Continuing Tales

Return to the Labyrinth

A Labyrinth Story
by ArtemisFallen

Part 11 of 24

<< Previous     Home     Next >>
Leverage: A Christmas Tale

Sarah crashed through the trees, the limbs ruthlessly snagging at her nearly decimated cardigan.

"Move!" She hissed, ushering Hoggle along faster. He picked up the pace, but didn't move as quickly as Sarah would have liked. Ambrosius, however, needed no such coaxing. Sarah had already lost sight of him and Sir Didymus. In fact, Ambrosius had begun to dash out ahead of them before Sir Didymus had even mounted him.

"I'm running as fast as I can!" Hoggle complained, trying to hop over a fallen tree.

Sarah reached down to help Hoggle over the obstacle when another vicious howl cut through the air, freezing them both in place. The skin on Sarah's arm prickled in response to the sound. This time it was much closer.

Hoggle's face drained of color. "But I think I could run faster!"

Icy tendrils of fear continued to snake their way through Sarah's veins and down her body. Her mouth went dry as she struggled to speak. "I think that would be a good idea."

Once again, they found themselves racing haphazardly through the forest. Sarah couldn't be sure in her state of hysteria, but she felt as if she were being watched as she hurtled herself over moss covered rocks and broken branches.

"Do you see Didymus?" Sarah panted as she ran.

"No!" Hoggle whined worriedly.

"They were just ahead of us," Sarah cast a glance behind her as she ran. "Maybe they…" Sarah struck a solid mass and was jarred backwards..

She struck the forest floor with the flat of her shoulders first, her head bouncing off the soft, displaced soil. The front of her body reeled from the impact of the object while her back and head protested the collision with the forest floor. After a moment, the confusion of the situation abated her and her body began to scream in pain and protest. Her head swam in a sea of fog and her hearing faded to a high pitched whine. Sarah blinked several times, trying to clear her eyes as patches of darkness began to dot her vision.

Hoggle bent over her in concern. "Sarah!" He gasped, reaching out to her.

"I'm okay," Sarah slurred. She endeavored to sit up, but a wave of dizziness crashed over her, throwing her back down to the earthen ground.

"Come on, Sarah," Hoggle encouraged hastily. "We can't stay here. I need you to stand up."

Sarah nodded, still disoriented. Slowly, she was able to comprehend her situation again. "What happened?" She asked.

"You, uh, ran into that wall," Hoggle answered sheepishly.

Sarah scoffed in self loathing. Of all the stupid things she could do right now, she had to run directly into a stone wall in the middle of the forest inside the Labyrinth and knock herself senseless. The ludicrousness of the situation was almost more than she could bear.

"That sounds about right," she muttered, crawling unsteadily to her feet.

"Are you going to be alright?" Hoggle asked, holding her arm and trying to steady her.

Sarah swayed slightly, but maintained her upright position. She reached out a hand to steady herself against the offending wall while her other gently probed her aching head. "I'll be fine."

"There you are!" Sir Didymus announced, trotting back over to Sarah and Hoggle. "We came upon this wall and have been following it to see if it lets out. I haven't found a way past-" Sir Didymus stopped as he studied Sarah. "Are you quite alright, fair maiden? It looks as if you have taken a rather nasty tumble."

Sarah shook her head, embarrassed enough that Hoggle had seen her humiliating display. "Don't worry about it. Did you find the end of the wall?"

Sir Didymus shook his head ruefully. "Alas, it seems to have no end."

"Damn," Sarah cursed. She looked up, the motion shooting an invisible dagger through her brain. She groaned and squinted against the pain, following the rise of the wall. Her heart sank as she was unable to see the crest as it melted into the dark sky. "Do you think we can climb it?"

"I don't see how," Hoggle speculated. "It looks pretty steep."

"Fear not, miladly. We'll figure something out," Sir Didymus assured. "We always do."

Another howl echoed through the night air, causing their conversation to abruptly cease. Sarah listened intently. The howl mercifully sounded further away than it had before, but it was still too close to give her any kind of comfort.

"What're we gonna do?" Hoggle asked, panicked.

"I don't know," Sarah panted, placing her hands against the smooth wall. She groped about, feeling for any out of place bricks she could use to boost herself up. Her hands grasped uselessly at moist moss and soil. It crumbled beneath her touch, raining down a mess of fetid and moldy earth onto her face and head.

"Ugh," Sarah groaned, stepping away from the wall and sputtering through the dirt.

"You should be careful or you could have a nasty fall," a small voice remarked.

Sarah's attention snapped back to the wall, searching for origin of the voice. "What? Who said that?"

"Down 'ere," the voice replied.

Sarah blinked, brushing the remnants of soil from her forehead as she crouched down on her knees next to the wall. Hoggle pushed in curiously beside her.

"'Ello," the voice said happily.

Sarah focused on a small cave worm nonchalantly resting on a withered vine next to the wall.

"No," Sarah whispered incredulously. "It can't be." Sarah appraised the small worm, recognizing him from so many years ago. Proud tufts of gray hair, though once blue, still sprouted from his head with the occasional blue strand vibrantly peeking through. Sarah saw that his skin had withered over the years, becoming a slightly more slack and speckled with several tiny faded patches of blue and white. The little worm appeared to wear the same red scarf, though it too had grown faint with the constant fatigue of wear from the years.

"I know you," Sarah gawked, astonished. "You're the worm I met at the beginning of the Labyrinth all those years ago!"

The worm squinted at Sarah, his red eyes slightly clouded. "Me eyesight's not what it usta be, but you do kinda look like that lovely lil' girl. Oi, it's been a spell since I've seen you!" The worm remarked happily. "'Ave you been 'ere all this time?"

Sarah shook her head. "No, I solved the Labyrinth and left. But now I've come back."

"Come back?" The worm asked, astonished. "Why would you ever do that?"

The question struck Sarah in a curious way. At the beginning of her adventure, she had known why she had wanted to return. She wanted to confess her newly discovered love for the Goblin King and beseech forgiveness for her trespasses against him. However, as she delved further into her journey, she had grown suspicious of his true motives and unsure of her own feelings.

"I came back for something I thought was real," Sarah mumbled. "But now I'm not so sure it was ever real."

"Then why stay?" The worm continued quizzically.

Sarah blinked. The thought of simply leaving had never occurred to her. She looked to Sir Didymus and Hoggle, who gazed at her expectantly. In that moment, the truth of the matter dawned on her. Sarah knew without any hesitation as to why she remained in the Labyrinth.

"Regardless of what my motives were for returning, I find that I am needed here," Sarah surmised. "And I won't let my friends down again. They need me." She smiled at Hoggle and Sir Didymus. "And I need them."

Hoggle placed his hand on Sarah's shoulder and Sir Didymus threw her a sweet smile. Her conflicting emotions for Jareth were irrelevant at this point in time. What mattered now were her friends and their safety. She would fight for them as long as she still drew breath.

"Aw, isn't that nice!" The worm hummed appreciatively. "Well, it's sure good to see a friendly face 'round 'ere. Things are awfully dark in this part of the Labyrinth."

"You don't have to tell us," Hoggle remarked.

"Do you know how to get past this wall?" Sarah asked hopefully.

"Nah, I'm just a worm. I'd never get over this enormous thing," he said, shaking his aged head.

"Then, pardon my inquiry, but how do you get to places such as these?" Sir Didymus asked.

"Oh, that's easy," the worm said brightly. "We travel by tunnel."

Another howl pierced the air and Sarah's pulse quickened at its closeness.

"My, my, those ghastly beasts are on the prowl tonight!" The worm observed. "Almost like they're chasing something."

Sarah's stomach twisted into sickening knots at the statement. The worm had no idea how right he was.

"It's gettin' late. Why don't the lot of you come inside, meet the missus? We can put you up for the night," the worm offered. "You'll be safe with us."

"Um," Sarah muttered dubiously. "I'm not sure we could fit into your home."

"Nonsense!" The worm exclaimed. "We've got plenty of room. Come inside. We'll get you a nice cuppa tea."

"Forgive my skepticism," Sir Didymus interjected. "But how are we supposed to enter your dwelling?"

"Right through there," the worm motioned with his head. Sarah followed the worm's line of sight, her eyes resting on an old, rotted tree trunk. Sarah threw the worm a confused look.

"Where?" Sarah asked.

"It's right there, you're lookin' right at it," the worm said.

"The tree trunk?" Sarah asked.

"That's right!" The worm smiled.

Sarah stood, getting a better view of the trunk. It appeared solid, save for the few rotted pieces that had splintered off throughout the years.

"It's just a rotten tree trunk," Sarah mumbled softly.

"It's the opening to me tunnel," the worm assured. "Just walk on over it."

"But…" Sarah argued. "It's clearly a rotted old tree trunk." She gestured to it. "There's no way inside."

The worm shook his head with a laugh. "Things aren't always what they seem in this place. You can't..."

"...take anything for granted," Sarah echoed, a vivid memory sparking in her mind. "I remember," she whispered.

The worm nodded. "Well, go on then! Try it."

Sarah apprehensively gazed at Hoggle and Sir Didymus, her hands flicking nervously at her side. "Okay," she breathed, moving cautiously into the rotted trunk. She stepped forward, bracing herself for the impact of the trunk against her shins as she walked straight into it. Much to her surprise, Sarah felt her foot descend and land on a soft dirt path that led steeply underground. She continued downward a little more and was greeted by a narrow tunnel barely lit by the moon that hung overhead in the night sky.

"You've gotta be kidding me," Sarah gawked in amazement, backing out slowly to look over at the worm.

"Told ya," the worm winked. "I'll meet ya down there." The worm turned on the old withered vine and began inching himself along until he disappeared into the moss covered rock wall.

"Er, friend of yours?" Hoggle asked after the worm had disappeared.

"I met him right after the first time I saw you," Sarah recounted. "The last time I was in the Labyrinth." She shook her head. "Come on, let's get out of here."

"Come now, Ambrosius," Sir Didymus coaxed. "Into the dark unknown of the tunnel where danger and adventure awaits!"

Ambrosius whined pitifully and began to visibly quake in fear.

Hoggle huffed. "Some speech there. Now I don't wanna go in either."

"There is nothing to fear," Sir Didymus spouted, raising his spear. "But fear itself!"

The long, ravenous howl of the Chimera echoed off the trees once again and Sir Didymus quickly lowered his spear.

"And quite possibly that creature," he muttered. "May we go in now, milady?"

Sarah nodded vigorously in agreement as her eyes quickly scanned the treeline. "Yes, let's get out of here."

They filed quickly into the tunnel, Ambrosius nearly knocking Hoggle down in his haste to make it inside.

Sarah squinted against the failing light, ducking and dodging the finger like vines that dangled in her face. As they edged further in, it became impossible for Sarah to make out anything. She spread her hands out against the sides of the tunnel, feeling for its subtle twists and turns. Something skirted and tickled across her cheek. Sarah tried to convince herself that it was only a vine and not some creature lurking underground. However, this became harder to believe when the tickle moved from her cheek and cascaded down her neck. Innately, Sarah's skin began to crawl and she hastily brushed at her face and neck, unnerved by the fact that she couldn't see what was on her.

Maybe you don't want to see, the voice in her head whispered.

Oh, shut up, Sarah growled at herself. She shook her head. Sometimes she truly could be her own worst enemy.

The path continued to twist and as it curved, Sarah banged her shoulder roughly against the side tunnel.

"Ow," she hissed under her breath. "I can't see a thing."

"Me neither," Hoggle griped.

"Even my keen senses cannot cut through this darkness," Sir Didymus confessed.

"What're we gonna do?" Hoggle asked, sounding nearly as pitiful as Ambrosius when he whined.

"I don't know," Sarah sighed. "If only I had a lighter or…" Sarah trailed off as she suddenly remembered the Fireys. "Sir Didymus, can you find the Firey hand in my backpack?"

"Oh, what an excellent idea, milady!" Sir Didymus quipped happily. "Give me just a moment."

Sarah waited patiently as she heard Sir Didymus unzip the bag and root around for the hand she had stowed inside it for safekeeping.

"Ah, found it! Here you are, fair maiden," Sir Didymus announced. Sarah reached out blindly for the hand, accidentally smacking Hoggle accidentally in the process.

"Oh, I am so sorry!" Sarah gasped apologetically.

"It's alright," Hoggle muttered, sounding as if her were rubbing his nose. He shuffled away from Sarah. "It's not like any of us can see anything."

Sarah nodded, even though the gesture was lost to the darkness. She continued to reach out, her fingers finally touching the cold, stiff hand of the Firey. Sarah's stomach turned once again as she was reminded of dead meat. She reluctantly took the hand from Sir Didymus.

"Ugh," she groaned. She'd mercifully forgotten how the dead, stiff limbs of the Fireys felt. Now it was all coming back to her. Sarah swallowed her revulsion and endeavored to be grateful for the severed appendage and the light it would bring. She held the Firey hand in front of her and then stopped, woefully aware that she didn't know how to make fire appear.

"Um," Sarah started.

"What's wrong?" Hoggle asked.

"I don't know how to make it work," Sarah confessed sheepishly.

"Oh," Hoggle replied dismally. "Me neither, actually."

"Have you tried shaking it?" Sir Didymus offered helpfully.

Sarah began to shake the hand vigorously. The motion proved to be futile.

"That didn't work," Sarah relayed.

"Maybe you should try asking it?" Hoggle proposed.

Sarah scoffed, but decided the suggestion was not too far fetched.

"Fire?" Sarah stated to the hand. The hand remained cold and stiff in Sarah's grasp. "I command fire!" Sarah tried again to no avail.

She stood silently for a moment, feeling the anxious energy of her companions. Sarah's patience slowly began to falter.

"I don't understand," Sarah complained in frustration. "He said it would work!" She swung her arm down desolately to her side. The hand struck the side of the tunnel, sending a spark of light that bounced through the heavy darkness.

Surprised, Sarah jumped at the spark and then shook her head ruefully.

"It's just like lighting a match," she breathed, raising the hand above her head and striking it against the roof of the tunnel.

The hand blazed with brilliant orange light that seared Sarah's eyes. Sarah hissed, averting her eyes from the flame and extending her arm as far away from her face as possible.

"You got it!" Hoggle cheered happily.

"Well done, milady," Sir Didymus commended.

Sarah smiled at her companions, her dismal mood dissipating. She held the hand in front of her like a torch and continued down the earthen passage.

It smelled moist, ripe with plant decay and now slightly smokey. Even though the fire crackled bright and hungrily, Sarah was amazed that she didn't feel any heat from the flame. Her hand remained completely unaffected by the dancing blaze. They continued down the nicely rounded tunnel slowly. Even though it appeared safe, Sarah reminded herself that the Labyrinth still held horrors that her imagination could not even begin to fathom. Abruptly, the passage let out into a spacious cavern littered with half a dozen large openings that led into tunnels of their own.

"Oh, great," Sarah breathed. "Which way now?"

"There you are!" Came a voice in the distance. "Well, come on then! Don't wanna keep the missus waiting. She does so love company."

Sarah squinted against the reach of the flame, trying to distinguish the little worm. She glimpsed him in the entrance of the second to last tunnel to her left.

"I was afraid we wouldn't find you," Sarah said, unable to keep the immense relief from triggering in her voice.

"Don't you worry," the worm replied. "I wouldn't leave you down 'ere in this maze without a guide. Come along, then." The worm began to scoot down the passageway at a surprisingly swift pace. Sarah and the others followed quickly, afraid they would lose him if they did not keep up.

"These caverns are huge!" Sarah remarked, glancing around in awe. "How did you find them them?"

"Why, we didn't find 'em," the worm boasted. "Me n' the missus made 'em!"

Sarah gaped in shock, completely flabbergasted. "That must have been quite the task!"

"Nah, not as much as you'd think," the worm said proudly. "Prell's always been good at diggin' tunnels."

"Prell?" Sarah ventured.

"That's right," the worm responded as he wriggled along quickly. "That's me wife. Which reminds me, I ain't never got 'round to proper introductions. I'm Batson."

"Hello, Batson," Sarah replied pleasantly. "I'm Sarah. This is Hoggle, Sir Didymus and Ambrosius."

Batson stopped and turned to Sarah, his red eyes keenly glued to her. "Sarah, eh? If I recall, that's the name of the girl The Goblin King fell in love with."

"That's…" Hoggle started and Sarah put her hand against his mouth to silence him. He gave a muffled grunt of displeasure, but didn't say anything more.

"Really? Do you know much about this Sarah and the Goblin King?" Sarah asked.

"Just what I've 'eard," Batson continued along, unaffected by Sarah's motion to silence Hoggle. Sarah had to quicken her pace to keep up with the worm.

"What have you heard?" Sarah persuaded innocently.

"Rumor 'round 'ere is the Goblin King fell in love with a mortal girl who didn't return 'is love," Batson explained. "Rumor goes the Goblin King lost 'is powers because of it and that's why the Labyrinth's become a terrible place."

"But did he really?" Sarah pondered aloud. "Did he really love her?"

"Ain't for me to say being as I'm just a worm," Batson replied. "But we 'ear things most don't on account no one sees us unless we want to be seen." Batson led them into another cavern with four more openings. He chose the furthest one on the right. Sarah once again found herself rushing to close the gap between her and Batson. He was abnormally agile.

"Such as?" Sarah coaxed, realizing that she was nearly panting in her efforts to keep up with the little speed demon.

"This n' that," Batson replied. "Those sayin' the Goblin King'd foolishly lost 'imself over a mortal girl. That the king risked it all, gave everything there was to give for this girl. Its also been said that even though 'is magic dwindled and she'd forsake 'is love, the Goblin King kept usin' magic to go to the girl's world just to be close to 'er again." Batson sighed deeply. "Waste of precious magic is what that was."

Sarah inadvertently whimpered as she felt an invisible knife slip through her rib cage and pierce her heart. She blinked away the rush of tears that rose to her eyes. Her mind taunted her mercilessly about how harshly she had judged Jareth based entirely on speculation alone.

"Yeah, it sounds like it," she replied hoarsely. Sarah's conflicting emotions were almost enough to tear her apart. She felt a tug on her shirt and looked down into the sympathetic eyes of Hoggle. He reached out and squeezed her free hand comfortingly. Sarah squeezed back, struggling to swallow the knot that had formed in her throat.

"Do you know why he loved the girl?" Sarah strained, her voice barely audible over the knot of emotion.

"Just that she was special," Batson replied obliviously. "She reminded the 'im of someone."

Sarah's surprise was enough to bring back her voice. "Reminded him of someone? Who?"

"No one knows." Batson replied, leading them into yet another cavern with several openings. This time, he went down the middle. "Some say it was the babe."

"What babe?" Sarah asked.

"The babe with the power," Batson replied.

"What power?" Sarah pushed.

"The power… hm," Batson murmured reflectively. "I don't rightly recall. Me memory's not what it used to be."

"Oh," Sarah replied despondently.

"But again, it's all rumor and chatter," Batson quipped cheerfully. "You gotta take it as you will."

Sarah nodded, her chest tightening as more conflicting thoughts entered her mind.

She reminded him of someone. The words echoed somberly in her memory and Sarah felt her heart drop as she realized that she was not as special as she had initially thought.

The babe with the power, her mind prattled on. So, that meant there had been someone else with a power like hers. Had he tried this before? Was she really the object of his unrequited love or was this simply a game he played?

But if he'd done this before, he would've lost his powers, the voice of reason contradicted in her mind. He lost his powers because he loved you.

Maybe it's just a ruse, her emotional side argued. Maybe this is just all part of his game.

Do you really think he would let the game go this far to get what he wanted? The rational voice asked.

Sarah chewed on her lip, afraid to answer her own inquiry. When it came down to it, she truly didn't want to know the answer.

Perhaps, her emotional side whispered dejectedly.

Even if you do think this is a game, there is one thing you need to know with certainty, the rational voice surmised. Do you still love him?

Sarah pulled in a shuddered breath. It was a question she'd thought about before, but had dismissed it. However, trapped in this dark maze of tunnels, the glaring question seemed impossible to evade.

As Sarah searched her heart and soul for her true feelings, she became even more forlorn to discover that she honestly didn't know the answer.

They continued to walk, or rather trot to keep up with the fastest worm in the world, in silence. Sarah's conflicting emotions relentlessly spread and gnawed at her, growing more agonizing as the endless maze of tunnels and passageways flew by. Her muscles were tired and sore, begging for relief from the torture she had put them through. However, Sarah ignored them. She had begun to creep into a dark place in the back of her mind where she started to question herself and her own motives. Just as she felt herself hitting rock bottom, Batson interrupted her dark thoughts.

"Ah, 'ere we are!" He announced gleefully.

In her quiet despair, Sarah hadn't realized that Batson had led them down a narrowing tunnel which had ended with an opening covered by dangling plant roots. Small rays of light shown through the curtain of roots, but Sarah was unable to see inside.

"Go on," Batson urged.

Sarah reluctantly pushed through the tangled mess and was met by a warm, wide open space. The walls were no longer moist with crumbling earth, but packed tightly in. The floor resembled the walls, no longer soft, but firm and comforting under her feet.

Sarah looked up at the source of the light and gasped in awe as she saw the air was alive with insect like creatures that reminded her of fireflies. They buzzed inaudibly and lazily about, collectively emitting a pleasant light that filled the cavern. As Sarah's eyes appraised the room, a small pile of red glowing rocks caught her attention in the corner of the cavern. A large kettle sat casually upon the rocks, a thin trail of steam spewing from the spout.

"There's no fire," Sarah muttered, examining the rocks. "How is it heated?"

"You ain't ever seen exfo stones before?" Batson asked, surprised.

Sarah shook her head, remembering that she still clutched the flaming Firey hand. She shook it rapidly, successfully extinguishing the flame.

"Well, they're what we use to cook our meals and such," Batson explained. "Can't rightfully 'ave fire down 'ere, now can we?"

Batson wriggled over to the middle of the room and Sarah realized that there were rocks that had been manipulated into seats. Other comforts adorned the room such as woven silk bags bulging with cotton. Sarah gazed enviously at one such bag, longing to lay against it.

"Prell, darling, we 'ave visitors!" Batson announced.

"At this time of night?!" Came a shrill reply from a tunnel leading out of the cavern. "What's gotten into you, Batson?"

"S'alright," Batson assured her. "They're friends. They need a safe place for the night."

"You think everyone's a friend," Prell chided. "I swear, one day you'll invite one of those bloody Chimera down 'ere and roast us both, you will!"

"Nonsense, darling," Batson replied sweetly. "Come out and meet our guests." Batson turned his attention back to them and saw Sarah gazing at the cotton filled cushion.

"Go on," Batson urged gently. "Relax, get comfortable."

Sarah contemplated a moment, feeling as if she were being rude. She looked over to Hoggle who shrugged. Sir Didymus nodded in Sarah's direction, as if assuring her that there would be no harm done in resting. Hesitantly, Sarah went over to the large cushion, pushing against it with her hand to test its softness. In a hasty moment where her body reacted before her mind, Sarah found herself lounged against the luscious comfort of the cushion, a deep and contented sigh escaping from her lips. Ambrosius quickly came up beside Sarah, nuzzling her hand affectionately. She slid her hand lazily over his head, scratching softly behind his ears.

"You have very nice accomodations, if I say so myself," Sir Didymus remarked as he moved to one of the stone seats in the middle of the room. "We heartily thank you for your generous hospitality."

Hoggle found a seat next to Sir Didymus, exclaiming in wonder at the myriad of fireflies dancing along the ceiling.

"My pleasure!" Batson cooed happily. "Now, who would like a nice cuppa hot tea? There's plenty for all. We've also got some biscuits cookin' next to the exfo rocks."

Ambrosius perked up his ears at the mention of food and Sarah felt her stomach grumble in response as well. Never in her whole life had tea and biscuits sounded so utterly delicious to her.

"I'll have some if you're offering," Hoggle said, springing to his feet and going over to the rocks. "Sarah? Didymus?"

"Please," Sarah asked, her exhaustion outweighing her ability to get up and fend for herself.

"I would be indebted, sir," Sir Didymus replied.

"Prell, we're having tea and biscuits, won't you join us?" Batson called out again.

"Give me a bloody moment to get cleaned up!" Prell yelled back. "It's not like I was expectin' company tonight!"

"Of course, dear," Batson said graciously. "Take your time."

Sarah and Hoggle exchanged uncomfortable glances as Hoggle brought Sarah a large biscuit and a cup of steaming tea in a wooden mug.

"Your wife sounds, er, lovely," Sir Didymus remarked carefully, sensing the tension.

"Yeah," Batson sighed, a contented smile once again rising to his face. "She's the best thing in this world."

"Really?" Hoggle asked in disbelief. Sarah shot him a look, warning him to be pleasant as they were guests in Batson's home.

Sarah sipped her tea, losing herself in the delicious and warm flavor. She bit into the warm, flaky biscuit and nearly moaned in appreciation of meal. It was light and buttery and seemed to almost melt in her mouth when she followed it with a sip of tea.

"This is wonderful," Sarah murmured appreciatively. "Thank you for your kindness."

Before Batson could answer, Prell yelled from the opening.

"There better be tea and biscuits left!"

"There's plenty, love!" Batson replied sweetly.

She stared expectantly at the opening Prell had spoken from and choked on her tea when the worm emerged.

Hoggle's eyes widened and his mouth dropped open as he gawked at the worm who entered the room. Sir Didymus dropped his biscuit and Ambrosius was quick to scamper across the room and gobble it up, unaffected by the new presence.

"Everyone, this is my missus!" Batson beamed happily. "Prell, darling, these are our guests!"

Sarah gazed up at Prell. She was enormous! She towered over Sarah, a huge blue and white worm the size of an elephant. Her blue and gray curls tumbled out from under a pink bonnet that sat delicately on her head. Her red eyes appraised Sarah and the group.

"Who're all you, then?" She grossed unhappily.

Sarah stood respectfully. "I'm Sarah. I was just telling Batson how wonderful the tea and biscuits are and thanking him for your hospitality."

Prell eyed her. "Sarah, is it?" She huffed. "Well, I'm glad you enjoy me biscuits. I slaved all day over 'em."

Sarah nervously grasped the half eaten biscuit still in her hand. "Oh, I am. They're delicious!"

Prell looked at Sir Didymus and Ambrosius. "And who do we 'ave 'ere?"

"I am Sir Didymus and this is my faithful steed, Ambrosius." Sir Didymus announced, taking his hat off and bowing with a flourish. "We are but humble and grateful visitors in your home."

Prell scoffed and rolled her eyes. She looked at Batson. "That everyone?"

"Not quite, dear. There's one more," Batson nodded over to Hoggle, who had taken to cowering behind one of the stone seats.

"What you cowerin' for?" Prell started. "Come on out and gives us a look and proper introduction."

Hoggle slowly stood, obviously shaken by Prell's shocking size.

"Uh-er- the name's Hoggle," he said nervously. "Nice to meet you, miss."

Prell pulled back visibly and Sarah could see her features relax as a soft, warm hue of pink crossed over the worm's face.

"Oh, my. Hoggle, is it?" Prell's voice became gentle and soothing as she gave careful consideration to pronounce the H in his name. "Why, what a lovely name for such a lovely creature."

Sarah inhaled her biscuit and started to cough, taking a hasty drink of her tea. Prell didn't appear to notice Sarah's reaction.

Hoggle fidgeted anxiously. "Oh, how kind of you to say so."

Prell fluttered her eyes. "It's been a long time since Batson brought anyone so interestin' and attractive to our lil' cave."

Sarah glanced over to see Sir Didymus' jaw practically hit the floor.

"Er- who me? Interesting?" Hoggle stammered.

"And attractive," Prell purred loudly, winking.

"Oh, dear," Hoggle gulped, his frantic gaze falling on Sarah, pleading for help.

Sarah cleared her throat. "This is a lovely home you have," she fumbled. "It must've taken quite some time to clear all the tunnels."

"You would think so, but not really," Batson answered. "Prell's a natural burrower, she is." He gazed at her lovingly. "Just the best."

"Why don't you rest your weary feet over 'ere?" Prell cooed to Hoggle, ignoring Batson. "I won't bite."

Hoggle's eyes widened in fear as if the thought she could bite had not occurred to him until she made mention of it.

"Oh, how nice, but I'm very comfortable right here," Hoggle muttered, scooting closer to Sarah.

"Nonsense!" Prell exclaimed, batting her eyes. "Let us 'ave a better look at you!"

She scooted across the room to Hoggle. "Oh, that's better!" Prell gushed. "Why, what pretty eyes you've got!"

Hoggle chuckled nervously, a silent scream of terror frozen on his face. Sarah felt compelled to help him in some way.

"Ahem, we appreciate your generosity," Sarah began cautiously. "But unfortunately, we need to get going."

Prell stared hypnotically at Hoggle. "What's the rush, love? Can't you stay while?"

Sarah shook her head. "I'm afraid not. We need to find the heart of the Labyrinth and time is running out."

Prell's fixated gaze broke from Hoggle and she gaped down at Sarah. "What did you say?"

Sarah swallowed hard. "Uh, um, we need to find the heart of the Labyrinth," she muttered, afraid the big worm might crush her if she spoke out of turn.

Prell and Batson exchanged worried glances. "Why would a sweet thing such as yourself ever want to go there?" Prell asked.

"Because I have to," Sarah explained lamely.

"No one ever needs to go there," Batson responded, eyeing Sarah suspiciously. "What's really going on?"

Sarah exhaled heavily as she looked between the two worms. "I do need to go there," she persisted softly. "I have to go because I have to save the Labyrinth. It's why I'm here. It's why I came back."

Prell and Batson exchanged glances and then began laughing incredulously.

"Save the Labyrinth?" Prell exclaimed, her sweet and delicate voice dissipating. "An' just 'ow do you suppose you gonna do that? You're just a young girl!"

"These are dark forces at work," Batson chimed in. "This is no time to play the savior. This is no game."

Sarah wrinkled her nose, warding off her wounded pride. "I'm not playing," she said flatly. "I need to find the heart of the Labyrinth. There is a power hidden there that I must obtain. With it, I can drive back this evil and return the Goblin King to power."

"Really?" Batson inquired skeptically. "You can?"

Sarah nodded. "Yes, I can. And I will."

"But why would you be willin' to risk yourself for one such as the Goblin King?" Batson inquired. "It don't seem right."

Sarah chewed on her lip, fiddling with her frayed cardigan between her fingers. "'s because I'm...I'm…"

"Because you're the girl!" Prell announced as realization dawned on her. "You're the cause of all this?"

"Wait, you're that Sarah?" Batson gasped.

Sarah inhaled sharply, the sting of the accusation hurting more than it should have.

"Now see here!" Hoggle bristled. "She ain't the cause of nothin'! This whole thing was Jareth's doing. He's the one who got himself and us into this mess. He was reckless with his power. Sarah's done nothin' wrong. She's just tryin' to set things right!"

The worms gazed at Sarah and Hoggle in surprise.

"I've 'eard the stories," Batson said apologetically. "But I didn't know what was rumor and what was fact. You understand, don't you?"

"It's okay," Sarah said softly. "I don't know what to believe half the time either."

"If you're trying to save the Labyrinth, then 'ow did you end up 'ere?" Prell asked.
"We have fought our way here past horrors unimaginable, trials of valor and pain which afflicts both the body and the soul," Sir Didymus finally said, finishing his tea thoughtfully. "What we've seen will long haunt our dreams and mark our very hearts."

Prell gaped at Hoggle with wide eyed pity. "Oh, you poor, dear lamb. The evils you must've endured!" She curled herself around Hoggle quickly in an odd embrace.

"Ah!" Hoggle yelped as she squeezed him. He threw Sir Didymus a nasty look. Sir Didymus shrugged, unaware his speech would elicit such a reaction from Prell.

"What can we do to 'elp?" Batson asked seriously.

"Can you tell me where the heart of the Labyrinth is?" Sarah asked Batson, hoping Prell would not smother poor Hoggle in her python like embrace.

"Tell you? Oh, I can do better than that," Batson replied. "I can show you the way."

Sarah's heart fluttered. "Really?" She cried, her voice pitching with excitement.

"Sure!" Batson said happily. "But be warned, the path to the 'eart of the Labyrinth is not an easy one."

Sarah sighed, her elation quickly fading. "Nothing ever is."

"There will be trials," Batson warned. "Tricks and obstacles to overcome."

"What do you mean by tricks and obstacles?" Hoggle wheezed, struggling vainly to free himself from Prell.

"Oh, don't you fret 'bout none of that now," Prell soothed. "You're all safe 'ere. I suggest we all get some rest and in the morning, Battsy will take you as far as the frozen door." She looked down at Hoggle. "Come with me now, we'll get you nice n' cozy in bed." She began inching along, Hoggle still wrapped up in her tail.

"I'm fine here!" Hoggle said panickedly, clawing to free himself.

"Nonsense!" Prell prattled, inching through the opening. "You'll be far more comfortable in these chambers. I'll even give you the best one!"

Sarah and Sir Didymus threw Batson a look and he shook his head with a smile.

"It'll be alright," Batson chuckled. "Prell's taken quite a liking to that one. If you'll follow me, we've got other chambers with cushions and cotton you can each take."

Sarah stood up, brushing the crumbs of her biscuit from her lap. She and Sir Didymus followed Batson through the opening Prell had dragged Hoggle through.

"Hoggle?" Sarah called cautiously. "Are you good for the night?"
"Cor…" Hoggle huffed from one of the openings. "I'll be fine. I hope."

Sarah chuckled and followed Batson to a low opening.

"Right through there," he said to her. Sarah stooped down and peered through the hole. A rounded room awaited her, filled with cotton covered in the same silky material that she had been sitting on previously. She crawled into the room, sinking pleasantly against the soft cotton.

"This looks so amazing," she breathed, suddenly aware of just how exhausted she was.

"It's not pretty, but it's the best sleep you'll ever want," Batson boasted.

Sarah collapsed against the soft cotton and silk, moaning appreciatively. "It's perfect."

"Goodnight, dear," Batson whispered softly. "We'll talk in the morning." He turned to Sir Didymus. "If you'll both follow me, I'll show you to your chamber as well."

"I am very much obliged at your graciousness as a host," Sir Didymus commended. "Goodnight, fair maiden. We shall see you in the morning."

"Goodnight, Didymus," Sarah mumbled sleepily, already drifting off into slumber.

Sarah barely heard them move away as she was lost in the silken pleasantness of her surroundings. Her mind demanded she review everything she had discovered and that she give some thought as to what she was going to do. She obstinately ignored her objecting mind.

But what about Jareth? Her emotional side asked tenaciously. What about what Batson said?

Sarah groaned, silently smothering the nagging voice in her mind as she buried her head in the softness of the cotton and silk.

Tomorrow, she promised herself. I'll figure it out tomorrow.

She convinced her mind to let go of the questions and leave them for a later time. As she once again began to drift into a luxurious sleep, his name danced on the exhale of breath from her lips and his multi-colored eyes watched her intensely as she drifted away from the world and up into the midnight sky.


Return to the Labyrinth

A Labyrinth Story
by ArtemisFallen

Part 11 of 24

<< Previous     Home     Next >>