again.
Another of the baby's screams. Sarah frowned and plastered a look of the utmost seriousness on her face. "You drive a hard bargain, kid," she bounced him lightly in her hold. "Fine then. Two hundred dollars - but that is my final offer."
No such luck. The kid was incorruptible, it would seem.
Sarah rolled her eyes, and shifted the little boy from her right side to her. He fit snugly against her body, burying his wet little face into her collar. His whole little body was slumped in exhaustion, and she felt a pang of sympathy in her heart when she considered how hard this was on him too.
Around her the magic pulsed in anticipation. Waiting.
She tucked Toby's head in under her chin, and turned once again. This time, she glared at the edge of the violet mists she could see in the night beyond. Her lungs expanded with an enchanted breath. Her ears filled with the snickering of little goblin men.
We shan't go near, we shan't buy their fruits, her mind chanted. Pomegranates and peaches, how sticky their juices were, and how binding their power. No matter how succulent their sweetness. Fortified, she held Toby tighter as she mouthed, "you have no power over me," into the air, the silent syllables becoming the wind which pushed the white wings in the darkness beyond. They flashed, near as bright as the moon above. Her silent sentinel. Her childhood's villain.
Her mind lost on stories old, Sarah turned, and sat down in the rocking chair that was normally Karen's domain and gilded throne. Carefully, she settled Toby on her knee, and looked very seriously into his eyes. From beyond the window, the moon was a crescent, spilling a thin slice of white light over the floor to where they sat. She had yet to thumb on the lamp next to the cradle. She no longer had anything to fear from the dark. She had nothing to ask of it, either.
"I'm going to tell you a story, young man," she said, her voice very serious, very soft. "And you will listen to it, and heed its words well." The child had quieted, his wide blue eyes locking upon her own. Waiting.
Feeling like some mystical skald of old, Sarah opened her mouth, and let her story flow. She did not need the little red book that waited just beyond. She already knew her right words.
"Once was, there was a kingdom in the Underground of our world. A kingdom full of goblin men with children's souls; and the ancient mother Labyrinth who so nurtured them all . . ." she let her words spin, taking the fae mists from beyond and the moonlight from above, and twining them both into her words. The magic of words was powerful, binding her story from one to the other. As her story unfolded, Toby's eyes dropped. His cries silenced. And he listened.
Beyond them, the owl's cry sounded, as if in pain. Sarah could feel the sound of it as the fine hairs on her arms stood on end. Her throat was thick, her eyes heating, though she could not think of why.
"And then the good maiden took the child back from the land of the goblins. The mother Labyrinth honored her promise, and let the girl go, even as she mourned the loss that the girl represented to her lord and keeper." Toby slept in her arms, a warm weight, soft against her. Still she finished her tale. "For the Goblin King had given away his power along with his love, and the great Labyrinth resolved to look elsewhere within the wishes of men to fill the place by her Lord's side."
Elsewhere, Sarah thought firmly, her lips tight as she stood with Toby in order to place him back in his crib. His small hand had wrapped around her finger, even when she laid him down, and his grip was tight. Anything else had been unthinkable, anyway, she knew as she looked down at the sleeping babe. Blood was thicker than water – kin closer than magic and myth. Responsibility more than dreams.
She took a deep breath, and turned from the window in order to bend down and kiss Toby's forehead fondly. Behind her, she heard the clicking of a hunting bird's talons against the window. A question.
An answer. "I've become proficient at blocking out the cries of children," Sarah said firmly as she straightened. She turned from the crib. Faced the window. "And that includes you, your Majesty."
This time, the owl's cry came as laughter, even though there was no one when she spied into the night beyond. Sarah found her lips pursing, making a thin line. He would come again, she knew. Every night, if need be, until her tale told a different end.
. . . the thought did not fill her with dread as it should have. As it once had. Not anymore.