Continuing Tales

Dark Labyrinth

A Labyrinth Story
by Helen Fayle

Part 9 of 12

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Dark Labyrinth

Three more tremors hit as Jareth led Sarah through the hedges - fortunately, they reduced in intensity as they progressed.

Unlike the stone walled maze they'd just left, the hedge maze wasn't prone to move without warning. It was also, Sarah had thought on her first journey through it, possibly one of the pleasanter parts of the Labyrinth.

That was then.

The further they'd moved into the heart of the Labyrinth, the worse the ever present feeling of danger had become. They'd dodged several patrols of hobgoblins in the paths already, once getting hopelessly lost for several minutes whilst Jareth tried to retrace their steps after they'd ducked into a side turning and had to make a run for it.

And the hedges…

Where once the neatly trimmed bushes had been luxuriant and green, they were now blackened and dying. Several already were little more than skeletal remains of their former selves. What hadn't yet reached that stage was tainted with a sickening blight, the stench of which filled the air with a cloying, decaying scent that lingered long after the affected sections had been left behind. Underfoot, the scattering of dead leaves was slippery and mildewed, making their footing treacherous in some places.

In place of the tended sculptured hedges, other plants were asserting themselves. Sickly, pale vines strangled the remaining healthy growth, clinging to the branches with a leech like grip, trailing lianas snaked across he paths, and shuddered as the party walked over them, as if responding to their presence. Once or twice, Sarah thought she saw a vine twist towards them out of a blackened bush, only to pull back sharply as Jareth turned to follow the movement. On the second occasion, a crystal orb hit the source, covering it and disintegrating, leaving a pile of pale ash in its wake. After that, he drew her closer again and warned her to stay clear of the sides of the path.

She didn't argue.

Even the goblins kept close to their king and rarely scuttled off to investigate on their own.

Whisper had not returned.

The sun was well past its zenith, heading for the horizon, when the path began to open out in front of them again. Pausing behind a large privet hedge, Jareth peered out onto the open flagged square before them. There was no sign of any hobgoblin patrol, but there was a faint sound of movement coming from the far side of the square. Sarah, peering out from behind Jareth, gasped in delighted recognition as a familiar short figure waddled into view.

'Hoggle!' she whispered. She grinned. 'He's alive!' Jareth pushed her back.

'I'm more interested in knowing why he's free,' he muttered. 'Wait here.'

'But - '

'Sarah - trust me. If it's safe, I'll call you.' His lips brushed hers gently. Acknowledging that he'd been right so far, she watched him saunter out from behind the hedge, quietly sneaking up behind the dwarf, who carried on sweeping the square, oblivious until Jareth spoke.

'Well well, look who it is. Not content with betraying me once, you now work for my enemy?' Jareth leaned with an elegant nonchalance against a stone pillar. The dwarf almost jumped out of his skin. When he saw who it was, he scowled.

'Oh, it's you.'

'Now, is that anyway to speak to your king?' Jareth walked around Hoggle, almost stalking him, Sarah thought. His manner so neutral, she winced. That never boded well.

'But you ain't, anymore, is you? You ain't the king, and you ain't got your power, so I heard.' Hoggle retorted. 'Which means I don't have to help you none.'

Jareth's smile was predatory as he leaned towards the dwarf. 'You might do well to reconsider those words once Iorweth is back where he belongs, Hogbrain.'

'Hoggle. And I don't care. You haven't got a prayer. You don't scare no-one anymore.'

Jareth stood up, a dangerous glint in his eyes. 'Really.' He pointed at the stone pillar. 'So I'm nothing, am I?' The bust on top of the column shattered, scattering marble fragments over the paving stones. 'Lost all of my power have I?' He reached down and grabbed Hoggle by the ear. 'Would you perhaps like to rephrase that?'

'Jareth!' Sarah couldn't stand by any longer. She walked out from behind the hedge. Jareth looked from the struggling dwarf, to the indignant Sarah, and sighed, letting him go.

'Sarah!' Hoggle seemed both shocked and embarrassed. Sarah grinned, happier than she'd thought to see him again, in one piece. Even, she thought, if he was being his usual cowardly self. Hoggle turned back to Jareth.

'What did you want to go bringing her back here for? You'll get her killed!'

'Actually, I insisted,' Sarah said before Jareth could reply.

'After what he did to you?' Hoggle sounded and looked confused. Jareth sauntered past to stand beside Sarah.

'I rather thought that was why you came…' he muttered in her ear. Blushing, she thumped him on the arm. Smiling, he placed an arm possessively around her. 'Hoggle, why are you free? According to Sir Didymus, you and he were captured at the same time.' He paused dramatically and looked the dwarf up and down. 'You don't appear to be harmed in any way. I don't see any chains…'

'Huh. Well it's like this. If I carry on as before, they won't cut my head off. And that's one reason to stay out of trouble.' The dwarf said gruffly. But he smiled at Sarah and reached over and patted her hand. 'You shouldn't be here. Not with him, it's far too dangerous.'

'I'm no safer anywhere else,' Sarah pointed out.

'Anywhere away from him would be safer,' said Hoggle, scowling. 'What did you want to get caught up in this again for? You don't trust him do you?' Hoggle stared up at her, and sighed. 'Oh no…'

Jareth released Sarah and knelt down next to the dwarf, an elbow resting on his knee, hand on his chin. 'And what of it?' he asked quietly. Hoggle blanched.

'Nothin. I don't mean nothin. I've got work to do. I ain't having anything to do with you.' He turned a sorrowful look onto Sarah. 'I can't help him.' He started to shuffle off, but was grabbed by Jareth before he'd gone a single step. The Goblin King's hand twisted his ear.

'Not so fast. You can at least point us to the safe passage Iorweth must have left through the Labyrinth to come and go unharmed. Or - '

Hoggle tore free. 'Or what? All you'll do to me is drop me in the Bog if I don't help you and you win. Which you can't. You ain't that strong. But them - they'll cut my head off if I help you - and that's only after they've finished with the rest of me!'

'Hoggle!' Sarah exclaimed, staring at him in shock. 'You can't - '

'I'm sorry Sarah - I'd help you, but you're with him… and Iorweth and the wolf lord want his head.' He shuffled off, head low.

Sarah made as if to follow him, thinking she could change his mind, but Jareth held her back. 'Leave him. It's his nature. He won't change his mind.'

'But he's my friend.'

'Yours,' Jareth pointed out. 'He's got little reason to help me.' He gave a mocking little laugh. 'Let him go.'

He held her closely for a moment before kissing her gently, and she was reminded sharply again of how much different circumstances were. Last time, she could have relied on anything and anyone here except him. Now…

'It's getting dark, we have to go,' Jareth said gently. Nodding sadly, she let herself be led from the square, further into the Labyrinth.

And ever closer to the castle at it's heart.

Or beyond it, depending on your point of view.


Neither of them saw Hoggle watching them as they left. The dwarf had doubled back on his path once out of their sight - reluctant to face his former monarch, but unwilling to leave Sarah. Despite how cosy she'd looked with the king, he sure didn't trust his monarch with her safety. 'What'd he want to be bringin' her here anyway?' he muttered, finding a vantage point from which to see the courtyard clearly without being seen. Surely she didn't trust him after what he'd done to her - and forced Hoggle to do the last time?

He wasn't close enough to hear what they were saying, although there was no mistaking the look on Jareth's face as he stared after the path he thought his erstwhile gardener had taken. Hoggle sighed. He'd been lucky after the incident with Sarah the last time, that Jareth had been weeks recovering from the efforts he'd made to stop the young girl from solving the Labyrinth - Hoggle had kept his head down and stayed well clear of the temperamental monarch until, if not forgotten, his disobedience had been of less concern to Jareth than more pressing matters. This time, assuming Jareth survived the encounter with Iorweth, he had the feeling he wouldn't be so lucky.

'Huh. Better facing whatever Jareth has planned if he lives than what Iorweth will let Calion do to me if I help him…' With a heavy heart, he left his hiding place, careful not to take the same direction as the king and his little group.


'Shouldn't we find somewhere to rest?' Sarah asked. After walking almost all day, she was almost done for, she thought. It didn't help that she'd not slept since Iorweth's attack on Silverpool the night before. Jareth shook his head.

'I want to at least get past the forest tonight, if I can. The last place we want to spend the night is in there.'

'Then stop here,' Sarah suggested reasonable.

'With hobgoblin patrols wandering around?'

'Oh.' She fell silent. Behind them, Fleck, Mags and the other goblins scampered, occasionally running past them, but never venturing far from Jareth.

Dusk was falling, and she shivered. The lengthening shadows had started to take on an eerie menace in the twilight. If she'd thought the Labyrinth had a dark aura in the daytime, the approach of night was enhancing that feeling a hundredfold.

And who knew what things might be lurking in the twisted realm after the sun had vanished from the sky?

Lost in thought, she walked into Jareth's back as he came to a stop without warning. In front of them was a tall crumbling stone wall. There was no way way through as far as Sarah could see.

'Now what?' she asked Jareth. He examined the brickwork closely.

'There should be a hidden way through here, somewhere. It leads into the forest. If I can – ' He ran his hand over the surface, fingers probing every break in the surface.

'Secret doors?'

'Those rarely lead to anywhere useful. I thought you would have remembered – aha!' He stood back from the wall and pushed Sarah behind him. 'Stay back. If Iorweth decided to booby trap this –'

She didn't need telling twice. The goblins joined her, huddling at her feet, as Jareth took a deep breath, raising one arm to the wall, and let out one single, pure sustained note in his strong voice. As Sarah watched, a pale glow suffused the brickwork. When it faded, a long passageway was open in front of them, with the forest just visible at the other end.

'Am I the only one who found that a little too easy?' Jareth muttered. 'I have a feeling things are about to get much worse.' He looked worried.

'Fireys?' she asked.

'If they're the worst things we face in there, I'll be happy. The forest is the most unstable realm within the Labyrinth.' Another -tremor suddenly shook the ground. 'And time is getting shorter.' A gloved hand reached out and traced the length of a long crack which had appeared in the wall. 'This should not be happening so soon.'

'But you thought you could wait even longer - ' Sarah began.

'I know. It could be a reaction to the Labyrinth responding to our passage through it…'

'You don't know?'

He fixed her with an irritated look. 'I've never been stupid enough to try to control the Labyrinth on this scale. I don't know what the effects would be. I'm guessing.' He took her hand again. 'Shall we?'

Once through the passage on the other side, they were inside the woods. The wall closed up behind the last goblin, and as Sarah turned to look, faded from sight, leaving them in a clearing. Around them, the woods loomed, shadows cast by the trees spreading over the ground, making the woods seem to close in on every side. A soft breeze blew up, rustling the dead leaves on the ground, and whispering through the trees ominously.

And the sun was almost set, the orange gloom of the dying day only enhanced the sense of danger, reflected back in a ruddy glow from the glitter strewn branches.

In the distance, the topmost towers of the castle were visible, rising over the valley, cast in the same ruddy glow of the sunset.

Jareth stared up at his castle, an unreadable look on his face. 'I could have had this over with by now if Iorweth would stop playing games,' he said softly. Sarah stood beside him and placed a hand on his arm.

'How much further? You don't expect to get through the forest tonight, surely?'

'We have to. It isn't safe here even under normal circumstances.' He took her hand. 'Watch your footing, the place is riddled with traps and pitfalls.' He conjured a glowing orb to light their way, and set off in the direction of the castle.


Devin sat very still, huddled in a corner of his cell. Calion had finally left for the night, leaving him exhausted and shaking. Sidhe magic was mostly mental, but that didn't stop it from being deadly, if applied properly.

And Calion was a master.

Devin stared at the raw grazes on his wrists where his struggles had caused the manacles to cut into his flesh. They were the least of it.

All he had to do was hold on, he told himself. Jareth wouldn't wait any longer to come for him.

If he survived.

He'll survive. He has to.

I have to. He took a deep breath and pushed sweat-dampened hair back from his face. Composure. Concentration.

The first hook was set, and Calion unaware. When the wolf lord returned in the morning, he had to be ready. All he needed was time.

Time to heal. Which he didn't have.

Time to Weave: the subtlest of Fae magics. The manipulation of the dreamstate in a mind, or several minds.

The only weapon he still had. Despite Jareth's teaching, Devin had never mastered the manipulation of the physical world that came so naturally to his mentor.

On the other hand, Jareth had never been one for the subtler application of magic. His tricks usually forced his opponents to trap themselves into their own defeat. And that would not work with Iorweth. Not the way Jareth hoped.

And then there was Calion. The Fae-lord wanted Sarah in his grasp as well as Devin - he'd read that much from the mind of his torturer. The mortal girl didn't have the strength Devin had acquired through the centuries - Calion would rip through her mind like an over-ripe peach.

She's lovely, he'd said to Jareth, so long ago it seemed now. In the days he'd known the girl, he'd come to realise something else - she had a strength of spirit he'd rarely seen in one so young. And she'd re-kindled in Jareth a spirit he'd feared he'd never see again, after so long.

And for that, little one, I'll try to kill the bastard for you before he can take you. Even if it means my own life…

Devin weaved….


They were down to six goblins. They'd never even seen what had happened to the others. One minute they'd been there, the next they were gone. No noise, no warning. It was making Sarah jittery, and Jareth was also showing signs of strain. In some ways, Sarah thought, she'd almost welcome a tangible foe. Since they'd arrived in the Labyrinth, the threats had been unseen, psychological.

Games, she thought. They love to play games… worse than a cat with a mouse.

Although the end result would be the same…

Then the attack happened. From out of the trees, over a dozen of the little fire sprites she remembered from before, swarmed onto the path they were following, screeching and screaming. Caught off guard, Jareth went down under at least six as the piled on top of him, and Sarah found herself fending off three. Clawed fingers tightened around her throat, and a cackling voice in her ear yelled at her.

'The head won't come off!'

'It no come off?'

'Pull its arms off then!'

'Try this one!'

'Hey, dis one's a Faery lord!'

'Pull his head off!'

'Not fair! They no play!'

The constant giggling and screeching distracted her, and she almost didn't notice the flames - around them, the forest was on fire. Beside her, she thought she could still hear Jareth, and tried to reach him. There was no sign of the goblins. Claws dug into her skin, cutting through her jacket, tearing gleefully at whatever parts of her they could reach.

The flames were getting closer, licking out onto the path from the undergrowth. Angrily, she pulled one of her assailants off, then threw its arm after it with a disgusted yelp. Jareth, back on his feet, was in trouble - unable to prepare magically, he was forced into fighting them off physically - and he looked hurt.

Sarah was only a few feet away from him, when backing away from another frenzied attack he suddenly vanished from sigh with a cry.

'Jareth!' she screamed. Giggling firey's closed in on her. Almost without thinking, she screamed at them 'Go away!' summoning all of her willpower.

And the woods were silent. Without the sprites to feed the flames, the fires were gone. In the sudden darkness, Sarah dropped to her knees. There was no sign of the goblins or of Jareth.


Not so very far away, as distance is measured in the Labyrinth, Hoggle stopped sweeping as he heard an anguished cry.

'Sarah!' Dropping the brush, he started towards the sound before he remembered. She'd called out Jareth's name, in fear. So something must have happened to the king.

And without Jareth's protection, she'd be helpless.

There wasn't really much of a choice for Hoggle to make, when he thought about it. Sarah needed help. He set off in the direction of the cry.

After all, it wasn't as if he was going to be helping the Goblin King, was it? He was going to help his friend. That was all…


Get up… Sarah told herself. You've got to find him

A faint glow from one side of the path caught her attention. The glowing crystal Jareth had conjured to see by had rolled off when he'd been attacked. Grateful for the find, she picked up the orb, and moved forwards cautiously towards where she'd seen Jareth vanish.

It didn't take her long. The pit had been cunningly hidden - but the concealing cover had shattered under the combined weight of the goblin king and two fireys.

All of whom lay unmoving at the bottom.

Sarah drew back from the edge with a startled cry. He lay so still… so pale. She forced herself back to the edge, careful of the crumbling sides.

The pit had to be at least twelve feet deep, and the sides were sheer. If she got down, she wasn't sure she could get back up again.

I have to try… Finding a vine that seemed strong enough to take her weight, she let herself down over the side.

The improvised rope gave out while she was still a couple of feet from the bottom, and she fell, landing in a heap on top of one of the fireys. She pushed herself off the dead sprite with a muttered cry of distaste. She picked up the vine and looked up. The broken end dangled out of reach above her head. There was no way she could reach it. Casting aside the piece in her hands, she dropped to her knees at Jareth's side, praying that he was alive.

Her searching fingers found a pulse in his neck, but it was weak. Brushing his fair hair back off his face, her fingers felt blood - warm, sticky.

The glowing crystal was undamaged by her fall, and she placed it at her side, to give her enough light to see by. Its dim light cast a sickly glow over Jareth's already pale features, making him seem so frail. Afraid to move him, but knowing that she had to find out how badly injured he was, Sarah carefully checked him over. Apart from the crack to the head, and several gashes from the sprites' claws, she couldn't see anything seriously wrong.

Which didn't mean a thing, she thought. She moved herself around until she could make him comfortable, and leaned back against the sides of the pit, her fingers trailing in his silky hair. If he was badly hurt, there was absolutely nothing she could do.

Unbidden, unwanted, the tears fell. Not like this… please God, I don't want to lose him…

'Such a pity.'

The cold voice shook her from her fears. A bright glow filled the pit, obscuring the faint light from Jareth's globe. Knowing who she'd see, she looked up. Iorweth stared down at her, looking disappointed, she thought. Anger filled her.

'You bastard,' she snapped. 'Come to gloat?'

His smile chilled her to the bone.

'Hoist by his own petard… ironic really. He had those pits installed.' Iorweth's gaze left his unconscious foe and settled on Sarah. 'I'd hoped he'd provide more entertainment than that. Ah well.'

'Entertainment' Sarah spat. 'You're sick.'

'I'm sidhe, dear child, and that gives you no right to judge me.' He knelt beside her, and reached out a hand to touch her cheek. She flinched away from him, but didn't dare move too far for fear of disturbing Jareth.

'Don't touch me!'

He drew back his hand. 'As you wish.'

Again that cold smile. 'Although you impressed me back there. Jareth taught you well. You have a strong will, child. Maybe he had better judgement than I gave him credit for.' His eyes raked her then, coldly appraising. 'Not such a child maybe.' He leaned towards her. 'Maybe I could offer you more than this, Sarah. What if I gave you my word you could go from here unharmed?'

Sarah gaped. She was stuck at the bottom of a pit, Jareth unconscious (please, only unconscious…) and his enemy was hitting on her? Despite herself, she laughed. Iorweth pulled back sharply, his eyes measuring her.

'You find this amusing?'

Sarah, finding herself somehow calmer than she'd felt all day, held his gaze. 'No. I find you pathetic, quite frankly.' Careful, part of her warned: he could easily kill you

'I offer you your life, maybe even a place at my side, if you pleased me, and you refuse? Why? I ask for so little. Only leave him to his fate. Is that so hard? What is he to you?'

'You expect me to trust you?' Sarah snorted. 'Not a chance.'

'You have my word. Only leave him, and I will protect you. Calion will not have you. Defy me, and…'

'No deal.' Sarah said firmly. Her hand gently stroked Jareth's hair.

'Do you really think he cares for you?' Iorweth asked. His pale green eyes bored into hers. 'A lord of the Sidhe, several hundred years old, a king - albeit of such a pathetic little rabble - and you think an eighteen year old girl could have anything to offer him besides perhaps a few nights of her willing company? If he survived my little game, how long before he tired of you, do you think?'

If she'd been closer, she'd have slapped his face again at that point. What made it worse was that the thoughts had crossed her mind over the past two weeks. She bowed her head to hide the sudden tears.

They play with your mind…

…. And do it so well.

Her other hand had been held loosely at her side. Jareth's fingers closed on hers suddenly, unseen by Iorweth. One quick squeeze.

Sarah raised her head again. 'Get stuffed.' She said clearly, staring Iorweth in the eyes. The Sidhe lord's gaze hardened.

'Next time we meet, if we do, I will not be so generous,' he snarled.

'Funnily enough,' Jareth said weakly, sitting up without warning, 'that's exactly what I was about to say.' He struggled to his feet, with Sarah's help. 'Get stuffed?' he whispered in her ear.

Sarah shrugged, hiding a slight smile.

Jareth turned back to Iorweth. 'We could finish this right here and now,' he offered grimly.

Iorweth simply threw back his head and laughed, vanishing into thin air. The laugh remained for several seconds after he disappeared.

Jareth sank back to the ground, supported by Sarah. 'What is he up to?' she asked quietly. 'That's the second time he could quite easily have killed you.'

Jareth shook his head and winced. 'He would have kept his word, once given,' he said quietly after a long pause, ignoring her question. 'None of us would ever go back on a promise, freely given.'

'I don't care,' Sarah replied simply.

He looked at her strangely. 'You would have been safe,' he said eventually.

'I didn't like the cost,' she whispered. One black-gloved hand brushed her hair, now fallen out of its neat braid, back from her face.

'You can be so stubborn at times.'

She grinned back at him. 'I know. It gets me into far too much trouble.' Unsure of quite what to say next, she gestured at the steep sides of the pit. 'Any ideas how we get out of this?' she looked at him. 'Couldn't you fly out and send down a vine for me?'

He shook his head, carefully this time. 'The way I feel at the moment, I'm more likely to turn myself into a mushroom than an owl. You might be able to reach out for something to climb up with, if you concentrate.'

'I can try,' she said doubtfully.

A sudden fall of soil onto them made them look up. In the faint light of the orb, Sarah could see a large, wrinkled face staring down at them.

'Hoggle!' she cried in delight. A rope snaked past her shoulder.

'Well, don't take all night about it,' the dwarf grumbled. 'If yer coming, get up here…' Jareth gave her a little push.

'Go on, I'll follow.'

Hand over hand she pulled herself out of the pit, collapsing on the damp floor of the forest. Behind her, she heard Jareth making his way out, and reached down to help him. Beside her, Hoggle offered his own hand, and Jareth allowed them to help him over the edge. Once free of the pit, he placed an arm around Sarah, holding her close. She felt his lips brush her temple, and let herself be drawn closer, her head resting on his shoulder.

'Thank you,' she said to Hoggle. The dwarf shuffled uncomfortably.

'Yes. Well. I only did it for you. I still ain't helping him none.'

'I'll bear that in mind, later,' Jareth said in his quietest, most even tone.

Hoggle blanched. 'Well, that's it. You're safe, I'm off. I don't want Iorweth to catch me with either of you.'

'Hoggle, please,' Sarah pleaded. 'At least show us a passage through to the city.'

Several emotions crossed the dwarf's face as she stared at him. His distrust of Jareth was obvious, and it warred with his affection for her. Eventually he sighed. 'I'll show you. But it can't be taken in the night. And you can't stay here. He knows that better than any.'

Sarah looked at Jareth. 'Ever wondered where those large cobwebs come from?' he asked. In the faint light from one of his orbs, Sarah stared closely at the glittering threads that hung from the trees, moving softly in a light breeze. She'd not looked closely at them before.


They were very large…

'I know a place you can wait until first light,' Hoggle said gruffly. He waited reluctantly as Sarah helped Jareth to his feet. With a grimace of distaste he removed his ripped and bloodstained jacket, throwing it away.

'Then you'd better show us, hadn't you?' he said.

'Please, Hoggle?' Sarah added, with a sharp look at Jareth, who was unrepentant.

As they followed Hoggle through the woods, she whispered to Jareth, 'Giant spiders?'

'You'd only have worried if I'd told you,' he said quietly.

And I'm not worried now?

It was with a large sigh of relief that she finally saw the edge of the forest, and they stopped in front of a large wall with a heavy oak door set into it.

Dark Labyrinth

A Labyrinth Story
by Helen Fayle

Part 9 of 12

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