Continuing Tales

Most Prized Possession

A Labyrinth Story
by Jester3

Part 40 of 42

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Most Prized Possession

Despite the heat of the raging fire that blazed only a few yards away, Jareth's fingers were icy and numb as they closed around the rusted key on the cracked stone floor beside him. He heard, more than saw, where it had landed. A high-pitched pinging had alerted him to its position as it bounced off the weathered granite slabs of the floor. His grip tightened on the key as he rolled onto his side. He grunted in pain as he forced his body to move.

Everything hurt. Blinking the sting out of his eyes he strained to see through the smoke to find her. A light gust of wind blew the trail of smoke off course for a moment and he caught a glimpse of the cage.

They were both inside.

His chest tightened in fear as he realized what Sarah had done. She had caught Nyx off balance and had pushed him inside the cage, but in order to do so, she had had to use all her strength and had fallen in with him. She had known that she had but an instant to act, and she had done the only thing that she could. She had slammed the door, locking both herself and Nyx inside.

Jareth found himself amazed by her insightfulness yet again. In a matter of seconds she had deduced that the cage had a weakening effect on the Fae. She used that knowledge to quickly haul him out, and trap Nyx inside. Undoubtedly, she had saved his life, and the price was high. Now she was the one in imminent danger. There hadn't been time for her to untangle herself from Nyx and get out of the dangling rusty cage.

Through the fog of black smoke, Jareth heard her threaten Nyx. She knew he would be stripped of his magic, but it would take time for all of his physical strength to also be drained. Apparently, she was going to take her chances.

Sarah hardly recognized her threatening words as her own. Since when had she become so gutsy? Since I no longer have anything to lose. All that really mattered was lying only a few meters away and she wasn't even sure she could save him.

Nyx lifted his head at her threat and his silvery eyes drifted over her carefully, noting each detail, the way a predator scrutinizes its prey just before it strikes. Blessedly the sickening pain caused by her blow to his groin was quickly fading, and he was able to push it aside. The fresh pain in his foot was acute, keeping him alert despite the draining of his energy. His stony eyes locked with hers, his velvety voice taunting, "Indeed it is."

Sarah's right hand tightened into a fist, as her father's advice from years past rang through her mind. "If you ever find yourself in trouble Sarah, use your right hook first, aim for the jaw or the eye and hit as hard as you can. Make the first hit may be all you ever get."

Her mouth tightened in concentration as she drew her fist back. Nyx barely had a chance to blink before she punched him as hard as she could in the jaw.

Sarah winced, pulling her hand back. God that really hurt... There was no time to dwell on the pain in her hand as she drew back her left fist for another blow. Aiming for the same spot she swung again, but this time Nyx caught her fist.

He tilted his head, the tip of his tongue tasting the blood that had welled up from the cut she had given him on his lower lip. He wouldn't have guessed that she was capable of hitting that hard. His eyes burned into hers and darkened, a serious expression forming on his face as he thrust her fist aside and warned, "I wouldn't try that again."

Without tearing her eyes from his, she wrenched her hand free from his grasp. She noticed his skin was quickly turning red where she had hit him, and his lip was split and bleeding. Slowly and stealthily, she slid her other hand back behind her, careful not to draw his attention to the movement.

His eyes were locked on hers, the look in them changing from distaste to malice

Then it happened. Nyx pitched forward, his black, gloved hand closing around her throat. Sarah gasped as he forced her head back against the bars of the cage. He squeezed a little, not enough to really strangle her, but enough to emphasize that he easily could. Leaning his face close to hers, he sneered, "That was strike me like that. Jareth's leniency has allowed you to forget yourself...Let me remind you..."

His smoldering metallic eyes burned into hers with revulsion as he whispered against her cheek, "You are nothing..."

To her horror he tilted his head to the side, his nose just barely nudging her neck as he breathed in her scent and continued, "...but a pathetic...filthy...loathesome"

She held her breath as she felt his hot wet tongue trail along her jugular. His breath was hot against her throat as he rasped, "...little human." His face came back into view his lips hovering over hers as he breathed raggedly, "You are nothing but a plaything."

She felt his other hand on her hip, roughly pulling her tighter to him as he squeezed her throat a little harder. Her eyes were frozen on his lips as her mind screamed for it all to stop. She used her revulsion to combat her fear, and determinedly, her hand slid even further back along her calf.

Just a little farther...

His grasp tightened on her throat as he brushed his lips against hers. She tensed against the invasion, fighting the impending panic, and remained stone still as his lips moved over hers. She felt him stiffen beneath her as his hand left her hip, snaking up under her armored breastplate.

She extended her fingers, knowing she had to shift to reach what she sought.

Almost there...

His hand closed over her breast and she squirmed atop him. His kiss only grew rougher, forcing her lips apart slightly. She tasted blood. His hand then clamped down on her throat, strangling her with deadly intent as he murmured thickly against her mouth, "That's it...struggle."

Stars swam in her vision as her body was deprived of its vital oxygen. She twisted her hips as he thrust against her, the evidence of his arousal bruising the soft flesh of her inner thigh. His intentions were obvious, he meant to kill her, but it no longer mattered, because her fingers had closed around the hilt of the dagger that was strapped to her calf.

Bringing her other hand up along his arm, she found the gash in his shoulder where she had previously pierced his flesh with sword. Mercilessly she dug her fingers into the wound, eliciting a cry of rage and pain from him as he leaned away from her. His eyes widened in surprise, just as the blade came down on him, glinting in the firelight before she drove it deep into his chest. His cry of outrage turned to a gurgling growl as she felt the metal scrape against bone and then soft yielding tissue. The hand at her throat went limp and fell away just as Sarah felt the door at her back swing open.

The remaining Horde members spread out through the dense trees, flanking the stallion as they pursued him. The beast was fast, but not fast enough to lose them in their winged forms. Birds of all shapes and sizes kept on him, winging through and around branches, their shrieking cries reminding Tempest that they were not far behind.

The stallion didn't know where he was going. He was simply dodging trees, leading them further and further away from Sarah. He galloped until he could no longer smell the smoke from the fire. He was tiring, and the arrow in his neck pulsed with pain each time his hooves hit the ground. The cries of the birds were getting louder and he knew they were gaining on him. It wouldn't be long before they overtook him.

An enormous outcropping of boulders loomed up ahead. As he barreled toward it, he wasn't sure if he could make the jump. He lowered his head and charged when a wild cry sounded from above. Without warning a great brown eagle dove in front of him, landing on a nearby boulder. Tempest slid to a halt, and reared as the bird flapped its wings and shrieked. As if on cue, a large horned owl and a menacing black vulture landed on either side of the eagle. Tempest snorted and reared again striking out his powerful forelegs in warning.

The eagle lifted its wings as a raging vortex of red smoke whirled around it. The small twister lengthened, pulsing with energy before it dissipated, leaving a very sinister looking black clad figure standing in its place.

Many other birds were now landing in a circle around the Alicorn, some of them transforming as they landed. Black looming figures emerged at every turn, a terrifying site. Two of them began to unfurl a great sparkling net. Tempest trumpeted loudly, his ears pinned flat back as he brandished his silver horn and bared his sharp teeth at them. He may have been surrounded and outnumbered, but they weren't going to take him without a fight.

They meant to capture him, and maybe they would, but Tempest knew that at least some, would die trying. Lowering his head, the massive black stallion pawed at the ground as he prepared to strike at the one that had previously been the brown eagle.

Suddenly the blast of a horn sounded nearby as a voice yelled "Fire!"

The twang of releasing bowstrings filled the woods around them, as crude arrows rained down. Their shafts were shorter than typical Fae weapons, seemingly crafted from gnarly twisted branches, some still sporting dead leaves at their ends. Several birds and Horde members were struck by the volley.

One dark figure bent to pull an arrow out of his thigh and yelled, "Goblins! We are under attack!"

It was then the horde saw them. Creatures of every shape and size scrambled out from under bushes and from behind trees. There was an impossible number of them, brandishing long spears. Their snaggle-toothed beaked mouths snarled as they scurried closer, thoroughly surrounding the Shadow Horde.

The Horde members glanced about in confusion as they backed into one another. Then, the one that had been the eagle ordered. "Use your magic, there may be many, but they are powerless!"

Many turned in surprise as a shaggy dog with a tiny orange fox in armor on his back leapt into the fray with a savage growl. The creature swung a mace larger than himself and barked, "Surrender or be vanquished!"

Two horde members looked at each other and shrugged.

Without warning, a great rust colored beast with curved horns stepped out from behind the large boulder, grabbing them by their cowls he bellowed "Horrrrrde Baaaaad!" With very little effort he lifted them off the ground and slammed them together. They landed with a thud as he dropped them and started to roar.

The sound echoed through the treetops as the Horde members started to fight the goblins. They lobbed balls of blue fire at them, stunning many of them in the process. It seemed that the Horde might prevail over the goblins when the deafening sound of mortar fire erupted.

Several of the black robed figures went down as they were hit. In surprise they looked up to see the cast iron mortar cannon perched on the edge of the highest boulder. A wide-eyed dwarf leered down at them from his position behind the cannon before he fired a second time. His aim was impressive, the fire taking down several more of the black robed figures.

Suddenly, the edge of the ridge became crowded with rolling rocks and boulders that seemed to move by themselves. They teetered on the edge for a moment, and then the large orange beast bellowed again. In unison, they cascaded down, rolling over the horde members as if they had a will of their own. It seemed an eternity that the avalanche of rocks continued. Only when each and every horde member was overtaken did they stop.

The goblins halted, staring in disbelief at their fallen foes, now out cold, a tangled mass of limbs and rocks. Amazingly,not a single goblin had been hurt by the deluge of stones, but then, underground dwellers often underestimated the capabilities of rocks.

With the cage door no longer supporting her, Sarah tumbled backwards out of the cage, spilling onto her back on the ground.

"Oomph." She landed hard, but she was breathing again and that was the important thing. She coughed a few times, trying to catch her breath. The rusted hinges groaned as the door was again slammed shut.

Sarah blinked the ash out of her eyes and focused on the pale hands that wrenched the key, locking the door with an ominous clank. With a weary sigh the Goblin King pulled the heavy key from the lock and pushed himself back from the cage. He only managed to get a few feet away when he fell back onto the ground, exhausted. Even turning his head towards her was an effort and when he spoke his voice was laced with pain, "Are you alright?"

She inhaled deeply, coughing again, before she rasped, "I've been better..."

She could see his face clearly now. He was even paler than usual and deep lines were etched into his face. Concern was reflected in his weary eyes and in his somber frown. He seemed a shadow of his former self and that scared her. Her raw voice trailed off as she added, "I'm not hurt...but you, you look terrible. Are you going to be okay?"

He closed his eyes for a moment and grimaced as he tried to move. Pain was evident in his voice as he ground out, "I have to get back to the castle. And the'll have to recover it."

The graveness of his tone alarmed her. Scurrying to her feet she replied, "Your talisman? You don't have it?"

Jareth winced, "No. Nyx had it just before..."

Bending over him she tentatively reached down to pull away the tattered remains of his shirt. His chest was bare, save for the horrible burn from the brand. Her trembling fingers just barely brushed over his jaw as she shook her head, "Don't talk. I'll find it, and then we're getting the hell out of here."

He nodded, closing his eyes in exhaustion as she stood. Her eyes scanned the seemingly unconscious figure in the cage. Nyx's hands were open and empty and he wore only the Horde medallion around his neck.

Probably dropped it during the attack.

She hurried over to the place that she thought he had been when she had first appeared. She frantically scanned the ground. Nothing. Widening her sweeping gaze something shiny caught her eye right near the dangling cage. She rushed to the spot and bent down.

A silver and gold crescent shaped pendant lay on the ground along with its broken cord.

Reaching down she snatched up the pendant, when suddenly she heard Jareth Frantically cry out "Sarah!!!!"

She tried to move, but it was too late. The sharp stab of pain to her shoulder blade drove her to her knees. As she fell away from the source of the attack, it was evident what had happened. Nyx, who clearly wasn't dead, had pulled the dagger from his own chest and had stabbed her in the shoulder when she bent to retrieve the talisman.

She cried out in a second wave of pain, as Nyx pulled the blade from the wound. Before she could get out of his reach, he raised the blade high for another blow, when suddenly, seemingly out of nowhere an arrow ripped through his wrist with a sickening thud.

He dropped the blade just as a half a dozen more arrows struck his torso. His upper body jerked with the force of the arrows before he swayed and fell into a lifeless heap.

She heard Jareth call her name again and she looked over to where he had been lying. He had crawled forward several feet, and was struggling to get up.

"No, Jareth...stay down!"

Sarah glanced about in startled terror when a familiar voice cut through the darkness, "Do not fear my lady, we were sent here by Desdemonna, we have come to help."

She looked up to see Lord Taibarr rushing towards her. Then she looked beyond him and saw the rest of them. There were a great many Fae folk, all fair skinned with pale hair, outfitted in dark green armor. The emerged from the thick of the forest where they had made their attack.

Two of them rushed past her, swiftly dropping to kneel by the Goblin King. She heard them tell him, "The lady is alright. You mustn't further waste your energy. Here, lie still."

Her eyes drifted to from Jareth to Lord Taibarr as he hastily pulled a bandage from his pack. "Will he be alright?" Again her gaze strayed to the Goblin King. She could see the rise and fall of Jareth's chest as he stilled. Her breath hitched in her throat as his dual colored eyes flicked in her direction and remained locked on her. God, if he dies...

She felt pressure on the wound at her shoulder and stiffened. Softly Taibarr remarked, "I believe he will survive, though it will take a long time for all the damage to be reversed. The sooner we get him back to the Goblin City the better. Time is of the essence."

She felt his hand lifting hers as he gently added, "He'll need this." She looked down at the pendant tightly clenched in her grip. How long had she been holding it so tightly? She opened her hand as he took it and gave it to one of the men who had been tending to Jareth.

She opened her mouth to thank him, but the words wouldn't come. He looked at her with kind blue eyes and politely added, "He's too weak to ride, and his powers are diminished, so we must transport him. Here take this."

Opening his hand a small pinkish orb floated just above his palm. He explained, "All you have to do is throw it into the air when you are ready. It will take you right to the king's chambers. They have given him an elixar that will make him comfortable and help him sleep."

Her green eyes flashed up to meet his questioningly.

There was the barest hint of a smile on his lips as he offered, "I think the Goblin King will rest easier if you accompany him. There is nothing we can do, aside from sending him home, that he can't do for himself. With his title restored to him, in his own castle, he will heal on his own. It will just take time."

Sarah breathed, "His title?"

"Yes, it is his talisman that harbors the power he exerts over his subjects, power that is drawn from the labyrinth. There is no better place for him to regain his strength than at it's center."

"You mean the castle?"

"Precisely. Now, my dear you must hurry, time is of the essence."

"Of course...but what about the others..."

"The goblins intercepted them in the forest, thanks to the brave Dwarf who lead them. Hoggle, I believe he's a friend of yours. The remaining Horde members are being rounded up as we speak...and Jareth's Alicorn has been recovered. They are tending to him now."

Sarah nodded, noticing that the pain at the back of her shoulder had lessened considerably. He pressed a small wooden container into her hand that contained a clear liquid. "Dab your bandage in this each time you apply it, and you'll be right as rain in no time." He handed her the bandage he had been pressing on her shoulder, "Now go on and get out of here"

He inclined his head toward the cage behind her, "We'll clean up the mess."

Sarah nodded, "I don't know how I can ever thank you..."

Reverently he replied, "There is no need. It is you who have saved us from open war. The Fae of the Underground will forever be at your go my lady, the Goblin King needs you."

Again she nodded and rushed over to where the Goblin King lay. His eyes were closed, seemingly in sleep. The other Fae made room for her as she knelt by his side. Carefully she placed the talisman around his neck, tying the broken ends together. Once it was secure, she picked up the pink orb that Lord Taibarr had given her.

She closed her eyes and took a deep breath, God, I hope this works...

She tossed it into the air and it stilled, throbbing and humming with a strange energy. Sarah felt a tingling sensation as pink and yellow sparks crackled all around her and Jareth. The glittering sparks increased until they obscured everything, and then as suddenly as they came, they were gone. Sarah glanced around to find that Jareth was no longer lying on the ground, but was atop his own bed, and she was now seated in a soft chair at his bedside.

His eyes were still closed, and the deep even rise and fall of his chest told her that he was sleeping. Glancing around she noticed that a blazing fire already burned in his fireplace, keeping the room toasty warm. Hanging over the flames was a large kettle of piping hot broth. A pitcher of water and two glasses stood next to the bed along with a basin and some linen rags. Apparently Taibarr had thought of everything, unless, the castle itself had some way of fulfilling Jareth's needs. She wouldn't have been surprised, since the doors in the whole place always seemed to open and close by themselves at just the right time.

Sarah sat back in the chair for a moment releasing sigh of relief. Jareth was alive and Lord Taibarr seemed confident that he would recover. She glanced into the basin and realized that the liquid inside wasn't water but some other clear solution with a slightly minty scent. Sarah guessed that it contained some therapeutic properties as it eased the ache out of her hand when she submerged it in the basin. It would no doubt help with Jareth's physical injuries.

Sarah placed the rags in the basin and began to remove her armor. She unbuckled her sword scabbard and gently set it on the floor. Next, off came the breastplate and shoulder armor, as well as the thigh and shin guards. Without the armor she was far less restricted in her movements. Leaning over the Goblin king she gently opened the tattered remains of his shirt, peeling as much of the gauzy material away from his torso as she could.

She squeezed out the excess liquid from the rag as her gaze drifted over his lean body. His pale skin seemed to shimmer, having an almost luminescent quality to it. It was subtle, she doubted she would have even noticed had it not been for the darkness of the room. Her eyes trailed over each bruise and laceration, noticing the skin around those areas had a much duller sheen. The burn on his chest was much more apparent now, taking on a red scabby appearance. But that was a good sign, because it meant that he was healing.

Her eyes then fell on his medallion. It looked as though it were glowing slightly. Tentatively, she reached out, letting her fingertips graze the metal. Instead of being cold, it radiated warmth. At first, it only warmed her fingertips, but the feeling quickly infiltrated her entire body. The sensation was hard to describe. It felt warm and safe, yet exhilarating at the same time. It exuded an energy that was powerfully Jareth, far from unpleasant. In fact, it was a bit too pleasant.

She withdrew her hand quickly, unsure of what was happening. The last thing she wanted to do was deprive him of that magic, even if it was only a tiny amount.

Gently she brushed his soft platinum hair back from his face. Carefully she pressed the damp cloth to his forehead. She diligently dabbed at each bruise and cut on his face, before she gently trailed the cloth over his cheek. He murmured something unintelligible as he turned his face toward the touch of the cloth.

Stilling her hand she whispered, "I'm here Jareth..."

He stilled as if her words had calmed him. Slowly and diligently she treated all his visible injuries with the solution. She paid special attention to the brand on his chest, carefully moving the talisman out of the way as she gently pressed the cloth to the burn.

It seemed as though many of his bruises and abrasions were fading before her very eyes. His skin appeared even more luminescent as it began to take on a healthier fair hue. Despite the blemishes of his injuries, he remained intensely beautiful. She let her eyes drift over him for what seemed like the thousandth time.

It hurt to look at him. She still loved him, despite his cold awful words. She wasn't an expert on such feelings, but she knew then and there that she would always love him. In some bizarre way she was certain that she always had, even before they had ever met. Whispers of what he was and all he could be had haunted her dreams for as long as she could remember. It seemed that there had never been a time when she hadn't been fascinated by the idea of the Goblin King. And now here he was, brought back from a close encounter with death, bright and vulnerable, as he was sinister.

She knew that it had been her intervention that had saved him from the clutches of the Shadow Horde but somehow she couldn't shake the feeling that it had been meant to happen. Now that she thought about it, all of her interactions with him seemed inevitable.

Loving him had been unavoidable. It was just the consequences of her love that she didn't understand. Falling for him had been devastating enough, but the thought of losing him forever, that was just plain unbearable. If they weren't meant to be together, than why did fate have to be so cruel to give her a taste of what his love could be. Looking at him then she knew, her heart was truly breaking.

Why did this have to happen?

It's not fair...

Life isn't fair.

Gritting her teeth against tears that threatened to overwhelm she thought bitterly, Maybe it isn't, but that's too damn bad.

I'm not giving up that easily.

He can be as cruel as he wants...

I know that somehow, somewhere deep down he loves me, and one day he will stop hiding from it...

Until he does, I'm not going anywhere.

Tossing the cloth aside she placed her hand over his, her fingers closing around his hand. No longer able to choke back her sobs, she cried, "Stay with me Jareth. I love you...I'll always love you."

Most Prized Possession

A Labyrinth Story
by Jester3

Part 40 of 42

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