Continuing Tales

Return to the Labyrinth

A Labyrinth Story
by ArtemisFallen

Part 12 of 24

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Leverage: A Christmas Tale

Before she was even fully asleep, Sarah felt herself drifting away from her body as she had before. She didn't panic as she recognized the feeling from the first time it happened when she had lain wounded in the fairy thicket. Sarah rationalized that there had to be a reason she was being transported again and remembered what Titania had said. She concentrated, thinking of Jareth and only Jareth. This time, instead of having to be led through the corridors of the castle to find Jareth, Sarah was pleased to discover that she materialized in front of the portal that acted as a doorway into Jareth's hidden throne room. Sarah glanced about her surroundings and wondered why she hadn't been delivered to this exact spot the first time. She reasoned that the poison from the Chimera bite must have somehow hindered her ability to astral project, if that was indeed what she was doing. Or, more likely, she had had help from Jareth all along. Despite the claims from Titania and others that Jareth was running out of magic, he appeared to use it as if he had it in spades.

Sarah hesitated at the portal, her tribulations still gnawing viciously at the edge of her mind. Part of her wanted to run through the portal, throw her arms around her Goblin King and once again share in an agonizingly sweet and hungry kiss. However, the other part reminded her of all she had learned since returning to the Labyrinth. Doubt had begun to cloud the euphoria of her love and Sarah found herself conflicted beyond any rational thought. It was true, the hopeless romantic in her dreamed of the love Jareth offered her so many years ago and wanted nothing more than to rediscover it. However, the prudent realist in her pointed out that she had suffered from broken hearts before and this particular heartbreak would promise to be the most devastating and perhaps irreparable of them all.

Sarah fidgeted, her mind at war with her heart. In the end, she decided that she had been beckoned to the portal for a reason and that she needed to give Jareth a chance to at least explain himself. Perhaps this way, she could obtain the answers she so desperately sought.

Sarah sucked in a deep breath, mentally preparing herself for a confrontation with Jareth before striding through the portal. She emerged on the other side, greeted by the immense throne room once again. She swallowed hard, her eyes straying to the spot she had previously seen Jareth.

Sarah gasped as her heart nearly stopped cold in her chest. The Goblin King no longer knelt in place on the floor, but laid collapsed in a shuddering heap.

"Jareth!" Sarah cried, an icy dagger of panic and despair slicing through the veil of her doubt. Before she even knew what she was doing, she found her feet moving, rapidly taking her down the stairs and to his side. Sarah crouched beside him, tentatively reaching out a quivering hand. Her fingers touched his forehead and withdrew in shock and fear. She had never touched anything alive that felt as cold as he did. Tears stung at Sarah's eyes and she sniffled, appraising Jareth. His gaunt skin had now taken on a yellowish hue. His lips had turned nearly white and his blonde hair had followed. Sarah watched with great pain as his chest unsteadily rose and fell with the burden of his labored breaths.

He's dying, Sarah realized mournfully.

"Oh, Jareth," Sarah whispered, stroking his sunken cheek. Despite all her uncertainties and the myriad of questions that plagued her, Sarah couldn't deny that part of her still felt something for him. Part of her truly did still love him.

"Can you hear me?" Sarah asked, her tone tremulous and unsteady.

Jareth's breath hitched at the sound of her voice, but he did not open his eyes.

Sarah blinked back her budding tears and stretched out beside Jareth, lacing her arms around him. She pressed herself against his gelid body, praying for a miracle. She hoped that she could somehow impart some of the magic she held inside of her to sustain him a little longer. "Please, wake up."

Jareth stirred under her touch and Sarah pulled back to see his head had turned and his eyes upon her once again. They glowed clear and alert, multi-colored jewels that beheld her with such a fierce passion and love.

"Sarah?" He uttered, her name barely audible as it passed over his frozen lips.

"Yes," she whispered, stroking his face affectionately. "I'm here."

Jareth swallowed, the motion proving to be a laborious task. "It's too late. I am lost. Save yourself."

A bolt of alarm shot through Sarah's body and she shook her head obstinately. "No, I won't! I'm not giving up on you. I've come too far."

The edges of Jareth's lips twitched into a weak smile. "You were always so stubborn and headstrong." His eyes fluttered and his head lulled as he began to drift away from her again.

"Jareth, stay with me!" Sarah ordered. "Please."

Jareth struggled to open his eyes again. When he did, they were haunted by an agonizing sorrow. "Turn back, Sarah."

Sarah shook her head again. "No. Don't you see? I can't. I can't leave this place. I can't leave you."

Jareth's breaths were coming faster and more shallow as he gazed over at Sarah. "Another time, another place," he slurred incoherently, his eyes closing once more as his fatigue overwhelmed him. "How you remind me… the face of love."

"Love," a voice chided disdainfully. "Such a rich song."

Sarah didn't need to look to know that Euryale had graced them with her foul presence.

"Leave us alone!" Sarah growled. "Haven't you done enough already?"

Euryale scoffed. "I have hardly begun, mortal child. If you were more than just an apparition of yourself, I would turn you to stone where you lay with your pathetic Goblin King and be done with this folly."

Sarah snickered, sitting up reluctantly with her arms still around Jareth. "It seems your powers have limits."

"For now," Euryale replied casually as she slithered around Sarah. "Why do you oppose me so vehemently? I have done nothing to you. There's no reason to fight with me."

"You know why I fight against you," Sarah replied lowly, clutching Jareth protectively.

"Ah, yes. for the love of the Goblin King." Euryale sighed. "Tell me, mortal child, do you really believe he loves you still?" Euryale narrowed her eyes at Sarah. "Truly loves you?"

Anger boiled through Sarah. "I won't play your game," she retorted.

"Then perhaps I should stop dallying and turn him to stone," Euryale growled. "End his wretched suffering."

Sarah seethed with rage, her breath hastening as she struggled to remain in control of her temper. "If you could've done that, you would've already," she spat through clenched teeth. "You can't dispose of him until you get what you want. What remains of his magic protects him."

"And that magic is fading," Euryale hissed gleefully as her liquid gold eyes slid over Jareth's waning form cradled in Sarah's arms. "Rapidly."

"I won't let you take him," Sarah challenged, her anger dictating her words. "As long as I draw breath, I won't let you succeed."

"Really?" Euryale inquired curiously, tilting her head. "What does it matter to you? What is it that you think I am after?"

"You want the Labyrinth," Sarah said flatly, purposefully ignoring the fact that she knew Euryale wanted Jareth's pendant.

"It is neither as complicated or simple as that," Euryale replied flippantly. "You've already passed judgement upon me based on paltry hearsay alone. Don't you wish to know my side of the story?"

Sarah shook her head ardently. "No."

"That's rather uncharitable of you," Euryale scolded.

"Why would I care what you think?" Sarah chided, glaring at Euryale. "It won't make any difference. There's nothing you can say that will change my mind about you."

"Why is that, I wonder?" Euryale pondered sweetly. "Is it because in your stories there always has to be a villain?"

Sarah gawked up at Euryale, taken aback and startled by her words. "What did you say?"

"You heard me, Sarah," Euryale mocked. Sarah shuddered, revolted by the sound of her name from such a monstrous creature.

"I am not the villain you believe me to be," Euryale continued softly. "I was merely an innocent whose limits and boundaries of pain and betrayal were traversed."

"Stop!" Sarah shouted. "Save your breath, snake. Your tricks won't work on me. Don't even try to feign innocence."

Euryale scoffed. "Oh, but I am not the trickster in this story. Have you asked yourself why I invaded the Labyrinth with my armies and how I did so with such success? What could I possibly stand to gain from such an attack? What was my motivation?" Euryale slinked around Sarah as if she were a shark swimming around a soon to be victim. "Why did I take your precious Goblin King as my prisoner? Why do I feel compelled to subject him to torture and humiliation? Ask yourself these questions."

Sarah remained silent, despising the fact that she really was beginning to wonder about the answers to the questions Euryale had posed.

"Since you are determined to detest me, I challenge you to seek your answers from a source you trust." Euryale craned her head, her golden eyes landing on Sarah. "Your little dwarven friend knows of my plight."

"Hoggle?" Sarah muttered, her heart leaping into her throat as suddenly she understood why Hoggle seemed so distant and aloof at times. The revelation rocked Sarah, shattering her strong facade .

"You should ask him when you wake up," Euryale encouraged. "Or better yet, ask your beloved Goblin King."

Sarah cast an agonized glance down at Jareth. His eyes remained closed and his labored, uneven breaths cut raggedly over his lips.

"Leave him out of this. He's in no condition to combat your treachery," Sarah disputed shakily.

Euryale slid uncomfortably close to Sarah, her vile scales mere inches away. "Don't you see? I am here because of you," she whispered. "You destroyed the Goblin King's power when you rejected him. You broke his heart, fractured his magic." Euryale pressed closer to Sarah. "The spoiled, self loving King lost control."

Innately, Sarah recoiled from Euryale and clenched her teeth, hating the closeness of the creature, yet inexplicably feeling compelled to hear her story at the same time.

Euryale sensed Sarah's discomfort and eased back considerably. "As the Goblin King saw his Labyrinth fall into ruin and chaos, he exercised his waning power to control it. But he couldn't," Euryale continued, her voice falling into a dismal tone. "At least not alone."

The sudden sadness in Euryale's voice caught Sarah off guard. She looked over at Euryale and was surprised to see sadness reflected in the golden depths of her reptilian eyes. Euryale continued, casting her gaze downward and away from Sarah. "You see, Jareth needed magic to heal his broken heart, but not just any magic. Did you know that the Fae become more powerful when we are in love and that love is returned? The purity of such a love can do many things. For example, it can give life to those grievously injured and near death. It can heal a wounded heart, lift a powerful curse, and reignite magic that has been lost." Euryale raised her eyes once again to Sarah, bitter accusation burning within them. "When you rejected the Goblin King, you began this misery. He was not foolish enough at the time to believe that the silly mortal girl who had broken his heart would ever reciprocate his love and expiate him. So, he chose a different option. The cruel, selfish King decided he would do to someone else what had been done to him. He chose to steal the heart of another to regain his lost powers." Euryale clutched her hand possessively over her chest, her voice pitiful and forlorn. "My heart."

"You?" Sarah shook her head in disbelief and disgust. "No. I don't believe you!"

Euryale looked mournfully at Sarah. "Just because my heart is cold as stone and as black as the midnight sky does not mean that I am incapable of love," Euryale remarked defensively. "Your Goblin King knew this when he sought to steal my heart. Like a charming rogue, he wooed me and dazzled me, growing ever so close to winning my love. He was like a fiendish thief in the night." Euryale's voice shook with raw emotion and Sarah found herself pitying the broken creature that stood before her. What was more unnerving was that Sarah found herself actually listening to Euryale. Sarah wanted nothing more than to brush off the tale of woe Euryale spun. She wanted nothing more than to ignorantly believe that Euryale was a villain with an overwhelming ambition to become all powerful, to be feared and vilified throughout the Underground.

However, despite Sarah's prejudices, she couldn't deny the despondency in Euryale's tone. Regardless if the Gorgon Queen was spinning fallacies of the misdeeds she had endured, there was a whisper of truth to her claims.

"Why are you telling me this?" Sarah whispered, her throat constricted with emotion.

"Because you need to know what kind of creature you foolishly pledge your love to," Euryale responded bitterly. "I was warned of his diminishing magic and that his affections were simply a ruse to ensnare my heart to regain his powers, but I did not heed the warning." Euryale stopped, looking at Sarah tragically. "What is it they say? Love is blind? Well, I was blind. Until one night, I crept into his chambers unbidden and saw him staring at an image of you in those infernal crystal balls of his. Unaware of my presence, I watched him gaze upon you, observing you as a predator would observe its prey. He spoke to you, claiming that the time was near and that his pawn had nearly fulfilled her role. His pawn!" Euryale spat venomously, clenching her hands tightly at her side while gazing scornfully at Jareth. Sarah gaped at Euryale's outburst and watched in shock as her golden eyes became blood red, filled with murderous fury.

Euryale closed her eyes, her chest rising and falling rapidly as she endeavored to quell the storm of animosity that flooded through her. When she opened her eyes again, they had returned to their original golden color. "He vowed that when the time came and he was once again whole that you would know what it was to suffer. He would unleash upon you the full and unbridled spectrum of his vengeance. He would make you suffer as you made him-"

"You lie!" Sarah barked, cutting off Euryale as tears of frustration spilled down her cheeks. "I will not believe a word that comes from your deceitful tongue!"

Euryale shook her long head woefully. "As you wish," she replied calmly. "It makes no difference to me if you believe my story or not. The fact still remains that he used me. He planned to steal my power to regenerate his own. So, I took from him the only thing he had left. In my despair and outrage, I gathered my forces and attacked the Labyrinth from within the Goblin City while it lay slumbering. I took from Jareth the last thing he held dear as vengeance for the heart he would have so wantonly and eagerly broken."

Unbidden pieces of Sarah's conversation with Titania began to trickle through her mind. Sarah was horrified to discover that part of her believed Euryale was telling the truth. Sarah knew enough about Jareth to know that he relied rather heavily on his magical abilities. She also knew that losing that kind of power would've been devastating to him. It was not at all impossible to conceive that Jareth would do anything to regain his powers. Including damning another to benefit himself. Sarah's spirit fell as a sickening wave of indecisiveness seized her, stronger and more urgent than it had ever been before.

"Why are you telling me this?" Sarah reiterated again.

"Because you will end up a fool like me!' Euryale shouted. "How can you possibly believe he still loves you after everything you've done to him? He doesn't care about you! He cares only for revenge. He wants to make you suffer as he's suffered." Euryale narrowed her eyes at Sarah. "Don't you understand? He failed with me. His only recourse now is to deceive you into loving him so he can regain his powers. His magic is still bound to your heart and your love. If he destroys it, not only will his powers return, but he will have his retribution."

"Enough!" Sarah screamed, her tears of anguish freely flowing down her cheeks. "You horrible, twisted, pathetic creature! Stop trying to confuse me. I won't let you inside my head!"

"Oh, but I already am inside your head," Euryale hissed sinisterly. "You see, when my Chimera tasted your blood, I tasted it as well. I tasted your despair, so fresh it still bled." Euryale closed her eyes and took in a deep breath, as if inhaling the aroma of a fine wine. "You know as well as I that Jareth has the ability to slip between worlds. What you don't know is that he used a significant amount of his power to do so very recently. Though the effort weakened him considerably, it was the only chance he felt he had left." Euryale opened her eyes, training her gaze fixedly on Sarah. "He was far too weak already to manifest himself in your world in solid form, but he still had the strength to influence those in your realm. Especially those particularly close to you."

A cold numbness began to creep it's way through Sarah's body as an unsettling comprehension slowly dawned on her. "What are you saying?"

Euryale flashed Sarah an icy smile. "Isn't it odd, my dear, that you were so easily and effectively discarded by your lover? Is it not peculiar how he turned away from you so suddenly and without warning? And then in a fit of despair, you flee and isolate yourself, only to miraculously rediscover the book that brought back the memories of this place? Do you really believe it all to be mere happenstance?"

"No," Sarah whimpered in shock, gazing down and Jareth and back to Euryale. "Stop it!" She cried, throwing her hands up and covering her ears. "Just stop! Go away! Leave me alone!"

"As you wish. Poor mortal," Euryale continued in a deprecating tone. "You have no conception of how little value you truly are. You are a mere plaything for the gods. I tried to warn you. I tried to reason with you, but you refused to listen. There is nothing more I can do and I cannot reason with your unprecedented tenacity." Euryale began to slink away from Sarah and Jareth. She hesitated for a moment, throwing a backward glance at Sarah. "But you cannot deny that it is a rather extraordinary coincidence after all. Do you not agree?" With that final poisonous stab, Euryale slinked away, enveloped by the shadows that loomed throughout the room.

Sarah shuddered uncontrollably, tears streaming violently from her eyes as her mind spun itself into near insanity. She could barely bring herself to look down at Jareth as her agony and despair grew.

"She's a snake," Sarah whispered inaudibly to herself.

She would say anything to stop you from getting to the heart of the Labyrinth. You're the only one who can stop her! Sarah's inner voice reasoned.

Sarah sniffled pitifully, pulling her knees up to her chest and hugging herself for some kind of comfort.

Or she could be telling the truth, the other voice argued.

NO! Sarah's mind screamed. You heard how she talks about mortals with such disdain. She is using your own doubt against you. She is playing you.

Sarah raised her swollen eyes to gaze down at Jareth. He remained as he had before, emaciated, pale and slowly dying.

"Wake up, you bastard," Sarah whispered. "I don't know what to do. I don't know what to think or feel anymore!"

Jareth lay quiet and still, unresponsive to her pleas.

Sarah dropped her head in her arms and began to sob loudly, her rage, anguish, despair and indecision flushing out of her in tumultuous and turbulent waves.

"Someone, please, tell me what I have to do. Please!" Sarah wailed into her arms, her breath hitching with her sobs. "I'm so lost."

Sarah continued to weep until a welcome numbness finally cast itself over her and she could no longer feel the sorrow that had gripped her so fervently moments before. With the numbness came an eerie kind of calm and Sarah slowly regained control of herself once again. After a few more moments, she stood and gazed down at Jareth, red eyed and exhausted. In that instant, it became clear to Sarah what she had to do.

She had to wake up.

Return to the Labyrinth

A Labyrinth Story
by ArtemisFallen

Part 12 of 24

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