Dark, almost sinister in a cool quite way, the skies rumbled with the onset of low storm clouds. Toby turned to look out the grimy window at the rumbling clouds that formed a slate gray backdrop to the great fiery plumes of the sycamore trees lining the streets. It was almost inconceivable that here he sat in class staring out the window, while the clouds broke forth weeping upon the earth.
As the final bell rang, Toby stood collecting his books and walking from the classroom toward the double doors. Emerging from the school into the rain soaked atmosphere Toby allowed a moment to breath in the cool air before reaching into his bag for his umbrella. After several minutes of searching, unable to find his umbrella, he gave up and walked out into the wetness. Toby waved goodbye to a few friends and declined their offers to give him a ride home, planning to take the short cut through the woods behind the school as he often did. Head down singing to the band playing from his mp3 player, Toby barely noticed the change in scenery as he walked the old familiar path home from school. Rain coursing down his face and dripping from his hair caused Toby to begin walking faster. Trying to make it through the woods and back to his house almost seemed impossible. The trees formed a labyrinth around him and Toby felt fear begin to send cold chills down his spine. Before he could question what was happening the atmosphere changed and Toby stood in a dark wood, his lavender eyes scanning his surroundings rapidly.
“Where am I?” he murmured as he brushed a stray wisp of black hair from his forehead.
“In my Labyrinth.” An intoxicating voice whispered in his ear causing Toby to shiver as he turned to find the voice’s owner.
“Who are you?”
“I am Darien, Prince of the Goblin Kingdom, my father is ruler of this world.” He answered dramatically as he swept his hand through the air in demonstration.
“What…why am I hear?” Toby his beautiful eyes widening fearfully as he eyed the other boy. This is impossible, he looks just like the boy from my dream.
“Because it is my seventeenth birthday.” The prince replied his blonde hair glinting in the sunlight. The voice was identical to his dream, the same dream he had nearly every night since he turned thirteen; the dream he never spoke to anyone about not even his sister.
“What does your seventeenth birthday have to do with me?”
“It’s your birthday too, is it not?” The prince asked, walking over to the bench amidst the flowers and sitting down.
“How did you know?” Toby gasped.
“It’s part of the spell.” Darien replied. “Or curse, you might say.”
“Curse?” Toby spat. “This is getting stupid. This place is not real, it’s just like the stories my sister used to tell me before bed. I’m just dreaming that’s all.”
“This is not a dream!” Darien shrieked startling Toby from his rant. “This is a curse, the curse your sister brought on the two of us when she stole you back from father!”
Toby’s lavender eyes grew impossibly huge. “I don’t know what you’re talking about. This place doesn’t even exist.”
“Wake up, you imbecile! Of course, this place exists, and thanks to your sister, here you are. In my kingdom.” The blonde began to rant once more.
“What is your problem?”
Toby huffed at the reply and turned to walk away down one of the hedgerows.
“Stop!” Darien shrieked running and grabbing Toby before the hedge slammed in on him. “Do not ever go in that direction!”
“Well, what else would you have me do with you raving like a bloody lunatic?” Toby snapped pulling his arm free of the other boy’s firm grasp.
“Well what do you expect me to do with you here?” Darien screamed.
“I don’t even want to be here!” he screamed back.
“Be that as it may,” Another oddly familiar voice broke the stalemate. “You are here, and just in time for the big event. In fact one week from the event of the season, you might say.”
“No!” Darien screamed his face going paler than Toby would have thought possible.
“What is the big event?” Toby asked warily.
“Your wedding,” Jareth replied coolly. “To my son of course.”
“But, no.” Toby gapped. “That’s not possible, I mean were both…and I don’t know him…and I don’t even belong here.”
“There’s where you’re wrong.” The king said. “You have belonged here since the day you were given to us, as part of the payment for your sister’s betrayal. She may have reasoned our world into nothing more than a fairytale, but I assure you we are not.”
“I don’t understand.” Toby murmured as he sat down on the stone tiles in an attempt to stop his dizziness.
“On your sister’s seventeenth birthday, she stole a child from my kingdom, a child that rightfully belonged to me and her thievery enacted a spell that has not been used in six centuries.” Jareth explained. “She stole you from us, after she begged me to take you away. You were to become Darien’s companion, but your sister came to our world and stole you back.”
“Then why am I here?”
“Because the payment for stealing a child from the Goblin King is the bonding of that child to the heir upon the birthing year corresponding to the year of she who stole you.” Jareth replied.
“So, because my sister pulled one over on you and refused to marry you, I’m stuck with that jerk?” Toby shrieked his black hair hanging in his eyes, and his eyeliner smearing as he began to cry in frustration.
“Precisely.” Jareth replied. “One of your kind must be bonded to one of our family every century one way or another.”
“No fucking way.” Toby spat. “I won’t.”
“You have no choice.” Darien replied scathingly. “I have no choice. These spells cannot be broken, if they could I would have broken it years ago!” Darien looked defeated, almost as if his spirit was not even present in his body.
“But, we don’t know each other.” Toby cried. “We don’t even love each other.”
“But you can learn.” Jareth replied. “You will have one week to become acquainted before the ceremony.”
Toby glanced over to Darien who stood in stony silence his jaw flexing. Eyes filled with unshed tears, Toby swallowed heavily, and looked back to the King Jareth. “And there is no way that I can return to my world?”
Darien answered the question. “The veil between worlds is only opened once every year, never in the same place twice. It was happenstance that you were brought to the labyrinth instead of another part of the kingdom.”
Toby nodded gloomily tears sliding silently down his pale cheeks.
“Now then.” The King sighed. “Preparations have been made, we must go to the castle.” And with a flick of his wrist, they were in the grand entryway of the Castle beyond Goblin City. The castle from Sarah’s story.