Continuing Tales

Return to the Labyrinth

A Labyrinth Story
by ArtemisFallen

Part 10 of 24

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Leverage: A Christmas Tale

Sarah listened intently for the the songs of the Fire Gang in a futile effort to distract herself from the gloomy thoughts that kept barging into her mind. The last remnants of sunlight lazily filtered through the dense trees of the forest, casting ominous shadows across the forest floor. Sarah was grateful that the twilight seemed to last a long time in the Labyrinth. They had already spent a good amount of time in the forest and she worried what would happen when the light finally ebbed into darkness.

"Do you guys hear anything? Anything at all?" Sarah asked, endeavoring to keep her voice from sounding too forlorn.

"No," Hoggle sighed. "I don't hear nothin'."

"Do you suppose they have fled?" Sir Didymus asked dismally.

Sarah pulsed with alarm at the thought. She hadn't taken that possibility into consideration.

"Oh, I hope not," she breathed. She turned and looked around her, walking backwards as she did. She assessed the steadily fading light.

"Maybe we should try to find a safe place to stay for the night," she muttered. "I'd hate to run into...Hey!" Sarah exclaimed fearfully as something grabbed her ankle. She jumped and kicked violently at her unseen captor.

"What?! What is it?" Hoggle yelped shrilly, scrambling up to the top of a large rock for safety.

"Let go!" Sarah yelled, bending down and prying the iron grip from her ankle.

"Hey, watch it!" A squeaky voice scolded as the firm grip released her ankle.

Sarah stopped her violent dance, stumbling back in surprise and landing on her bottom. "What? Who said that? Where are you?"

"Down here," the squeaky voice replied.

Sarah cautiously leaned forward and crawled over to a thick pile of leaves. They appeared to be the source of the voice. She delicately brushed the dead leaves and foliage away, revealing tufts of bright orange and white fur.

"Oh!" Sarah gasped as the dismembered head of a Firey writhed underneath her hand, its eyes rolling around to peer up at her.

"You should watch where you be steppin,' lady." The disembodied head chastised. "It's not polite to tread on people."

"I-I'm sorry," Sarah stammered, flabbergasted. "I didn't know you were there."

Hoggle crept to the edge of his rock to peek down at the Firey. "How was she supposed to know you'd be down there?" Hoggle defended Sarah. "It's not like we could see you."

"May I inquire as to why you are buried under the forest floor?" Sir Didymus ventured.

"Yeah," Hoggle echoed. "What're you doin' down there, anyway?"

"We've been down here a long time," another squeaky voice answered from underneath Ambrosius.

Ambrosius' eyes widened and he yelped in sheer terror as he leapt straight up into the air, effectively dislodging Sir Didymus from his back. As Sir Didymus bounced on the ground, Ambrosius streaked for the nearest tree and cowered behind it.

"Ambrosius!" Sir Didymus scolded. "How dare thee? Come back here before I lose my temper!"

Ambrosius peeked out from behind the tree, visibly quaking in terror.

"Return this instant," Sir Didymus ordered. "There's nothing to fear. "'Tis merely another Firey buried and dismembered under the ground."

Sarah flinched at the description. Sir Didymus was certainly not one for pep talks.

"How long have you been like this?" Sarah asked, wondering how many scattered remains she had tramped upon.

"Ever since the mean Queen came," a gravelly voice answered to her right.

Hoggle clambered down from his rock. "The mean Queen? You mean Euryale?"

"That's her," another voice said directly under Hoggle. Hoggle jumped, teetering unsteadily on his feet as he danced away from the Firey he stood on.

"Ah! Pardon me!" Hoggle yelped, flustered.

"S'alright," the buried Firey replied.

"What did she do to you?" Sarah asked perplexed as she began to dig up the leaves and soil from around the head in front of her.

"She killed our brother," the head said dismally, closing his eyes. "Poor Clash."

"Poor Clash," the others echoed sorrowfully.

Sarah's mouth dropped open. "That's horrible," she murmured sympathetically as fresh memories of the shield brothers began to resurface. Sarah gently raised the Firey's head out of the hole in the ground. "I'm so very sorry for your loss."

"Ah, it's not your fault, lady," the Firey chattered. Sarah's stomach churned and she cringed as the disembodied head spoke to her. She didn't like the idea of holding a chatting head and feeling it move against her. She quickly stood and placed it on the rock Hoggle had claimed earlier.

"Thanks, lady, that's much better." The head remarked, rolling and blinking its crazy eyes several times.

"You're welcome," Sarah said, resisting the urge to rub her palms on her pants. She was thankful that her hands had been bandaged. It had helped reduce the amount of movement she'd felt from the head when it had spoken.

"Can you tell us what happened here?" Sarah asked, attempting to retain an air of sensitivity to the Fireys plight despite her past dealings with the crazy creatures.

"It's a sad story," the Firey said mournfully. "We lost our brother. The mean Queen killed him. He's there."

The Firey rolled his eyes around and Sarah followed his gaze. A pile of rock and rubble lay a short distance away.

"Where? I don't see-" Sarah's words cut off as she realized why she was looking at the pile of broken rock. A sickly kind of realization dawned on her as Sarah began recognizing the fragmented stone pieces. She was looking at the shattered remains of a Firey.

"She turned him to stone," Sarah gasped, horrified. Her skin prickled with unease. "Then she destroyed him."

The head nodded awkwardly, nearly tumbling off the rock it was perched upon. "Clash was our leader. Without him, no more Fire Gang."

"No more Fire Gang," the other Fireys echoed. "No more chilly down."

"We'll just wait for the forest to take us now," the Firey head told Sarah. "We got no reason left to live."

"Wait, what?" Sarah blustered. "How can you say that? Your brother gets murdered and all you can do is fall apart? You're just going to give up?" Bewilderment coarsed through Sarah. "You're just going to let her get away with this?"

"What're we supposed to do, lady?" The Firey asked. "Without Clash we got nothin'. No more chilly down. No more Fire Gang."

"No!" Sarah shouted sternly. "You can't just give up! You can't let it end like this! We have to stop Euryale before she destroys the Labyrinth." Sarah stooped down in front of the Firey, looking straight into its crazy eyes. "I can't do that without you. I need your help."

"Why our help?" The Firey inquired, struggling to focus its rolling eyes on Sarah.

"I-I don't know," Sarah stammered truthfully.

"Then why are you here?" The Firey asked.

"I was sent here by Titania, the Fairy Queen, to find you and your brothers," Sarah confessed. "She believed you could help us."

"Oh," the Firey murmured. "Fairy Queen don't know 'bout Clash. Without Clash, we got no leader."

"But don't you want to avenge him?" Sarah entreated desperately. "Don't you want to make things right?"

"Ain't nothin' we can do, lady," the Firey replied. "We just pieces now."

"You're still alive!" Sarah retorted. "I am offering you the chance to avenge your brother, to try and set things right in the Labyrinth. I'm asking you and your remaining brothers for your help. Please."

The Firey head sighed in reply, ignoring Sarah's request.

"What can I do to convince you guys to pull yourselves together? There must be something I can do to help." Sarah reasoned.

The Firey rolled his eyes and then closed them. "There's nothin', lady. It's too late for us."

Sarah groaned in frustration, casting a remorseful look at Hoggle and Sir Didymus. "What are we going to do?"

Hoggle shook his head. "I don't know, Sarah."

"Milady, perhaps we should-Ambrosius, stop digging up that Firey! Why is it when I turn my back, you always end up with something in your mouth?" Sir Didymus ranted.

"That's it," Sarah chirped brightly. "Hoggle, Sir Didymus, we need to put them back together. Help me find their, uh, body parts." Sarah grimaced at the thought of such a macabre treasure hunt, but was more than willing to participate in the activity if it gave the Fireys the ambition to live again.

"Cor!" Hoggle muttered unhappily, digging through the fallen foliage. "Why is it always us? Can't we ever get a break?"

Sarah shook her head, bending down to pick up the dislodged hand that had grasped her ankle earlier, placing it by the Fireys head on the rock.

"Tell me about it," Sarah griped as she and the others continued to dig up pieces of the Fireys.
"Well met, Ambrosius," Sir Didymus chattered. "I am sorry I used such a harsh tongue with you. The fair maiden approves of your wondrous idea."

Sarah chuckled, wishing she could be as upbeat as Sir Didymus was. He always seemed to bounce back from any situation with a never fail attitude and Sarah appreciated his candor. Sarah glanced over to see Hoggle diligently tossing fallen vines and branches from the Firey he dug up. She smiled to herself, grateful for the two friends who stayed dutifully by her side.

After only a few moments of working to exhume her own Firey, Sarah came across a disheveled torso.

"Is this you?" She asked the head on the rock, pointing to the body.

The head sleepily opened its eyes, appraising the body as Sarah struggled to pull from the ground.

"Oh, you found my body!" the Firey exclaimed. "I'd forgotten how bad hep my body was!"

Sarah cocked an eyebrow at the head, but decided it was better not to ask questions she may not want to know the answer to. Sarah lifted the cold, stiff torso from the ground. She cringed as a growing feeling of disgust filled her. The body felt as if she were handling raw, dead meat. It had a faint odor of decay around it and Sarah couldn't prop it up against the rock fast enough. She shuddered, wiping the dirt and leaves from her shirt and torn cardigan.

"Okay," Sarah breathed. "I'm going to put your head back on your body. Ready?" She delicately picked up the Firey head, working to situate it on the torso.

"Do you have a name?" Sarah asked, trying to distract herself from a task only Victor Frankenstein would be adept at.

"Of course I do," the Firey replied, causing Sarah to immediately regret asking as she felt the Firey's mouth move against her palm.

She quickly stuffed the head on the torso and felt a little sick as she was almost certain she heard an audible click as the head connected with its body.

"I'm Augie," the Firey answered. "Wow, thanks, lady! That's much better!"

"You're welcome," Sarah said, relieved she was no longer holding his head. She stood up and reached for Augie's discarded hand. "What about your brothers?"

"Hmm, that's Jojul," Augie said, motioning with his hand in Sarah's to the head Hoggle had just unearthed. Sarah felt queasy as the cold, stiff limb writhed in her hand.

"Ugh!" Sarah murmured, fighting against her revulsion as she quickly placed the hand beside Augie.

"Nice to see you!" Jojul cackled maniacally as Hoggle held him. Sarah observed that this Firey appeared to have a white moustache.

"Uh, you, too, I guess," Hoggle muttered, quickly setting the head down. Sarah got the feeling that Hoggle didn't like carrying around a chattering head anymore than she did.

"And who might this stout fellow be?" Sir Didymus inquired as he struggled to excavate the head of a larger Firey, grunting and groaning with exertion as he did.

"Who you calling 'stout', ya shrimp?" The head chided.

"Pardon my observation, but there does seem to be an abundance of you!" Sir Didymus growled in reply as Ambrosius happily dug out the torso that belonged to the larger Firey, pulling it out with considerable effort as well.

"Oh, that's Bodkin," Augie called out. "He's big 'cause likes bad food."

"Hey!" Bodkin complained. "So do you!"

"Not as much as you," Augie retorted. "Then there's Krew, wherever he is."

"Right here!" Krew announced in a muffled tone, still covered in dirt and leaves.

Sarah nodded. "Good to know. Okay, let's get you all back together."

"Ah, what's the point?" Augie asked, slumping against the rock Sarah had leaned him against. "Clash is gone. No more Fire gang."

"Tell me exactly what happened here," Sarah demanded as she bent down to uncover and retrieve Augie's discarded appendages.

"The mean Queen, she came!" Krew announced loudly as Ambrosius began to dig the soil out from around him.

"She didn't want to play by the rules," Bodkin stated.

"She sent her pets to burn us," Jojul added.

"But we're Fireys," Augie finished. "We're made of fire!" As if to prove his point, Augie's hand burst into flames just as Sarah was reaching for it.

Sarah yelped and jumped away. The Fireys laughed raucously at her fright and she scowled unhappily at them.

Sarah sighed, annoyed with the creatures already. "Euryale's Chimera couldn't burn you, but could they harm you with their venom?"

"Nope!" Augie boasted happily. "They tried, but we took off they's heads."

"But then they're heads wouldn't go back on," Jojul reflected.

"The mean Queen said we killed them!" Bodkin exclaimed.

"We were just playing our wild games, honest!" Krew interjected.

"Clash tried to talk to her, to get her to play," Augie said. "But she put her wicked gaze on him and he turned to stone!"

"How did the rest of you survive?" Sarah asked, her head spinning from hearing each Firey relay pieces of the story.

"We swallowed our eyes," Bodkin answered matter-of-factly. "She can't turn us to stone if we can't sees her."

"Then we ran away," Jojul explained.

"The mean Queen left, but not before destroying Clash," Augie sighed.

"She hit Clash with her tail, made him rubble," Krew finished. "Poor Clash."

"Poor Clash," the other Firey's lamented in unison.

Sarah finished building Augie and went over to help Sir Didymus finish with Bodkin. Sarah struggled to lift the torso into a sitting position. He really was quite heavy. As Sarah positioned Bodkin's head, she noticed that Hoggle was nearly finished with Jojul and Ambrosius had unearthed all the pieces of Krew.

"But you're still here!" Sarah argued as she began to assemble Krew. "Don't you want to avenge your brother and stop this from happening again?"

"Fireys need a leader," Augie contended. "Without Clash, no Fire Gang."

"So, what? You're just going to sit there and fall apart again?" Sarah balked, astonished.

"We can't chilly down without Clash," Bodkin replied.

"What's the point?" Krew asked after Sarah reattached his head.

I don't believe this!" Sarah shouted, looking around at the nearly reassembled Fireys. "You can't give up! You can't let her get away with killing your brother. You have to fight back!"

"Says you, lady," Augie sneered. "Who're you anyway?"

"Who am I?" Sarah asked, seizing the opportunity to inspire the Fireys. She straightened her shoulders and raised her chin defiantly. "I am Sarah," she announced prominently. "I have been sent here to claim what is rightfully mine with the magic that flows through my veins and to bring this pandemonium to an end. I will restore order to the Labyrinth and liberate all of you from the tyranny of Euryale's reach!" She stood in front of the Fireys, proud of herself for the conviction she had woven into her words.

"Say what now?" Jojul asked, scratching his head.

"Did you understand that?" Krew asked, turning his head lazily to Bodkin.

"Nope, didn't understand any of it." Bodkin replied as he munched on some kind of food that he must have had hidden close by. Sarah only dared to venture a guess as to what the food actually was.

"Use simple words, lady," Augie jeered.

Sarah rolled her eyes. "I'm the Keeper of the Labyrinth and I'm here to stop Euryale and save the Goblin King." She recited blandly.

"Oh!" The Fireys wondered in unison. "The Keeper?"

Sarah smiled, feeling a sense of pride swell within her. Perhaps now she had finally gotten through to the Fireys and the announcement of her status would be enough to get them back on their feet.

"So what?" Krew jibed

"What's that got to do with us?" Jojul asked snidely.

"Yeah, why should we care?" Bodkin inquired rudely with his mouth full. Ambrosius whined as he saw Bodkin grab another piece of food from the pouch that was hidden in the folds of his fur. Bodkin tore a piece of his food off and tossed it to Ambrosius, who quickly scarfed it down.

Anger boiled through Sarah as her confidence quickly deflated with their mocks and apathetic comments. She fleetingly considered grabbing a branch and seeing how far she could knock each of their heads..

"You should care!" she retorted, flustered. "The Labyrinth is your home. You used to sing, dance and play all day and night in these woods. Now you've been relegated to meaningless piles of limbs. It's time to fight back! It's time to take back the Labyrinth from the mean Queen and show her that you will not be tread upon."

The Fireys sighed, unaffected by Sarah's speech. Sarah ground her teeth in frustration. Every time she thought she'd found a way to inspire them, they quickly and effectively cut her down.

"What do I have to do to get through to you?" Sarah yelled, gesticulating wildly with her hands.

"Ah, just leave us be, lady," Augie murmured, closing his eyes. "We ain't doin' nothin' without Clash."

Sarah dropped her hands to her side, throwing a forlorn glance to Hoggle and Sir Didymus. She was out of ideas and her growing anger seethed through her mind, clouding her ability to reason.

"What're we gonna do?" She whispered, dropping down to the forest floor. She was suddenly very exhausted and wanted nothing more than to just be able to curl up in a nice, comfortable bed and fall into a fitful sleep.

Hoggle came up beside Sarah, resting his hand comfortingly on her shoulder. "I don't think they're gonna help us."

"Yes, they do seem rather content to just remain as they are," Sir Didymus concurred.

Sarah shook her head violently. "They can't! This isn't a game. Euryale won't stop until she-" Sarah's voice dropped off as an idea formed in her mind. She hoped her tactic would work. She turned to the Fireys.

"Okay, fine," Sarah said, throwing up her hands in defeat. "Stay here to fall apart and rot," she taunted ruthlessly. "The mean Queen wins the game and you guys lose. I never expected the Fire Gang to give up so easily." She shook her head in disappointment.

"What're you saying, lady?" Augie inquired, his crazy eyes rolling open and studying Sarah.

She shrugged. "I just thought you guys had rules to the game. I mean, she did cheat after all, but you just seem content to let her get away with it." Sarah stood. "Now, I know that if I were in the game, I wouldn't let a cheater win."

The Fireys stirred and began to mutter to one another.

"Rules is rules," Krew muttered.

"You gots to obey the rules to play the game," Jojul agreed.

Sarah began to pace between their bodies as she continued her speech.

"And it is against those rules to turn someone to stone and break them!" Sarah declared loudly, turning and pointing to Clash's remains. "But you all fell apart and the mean Queen won the game." Sarah clicked her tongue. "I guess the fabled Fire Gang isn't as good at the wild games as I was led to believe."

"That's not fair!" Bodkin shouted. "We're the best at wild games."

Sarah shrugged again, sucking in a breath through her teeth. "I don't know," she said with an exaggerated tone. "I'm convinced that you guys don't even really know how to chilly down at all."

This elicited a violent reaction from the Fireys as they heckled and berated Sarah for her remark.

"Sarah!" Hoggle hissed. "What're you doing?" He asked, giving her a confused look. Sarah winked at him.

"You don't know nothin', lady!" Augie growled.

"I know that you let Euryale win!" Sarah shouted back. "You let her take everything from you and you just gave up! You didn't even try to play the game!"

The Fireys stared at her in surprise. Sarah swallowed hard, taking in shallow breaths as she studied the Fireys. Her nerves tremored in anticipation of their response. She was both furious and anxious at the same time. It was not a pleasant feeling.

"Well, she did cheat," Augie finally muttered. "And she did kill Clash."

"That's right!" Sarah urged. "You all deserve a chance to even the score."

"But we can't play no more!" Krew argued.

"Without Clash, we got no leader," Jojul said.

"Yeah," Bodkin grumbled. "How does she expect us to play with no leader?"

"May I have a moment to clarify something?" Sir Didymus interrupted. "Are you saying that the only reason you are no longer able to participate in the game is because you merely lack leadership?"

"That's what we've been saying this whole time!" Jojul huffed.

"Weren't you listening?" Krew asked snidely.

"Seriously?" Sarah barked, her anger and exasperation nearly consuming her. She closed her eyes and took in several deep breath in hopes to quell the fury that rose within her.

You need them, she tried to convince herself. Don't wish them into the Bog.

Sarah opened her eyes, feeling slightly more composed. "Fine, if you guys need a leader, then I volunteer to be your leader."

The Fireys gawked at Sarah in silence before erupting into a disorderly argument.

"How can you be our leader?" Bodkin asked.

"Yeah, your head don't even come off!" Krew argued.

"We could take off her head, make her like us!" Jojul suggested.

"Great idea! I think I know where a saw is!" Augie suggested helpfully.

"No!" Sarah snapped. "We are not doing that."

"Aw, come on, little lady, don't you wanna be like us?" Bodkin pestered.

"Yeah, what's wrong with us?" Krew added petulantly.

"I think she's too good to take off her pretty lil' head," Jojul quipped.

"Ain't none of us too good for that," Augie scoffed.

"You wanna be leader, you gots to lose your head!" Bodkin stated.

"You gots to get wild in order to chilly down like us," Krew scolded. "How you expect to do that when you don't wanna lose your head?"

Sarah pressed her hands to her ears in an effort to block out the incessant chattering. The Fireys were giving her a splitting headache and she truly wondered if she asked the Labyrinth to drop them into the bog if it would actually happen. However improbable, the thought was awfully tempting.

"What makes you so special?" Augie asked, speaking over the others. "Why should you be leader?"

"Well, no one else is offering now are they?" Sarah griped, annoyed beyond measure.

"If anything, I should be leader," Augie grumbled.

"Then why don't you be leader?" Sarah demanded, nearly on the verge of screaming.

"Because… well… I...guess I never thought of it," Augie confessed.

Sarah growled in frustration. "Fine," she relented. "Then you be the damn leader!"

Augie blinked in confusion and surprise. "Um-uh-okay! I accept!"

The other Fireys whistled and shouted words of approval.
"Way to go!" Krew yelled.

"To our new leader!" Bodkin cried as he stuffed more food in his mouth.

"I voted for you!" Jojul claimed.

Sarah shook her head, endeavoring to contain her anger. "Alright! It's decided. How about it, Fire Gang? Are you ready to get up and take back your lives?"

The Fireys quieted down quickly, mumbling undecidedly and incoherently. They had once again become completely unanimated, drastically losing their earlier zeal.

Sarah sighed, slapping her hands together to get their attention. She grimaced in pain, immediately regretting the motion as her bandaged hands were still raw from the vine burn. "Fire Gang! Are you ready to chilly down?"

The Fireys looked at Sarah, hope and signs of life reigniting behind their eyes once again. Slowly, Augie began to rise up, testing his limbs.

Auggie started tapping his foot. "Yeah, I think I'm ready to be a wild child again!"

"Glow-glow, baby," Krew crowed, jumping to his feet.

"Good times and bad food," Bodkin announced, joining Krew on his feet.

"With the chilliest bunch in the land!" Jojul shouted, rising beside his brothers.

Sarah sighed in relief. "Thank God." She turned to Augie. "How about it, Augie? Are you ready to lead this rowdy crew?"

"You know it!" Augie cheered, jumping up and down, his head disconnecting and hovering over his torso as his ears rapidly flapped to keep his head floating. "Hey fellas, can ya dig?"

"Yow!" Bodkin screeched, grabbing two sticks and tapping out a tempo.

"The Fire Gang's back!" Krew shouted, dancing to the beat Bodkin laid down.

"Cause when things get tough, even down looks up, chilly down with Fire gang!" Jojul started singing.

"Whoa, whoa, okay, okay," Sarah interrupted, raising her hands to the Fireys. "'I'm relieved to see you guys back in action, but I have a favor to ask of you."

"Anything, lady," Augie said. "You got the Fire Gang jammin' again."

"I need you guys to seek out Titania, the fairy Queen, and wait with her in the fairy thicket until I return from the heart of the Labyrinth with the Goblin King's pendant. Then we will storm what remains of the castle beyond the Goblin City and take back the throne from the Gorgon Queen and avenge your brother."

"You got it, lady," Augie agreed. "But how you gonna make it to the heart of the Labyrinth?"

The question caught Sarah off guard. "I… I don't know. I don't even know how to get there." She confessed.

"You're the Keeper, ain't you?" Krew asked.

"How don't you know how to get there?" Jojul inquired.

"You'd think the Keeper would know," Bodkin jabbed.

"Hey, I'm kind of new to this, so give me a break," Sarah snapped brusquely, highly offended.

"Don't she know?" Krew asked.

"Know what?" Sarah inquired.

"She don't know!" Jojul exclaimed and the Fireys cackled, as if enjoying a private joke.

"Know what?!" Sarah demanded as the Fireys wore on the last of her already raw nerves.

"The heart of the Labyrinth is a cold place," Augie answered. He popped off his hand and offered it to Sarah. "Here, lady, you'll need this."

Sarah cringed, reluctantly reaching for the hand. "I don't understand. Why do I need your hand?"

"You need to command fire in order to melt the frozen locks." Augie explained.

"Command fire?" Sarah asked as an unsettling realization seized her. "That's why she brought the Chimera," Sarah uttered.

"What was that, milady?" Sir Didymus inquired.

Sarah turned to her companions. "The Chimera breathe fire! Euryale must have somehow known that the heart of the Labyrinth was guarded by the cold and ice. It can't just be coincidence."

"How do you suppose she would have obtained that information?" Sir Didymus asked.

Sarah bit her lip, knowing that the details had to have come from Jareth. She refused to let herself think of the agony he must have endured at the Gorgon Queen's hand to give up such valuable information.

"Jareth?" Sarah ventured uneasily.

"Why would the Goblin King tell the mean Queen where the heart of the Labyrinth is?" Augie interjected. "Wouldn't he want to keep it hidden from her no matter what?"

"I-I would have thought so," Sarah stammered. "It's the only thing I can think of that makes any sense." Her brows knitted together in consternation. "But the time doesn't add up."

"What do you mean?" Hoggle asked.

"Euryale already had her Chimera with her when she attacked the Labyrinth, right?" Sarah asked.

Hoggle and Sir Didymus nodded in agreement.

"So, how did she know about the frozen locks at the heart of the Labyrinth before she arrived?" Sarah asked. "I don't know, maybe it is just coincidence," Sarah mumble as if trying to convince herself. "I just feel like I'm missing something."

"Can we assist you somehow?" Sir Didymus asked.

"I just have to think on this," Sarah pondered. "It makes sense that Euryale is reptilian and cannot withstand the cold, therefore she needed minions that could cut through the ice that guards the heart of the Labyrinth with fire."

"So, Euryale sent her pets to hunt for the heart." Sir Didymus surmised. "That is, until you arrived and she began hunting you, milady."

"Yeah," Sarah grumbled unhappily. "Lucky me." She turned to Augie, abandoning her train of thought to revisit another time. "Do you know how to reach the heart of the Labyrinth?"

Augie shook his head. "No, I only know that it's a cold, dark place, locked away from all love and light."

Sarah swallowed hard. She couldn't deny the irony of Jareth's pendant and the heart of the Labyrinth being sealed away in a place so cold that the warmth of love could never reach them. Sarah fretted again with indecisiveness. Had she truly broken the Goblin King's heart as she had initially suspected? Was he so grievously injured by her rejection that he had sealed a part of himself away in the deepest, coldest place in the Labyrinth to protect his heart from ever feeling such pain again? Was he really a victim instead of a villain? Or was it simply the best hiding place for the last traces of his magic?

Sarah hated the contradicting thoughts that bounced through her mind. She couldn't decide whether Jareth had orchestrated the whole ordeal as an elaborate way to claim her magic for himself or if he was merely another injured party and the events that followed were simply the unfortunate circumstances of an unrequited love.

Sarah sighed, her thoughts still careening tumultuously through her head. She turned to Ambrosius, tucking Augie's hand inside her backpack.

"How you gonna find the heart?" Krew asked curiously.

Sarah shrugged, zipping her bag closed. "I don't know, but I was looking for you guys and I found you. So, I know I'll find the heart of the Labyrinth." She stood up, glancing at each of the Fireys intently. "And I will stop the mean Queen. I promise."

"Good luck, lady," Augie said, offering her his stubby arm. "Oops," he muttered, switching hands to give her a thumbs up.

Sarah chuckled at the ludicrousness of the creature. "Thanks. Good luck to you as well."

"Come on, gang!" Augie cried. "To the fairy thicket!"

"See you in fairy land!" Bodkin sang out.

"Where we'll get chilly down with Fire Gang!" Jojul sang. The others cackled maniacally and began singing loudly as they bounced and rolled through the forest. Sarah shook her head, feeling sorry for Titania as the song from the Fireys rang through the dark forest.

"Very well handled, milady," Sir Didymus commended.

"I didn't think they were ever going to get up," Hoggle commented, clearly impressed with Sarah's tenacity. "Nice job."

"Thank you," Sarah said appreciatively. She scanned the woods and an icy chill of dread crawled up her spine. They had been so preoccupied with the Fireys that she hadn't noticed the sun had completely disappeared.

"It's nighttime," she muttered.

As if to signal her observation, a ravenous howl cut through the air and Sarah's blood ran cold with fear.

Hoggle and Sir Didymus froze as the howl reached them. Ambrosius whined and pushed against Sarah for safety. Sarah gasped as she recognized the howl. She didn't know how, but somehow she inexplicably knew the creature that hunted them was the same one that had tasted her blood. The creature howled again, the lament of a dire, hungry predator. It was not hunting all of them. All it wanted was her.

"Run," Sarah whispered fervently. "Run, now!"

Return to the Labyrinth

A Labyrinth Story
by ArtemisFallen

Part 10 of 24

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