Kalam stared down at the knife slash across her left palm in a kind of wonderment, watching the bright crimson drops of blood escape the edges of the wound and slide down her forearm.
"What - have I done?" she whispered, dropping the knife she held in her other hand. It clattered to the floor noisily, its blade still clean.
She screamed in delayed pain, clutching her wrist and dropping to her knees. Blood splattered to the white floor, making bright, guilty spots on the linoleum. She screamed and screamed and screamed...
Kalam woke with a start, sitting straight up in her comfortable bed. Moonlight poured in through her open window, and she looked quickly at her hand to ensure that it was not cut.
She sighed with relief. It wasn't.
Rubbing her palm absently with the other thumb, she got out of a bed suddenly too confining. She wandered over to the window. That's strange, she thought, frowning. I could have sworn that it was closed... Letting the thought trail, she left the room and went downstairs for a glass of juice.
She stood in front of the kitchen sink, draining the orange juice from the glass quickly. She set the glass down on the counter with a heavy thunk! and stared out the window.
It had suddenly struck her to look out the window. There was nothing but shadows--
She leaped back in surprise as a white owl appeared out of nowhere and beat at the window with it's wings, trying to get in. Kalam was too startled to do much else but stare.
The owl landed on the flower box outside the window and flipped its wings to its back, almost casually. It looked around briefly before staring at her wide, yellow eyes. No, they weren't yellow, she saw, but blue...
With a strangled cry, Kalam stumbled out of the kitchen and ran for the den. There, in the wood-panneled room with no windows, she fell into an exhausted and restless sleep on the couch.
I've got to get to the city; i'm going mad...madmadmad... Kalam rocked gently back and forth on her heels, cowering in the den.
It had been the third night in a row with her slashed-hand nightmare followed by a visit from the owl. She just didn't feel safe anymore, and was quite certain that she was going out of her mind.
She lived on a farm by herself and stabled horses. She had no stablehands; she did it all herself, and mangaed quite well.
Now she wished desperately for company in the house; a maid would have been fine! She felt that one more night would see her running out into the hills of her land, nude and spouting wierd philosophy to trees.
In a sudden frantic rush, she leaped up and flung herself at the oak desk. She tore each drawer out and emptied its contents, searching for a tiny leatherbound book that she surely had...
It was at the bottom of the last drawer, buried under last years taxes...
She clutched the worn book to her chest and moved back to her corner. The fire in the fireplace gave little light, but even so, she could see the faded, gold embossed letters on the cover.
She opened the book, flipping through the pages until she found the passage she wanted.
...and the Goblin King always tookk the form of a white owl, and her always waited at the windows of his Chosen One until he was Summoned.
Kalam flipped forward a few pages.
"Goblin King!" Morganna cried, lifting her arms to the sky. "Embrace me in your loving arms and take me away from this place!" Her fervor died and she dropped to her knees. "I wish the goblins would come and take me away," she whispered brokenly. "Right now."
Kalam whispered the lines out loud, wanting to believe, and hoping she was right.
She sighed, setting the book down.
The door to the den burst open, and a dark form stepped through, staying out of the range of her failing fire.
"Who...who are you?" she asked timidly.
"I? You do not know?" he replied in a sexy British accent. "It was you who called me."
"You...you are...Djern?" she hazarded.
He laughed. "No. Djern has...passed on. I am Jareth, the new Goblin King."
Kalam snatched up her book, turning immeadiately to the right page.
Djern said, "The only way a new Goblin King is placed into power is when the old one dies. In this reality, I live forever. There is only one way to kill me - by Blood."
She dropped the book. "Only Blood may replace Blood," she whispered, barely audible.
Jareth laughed again and stepped into the tiny circle of firelight. "Precisely."
She couldn't describe him. He was beyond attractive, tall and slender and wearing close fitting clothing more appropriate to a fairytale than real life. Every detail that she could see beyond the voluminous cloak he wore was finely outlined by the clothing and the firelight.
Jareth took one step towards her, extending one delicately boned hand wrapped in black leather. "Come with me, Kalam," he said softly. "You asked to be taken away from here. I'm here to take you away."
Kalam dropped her gaze to the leather-covered book on the floor. Then she raised her eyes to his, and reached for his hand.
The book lay on the floor, unnoticed as she got up and walked away. By some unknown power, it opened to the first page.
Beware the Labyrinth, it read. Beware further the Goblin King. Beware most of all yourself.
Thirteen hours to solve the mystery of the Labyrinth, Jareth's voice echoed in her mind as she searched for the entrance. Thirteen hours...not a lot of time.
The wall stretched endlessly in either direction. The entrance was a pair of ornately carved doors, broken and lying in pieces in a wide circle. Parts of it still hung from their hinges. Dead fairies littered the ground, nothing more than piles of dust with shrivelled wings. A dwarven skeleton was slumped by the entrance, clutching a rusted sprayer in one bleached-bone hand.
She picked her way through what remained of the door, and entered the labyrinth. Either way, the long passage way was clear of everything, stripped bare of even dew. The walls were dry, the trees nonexistent and the strange animals native to this part little more than clumps of moss hanging from the protruding bricks.
Kalam took the right path, finding an opening far down. Across from it was a small blue worm...all shrivelled up, like a worm after a storm.
The maze was empty. She found her way to the Door Guardians with no problems. The Guardians themselves lay on the ground, shield up, with spindly arms and legs showing. Only helmets showed where the heads would be. She shuddered, and pushed open the left door.
The rest was a piece of cake, literally. The fallen temple, the hedge-maze, the talking doorknobs, the Bog of Stench, the Gates of the Goblin City, the Palace itself...she passed through it all unchallenged. And it was all dead. The buildings were in disrepair, and not a thing stirred. Not so much as a wind...
The Throne Room was empty. Only a blackened figure sat on the ornate throne, holding an ancient sword in one hand. A necklace of runes sat around the figure's throat, untouched.
It read, Djern.
Kalam felt sickened. The stench of death and burned flesh still hung heavily in the air, despite the open windows.
"Welcome to my humble abode," she heard Jareth say, and looked up in time to see him step around from behind the throne.
"Humble? Dead is more like it. There is nothing here! Some great, magnificent empire you run here," she added bitterly. She looked away from Djern's blackened body at a drapery that must have once been a rich burgundy.
His eyes flashed angrily for a moment. Then he sighed wistfully. "I know. There is a sacrafice required..." He moved to take the sword from the lifless hands of the former king, accidently pulling one hand off, still gripping the sword. Annoyed, he loosened the dead fingers and tossed the reeking flesh aside. He walked up to her and held the point at her heart, lightly scratching the skin. "A sacrafice of the first wanderer of the Labyrinth when the new king takes he throne."
"And that would be me." Kalam fought back tears. "I knew this would be asked of me" She lifted her face defiantly. "Do it," she whispered.
He lowered the sword, took a step closer and lightly touched her cheek before kissing it. "You are mine," he told her softly, handing her the sword.
She took it and knelt, bracing the handle between her knees and holding the blade delicately with both hands, near the hilt. She took a deep breath, braced herself and then gripped the blade tightly, gasping as the sharp metal dug deeply into her palms. With a visible effort of will, she dragged her hands up past the point, coating the entire length of it in her blood.
Kalam let the sword go and stared at her palms as blood formed and poured out, down her arms. The sword clattered noisily onto the stone floor. She watched in horror as her blood began to pool, but her throat was too dry to scream...
Jareth knelt in the growing pool which poured from blade and wound alike. He took one of her hands, pressing the gash to his lips.
She gasped as the contact brought a flood of images into her mind.
A small child, Jareth, watching, learnig from and resenting his father, Djern. "Only when you take the throne will you be frozen in time, boy. If you do not take the throne, you will die as any other mortal. And until then, you are worse than useless..." The resentment and anger was so thick that she could almost see it. Djern was a strong ruler; nothing short of a Cataclysm would dethrone him.
There had been a Cataclysm, of a sorts; Jareth had learned powers, strong powers that would help him change his life. He had power, potential and ambition. He destroyed Djern.
With the death of the King, the Labyrinth was lifeless and utterly barren. The new King must find a willing mortal who would sacrafice themselves so that the fantasy world would continue and fuel dreams of others.
Jareth broke the contact, got up and staggered back. Kalam's palms ached so much that she barely felt it. They continued to empty her life out onto the floor.
He picked up the sword and held the point to her chest.
"Rise, dear mortal," he commanded.
Kalam rose to her feet slowly, trying hard to ignore the pain. The point never wavered.
"I - " she gasped, seeing stars and a fuzzy balckness on the edges of her vision. "I give thee - blood to live again." She spoke the ancient words that would release her own power.
"I accept thy offering," he replied formally, backing away and never lowering the sword.
Kalam didn't wait to get herself ready; she flung herself forward onto the metal. Jareth helped by pushing it towards her as she fell onto it. The end result was three feet of metal out her back and a hilt in her chest.
Jareth pulled it out, the blade coated in red. Kalam staggered two steps and fell to the stone floor.
More images poured into her mind as her vision faded. She could see the Labyrinth come to life; watched the plantlife bloom, the animals revive and the inanimates repair.
No one would ever know how the Labyrinth came to be or what powered it. Blood and belief ruled it, made it run; became a focus point for its inhabitants.
Kalam had one last thought before she slipped beneath the dark waters of endless sleep - I did this.