XIV - Four Hours Left
The golden woman and Hoggle immediately bundled Sarah into an underground tunnel before rushing through seemingly endless dark walkways and finally bursting into a small underground lair. As they ran, the sounds of screaming and the trample of feet were absorbed into the quiet of the underground track. Once in the enclosure, they sat down and expelled a sigh of relief. All of their hearts pounded in unison.
Sarah was too distressed from the incident to talk, so she took a moment to take in her surroundings. They appeared to be in a relatively large oubliette that was lined with old shelves. Some held crockery and dusty cups, others browning books and papers. There was a fireplace in one corner that obviously let its smoke out above ground, and on the floor were three stools around an old wooden table that held tarnished metal plates. Pots, pans, a side of meat and strings of onions hung from the ceiling. Sarah's eyes finally rested on Hoggle, and she was so overcome with emotion that she stooped to the floor and threw her arms around him, burying her face in his grisly neck.
"Don't worry Sarah, ya safe here." Hoggle smiled broadly as Sarah embraced her dear friend and cried tears of exhaustion. "Oh come on, don't ya cry all over me. Let us look at ye."
He looked at Sarah and saw a young woman plastered with cuts, bruises, burns and shards of broken crystal, dressed in Jareth's sick idea of finery and with whorish red lipstick covering her sad lips. Hoggle could not supress his rage as he turned to the mysterious woman and yelled, "It's this kinda rubbish that has te stop! He can't go on treatin' us all like dirt! We've gotta do somethin'! We've been 'ere too long!"
The woman nodded miserably as the trio slumped into the stools, as if she had nothing to say that she had not already said to Hoggle before. Sarah could bare the suspense no longer and fidgeted in her seat.
"Who are you, please?" she asked the woman rudely, who treated the whole situation with an air of melancholy and hopelessness. She sighed and replied.
"I am Labrynthe, the Keeper of the Source."
Sarah's brow furrowed.
"What? You're going to have to give me some kind of context. Sorry."
Labrynthe raised an eyebrow, clearly unimpressed by who people had termed the 'Champion of the Labyrinth'. She swept back her ethereal locks and prepared herself for the explanation she had been expecting.
"In short, I am the chief servant of the King and Queen of the Realm of the Faes. It is my duty to watch Jareth for them and to report back concerning the nature of his rule. I also must monitor the Source, where all of Jareth's magic power originates from."
Sarah interrupted. "What's the Source? And where is it?"
Labrynthe did not appreciate being interrupted; there was something about Sarah that made her uneasy.
"It is hard to describe, but I will try. In the center of the castle there is a room below the Room of No Direction – the one with all the stairs – which houses a large black marble sphere. Inside, the Source is contained. All I can tell you properly is that the pendant is the key to its power, and since Jareth received it at his coronation he has been in full control of everything."
While Labrynthe caught her breath Sarah asked, "So, it's like a massive source of power that Jareth had access to?"
Sarah's head jumbled with all the questions it contained.
"So…what are you doing here?"
Labrynthe tucked a strand of hair behind her ear awkwardly.
"I am here because…I ran away. I know I am a fae and that I have a duty to my monarchy, but I grew tired of working for monsters. I have been in exile with Hoggle for months now; Jareth banished Hoggle after your last visit, and ever since Hoggle has been living here secretly, plotting Jareth's downfall – I do not thing the Goblin King takes our threat seriously, otherwise he would have made a move by now. We're just pawns to his majesty. I joined Hoggle to help a while back, but we cannot get close enough to Jareth without him knowing. We need you."
All this information forced Sarah's brain into deadlock.
"Now I don't understand, what can I do?"
"You must have noticed Jareth's pendant. He never takes it off. It is directly linked with the Source, like a transmitter, so if we took it from him and wore it we would have all his power."
"And I suppose you want me to get it." Sarah replied decisively and emotionlessly. Hoggle began to shuffle uncomfortably.
"I think t'e plan stinks! I don't want ye goin' in there unless ye want to. I ain't gunna make you, but it might be the only chance te rescue ye friends."
Sarah nodded. "I'll do it, whatever it takes. But how do I do it?"
Everyone fell silent, so silent that Sarah could hear a rat move somewhere in the corner of the room. After everyone in the party had processed what Sarah was willing to do, Labrynthe finally spoke.
"There is one thing I must have cleared up. It is the question on the lips of everyone in the Labyrinth: why did Jareth bring you here, Sarah? Or did you come here of your own accord again?"
Hoggle's ears pricked; he had been dying to ask. Sarah twisted her hands.
"When I asked Jareth why he wanted me back here, he said it was to 'destroy me', whatever that means. I assumed it was because I beat and embarrassed him, but now I'm not so sure." Sarah shuddered. "It's like he wants to own me, or kill me, or," here Sarah swallowed involuntarily, "Worse. I know, right? What's worse than death? Believe me, I've considered it whilst being here. If he had wanted to kill me he'd have done it a long time ago. I can only assume he wants to torment me to the final hour, and then keep me here," Sarah shuddered again, "As his slave." Tears formed in the corner of her eyes, but she stubbornly wiped them away. "Why me? I only did what any sister would do, and now I'm being punished over all the other people who ran the Labyrinth. It's not fair," she mumbled.
Hoggle was meanwhile casting his mind back to Sarah's first visit, and remembered his words. The Cleaners, the Bog of Stench. You sure got his attention! She always had. Whatever Jareth did, it always came back to Sarah Williams. She was the crux of his life.
"If ye ask me, Jareth's always paid you too much attention. He's obsessed with ye. Whatever ye did, he won't stop until he consumes ye."
Labrynthe surveyed Sarah's boldness and all the initial repulsion she had felt for Sarah evaporated away. She spoke maternally.
"Just look at you. You're a battered mess, he's literally ripping you apart; he wants you to arrive at the castle begging for mercy."
"But what can I do?"
Labrynthe became more animated and took Sarah's shoulders.
"You need to get there with minutes to spare and pretend to lose; let him think he has won, and put on the performance of your life. Tell him you concede defeat and will let him rule you, then get close to him and steal it the pendant. And we can be waiting for you outside; he'll be so busy focussing on you that if we keep our distance from you he'll never see us."
I could save Lily and Froud…I could save everyone…I could save myself.
Hoggle grumbled but Sarah leapt out of her stool in triumph with new found hope.
"Hoggle, I've got to try! My friends are somewhere in the castle, I bet, and I have to save them and myself, and all of you too."
Hoggle threw his hands up in defeat.
"Alright, but I don't promise nothin'. This could be a suicide mission."
Sarah swallowed her fear. "I've got nothing to lose anymore. He's taken everything I care about, and he nearly took my life away from me. I need to do this; what else can we do?"
Labrynthe rose and embraced Sarah.
"We will all be eternally grateful to you. With Jareth powerless, you can do whatever is necessary to banish him."
Sarah contemplated a Jareth-free Labyrinth; it did not seem real. Labrynthe shared these sentiments.
"I almost cannot believe it. The idea of finally defeating Jareth is what we have been plotting for so long now. I wonder what his parents will do?"
"I don't want to think about that now. Anyway, if they are as contemptible as I hear I'm sure they won't notice what has happened, let alone care about it...okay, well I suppose I had better get going. Where do I go from here?"
"When ye get into t'e Junk Yard ye'll see t'e city. You'll know the way, and we won't be far be'ind. We've got ye back."
Sarah wondered if they had a spare pair of clothes but thought that women's clothes would be the last thing Hoggle would stock up on, so she held her tongue. Stupid dress it is.
All the way back through the tunnels Sarah planned how she would act in front of Jareth. I'll be defiant at first, demanding my friends back, and when he no doubt throws in a curve ball I'll fall down and beg for mercy, really hamming it up. I'll look the part in this stupid dress, all damsel-like and pathetic. Then I'll get close to him and snatch the pendant. It has to work…
Outside the sky was dark and Sarah could see the illuminated Goblin City in the distance. It looked like a Medieval New York skyline; the turrets of the castle and the high walls of the city were covered with beacons of light as if to beckon Sarah in. Mentally she began to count her steps, trying to figure out how long she had left. She picked up her pace to a fast walk, but her dress weighed her down. Within a few hundred meters she was sweating and breathing heavily, so she stopped for a moment and heard Hoggle and Labrynthe stop several feet back. The sound reassured Sarah and spurred her on out of embarrassment. The junk grew higher, but the city became closer. Sarah could almost hear the goblins. She went to twist Hoggle's bracelet, but her clammy fingers did not find it.
AN: Another update – they seem to happen in waves. I haven't got much to say about this chapter, other than I hope you're excited for the show down!