Continuing Tales

Dark Labyrinth

A Labyrinth Story
by Helen Fayle

Part 1 of 12

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Dark Labyrinth

Trust me,' Alison said, 'You'll feel better.'

Sarah pulled a face. 'I know you mean well, but Ali - '

Her friend wouldn't listen. 'Picnic. PenArran woods. You, me and a hamper of goodies. Just what you need for your birthday to cheer you up!'

Which was why they were camped out on an old travel blanket in the middle of the woods on a bright summer day, on Sarah's eighteenth birthday, the battered radio beside them blasting out 'This Ain't The Summer of Love' by Blue Oyster Cult

'Which it isn't,' Alison said, 'Is it?' She pulled her sunglasses down her nose and stared hard at her friend. 'You finally ditched that idiot?'

'Last night. And his name's Carl.'

Alison grinned. 'Was Carl. Now he's history, right?'

Sarah smiled wanly. 'Yeah.'

Last night's argument had been the last straw, after eight months. A realisation that she just didn't love him. And certainly didn't want to sleep with him…

Alison patted her on the arm. 'Hey. He didn't deserve you anyway. So. What's the plan for tonight? Party? Or ice cream?'

Sarah grinned. 'Ice cream. I don't feel like partying.' She hadn't felt like coming out this afternoon either, but Alison would have been hurt if she'd refused. With her mother and Jeremy away on tour with a new play, she was on her own for her birthday - except for Ali. She could perhaps have gone to stay with her father, but after she'd walked out two years ago (one final fight too many with Karen, her stepmother) she'd sworn nothing would make her stay one more night under that roof.

And then there was the pendant.

She fingered the silver owl gently, feeling the delicate casting. It had been on her bedside table this morning when she woke up, in a black velvet case. The note with it had just been a single letter in an elaborate hand. The letter 'J'.

Just when you started to convince yourself it could have been just a dream…

Alison followed the gesture. 'You still haven't told me who gave you that.'

Sarah shrugged. 'Someone I met a few years ago. Briefly.'

'Some 'briefly',' Alison grinned. 'Even in silver, that's an expensive piece. So what gives? Who's the mystery admirer?'

'You just don't give up do you?'

Alison flicked a grape at her. 'Nope. Come on - tall? Handsome.'

'Yes, and very - in a wild sort of way.' Sculptured features, a generous mouth that could compress to a cruel line.


' Fair.' Almost white blond in some lights, Sarah remembered.

Pale, faded to grey at the last. Owl pale.


'Two of them,' Sarah shot back. They both laughed.

'Silly. Colour? Brown, Blue?'

'One blue, the other hazel - I think.'

'Ooh, weird. Well built?'



Sarah glared at her. 'What is this, 20 questions?' Alison just hummed and looked innocent. 'I don't know.' Truth: anywhere between thirty and a few hundred years, for all she knew. Not that she could tell Ali that.

'Older then?'

'Yes.' Much...


Goblin King. So there, Sarah thought to herself, with an inward sigh. 'I really couldn't say.' And wasn't that the truth...

A high pitched keening distracted them before Alison could continue her line of questioning.

'Sounds like something's being killed,' Ali remarked. Trying to see if she could locate the source of the noise, Sarah noticed a red-tailed hawk fly out of the trees a short distance away. The keening continued.

'I think it got something.' She stood up and walked to where she could hear the sounds, growing fainter.

Just into the treeline, she found the source: a barn owl, panting its last as she reached it. She knelt by the bird, little more than a bloodstained pile of feathers.

'Jeez, what a mess!' Alison exclaimed, staring down over Sarah's shoulder. Standing, Sarah realised she was shaking.

'I'm going home,' she told Alison. 'Please,' she added, remembering that it was Ali who had the car.

Alison, not normally noted for her tact, took one look at Sarah and said no more. Sarah wasn't squeamish, she knew, but for some reason the sight of the owl had given her friend a real shock.

They drove home in silence.



Is Happenstance

Sarah threw the keys onto the phone table when she got back into the house. Two envelopes still lay on the table, unopened. One in her mother's careless scrawl, the other in Karen's neat hand. She stared at them again, trying to work up the enthusiasm to open them, but then sighed and headed for the kitchen instead. Some eighteenth birthday, she thought. Her mother away on tour with her new play, and her father couldn't even be bothered to write out the card himself.

There was probably time to ring round the few friends she did have, and arrange to go out, but rummaging through the fridge for tea, she didn't feel like it. Instead, she settled for Ladyhawke on video, a salad and an early night.

She was in the throne room of the Goblin Castle, only this time it was occupied. She picked her way through the squabbling pack of goblins that ran riot in the room. Two of them were wrestling on the floor in front of the empty throne, trying to pull each other's heads off by the look of it, Sarah thought.

It took her a few minutes to realise that there was no sound.

She moved through the room like a ghost, avoiding stepping in the rubbish that littered the floor. Drawn almost by instinct through the doorway she'd gone through before. Last time, it had led to the strange room drawn from her memory of the Escher print. This time, it ended at a large open window that overlooked the Goblin City.

He was sitting on the window ledge, looking out over the city. A strong evening breeze whipped his wild fair hair back from a face that held a look that was two parts boredom, one part contemplation. One booted leg rested on the ledge, the other dangled over the side. As she watched, a long gloved hand idly pushed a lock of hair back from his eyes.

In that unguarded, unwatched moment, he looked almost pleasant, she thought with some surprise.

As she watched, he leaned forwards, staring intently at something below. With a soundless oath, he pushed back from the window and ran back down the passage towards her. She jumped back into the shadows before remembering this was only a dream, and he couldn't possibly see her. His face now held a black look she was glad wasn't directed at her.

Curiosity drawing her, she followed.

The throne room was awash with blood. Goblin blood.

She'd always thought the creatures were almost indestructible.

Not anymore. One small scruffy goblin was still moving feebly, and expired as she drew nearer. She shivered. And looked towards the throne.

It was occupied by a red-haired man clad in a dark russet cloak. Surrounding him were six of the largest goblins she'd ever seen - at least six feet tall, she realised with a start. She wrapped her arms around herself for comfort, and looked around for Jareth.

One of the large goblins was dragging him before the man in red. Who cast aside the cloak to reveal a long black sword resting on his lap. Grasping the hilt, he brought the tip to rest against the Goblin King's throat…

Sarah awoke with a cry. Outside, dawn was breaking.


2. Is Coincidence

Sarah poked her now soggy muesli with the spoon and stared gloomily into the bowl. The sleepless night hadn't helped her general mood. She sighed heavily, and looked up, staring moodily out of the kitchen window.

Why now…?

It didn't help that she was alone. With her mother away (not that they spent much time together, but still…) and Merlin -

She looked over at the back of the open closet door, where his leash still hung. Even knowing he'd been getting on a bit, it had still hurt. She blinked back the tears, refusing to break. So she was on her own, so what? She was used to it. Her eyes dropped to the phone on the table beside her.

Choices… She didn't have to stay here alone, did she? She picked up the receiver and dialled.


Just the sight of that owl, she thought before drifting into the realm of dreams, safe in Ali's spare bed that night. That was all. Just a bad dream.

She was underground, somewhere. The dark tunnels dripped with water, and the eye lichen on the walls fluoresced in the faint light from the burning torch she carried. The little eyes kept swivelling to follow her as she passed it, and it hissed at her when she brushed too close. But she ignored it. She was searching for something, wasn't she? She had to find something. Or someone.

The tunnel opened out into a large underground chamber, empty except for a perch in the centre of the room - with a snowy feathered owl on it. She placed the torch in a skull shaped holder on the wall, and walked over to it. The poor thing, she thought, it's injured. Blood stained one wing and its white breast, sticking the soft feathers together.

It had odd coloured eyes, she noticed.

The jesses were chains instead of leather, welded around the perch.

'I can't!' she told the bird, looking at the chains. 'I don't know how!'

Distantly, she heard a clock begin to chime. Risking the bird taking a swipe at her with its beak, she tried to pull the chains free from the perch.





Sarah woke, trembling. Just across the road, the church clock could be heard striking twelve.

Just another dream, she told herself, sinking back onto the pillows. Then in the thin gleam of moonlight falling through a gap in the curtains, she saw the raw grazes on her hands.

As if she'd been pulling at thin chains with her fingers.



3. Times the charm.

The walls were darkened, their otherworldly glimmer replaced by a noxious grey slime that oozed and dripped over the crumbling brick. She was searching for something, but couldn't remember what it was. Left, left and left again, letting the walls guide her. Always heading for the centre. For the castle that reared up above the Labyrinth. A feeling of dread increased the further she went.

The gates to the city finally reared up in front of her, a massive construction of brass and bronze, tarnished, already, she noticed, looking at the rust coloured substance that covered them. Reaching out to touch them, tentatively, she drew her hand back in horror. Blood.

The sense of foreboding grew stronger, as reluctantly, she raised her eyes to look at the top of the wall across the gates, afraid of what she'd see there. His head, white blond hair matted with blood, mismatched eyes wide, staring down at her from the stake -

Sarah awoke with a scream, sitting bolt upright, shaking.

'Jesus, Sarah!' Alison yelled. She flicked the light switch. 'Have quiet nightmares, why don't you.'

'I'm sorry, it was just so - vivid.' Sarah threw back the covers and climbed out of bed. Walking over to the window, she stared into the night. The clock tower opposite their window showed that it was just past midnight.

'It's the third night in a row, ' Alison told her. ' Maybe you should see a counsellor or something?'

Sarah shook her head. 'Three times the charm…' she whispered to herself.


'Nothing. Just a feeling…' Unthinking, her hand drifted to the necklace that had appeared on her bedside table three mornings ago, on her 18th birthday. A silver owl with outstretched wings, the chain attached to the tips of the wings.

That night, the dreams had started. A feeling of danger, of something coming closer. But nothing to compare to tonight.

'Thinking about your mystery owl admirer?' Alison hazarded.

'Sort of.' She fingered the pendent again. The owl chained… the dead owl in the woods - and the dreams. An omen - or a message? She sighed. After finding the pendant, she'd expected him to appear, but so far there'd been no sign of Him. Jareth, the Goblin King.

Except for the dreams. And the feeling that had grown over the last three days that something was dreadfully wrong. Why do I care? she asked herself.

Memories… The look of - regret? When she'd rejected his offer at the end…

He was the only one who'd stayed away, never came back…

'What do you want?' she whispered, clutching the owl pendant. Then gasped. As Alison looked on in surprise, Sarah dressed in a hurry.

'What on earth?' Alison caught her arm 'What are you doing?'

'I've got to go. Now. Ali, can I borrow the car?'

'Sure, you know you can - but where are you going at this time of the night?'

She grabbed the keys and was half way out of the door before she thought to answer Alison's question. 'PenArran Wood.'

Her past had just returned to haunt her.

Dark Labyrinth

A Labyrinth Story
by Helen Fayle

Part 1 of 12

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