Continuing Tales

Dark Labyrinth

A Labyrinth Story
by Helen Fayle

Part 4 of 12

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Dark Labyrinth

Iorweth had found a large open window that overlooked the Goblin City, and was examining his handiwork when Calion returned. The Labyrinth stretched out beyond the walls of the city, filling the entire valley. The outer regions of the maze still held the glamour of its previous master, but spreading out in an ever widening circle from the castle, the Labyrinth now had a cold, dark air clinging to its walls and hedges. Nothing yet that anyone could tangibly perceive, but beneath the threshold of perception, the damage was begun. Iorweth smiled. The work was hard – the Labyrinth did not move easily to a new pattern – and keeping it bound to his will had proved less easy than he'd imagined.

Centuries of the indifferent neglect of it's ruler, he thought. It had been allowed to run along in its own chaotic fashion for too long. But it could be controlled.

All he needed was time.

Behind him, he heard Calion clear his throat.

'Yes?' he asked, without turning.

'I have some information,' his second said. Iorweth didn't miss the satisfied tone in his second's voice.

'I trust you had some amusement getting it?' he asked.

'Not overly much. The subject didn't put up much of a struggle. Although more than I gave it credit for.'

'Jareth's dwarf,' Iorweth stated. He heard Calion's intake of breath. Well, it did him good to realise that his lord had other resources, from time to time. Calion, on occasion, was far too sure of his position.

So much so, he often forgot that Iorweth was only fond of secrets when he held them. He wasn't a man who tolerated them in his subordinates. 'Well?' One careless hand gestured to Calion to continue. Clearing his throat again, the Sidhe did so.

'The girl with Jareth – the mortal. It seems she's been in the land before. She's the one who solved the Labyrinth – and left your esteemed peer with his pride on the floor.'

'Well now. That makes things a little more interesting.' Iorweth finally turned to face Calion. 'Keep watch over them. Discretely. Maybe she could be an interesting piece to add to the board after all.'

He turned his attention back to the City below, as the sun sank slowly behind the hills. Sensing his dismissal, Calion bowed low and left.


Sarah sat in isolated misery, trying to ease the aches in her overworked muscles, whilst Jareth saw to the horses. Helpless, pathetic girl she told herself angrily. You don't do the damsel in distress routine.

Lost in trying to rub some semblance of life back into her legs, she didn't see Jareth until he threw the packs down beside her. 'Try walking.' He held out a hand to help her up. She glared up at him stubbornly

'It hurts to sit down, never mind stand up and move.'

Without warning he simply reached down and hauled her to her feet.

'OW!' She glared at him.

'I'm not a healer, and if you let yourself stiffen up, you'll be lucky to be able to crawl tomorrow, let alone ride. Now are you going to move, or do I have to make you?'

'If you're going to tell me you have my best interests at heart – '

'Actually, yes.' A pause. 'Any questions?' Even in the failing light she could make out that mocking smile again.

'I sometimes think you're enjoying baiting me,' she snapped, letting him lead her around, and trying not to wince every time she took a step. How come fantasy writers never put in how painful riding across country for hours on end is?

'Not,' he replied dryly, 'when you make it this easy.'

She stumbled then on the uneven ground, and he was there again, catching her before she fell. She fetched up with one arm around his waist holding on for dear life, with his arms around her and her face almost resting in his hair. He's not as tall as I keep thinking he is, she thought; then, incongruously: I must look awful. She looked into his face, to find him staring at her. In the fading light, his left eye now looked brown. Unreadable, his expression, as he helped her recover her balance. Except as they pulled away from each other – what? Regret?

Get a grip, she told herself, watching him sort out the camp for the night. You're spending at least two nights out in the open with a (much) older man (scratch that… whatever he was. Fae? Sidhe? Whatever…) You aren't looking to get involved… that's why you broke up with Carl… One reason, anyway.

Memories… Only fear me, love me… She'd rejected him before… I ask for so little… for Toby, I had to… She clutched the owl pendant that she still wore around her neck and blinked back sudden tears. Why did everything have to be so complicated?


She was moving through a great hall filled with people, all of them in glorious costume – an Eighteenth century ball, all the attendees wearing masks. Some simple dominoes, others elaborate constructions of feather, brocade, carved bone, or fine porcelain. One man leered at her from under Pantalonne's unmistakable visage. She shivered and backed away. She was looking for someone…

A glimpse of blue, of fair hair… it kept shifting through the milling dancers, and she was struggling to keep up. Finally, the crowd parted, and she was standing in front of a masked figure: A dark coloured full-face mask, horned, held in one hand. The stick finished at the mask end with a skeletal hand.

The mask moved away from the face, revealing not the image she'd expected (who?) but another. A red-haired man, who smiled coldly at her.

'Is this what you're looking for?' His arm was outstretched towards her. Held firmly in his fist were fine chains, fastened like jesses to clawed feet.

Sitting on his arm was a large snowy owl. As she watched, still too shocked to move, his free hand gestured, and a small knife appeared in it. 'You don't have the wit to solve it.' A shadow passed overhead as he spoke. When she looked up, the ceiling was replaced by a night sky, a full moon shining down. Looking back to the man, she watched in horror as his hand plunged the knife into the owl's breast. 'Such a pity…' he whispered coldly. And she was standing on a worn flagstone floor, with the ruins of a castle behind her, pale feathers falling, falling from the sky through her outstretched hands…

Sarah awoke with a cry, and sat up, hugging her knees. It was still night, the waning moon already sinking lower in the sky. So vivid – but just a dream. She shivered. And nearly screamed when a hand touched her shoulder.

'Another dream?' Jareth's soft voice. She nodded, before remembering that it was dark, and tried to find her own.


'Tell me.'

After she'd related it, he was silent. 'Well?' she asked.

'I don't know. Dreams are Devin's area of expertise, not mine. And certainly not Iorweth's, so he can't be sending them.'

'They're scaring me,' she whispered. She clutched the owl pendant tightly. 'They started the day I got this. Are you sure you didn't...'

'There are spells bound into it, but nothing that would cause this.' His hand closed over hers. For once, it was ungloved. The touch of his skin on hers was electric. 'Don't remove it. Believe me, there is nothing bound to this that could harm you.' His fingers gently prised hers away from the pendant. 'It's warded for protection, and a little magic. Nothing more.'

'Now where have I heard that before?' Sarah asked, rather more lightly than she felt. He chuckled. Her fingers were still entangled in his, yet she didn't feel like moving them. The dream had left her feeling more shaken than she wanted to admit. Jareth's free hand pulled the blanket back around her shoulders, and she felt him move closer, offering his shoulder as a pillow. She hesitated, and again that unreadable expression flickered across his features, highlighted by the moonlight.

'You can trust me.' His voice low, gentle, no mockery or threat. Or was there a hint of a challenge in his manner, as if daring her to refuse? Caught between uncertain dreams and the unfriendly night, at least he offered a haven, of sorts. She moved closer, accepting the embrace. His arm curled loosely around hers as she laid her head on his shoulder, staring at the starry sky, waiting for dawn and thinking that sleep would be a long time coming.


Jareth was still awake when dawn finally came, the sun rising above the tree line, casting its orange glow over the sky and reflecting a reassuringly familiar rosy glow from the glitter-strewn grass. Shifting slightly so as not to disturb the sleeping girl, he winced as the wound in his side pulled. Devin's ministrations had almost healed it, but he was still far from being at full strength. With luck, that would not be tested in the next day or so before they reached Devin's demesne.

Except that recently, luck hadn't gone his way at all.

Sarah stirred, and he let her settle again. There was no point in waking the girl just yet. He'd let her sleep while she could.

And try to guard her dreams.

More than anything else about the last few days, they troubled him. Twice now she'd dreamed his death.

Wishful thinking?

No, he thought, looking down at her. There was a hard streak in her - buried under a soft sheltered upbringing, but there, beneath the surface just the same. But no malice. Not of that level. And the dreams distressed her, that much was obvious.

Yet they'd also served as a warning. Because of them, she'd been there, at the right time and place, open to his call for help.

A mystery, and he didn't like mysteries. Not unless he was the one setting them.

A half smile played over his face as he watched her sleeping. So lovely… the soft lines of childhood had gone from her face, leaving it with a bone-deep, structured beauty. She'd been lovely at fifteen. At eighteen, cleaned up, she would be breathtaking.

Forget about the girl, he told himself. There's too much at stake. Besides, she rejected you.

He'd gambled on keeping both her and the child. And lost.

She's turning to you because you're all there is… there are no second chances.

Or were there? In each dream, she'd been searching for him.

He drew his free leg up until he could rest his elbow on his knee, hand resting against his mouth, contemplating past and future, and waiting for Sarah to awaken.


'Are there any towns or cities here?' Sarah asked, nudging Ghairlean into a trot to catch up with Jareth. She tried not to wince as the little grey's bouncy stride elicited a protest from her over-used muscles. She'd slept, eventually, curled up against Jareth's shoulder, but she felt little better for it. An early start and several more hours in the saddle had only added to her misery.

'Not in this region. This used to be Goblin territory until about three hundred and fifty years ago. Settlements tend to be a little few and far between.'

'So,' Sarah decided that finding out a little bit about this place couldn't hurt, and he seemed talkative for the first time all morning, 'Where is everyone? I mean, it's not just Goblins, is it?' If nothing else, it would take her mind off travelling…

'Most of the major Sidhe and human settlements are to the south and west. There are only three cities left: Finial on the plains, Hy Breasil in the mountains and Murias on the coast. Out here - ' He gestured to take in the changeable landscape, 'there are some human and Sidhe run farms and villages, but they are few.'

'So what happened? I mean, to the goblins? Are they only in the Labyrinth now?'

He gave her a sideways look. 'You're curious all of a sudden.'

'It takes my mind off how much this hurts.' She grinned. 'Besides, you're right. I am curious.'

He sighed heavily. 'Don't expect a full history of relations between the various Fae from me, it would take forever to explain it. Suffice it to say that there were wars, and the goblins lost. In the last one, they were almost wiped out, although enough remain to be a nuisance, and their numbers have a tendency to increase rapidly.'

'But you're not a goblin?'

That earned her a withering look. 'Do I look like a goblin?' he said testily. Sarah bit back a grin. Another heavy sigh. 'Mortals! No, I'm not. I'm of the Leannan Sidhe. Not an elf, not a fairy, not a pixie, or a goblin.'

Touchy… 'So why are you their king…'? Sarah began. Abruptly he reined in his mare.

'We'll stop here for a while, the horses can water at the stream over there.' He pointed.

Doesn't want to talk about why he's ruling the goblins? Sarah wondered. More questions… She opened her mouth t speak again when he held up his hand, forestalling anything she might have said. The little chestnut side-stepped neatly over to the side of Sarah's grey, and Jareth leaned over.

'Say nothing, just dismount and wait here,' he said quietly. When Sarah began to ask, his hand raised again. 'Silence. I think we're being followed.'

She dismounted, stiffly, and handed Ghairlean's reins to him. 'Who? Iorweth?'

'I don't think so. Wait. I'll double back once I'm out of sight. You'll be safe enough here.'

Jareth took the horses down to the stream whilst Sarah tried to stretch her legs and ease the rest of her tortured muscles, feeling that she would almost kill for a hot bath and a bed when they reached Devin's home. They'd ridden all day, only stopping to rest the horses, after Jareth had decided to push on for their destination. She leant back against a convenient tree, just daydreaming about being able to stretch out in a deep, steaming bath.

The feel of the cold edge of a knife against her throat, and a dirty, roughened hand clamped over her mouth to stop her from screaming shattered the dream.

'Now then, lassie, don't struggle,' said a voice in her ear. She froze, not daring to move. Where was Jareth?

'Looks like we got lucky today.' Another man walked out of the trees, followed by a dwarf. Both were wearing battered looking leather jerkins, and carrying swords. 'Well now, didn't anyone tell you that it's not safe for a pretty little thing like you to be out here on your own. You might run into all sorts of trouble.'

'Even if she's not got much silver on her,' said the one still holding her, 'we'll still have some fun, right?' They laughed.

'Actually, she's not alone.' To Sarah's relief, Jareth appeared across the clearing, and leaned nonchalantly against a tree, adjusting a glove with a casual air, not even looking at the ruffians. 'I suggest you let her go now.'

'Hah, He don't look like much.' The dwarf spat. 'Tully, you sort him. He's not even armed'

Jareth raised his head then, and Sarah recognised the look on his face. Cold. Unyielding. She felt a breeze rustle past her, where there had been none before in the still air of the afternoon. Around Jareth, it whipped his pale hair and long coat around in a strong wind, leaving everything around him untouched.

The second human moved in, confidently. Jareth didn't move. Only as the sword swung and came down for the kill – and Jareth simply wasn't there.

Neither was the robber. He was lying on his back several feet away unmoving. Jareth stepped over the body, and between one footstep and the next, was clad in the costume she'd first seen him in, so long ago. The dark moulded breastplate, the midnight blue cloak. Every inch the Goblin King, in his full power.

The ruffian holding Sarah let her go, and she dropped to the floor, crawling out of the way. Once in the safety of the trees, she stopped to watch. The dwarf moved in to attack, less surely than his human partner. Jareth again seemed to fade out from under the blow, simply moving elsewhere. Why doesn't he finish it from a distance? Sarah wondered, watching him move closer to the dwarf, trying to get within arms length. The answer came to her in a flash. He's still too weak, he needs to be as close as possible. And he couldn't get close enough, he kept having to dodge the dwarf's sword. Come on… Sarah whispered. Finish it

Despite his current limitations though, she could almost swear he was enjoying it.

Finally, Jareth had his chance. She didn't even see him move, but the dwarf was lying on the ground, as still as his companion. But where's the third…?

She saw Jareth waver on his feet, slightly, as he stood in the centre of the clearing, and she looked around. Where…? The third ruffian stepped back out of the trees, hefting his sword in one hand and grinning.

'Worn you out a bit, has it?' he sneered. But he kept his distance, as if weighing his chances. It wouldn't be forever, Sarah knew, watching the scene. If Jareth didn't make a move -

With only in instant in which to act, Sarah chose her path. As boldly as she could, she stepped out of the trees, and walked over to Jareth. Curling her arm around his waist, she leaned her head against his shoulder as coquettishly as possible, and simply smiled at the ruffian. 'Why darling,' she purred to Jareth, 'You left one for me to play with, how thoughtful.' She raised her eyes and held the ruffian's gaze, holding them with as cold a look as she could. Two years living with one of the most acclaimed stage actresses on the East Coast has to pay off sometime

Jareth straightened, his arm encircling her waist – not wholly to take advantage of the support she offered. ' I suggest you leave now – unless you want to face her…' His voice was cold, dark. But his hand gently squeezed her, an acknowledgement of her bluff.

The thug looked from one to the other, and obviously decided that discretion was the better part of survival. He ran - and fell, face down, about a hundred yards from them, his jerkin smoking slightly from where the crystal globe had hit him, thrown with an uncanny accuracy by Jareth.

'Well I wasn't going to have him coming back and trying to slit our throats in the night.' As he finished speaking, he was dressed again in his leather coat and white shirt. 'But just where,' he was facing her now, although he hadn't let go of her waist. 'Did that performance come from?' He was smiling again, the expression giving his eyes a playful spark. Strangely, she found herself returning the smile as she replied.

'Helping my mother read for Lady MacBeth last year.' Sarah couldn't decide at the moment whether she felt sick or exhilarated. Probably both. Despite looking a little faded around the edges, Jareth looked as if he'd enjoyed it. Which, looking at three bodies lying around the glade, wasn't a comforting thought. But the effort had taken a lot out of him, she realised. His casual use of magic was taking a heavy toll on his strength.

'You were quite convincing,' he said, distracting her.

'Which bit?' Sarah asked, with a grin. 'Scaring that thug, or making eyes at you?' Jareth's answering smile held a feral amusement this time.


He hadn't let go of her, she noticed belatedly. But then, she hadn't pulled away from him either. Without warning, he leant forward and kissed her lips, very lightly. Seeing him as he pulled away from her, Sarah was reminded of the first dream she'd had, seeing him sitting on the window ledge, looking out over his city, so strangely vulnerable.

Only for an instant, and the mask was back in place. 'I'll get the horses. I want to reach Devin by nightfall.'

Numbly, she nodded, and let her arm fall away from him.

He'd not taken more than two steps away from her when a loud howl split the air.

'What now?' Sarah yelped. She moved back to his side, seeking safety.

'Wolf.' Jareth was tracking the sound, his eyes moving rapidly over the area. 'But not a true beast, from the sound.' He looked worried.

And it walked slowly out of the wood, a large, tawny furred wolf, the biggest she'd seen. Its eyes were a smoky grey, almost human. But the cry she uttered then at seeing it was not from fear, but a reaction to the recognition of the small limp body gripped in its jaws, which with a deliberate insolence, it deposited on the ground at the edge of the clearing. Raising its head and staring straight at them, it simply howled once and vanished.

Heedless of Jareth's sharp command for her to stay put, she ran forwards, dropping to her knees at the side of the pile of russet fur. It was Sir Didymus.

Sarah reached out a hand, almost afraid to touch her old friend. He was torn and bleeding in several places, his jacket ripped, and his eyepatch gone. He lay so still, she was afraid he was dead, until he coughed and twitched, making her jump. His one remaining eye opened, and stared up at her. Despite his wounds his nose wrinkled in a smile.

'My lady…'

'Don't try to move,' Sarah told him. Very gently, she tried to pick him up. Before she could, gloved hands reached around her and lifted the battered little fox - surprisingly gently.

'Let me.' Jareth carried him over to the packs, and laid him down gently. 'Didymus, how do you manage to get yourself into so much trouble at your age?' he asked, with an exasperated edge in his voice.

'Your Majesty, forgive me. That dastardly fiend - '

'Hush. I wouldn't expect you to take on half of Iorweth's army single pawed.' Jareth held out a small bowl to Sarah. 'Water.' While she poured from the canteen, and he cleaned Didymus' wounds, the fox explained how he came to be here.

'Lord Iorweth's captain - Calion. A decidedly unpleasant individual, captured myself and the valiant Sir Hoggle at the gates.' The description of Hoggle occasioned a snort from Jareth. At Sarah's glare, he just shrugged. Didymus continued: 'They wanted to know who Lady Sarah was - I'm afraid I let that slip.'

Jareth frowned, but then waved that away. 'They'd have found out. What about the Labyrinth itself?'

Didymus shivered. 'Alas my lord, it changes. When the wolf-lord carried me through it, there were dark things stirring in the maze. Even some of the creatures are no longer what they were. As to the rest - '

Jareth cut him short. 'And the goblins? What of them?'

'All confined within the city walls, sire. Hoggle and myself barely escaped before the gates were shut. I do believe he intends to keep them all locked up there until he has - forgive me -destroyed thee.'

To the surprise of both Sarah and Didymus, Jareth threw his head back and laughed. 'He did that?' Seeing their consternation, he explained. 'If Iorweth locked all of the goblins up in one place, he's a bigger idiot than I thought.' He sighed in exasperation at their blank looks. 'It's worse than explaining something to the creatures themselves. No-one puts a large group of goblins in a confined space if they have any understanding at all of their nature. They'll be out of there before too long. And he'll regret it when they are.'

'They didn't seem like much of a threat as an army,' Sarah said doubtfully. Jareth was still grinning.

'Of course not. But Iorweth doesn't know one thing. Didymus?'

The little fox suddenly laughed, stopping with a wince as his wounds hurt. 'Oh dear. Oh dear oh dear…'

'What?' asked Sarah.

Didymus twitched his whiskers. 'My lady, for reasons of convenience - '

'Say rather, they managed to blow up the last one - ' Jareth added dryly.

'The brewery is located in the castle cellars!' Didymus finished.

Sarah stared at the pair thinking they'd gone completely mad. 'That's it?'

'Well,' Jareth qualified, still laughing. 'There probably won't be much of the city wall left by the time they've tunnelled through it - the sappers are more enthusiastic than skilled.' He frowned. 'I just hope they don't try going under the castle wall. I lost an entire tower the last time they tried something like that.' Seeing Sarah's still sceptical look, he tried again. 'You can't get a goblin to do anything by most means - bully them, persuade them - they're so contrary, you can't know what they'll do in reply - but lock up the beer supply, and they'll go through anything.'

'That's insane!'

Jareth shrugged. 'They are goblins - what did you expect?' He turned his attention back to Didymus. 'Calion left you as a message to me, I suppose.'

'He told me I was to serve as a warning, Your Majesty. A taste of what his lord has in store for you.' Didymus' whiskers drooped. Sarah hadn't realised before just how old the little fox looked. Or, she thought, just what Jareth's relationship with his subjects was. She'd never thought to ask. Yet, he seemed fond of Didymus.

'And Hoggle?' Sarah asked, suddenly remembering that Didymus had mentioned that her other friend had been captured with him.

If it were possible for Didymus to hang his head any further, he would have done. 'Alas fair maiden, he was taken, and we were separated. I know not his fate.'

Jareth finished binding Didymus' wounds, and took Sarah's arm, leading her to fetch the horses. 'Iorweth has more important things to worry about than one dwarf. I wouldn't worry too much.'

'That other one doesn't seem to share that view,' Sarah pointed out.

'Calion is a sadist. One very good reason for reaching Devin tonight. Calion knows exactly where we are, and I'm not about to spend another night out in the open with him prowling around.'

Collecting the horses, Sarah asked one more question. 'What is the story with Didymus? You two seem to have quite an understanding. I thought…'

'You thought I despised all my subjects and had stationed that poor little creature out in the bog from some sense of whimsy?' He looked disappointed. 'Sarah, you still jump to conclusions far too quickly. Didymus has served me for centuries. I retired him there because he still thinks he's young enough to go rampaging through hordes of goblins single handed.' He looked sideways at her. 'Especially when encouraged by young girls who should know better.' His sharp look mellowed into another sly smile. 'And besides, he's had no sense of smell for decades - it seemed like a good idea at the time.'

Sarah stopped walking and stared at him. 'I know I'm going to regret asking this - you said centuries? Just how old are you?'

'Six hundred and twenty.'

Sarah's jaw dropped. He reached out and gently tapped her mouth closed. 'Don't be so surprised - I thought you'd read enough fairy tales to know that my kind are very long lived.'

'Reading it and living it are two very different things,' Sarah replied. She grinned, relishing a rare opportunity to tease him. 'Besides, you don't look a day over thirty-five.' She clicked her tongue to Ghairlean and started leading the horse back to where they'd left Didymus, Jareth following in her wake and muttering something under his breath that, if she'd understood Goblin, would probably have singed her ears.


They reached the gates of Devin's estate just as the sun went down. Sarah stared in awe at the ornate open metalwork of the gates: cast in a silvery metal, they caught and held the light, taking on the orange-rose hue of the sinking sun. Set in a twelve-foot high wall, the gates were wide enough to let a truck through, she thought. And the detail… almost every fantastic creature she could remember was pictured in the work - unicorns, a dragon, a pegasus - all rendered in outline, yet do exquisitely formed, it seemed as if they could almost come alive in front of her. And yet the images were formed in such a way, that none was pictured in isolation. It looked like an Escher print, she thought: the spaces between one creature and the next formed yet another.

'It's beautiful,' she whispered - partly in awe, partly so as not to wake the now sleeping Sir Didymus who was perched in front of her on the saddle. Jareth conjured a small orb, and the gates opened as he touched it to the centre.

'There's a lot of her work in the Labyrinth, if you know where to look,' he said, leading her through. Behind them the gates closed silently.

'Who?' Sarah asked, intrigued.

'Devin's wife. Jehanna.'

'Will she be here?'

He shook his head. 'No. She died. A long time ago.' He nudged the chestnut mare into a trot. 'Come on, it's late.'

They rode up to the house - a large manor, Sarah noted with some surprise, having expected something a lot more mystical than a Seventeenth century mansion. Human servants took the horses from them, and a young girl carried Sir Didymus away. Jareth offered his arm to Sarah as she wavered on her feet, and led her to the ornate double doors of the mansion.

Devin met them at the front door, greeting them effusively. 'You made good time,' he said, leading them inside. 'A good thing I saw you coming, I was able to get the rooms ready.'

'Just as long as there's a bath,' Sarah told him. 'Other than that, I really don't care.'

Devin laughed. 'Have no fear, a suite of rooms, a hot bath, and clean clothes await. When you're finished, Melissa will bring you down for dinner.' A young red haired girl appeared and curtsied, and taking Sarah's arm, led her away.

Dark Labyrinth

A Labyrinth Story
by Helen Fayle

Part 4 of 12

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