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SOMETHING FATE INTENDED

As Sam stepped out of the black cab and adjusted the strap of the canvas pack she had slung over one shoulder the first thing she noticed was the clean sidewalks. The sidewalks were never this clean or in as good condition back home in Illinois and she wondered if perhaps it was accomplished by magic. When she was little her mother would tell her stories about a place where everything was created by magic. Maybe London was just such a place...

In Chicago, Sam thought as she grabbed her duffel bag, and computer case from the back seat and handed the patiently waiting driver two 20 pound notes, the driver would have yelled, Hey, lady, I don't got all day. What do you think I'm running? A taxi service? Come on, fork over the cash! But, well, this was London, and the British were supposedly more refined than those crass Americans. Yet, as the cab pulled away, Sam noticed that it just managed to miss hitting a shoeless old man with no teeth by swerving into an oncoming lane of traffic. Maybe the British were more refined, but they were definitely worse drivers. Oh, well, no one is perfect, she reminded herself as she grabbed her luggage, a brown backpack, computer carrier, and large blue duffel bag, and headed for the entrance of her apartment building. It was a narrow, five-story brownstone building with what looked like several small chimneys protruding from its roof and a large white door at the front and she sincerely hoped that her room was on either the first or second floor.

The man at the front desk didn't even look up as she closed the door behind her, nor even when she stood directly across the counter from him. Pah! Refinement, she nearly said aloud before pasting a smile on her pale, freckled face.

"Pardon me," she said after loudly clearing her throat, "but I'd like to check in."

"And what might your name be, miss?" the slightly balding man asked without looking up.

"Samona Madison," she replied promptly, only allowing a little bit of the annoyance she felt creep into her voice as the man grunted and put his newspaper down. Ten minutes in the city, Sam thought sourly at the old man, and already I am beginning to dislike London.

"Here you are," he said as he limped back over to the counter. "Paid in full until the end of August, you are." As he said it he finally looked at her and Sam was shocked to see the most startling eyes she had ever seen. One was brilliant blue and the other was a soft, comforting brown. She had not expected that man to have any redeeming qualities. But eyes like those were enough to make her forget his earlier rudeness. Almost.

"That's right, sir," she replied, trying to pull her gaze away from his. "Three full months."

"Well," he grunted again, "here is your key. Room 503. Top of the stairs to the right." And after his long speech, he sat back in his chair and appeared to forget about her.

Sam looked from her room key to the steep, narrow staircase and back again. She gazed at her heavy duffel bag and then to the stairs and back again. And then she sighed. "It just figures, doesn't it?" she muttered under her breath. She trudged up the daunting stairs and didn't notice the man staring at her intently as she went.

Standing at the street side window in her tiny flat, Sam reflected upon her experience in the great city of London. After working and going to college both full-time for four years she had finally been able to take a break and concentrate on her writing. Here, in this magical city of culture and elegance and mystery and dreams, she had come to forget her own life and create a few new ones. But three weeks and several pints of brandy later, Sam was ready to get on an airplane and call it quits. There was just nothing in the entire vastness and cultural array of the city to inspire her. She walked around, day after day, searching for dreams in a sleepless town. All she had encountered to date had been hopeless eyes and lifeless smiles plastered to the faces of the cheerless denizens. How could she ignore the misery of homeless cripples, overworked young fathers, abused young mothers and neglected children? No longer were the streets clean, as she had once thought them, but they were covered with the degradation and despair of humanity. And Sam could not bring herself to put such unpalatable truths on paper.

"Well," Sam laughed, letting deep cynicism color her voice, "here's to my paradise, my city of dreams." And she put the half-empty pint of brandy to her lips and swallowed, closing her eyes to the dirty haze of the urban night.

**********

Sam would have recognized the man speaking almost immediately as the man from the reception desk. Not from his voice, hair color or body type, but by the startling disparity of his eyes, one blue and one brown. Undoubtedly, though, she would have been confused by the conversation he was carrying with a small brown goblin of indeterminable age. Stewart," the man was saying, "I think she's finally ready."

"I believe so, milord," the goblin replied while shining the man's sleek black boots.

"She so reminds me of her mother sometimes and it pains me to witness her disillusionment. And, dammit," he thumped his fist on the arm of his throne, "she belongs here with me!"

"Indeed, milord," the goblin, Stewart, continued impassively.

Jareth, King of the Goblins and Ruler of all the Underground, ran an unsteady hand through his long, spiky tangle of golden hair in agitation.

"How, by all the powers I possess, am I going to get her here?"

"I would not suggest anything drastic, milord," the goblin volunteered mildly. "You do remember what happened last time?"

"Yes, I know," Jareth said in irritation. "Powerful wizard and exalted ruler I may be, but I am still a fallible human. Besides, Sarah was barely a child with a head full of fairy tales. Samona is real!"

**********

Sam woke up, slightly hanging off the edge of her bed, still clutching the bottle of liquor. She peeled her eyes open with a great deal of effort and sat up slowly. She groaned as the room began to spin and curled her fingers painfully into the soft blue blanket as a terrible pounding began deep in her skull. She lifted the hand still holding the brandy and finished off the bottle in one swig. Then she stumbled to her little corner kitchenette and started boiling water for some soothing herbal tea. Yep, she thought to herself, definitely a hangover.

She couldn't stand to let the whistle blow on the teapot, so she drank luke-warm tea. As the herbs worked their way through her body, she remembered a snatch of dream. In it a tall, blond man of no age (it seemed) had told her about a place of magic and beauty. He'd said, no, sung actually, life can be easy, it's not always swell, don't tell me truth hurts little girl, 'cause it hurts like hell. But down in the Underground you'll find someone true. Down in the Underground, a land serene, a crystal moon... Why the hell would anyone think the Tube was magical or beautiful, anyway?

"Who cares," she decided into her cup of tea. "Chalk it up to too much liquor on an empty stomach."

Later that day, Sam decided to play tourist, something she hadn't done since her first week in London. After an afternoon spent investigating the area near Piccadilly Circus, Sam took the tube to Trafalgar Square. It was still light out, and the artists had their easels out. She walked past them, past the huge monument with the giant lions and past the vendor selling birdseed for all the pigeons. She went directly to the large fountain to bask in the dying golden light. As the last streaks of warmth were sinking behind the tall buildings and the sound of the artists packing up mingled with the sound of the rushing water Sam heard a beautiful voice singing,
It's only forever, not long at all. That's the Underground, Underground... She snapped open her eyes and turned her head to the right as she recognized the melody. Sitting next to her, not more than two feet away on the fountain's edge, was the strangest man Sam had ever seen. And he looked exactly like the man from her dream. She stood up to, well, she didn't know what to do--either confront him or run away or something! But as soon as she stood, the world spun away from her in a swirl of ebbing twilight.

**********

Jareth looked down at the girl laying unconscious on the bed. And smiled. He'd caught her just as she was about to hit the ground and brought her here. He'd spent a good deal of time cleaning the alcohol and its effects from her body, but it had been worth his exhaustion. Now she lay peacefully, her long hair laying across the pillows like silk spun from a silver moonbeam. And, he reflected with a wistful smile, her eyes were like green flame when they flashed in the glorious fading sunlight. But, most of all, he noted her freckles. There were 27 of them, all the color of apple butter.

As the rosy tint came back into Sam's pale cheeks, Jareth did a totally un-Jareth-like thing--he sighed a wistful little sigh. Then he reached down to caress her smooth skin.

Sam became instantly aware of several things. One, she was laying on something soft that smelled vaguely masculine. Two, that thing was not her bed back at the flat. Three, there was a rather large hand gently pressed against the left side of her face. And four, she didn't really mind it! With that realization came actual consciousness and she cautiously opened her eyelids, not quite sure what to expect.

Of course, nothing could have prepared her for the sight of a tall pale man with the receptionist's eyes gazing at her. She knew him both from her dream and from Trafalgar Square. Who are you? she thought.

"I am Jareth. I suppose one would say I run this place," he supplied in a way that made Sam think he was reading her mind.

"Where am I, then?" Sam asked out loud. She just wasn't ready to find out if he really could read her mind.

You are in my Labyrinth. We are in the Underground," he finished and went to the window. As he pulled open the shutters with one hand he motioned for Sam to look out with the other.

"Oh, that Underground. I see." She slid her legs over the edge of the immense bed and stepped across the room to the oddly shaped window. And smiled in amazement at what she saw. It was exactly what her mother had described. A gigantic circular maze surrounding a city filled with tiny houses and even tinier occupants. What had her mother called them?

"Are...Is that..."

"Yes, Samona," Jareth answered, knowing what she was trying to ask. "Those are, indeed, goblins, and that is truly a goblin city." And then he chuckled at the bewildered expression on her face.

"How did you...Never mind," Sam corrected turning to look directly at him, "I think I know. You're him aren't you? You're the Goblin King?"

"Samona," Jareth offered, slightly surprised by her assumption and her phrasing, "You may not believe this, but your mother said the same exact thing to me when we first met."

"But I thought it was just another of her fairy stories, like The Wizard of Oz and Snow White. Am I dreaming again or something?"

"Calm down, Samona." Jareth was trying to soothe the tension from the atmosphere. Samona was obviously in a state of shock. "You know very well what Sarah told you was nothing more and nothing less than the truth.

don't believe you!" Sam cried, on the verge of hysteria, and Jareth could see in her eyes that she was beginning to accept the truth. "If you are the Goblin King and you did know my mother," Sam continued in a blind rush, "why did you let her die?"

"Samona, I didn't let Sarah die. It was the way she wanted it. I..." but Sam was no longer listening to him. She had her face buried in her hands and tiny crystal teardrops were falling to the floor. When Jareth made a move to comfort her, she shoved him away with all her strength and ran from the room, still sobbing in despair.

Jareth made a move to follow her, but decided she might not be willing to share her tears with him yet. Everything in its own time, he mused with uncharacteristic patience. He only hoped he could handle her pain as well as his own.

**********

In the wee hours of the morning, Sam woke up to discover that she was laying on a hard, cold stone floor. Why couldn't it have been just another dream? she pleaded to no one in particular. Why couldn't I have just woken up safe and warm in my nice British bed? Why am I here? But this time, there was nobody near to answer her thoughts. She was utterly alone in the dark and the cold. Better get moving.

Sam lay on the floor until her eyes adjusted to the darkness and then made her way to the barely discernable exit across the room. It was a dangerous journey filled with steep, winding stairs and narrow passages that suddenly ended, but Sam finally found her way to the castle's main entrance as false dawn spread across the sky in shades of pink and gray. She looked at the large wooden doors in front of her and wondered how she was going to get out. Sam wanted to find her way out of the Labyrinth--just the opposite of her mother's journey, she mused.

"Say," a voice interrupted from near the gate, "aren't you the Lady Samona?"

Sam tensed, wondering just what Jareth had been telling these goblins of his. Lady Samona? What bullshit! It was time to set the record straight.

"Nope, I'm just plain ol' Sam. Now, how about opening this door for me, please?"

"Oh. Okay, then. No problem. Be just a minute."

Sam was relieved that the goblin hadn't questioned her further. She really didn't like to lie, especially to those who were only doing their jobs.

The door swung open with a rusty squeak and Sam went through it, just managing to restrain herself from looking back at Jareth's castle. Before her was the chaotic mass of the Goblin city. Little stone buildings in an array of shapes and colors pointed to the sky like bony fingers. Sam shuddered, both at the thought and the early morning dampness. She was clothed only in a pair of close-fitted tan chinos and a pale pink linen blouse with short sleeves. Her white leather oxfords and belt did much for her simple outfit, but nothing to lessen the chill. I am dressed for a British June afternoon of sightseeing, not for tramping about a Goblin City at sunrise, Sam thought acerbically.

Nonetheless, she made her way through the city with only a few curious glances directed her way. It seemed that goblins liked the morning even less than she did, because she didn't see many besides the gateman until the sun was well above the horizon. By then, however, Sam was at the edge of the Goblin City, waiting patiently for a young dwarf in a blue leather jacket to open the gate for her.

"Are you really going out there?" he inquired with a touch of doubt.

"I am" Sam affirmed without hesitation. "I want to go home, and to do that I have to find a way out of this Labyrinth."

"Well, good luck, miss. And if you need any help, just look for my father. He knows this Labyrinth better than Jareth himself. His name's Hoggle. I'm Hoddle, by the way."

"Thank you, and goodbye, Hoddle." Sam smiled and waved. Then she turned and walked through the gate and into the sprawling Labyrinth.

**********

Jareth stared into the crystal balancing on his black-gloved fingertips and smiled. He hoped that the Labyrinth and its creatures would help Sam heal. He'd let her spend the night in his empty one-room tower so she could be alone, but he had worried that she might become sick. But, she was on her own now. He would only interfere if she asked it of him.

"Stewart," he said to the goblin at the door, "tell that dwarf Hoggle to watch her."

"Yes, milord," he acknowledged then vanished before Jareth could blink again.

Jareth paced the length of his study, hands clasped tightly behind his back. He thought about how well and how little he knew Samona. He had known her mother well, and had been great friends with her towards the end of her time on Earth. When she died, Jareth had been tempted to bring Samona back to the Labyrinth where she belonged, but Sarah had absolutely forbidden it. She wanted her daughter to make her own way in the world. And if the time came when Samona could no longer accept her own world, then and only then could Jareth intervene. And that time had come. Samona may not believe it, or even know it yet, but she no longer belonged in the mundane world. Her powers and imagination had long outgrown those of other humans. Not to mention what tragedy, violence and alcohol had done to her mind and body over the years. No, Jareth did not regret his decision to bring Samona home, he only regretted the promise that had left her to suffer for so long on Earth.

**********

Sam had been walking for what seemed like days, but in reality was probably only hours. Her feet hurt, her throat was parched and her stomach was growling fiercely in hunger; basically, she was miserable. Her long hair kept coming out of its ponytail in haphazard strands that threatened to obliterate Sam's remaining patience with their unruliness. She was looking around for some way to express her irritation when she stumbled on a loose stone and fell to her knees on the stone floor of the labyrinth. Fighting back tears, she lied down on her back and stared up at the orange and red sky. It was all just too much for her to tolerate. With a choked sob she closed her eyes and let the tears flow from the corners of her eyes down her temples and into her pale hair. She made no other sound, but the tears still came. She thought about the mother she had barely known and the father she hadn't. All her life had been grief and destruction and pointless struggle. She had never truly belonged anywhere or to anybody and had been searching her whole life for that one piece of the universe to call her own. And now here she was, homeless, friendless and penniless, lying on the hard stone floor of a labyrinth she couldn't find her way out of in the middle of some crazy, backwards and upside-down world where the sky was red, the people were goblins and the leader was a psychic friend of her mother. The absurdity of her situation finally registered on her emotionally drained mind and she felt the incredible need to laugh. When she finally did so, she couldn't believe how much better she felt. Her situation was still bizarre, but not utterly hopeless as she had felt before. Sam rolled onto her side and sat up, still chuckling to herself. She tucked the loose strands of hair back into her ponytail and started to sit up when a voice startled.

"Do you feel any better now?" was the polite enquiry.

"What?" Sam asked, looking around for the owner of the voice.

"I said, did your little cry make you feel any better?" came the now slightly exasperated question.

"Um, yes, thank you. I do," Sam replied still looking around.

"Good. Then would you mind getting off my house?"

"Your house? Who are you? Where are you?" Sam wanted to know.

"I'm right here, next to your foot. Call me Simon," the little voice replied.

"Oh!" Sam surprised as she noticed the little man. He was probably just over half a foot tall with dark hair and eyes and longish pointy nose. He wore brown pants with suspenders, a white cotton shirt and a large square hat with a feather sticking at an odd angle from it.

"Well," came the imperious voice again, "who are you?"

"Oh, sorry, I'm Sam. I apologize for sitting on your house, but I didn't realize."

"No harm done, I suppose, but I really do have to get inside. So, if you don't mind..."

"Okay, sorry again. By the way, if you don't mind me asking, what are you?"

"I'm a brownie. There's lot's of us about these parts. And you're human."

"Yeah. How do you know? Have there been others?"

"Occasionally other humans will come here looking for their brothers and sisters. But not many in the past hundred years or so."

"Why not?"

"Don't know. Except that maybe His Highness just doesn't want to go to all the trouble of bringing them here anymore. He has seemed different these days--quieter I guess."

"Hmm. Okay. Well, goodbye Simon. Thanks," Sam offered as she got up and walked further into the labyrinth, leaving Simon to lift up the flagstone and walk down a tiny flight of stairs to his home.

The sky was growing dark and Sam still hadn't found the entrance to the labyrinth. She had been walking all day with only a few handfuls of water from a small pond she had discovered and some berries that were growing alongside it. It was beginning to get cold out too, and Sam still had no place to sleep. She'd probably just find a not-so-uncomfortable patch of wall somewhere and try to catch a few hours of rest there. It was not an exciting prospect. Just then, however, a short knobby man with a large head limped into view. As he neared her, Sam could tell that he wore a tan stylized leather jacket, brown pants and a white shirt and sturdy shoes. He also had a satchel hanging from his leather belt that clinked and jangled when he walked. Sam was very curious about its content, but even more curious about whether or not this person was a dwarf, for he was obviously not a human...

"What're you doin' out here by yourself?" the gruff voice interrupted her train of thought.

"What? Oh. I'm trying to find my to the beginning of this labyrinth. Do you know the way?"

"What way?"

"The way to the beginning of this labyrinth."

"There are lots of ways. Which way do you want to go?"

"I don't know. Which way would you go?"

"I wouldn't go any way. I'm on my way home."

Sam sighed in annoyance. This dwarf was obviously not going to be helpful at all. "Well, goodbye then," she said with a glare that he probably couldn't see in the dim light.

"Wait a minute," the stranger said. "Why don't you come home with me. It's not right, you know, a young girl like yourself being alone in this labyrinth when its dark."

"I don't think so," Sam replied. "I really do need to find my way out."

"Well, you're not going to be finding much of anything when it gets really dark, except maybe an oubliette. Come on, follow me."

"What's an oubliette?" Sam asked, trying to avoid the issue.

"It's a big dark hole where you put people to forget about them."

"That's horrible!" Sam said, secretly thinking it sounded rather interesting.

"Sure is. And I'm Hoggle. Come on."

"You're Hoggle?" Sam asked with growing relief. "I think I met your son today."

"Probably. Are you coming?"

"How far is it."

"Not far. Let's go. I'm hungry."Sam followed close behind the dwarf, so she wouldn't lose him in the dark. The last thing she wanted was to be wandering around in circles again. Hoggle seemed trustworthy enough, and at least she would get some food and a good rest.

After so many twistings and turnings that Sam lost track, they finally arrived at their destination. It was a rather large stone building surrounded by shrubbery and filled with the warm glow of candlelight. When they pushed open the little wooden door and stepped inside, the first word that came to Sam's mind was cozy. The place was obviously well cared for and very lived in. The earthen floors were hard packed and covered with brightly woven rugs thrown here and there. The furniture in the main room was wooden and hand-carved, and including three chairs and a small rectangular table, rather like a coffee table. At the far end of the room was a stone fireplace with a slowly burning log inside and pot of something that smelled very good hanging above the fire, while small wooden knickknacks lined the mantelpiece. The dining area consisted of a square wooden table and three wooden chairs. On the table sat two clay bowls and spoons, a loaf of bread and a dripping wax candle. There were two doors leading to the back of the house which Sam assumed must be the bedrooms. As she thought this, the door to the right opened and a small woman stepped into the large room and smiled.

"There you are Hoggle. I thought you'd gotten lost, dear."

"Not me, Iris. You know that," Hoggle said proudly.

"Of course, dear. And who's our guest?"

"Oh. This is...What's your name?"

"Sam."

"Right," Hoggle replied, "this is Sam."

"Well, come on in and have a seat you two. I'll get you some stew to eat."

"Thank you," Sam replied, following Hoggle to the table.

Sam sat precariously in the small chair, hoping she wouldn't break it and watched as Iris took the bowls from the table to the fireplace and ladled stew into each of them. Sam took the time to notice Iris's soft blue skirt, white blouse and white apron. She wore finely crafted slippers instead of sturdy working boots like Hoggle. Her hair was still dark, unlike Hoggle's white hair, but showing signs of gray. She had it pulled back into a very tight braid, most likely to keep it out of her face while she worked. A very practical idea, Sam thought, and decided to do the same with her own hair in the morning.

Iris sat the steaming bowls of stew in front of Hoggle and Sam, then went outside. When she came back in, she was carrying two clay mugs of water. When she sat the mug in front of Sam she said, "Drink slowly, dear, you look a little dry and we don't want to get you sick, do we?"

"Thanks," Sam said and smiled at Iris. She lifted the mug to her lips and took a small sip. The water was cold and refreshing and tasted like springtime. You can't get this out of a city tap or a plastic bottle, she thought to herself. After quenching her thirst, Sam started on her stew: fresh garden vegetables and some kind of meat that melted in her mouth. After scooping up the last bite with her spoon she took the piece of bread Hoggle had given her and cleaned the insides of the bowl with it. When Sam was done, she relaxed in her chair as much as she dared and closed her eyes in contentment.

"Sam, dear," came Iris's gentle voice. "Wake up. It's time to go to bed."

"What?" Sam mumbled as she slowly peeled open her eyes.

"Come on, I'll show where you can sleep."

Sam stood up gradually and followed Iris into the room behind the left door. It was small, but well furnished. There was a small wooden chair in the far corner and wooden bedstand with a candle burning on it near the window. The bed itself was small, too small for her, Sam thought as she stifled a yawn, but it looked so comfortable. She just wanted to wrap herself up in the thick bright quilt and sleep for several hours.

"Here," Iris said pointing to the floor near the bed. "I'll put some blankets down on the ground and you can use Hoddle's pillow and quilt. Yes, that should be quite comfortable." Iris stepped out of the room and a moment later came back with an armful of blankets. She spread them out on the floor and wished Sam goodnight.

For a few minutes after Iris left, Sam just stood in the center of the room. She couldn't believe her good fortune at having met Hoggle when she did. Something was finally going right with her life. When another yawn threatened to split her head in two, Sam extinguished the candle and crawled under the quilt for warmth. She was asleep as soon as her eyes closed.

**********

"Tell me Hoggle," Jareth said, "how is she?"

"Drained, I would say, your Majesty," Hoggle's replied.

"I thought as much," Jareth sighed. "Keep an eye on her Hoggle. Try not to let her leave the labyrinth if you can help it. I need to talk to her again, but I don't think she's ready."

"No, she's not. But give it a few days, your Majesty," Hoggle offered quietly.

"Very well. Don't fail me Hoggle. For her sake."

"Goodnight, your Majesty."

**********

In the morning Sam awoke to see the reddish-gold light streaking through the window and falling to the floor. She stretched as much as the little room would let her and then smiled happily. It had been so long since she had felt this content, at least before her mother had died. She stood up, folded the blankets and left them on the foot of the bed. As she opened the door and stepped into the large room Iris looked over her shoulder from her position at the fireplace where she was cooking something delicious smelling again.

"Why don't you go out back to the pump and wash up dear. I'm sure you want to get all that dust out of your hair."

"Okay. Thanks," Sam agreed with a smile. She made her way to the pump behind the house and splashed her face with the cold water. Then she stuck her entire head under the pump and tried to get as much of the dirt out of her hair as she could. When she flung her head back to get the wet strands out of her eyes, little drops of water glittered in the golden light and formed tiny rainbows in the air. Sam laughed out loud and reached out to touch the falling multicolored drops. She was so rested and at ease in the small dwarven cottage, that she didn't want to think about what lay beyond the labyrinth anymore. Of course she knew she would have to face everything that had happened with Jareth and the things he had said about her mother sometime and that thought made her smile fade. With a great effort she derailed her own disturbing thoughts and headed back towards the cottage.

"Now," Iris said as soon as Sam walked through the door, "don't you feel so much better?"

"Well, I certainly feel cleaner," Sam answered enigmatically.

"Good, good. Then sit down and get some porridge in you."

"Where's Hoggle?" Sam asked as she sat down in the same seat as last night.

"Oh, he ate a while ago. It's mid-morning you know. We thought you'd appreciate the extra sleep more than breakfast with us old folks," Iris laughed at her own humor.

"Well, thanks," Sam said before taking a bite of her breakfast. It was a warm oatmeal type concoction with honey and some type of berry mixed in. It was very good, too. Just as she was finishing her meal, Hoggle walked in.

"Mornin'," he offered gruffly.

"Good morning, Hoggle," Sam replied cheerily.

"Iris," Hoggle turned to his wife, "I was thinkin' we might do a bit of repair work on this old place. Wha'd'ya say?"

"Well, it's rather a big job for just the two of us and Hoddle won't be back from the barracks until next week."

"That's true," Hoggle conceded. "What we need is an extra pair of hands." At that his glance casually fell to where Sam was still seated at the table. "Wha'd'ya think, girl? Are you up for it?"

"Well, I really should be going. I still have to..." Sam tried to explain but was cut off in midsentence.

"Nonsense," Hoggle interrupted. "You need to get your mind off things and there's nothin' that will take you out of your own troubles more than dirt and sweat."

Sam had to admit that Hoggle's last point was quite correct. She had barely thought about her own situation yesterday, she was so busy trying to find food and water and shade. But no, she had to get out of the labyrinth. She didn't belong in it. "I'm sorry, Ho..."

"Good," Iris interrupted this time. "Then it's all settled. Let's get started shall we?"

Sam sighed and resigned herself to helping out Hoggle and Iris. She supposed she did owe them something for the food and roof over her head. And besides, what difference would a few more days make, anyway?

Sam spent the next four days helping Iris and Hoggle fix everything from the hinges on the outer door to the leaky spot on the roof. They washed the rugs, scrubbed the tables, walls and chairs, and cleaned out the fireplace. In the evening Iris helped Sam make a new outfit from pieces of clothing Hoddle had worn as a child because her own were so dirty now that Sam feared she would never get them clean. When Sam awoke on the fifth morning she put on her new outfit, a very brightly colored patchwork skirt that flowed to her ankles and a white blouse with colored strips at the cuffs and tails to add the needed length. She braided a braided three ribbons into her fair hair that perfectly matched the colors of her skirt: burgundy, emerald green, and blue. Finally she slipped on her slightly-less-than-white leather oxfords and went to have her last breakfast with Hoggle and Iris.

"Good morning, you two," Sam said to the couple seated at the table.

"Good morning, dear," Iris replied while Hoggle just managed a grunt.

Sam sat down at the table and ate her breakfast in silence. She didn't look forward to telling Hoggle and Iris that she was leaving, but she knew that if she stayed any longer she wouldn't ever be able to leave. Sam sighed into her oatmeal and looked over at the two dwarves who had become her good friends and surrogate parents. "I'm really going to miss you both," she said quietly.

"We'll miss you too, Samona," Iris responded.

"When do you plan on leaving?" Hoggle asked.

"Now," Sam replied.

"We thought you might," Iris said.

"How did you know?" Sam asked curiously.

"Because you obviously have something that needs to be resolved, dear. Anyone can see that. Finish your breakfast. I've packed you a light lunch and Hoggle has drawn you a map of the labyrinth."

"Thank you, both," Sam offered sincerely. "I guess I better go," she said, standing up.

Iris handed her a cloth satchel with her old clothes and some food and Sam bent down to hug her. Then Hoggle handed her an ink map drawn on an old piece of unlined paper. Sam kissed the old dwarf on the head and thanked them both again as she walked to the door. She walked out into the stone path and turned around to wave goodbye. The couple was standing in the doorway and waved back at her. As she walked on down the path, Sam felt very free. There didn't seem to be any pressing need for her to actually get out of the labyrinth anymore. However, she glanced down at Hoggle's map and started following its directions.

Her walk was a short one. The sunlight warmed her skin through her thin blouse and the breeze played with her skirt and the loose ribbon ends in her hair as she strolled through the labyrinth. She was completely content and didn't notice how familiar the surroundings were getting until she saw the giant gate at the entrance of the Goblin City. Sam stopped in mid-stride and just stared at the huge entryway. She was very confused. She looked again at her map and assured herself that she had followed Hoggle's directions quite accurately. That could only mean one thing--"Hoggle!" Sam yelled at the open sky.

**********

Jareth reclined in his large ornate throne and stared into the small crystal that he held lightly between his thumb and index finger. "It's about time," he muttered impatiently to the dwarf at his side.

"Be careful, your Majesty," Hoggle cautioned. "You don't want her runnin' off like her mother did."

"I know that Hoggle! Now watch your tongue and tell me how she has been these last few days."

"Good, your Majesty," Hoggle continued unperturbed. "She's a hard worker, but a dreamer,too. A good mix."

"Do you think she's ready?"

"She's here now, so what's the point in worrying about it?"

"True enough, old dwarf. Now go home. I have to speak with my daughter."

Don't rush things, Goblin King. And I'm off."

Jareth watched as Hoggle limped out of sight and then stared back into his crystal. It was time for Samona to learn the truth about herself, whether she liked it or not.

"Patrick," Jareth said to the goblin standing unobtrusively in the far corner of the throne room, "tell the dwarf on guard at the gate to escort Samona to the castle."

In blink of an eye the obedient goblin was gone to do his master's bidding. And Jareth stood up and began pacing the room like an expectant father.

**********

As Sam stood in front of the gate to the Goblin City debating whether she should go in or turn around and start back the other way, a familiar figure limped into view.

"Hoggle!" Sam shouted. "Why did you send me back here?"

"Because you have to talk to Jareth."

"Why do I?"

"Because he can tell you things you need to know."

"About what?"

"Your mother, for one. She was a very beautiful girl, you know."

"Yes, I remember. But how do you know?"

"Well, believe it or not, Sarah was my first real friend. She was very brave and very stubborn, and we all loved her because of it."

"We?"

"Yes. Me and Ludo and Sir Dydimus, the Wise Man and even Jareth. Yes," Hoggle continued, halting her protest, "Jareth loved Sarah very much. And somehow she loved him too."

"But why didn't she ever tell me any of this?" Sam pleaded.

"You'll have to ask Jareth for that answer. But before you go, I want you to have this," Hoggle said. He reached into the small satchel at this waist and removed a bracelet made of plastic beads.

"Where did you get this?" Sam asked softly as she took the bracelet from Hoggle's outstretched hand.

"Sarah gave it to me. She wanted me to show her to the castle, but I was under strict orders from Jareth not to. This was her way of talking me into it."

"Oh," Sam said, turning the bracelet over in the palm of her hand. "Thank you very much Hoggle. I guess I must talk to Jareth if I ever want to get out of this place, huh?"

Hoggle didn't need to reply because at that same moment, the gate to the Goblin City opened and another dwarf stepped through.

"Lady Samona," Hoddle said with a slight bow for Sam and a wink for his father. "His Majesty would like me to walk with you to the castle."

"Alright," Sam sighed in defeat. "I'm coming. Goodbye Hoggle, and thanks again for everything."

"Goodbye, Sam," Hoggle said and disappeared into the labyrinth.

"Lead the way, Hoddle," Sam said, not feeling half as much dread as she thought she should.

As Sam and Hoddle made their way through the Goblin City, Sam noticed that none of the goblin's paid any attention to them. "Hoddle," Sam said quietly, "why don't they seem to notice us?"

"They do, but they don't care. They're not what you could call brilliant, you know. All they want in life is good food, a warm place to sleep and beer. Basically, we're just not important to them," Hoddle explained as he cheerfully Sam's lunch into the air.

"Oh," Sam said, thinking how strange and how wonderful it must be to be a goblin. No worries or cares outside of basic necessities. For a second she even thought about asking Jareth to make her a goblin, but then decided she'd rather be herself, no matter what.

"We have arrived," Hoddle indicated in an exaggerated voice.

The large wooden castle doors opened and Hoddle ushered Sam inside. As the doors banged close behind them, leaving them in a relatively dark and empty room, Sam started to think that maybe this wasn't a very good idea. But she didn't have long to contemplate this before Hoddle was again leading the way down a long narrow corridor, at the end of which was another wooden door. The dwarf opened the door and Sam had to blink back tears as bright sunlight momentarily blinded her. When her eyes finally adjusted to the light, she could see that she was standing at the entrance of a grand courtyard. There were trees of all sorts, some that reminded her of tall oaks and others that resembled the delicate weeping willows she had been so fond of as a child. There were flowers in all different shades of red and yellow and blue. In the center of the yard was a large stone fountain in the shape of an owl in flight surrounded by several stone benches. On the far bend, nearly hidden behind the fountain, sat a man. His golden hair glowed in the sunlight and his white shirt shone brightly. There was no mistaking him for anyone other than the Goblin King himself.

Sam turned to ask Hoddle to stay with her, but the door was already closing, with the dwarf and her lunch on the other side. Sam briefly considered pulling open the door and running back the way she had come, but decided she had never run from anything before in her life and wasn't about to start now. So, straightening her shoulders and relaxing her facial features into a neutral mask she approached Jareth near the fountain.

"Hi," she said, stopping a few feet in front of him. "I guess we should talk."

"Indeed," Jareth smiled. He was relieved to see Samona dealing with the situation in a rational manner. "What should we talk about?"

"My mother for starters," Sam suggested.

"Alright," Jareth seemed to consider this, "what do you want to know about her?"

"How did you meet her?"

"My goblins kidnapped her baby brother-your Uncle Toby," Jareth offered point blank.

"You mean that whole story is true?" Sam exclaimed in disbelief.

"Calm down Samona," Jareth soothed. "Your mother didn't know for sure that her little rhyme would work. She thought it was only a story. Actually, she had stumbled across an actual spell that had been locked inside her mind for many years. Well, really its all too complicated to go into now, but suffice it to say that it worked."

"How did it work?"

"I brought her brother to my castle for safe keeping. But Sarah was so distraught over the fact that her brother was to become a goblin that I decided to bend the rules. I gave her 13 hours in which to solve the labyrinth or her baby brother would be turned into a goblin. She was very determined to get him back. She made to the Escher room with a few minutes to spare. Someday, maybe I'll tell you the whole story. But for now it is enough for you to know that I fell in love with Sarah. However, she was still a child and wasn't ready to any of this," he said with a sweeping gesture of his arm, "to be her reality."

"What happened?" Sam asked, trying not to sound overly curious.

"I let her go. Oh, we still kept in contact but it was mostly through the friends she had made here. And then one day a few years later, Sarah decided that she would stay here with me. We were very happy for a short time. However, a year after you were born, Sarah decided she didn't belong anymore. She said she still had dreams she needed to realize in her own world. She packed some clothes for the both of you and walked through the labyrinth and out of my life," Jareth said then paused for a minute watching a variety of expressions cross Sam's face. "I did see her once more, though, right before she was killed. I'd come to see how you were doing and Sarah told me she had just gotten married. I never met the man, but your mother and I got into a very large argument because of him. I threatened to bring you back here with me, but Sarah wouldn't hear of it. She told me she would only allow it over her dead body and maybe not even then."

"Why not?" Sam asked in a choked voice.

"Because you had to be willing to stay. Nobody comes to this kingdom unwillingly, Samona. Everybody stays because they want to. Would you like to stay here?" Jareth asked hopefully.

"Are you telling me the truth? You're really my father?" Sam asked both cautiously and dubiously.

"Yes I am. And I hope you'll stay and learn what that really means."

"Tell me," Sam commanded.

"To begin with, you have powers beyond belief. I'll teach you how to use magic and crystals and symbols. You'll learn how to rule a kingdom and meet Elven princes and Dragon queens. You'll have power and wealth beyond your wildest dreams. But best of all, you'll have a father and I'll have my daughter back," Jareth continued with a degree of sincerity that was impossible to fake and difficult to conceal.

"Okay," Sam agreed tentatively, but with increasing excitement. She still wasn't completely sure that it was the right thing to do, but she wasn't sure it was so wrong anymore either. Jareth seemed genuine enough and Hoggle was obviously on his side too, so Sam decided to stick around for awhile and try the place on for size. Sam sat next to Jareth on the bench and looked at his profile a while before asking, "Jareth?"

"Yes?" he said, trying to keep the anxiety out of his voice.

"If you're the king and I'm your daughter, that does make me a princess, doesn't it?"

"Quite right," Jareth acknowledged trying not to laugh aloud with his relief.

"Good," Sam continued smiling, "I always wanted to be a princess."

"You always were," Jareth said and smiled broadly. "Welcome home, Samona."

"Call me Sam, Jareth."

"Then call me Dad, Sam."

"Okay, then, Dad," Sam allowed and they both laughed.

"I knew one day you would call me that."

"Maybe it's something fate intended,” Sam continued, “but we both know this corny dialogue can’t last forever.”

“Quite true. I wonder what the sequel will bring?”

**********************************
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