Continuing Tales

Return to the Labyrinth

A Labyrinth Story
by ArtemisFallen

Part 14 of 24

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Leverage: A Christmas Tale

Sarah plodded with exhaustion, hanging back ever so slightly from her companions. Her body ached despite the healing qualities of Titania's blood and her thoughts were mired with constant uncertainty. Sarah snickered at herself as she realized the feeling was beginning to become second nature to her character. Ever since she had returned to the Labyrinth, she had been viciously pulled one way and then another. It was truly a wonder how she kept her sanity.

Maybe I haven't, she thought wistfully. Maybe I have lost my mind.

Sarah shivered, pulling what was left of her cardigan tightly around herself with her left hand as her right held the flaming Firey stump. She wondered if she should just leave her cardigan behind, but quickly decided against it. The air suddenly seemed so much colder than it had before. Sarah became aware that she could see her breath freezing in the air as it escaped her lips. When had it gotten so cold?

"We've arrived," Batson announced, breaking through the vault of her thoughts.

Sarah blinked several times, endeavoring to crawl out of her own mind and back to reality.

"Whoa," Hoggle uttered, astonished.

"My, my," Sir Didymus murmured reverently, dismounting Ambrosius.

"Is that it?" Sarah asked, her eyes widening with awestruck amazement as she gazed with her companions at the magnificent door which rose impressively before them.

The Olympic Titan Atlas himself could fit through this door, Sarah thought as she appraised the massive structure which loomed before her. Sarah sniggered at the ludicrousy of the thought, but then soberly reminded herself of the situation she was currently in. In a short amount of time, her entire perspective had changed. Was it really so far fetched to believe that the gods and goddesses of ancient Greece, Rome, Egypt and others cultures may not be mere myths after all?

Sarah stood in wonder and admiration of the behemoth in front of her. Her eyes trailed over the dark, intricate filigree carvings that adorned the door, making it appear beautiful despite its heavy, foreboding presence. The black filigree shimmered in the firelight, reminding Sarah of obsidian. As Sarah swept the Firey hand around, something glittered pleasingly in the firelight.

"Ooh, what's that?" Hoggle purred.

Sarah leaned in for a closer inspection and noticed a brilliant blue hued stone decorated the middle of the door. Wisps of frozen mist crested off the stone and it took longer than Sarah cared to admit to realize that it was not a stone at all, but a jewel shaped block of ice.

"Ice?" Sarah pondered aloud, noticing her frozen breath once again. She swept the Firey hand around, illuminating the area. Beside the door, the walls shimmered, frozen solid. Large glacier rocks littered the ground beside the walls, tipped with white frost. Wisps of frozen air crested off these as well. Sarah had been so focused and lost in her own thoughts that she hadn't noticed the rock walls of the Labyrinth turn to blocks of ice.

Sarah and the other inspected the frozen tundra that had become the Labyrinth while Hoggle continued to mumble appreciatively about the ice jewel which hung from the door. He began reaching for it.

Sarah was gripped by an unfounded sense of urgency and she turned suddenly to Hoggle, reaching out her free hand towards him.

"Stop!" Sarah shouted, her sharp tone resonating off the ice and the walls.

Hoggle froze in mid-stride, turning to Sarah with wide eyed shock.

"What's wrong?" Sir Didymus asked, reacting to Sarah's tension.

Sarah blinked in confusion as the anxiety drained from her as suddenly as it had overcome her. She lowered her outstretched arm.

"It-it's dangerous," Sarah stammered. Her companions looked to her as if they expected more of an explanation.

"How do you know?" Hoggle asked.

Sarah shrugged. "I don't know how I know, but I do."

"You might be right about that," Batson mumbled, his eyes trained on the frozen rocks.

"What do you mean?" Sir Didymus asked.

"Look at 'em closely," Batson said, inclining his head.

Sarah followed the little worm's gaze, squinting as she peered at the ice rocks. She felt her throat tighten, locking with a scream that would never quite reach her lips. The dark objects she had mistaken for rocks trapped in ice finally took form.

"Oh, dear," Sir Didymus gasped.

"Those aren't rocks," Sarah shuddered, finally finding her voice. "Those are creatures!"

Apprehensively, Sarah approached the glaciers which served as a kind of prison for the creatures entombed in them. She studied the closest one meticulously. Through the solid, distorting layers of ice, Sarah was able to make out the face of a goblin. She raised her eyes and looked to another ice tomb and saw another creature she couldn't identify. There were dozens if not a hundred different creatures forever solidified in the icy tombs.

"Cor!" Hoggle exclaimed in disbelief, his gaze wandering from the poor creatures encased in ice and back to the alluring jewel. "Ya think that did it to 'em?"

"It would appear so," Sir Didymus answered gravely, examining the frozen bodies.

"I feel like it's almost calling me," Hoggle said distractedly.

"It is calling to you," Sarah mumbled darkly. "It's calling to all of us. It wants to be touched. It wants to feed on us."

"But it's so pretty," Hoggle argued, his eyes still on the jewel.

Sarah was quickly reminded of the field of blood thirsty flowers. They had been pretty as well. She shuddered involuntarily at the memory. "Not everything which is beautiful is harmless."

"If that is the case, we should be mindful of what we touch," Sir Didymus observed. "Heavens knows what dangers could be- Ambrosius, don't lick that, you fool!" Sir Didymus shrieked.

Ambrosius ignored Sir Didymus, languishing his tongue against one of the frozen glacier blocks. As his tongue slid up the ice, his eyes focused on the terrorized goblin trapped inside. Ambrosius yelped in fright, endeavoring to retract his tongue which was now adhered to the frozen tomb. He whimpered and howled in horror.

"Now look what you've done!" Sir Didymus chastised as he made his way over to Ambrosius. "Calm down now and let me take a look."

"My, my, what a spectacle!" Batson commented as Sir Didymus did his best to pry the poor animal's tongue carefully from the ice.

Sarah considered helping Sir Didymus when the same feeling of unease gripped her again. She turned just in time to see Hoggle reaching for the jewel.

"Hoggle!" Sarah cried out. She dropped the Firey hand and ran, nearly tackling the little dwarf as she grabbed him.

"Let go of me!" He growled, thrashing and kicking at Sarah. "I wants that jewel!"

"Hoggle, it's a trick!" Sarah yelled, dropping to her knees, grasping his shoulders tightly and shaking him. "Don't you see what it does? Fight it. You have to!"

Hoggle struggled for a moment longer, his eyes full of angry desire as he glared at the jewel.

"Hoggle, look at me!" Sarah pleaded.

Finally, the little dwarf's gaze landed on Sarah. She had never seen his eyes so full of hate. It was as if he didn't recognize her at all.

"Hoggle," she said gently. "It's me. It's Sarah."

Hoggle's features softened and he slumped heavily against her in defeat.

"I-I-I don't know what got into me," he stuttered mournfully, his forehead still pressed against her shoulder.

Sarah pursed her lips and wrapped her arms around her friend. "It's okay."

As Sarah comforted Hoggle, Sir Didymus did the same for Ambrosius, who he had free from the ice. Ambrosius looked positively grim and fed up with the adventure. Sarah sympathized with him.

"What do we do now?" Batson asked, peering cautiously at the blue ice gem on the door.

Sarah stood up, leading Hoggle away from the door and to the others. She bent down and scooped up the discarded Firey hand.

"Let's open the door," Sarah replied resolutely.

"Careful, now," Batson warned.

Sarah nodded, taking in a deep breath and approaching the door. She felt the eyes of her comrades on her as she held the smoldering Firey hand. Unsure how to proceed, Sarah did the only thing she could think of. She decided to try to melt the jewel with fire.

She thrust the Firey hand against the beautiful ice shaped jewel. She heard Hoggle whimper with regret at her actions, but he didn't try to stop her.

Instantly, the brilliant flame was extinguished and ice enveloped the Firey hand and Sarah's own hands.

"Ah!" Sarah yelped, withdrawing from the door and dropping the Firey hand.

"Milady!" Sir Didymus gasped, running to her. Sarah instinctively buried her hands under her arms, endeavoring to warm them from the bitter cold.

"Are you alright?" Hoggle asked, mere steps behind Sir Didymus. Sarah groaned in pain, flexing her fingers against the cruel ache of the cold. She nodded reluctantly.

"Allow me to take a look," Sir Didymus offered, reaching out to Sarah.

She shook her head stubbornly. "No, I'm fine. Just give me a minute."

Sir Didymus complied watching Sarah with great concern. Sarah retracted her hands from under her arms and placed them against her lips. She blew warm air on them and it burned as her breath cascaded over the frozen parts of her skin. She was once again grateful for the thick bandages which still covered her palms. They had protected her from most of the frost, but her fingers still ached from the cold. She looked to the ground to see the Firey hand had turned white with frost. She was grateful that it hadn't been frozen in a block of ice like the rest of the creatures who had touched the jewel. She was also incredibly grateful that she hadn't suffered the same fate.

"What went wrong?" Hoggle asked.

"I don't know," Sarah replied, moving her stiff fingers carefully as warmth slowly crept its way back into them. She continued to breathe on them, the burning sensation steadily declining.

"Must be the trials," Batson remarked thoughtfully.

"Trials?" Sarah echoed, her gaze focused on the worm and her aching fingers forgotten. "What trials?"

"You know, trials!" Batson answered. "Them's what challenges you." Batson spoke as if everyone knew what he was talking about.

"I am at a loss, I'm afraid," Sir Didymus stated, endeavoring to get clarification. "Would you mind explaining these trials to me?"

"Rumors say there's more behind this door, but no one's ever gotten that far," Batson recounted. "All 'cept for the Goblin King."

"Cor!" Hoggle huffed impatiently. "Why didn't you tell us this before?"

Batson tilted his head to the side as if to shrug. "Thought everyone knew."

"Did it look like we knew?" Hoggle barked grouchily.

Sarah rubbed her temples, an exhausted sigh heaving from her chest. "It doesn't matter. We know about them now. Okay, so how do we get in?"

"Rumor goes this door's a passage, that jewel the key. See it shine?" Batson inclined his head once more. "That's the answer."

"Argh, alotta help you are! You're not makin' any sense!" Hoggle griped, waving his hands dismissively at Batson.

The jewel is the key. See it shine.

Sarah repeated the words in her head, staring up at the shining jewel. It seemed unnaturally bright for ice. The glow it emitted was alluring, almost seductive. Sarah began to piece together the riddle.

"The Firey said I would need fire," Sarah murmured. "He said the heart of the Labyrinth was a cold place."
"What was that, milady?" Sir Didymus inquired.

Sarah ignored him, the feeling finally returning to her hands as she worked the riddle over and over in her mind. "A cold place, but maybe not cold like we thought. A place frozen in time. Frozen and dead." She reached for the frosted Firey hand. It felt like she was picking up a chunk of frozen stone.

"Now you're starting to sound like him!" Hoggle complained, motioning towards Batson.

"What are you trying to say, fair maiden?" Sir Didymus asked.

"Only something alive can pass through the doors," Sarah continued, knowing she appeared to be babbling and nonsensical to her friends.

"But we're alive!" Hoggle protested. "They were alive!" He gesticulated to the frozen figures. "How come it didn't help them?"

"I have to agree," Sir Didymus concurred solemnly. "What you say makes little sense, milady."

Sarah blinked rapidly, staring down at the Firey hand. Again, she understood the mystery when she shouldn't. She knew the answer when she only had half the riddle.

"Yes, we are alive," Sarah began, answering Hoggle's queries. "Yes, they were alive. But that life can be frozen, suspended in time where as magic cannot. Magic is alive. It is eternal. Magic can burn."

"Did you hit your head when you fell into that hole?" Hoggle grumbled. "You're makin' no sense at all!"

"Yes, she is," Batson replied quietly, gazing reverently at Sarah.

"Of course you understand her!" Hoggle sneered.

"Don't ya see, lads?" Batson began. "Only magic can break the seal, burn brighter than the jewel. But it can only exist in a living vessel. She's the vessel!"

"That's why Jareth could pass through," Sarah echoed quietly. "His magic burned brighter than the jewel."

"I do not like where this is going," Sir Didymus interjected quietly, fear and concern twisting her features.

"Whaddaya mean?" Hoggle asked, his worry mirroring Sir Didymus'. "What's going on?"

Sarah looked at Hoggle, his confusion and frustration evident. Sadness tore through her as she prepared herself for what she had to say next.

"It means I can't take you with me," she answered hesitantly.

Hoggle stared at her with baffled betrayal while Sir Didymus bowed his head in despair.

"What do you mean you can't take us with you?" Hoggle blustered. "We've come this far!"

"And I thank you for that," Sarah whimpered, her voice breaking with emotion. "But the path ahead is one I must take alone."

"But why, fair maiden?" Sir Didymus looked up at her, hollow desolation laden in his dark eyes.

"Because-" Sarah swallowed, striving against her despair.

That's the way it's done, she thought.

"Because my magic can protect me," Sarah finally said. "But I don't know if I can protect you. And I could never forgive myself if I couldn't."

"We've pledged our valor, our very lives to your cause!" Sir Didymus argued. "I'll not fail you now, milady."

Sarah stooped down, gathering Sir Didymus up in a tight embrace. His muscles tensed sharply under her touch and then relaxed as he reluctantly returned the gesture, resigning himself to her will. In the end, he knew his arguments were futile.

"You've been more than brave," Sarah whispered to him. "You are the strongest creature I've ever known. That's why I need you to go back to Titania and prepare for what's to come." Sarah pulled back and looked into the moist eyes of the old fox. "With or without me, the Labyrinth must be rid of Euryale's dark influence. It will fall to you to ensure that happens. I'm counting on you to lead them if I don't make it back."

"I will take this duty as an honor," Sir Didymus replied sadly. I will not fail you...Sarah."

Sarah smiled. It was the first time she could remember ever having heard Sir Didymus say her name. She leaned down and kissed his furry cheek. "Thank you, my valiant knight."

She walked over to Hoggle who stood with his arms crossed defiantly over his chest.

"I'm not doin' it!" He huffed. "I ain't sayin' goodbye."

"It's only for a little while, Hoggle," Sarah told her dwarven friend even though she was unconvinced of her own reassurances.

"You don't know that," Hoggle nearly shouted. "Goin' in there alone is askin' to die! You don't know what's in there!"

"You're right," Sarah agreed. "I don't know what lies beyond that door. But what I do know is that if something were to happen to any of you, I wouldn't be able to live with myself. This is the only way I know I can protect you."

"And what makes you think I can live with myself if I let you go?" Hoggle retorted, his voice verging on a whine. "You can't ask me to stay behind. It's not fair!"

Sarah's breath caught in her throat. Those words. She had spent much of her youth spouting those words over such trivial things like having to be home at a certain hour or having to do the dishes after dinner. She had never truly appreciated the depths those words could actually obtain.

No, it was not fair. It wasn't fair that she was the one with the magic that would lead her deeper into a dangerous mystery. It was not fair that a misconstrued love years ago plunged the Labyrinth into such a chaotic and violent state. It was not fair that a jilted lover took revenge on not only her former love, but all the inhabitants of the Labyrinth. It was not fair that it took Sarah so long to understand the feelings Jareth had had for her when she was younger. Nor was it fair that she discovered she could return those feelings only to be met with unrelenting waves of uncertainty and self doubt. It wasn't fair that she was parting ways with her friends, unsure if she would ever see them again and this meager farewell was all she could offer them.

A small smile of remorse tugged at Sarah's lips. "No, it isn't. But that's the way it is."

Hoggle groaned, losing his obstinate resolve. He uncrossed his arms and threw them around Sarah's neck, tightly hugging her. Sarah returned the fierce embrace. "It's going to be okay," she promised him. "No matter what, I will find a way to make this right."

Hoggle nodded against her shoulder, but didn't say anything. He reluctantly released her from his embrace, trudging over to Sir Didymus. Sarah stood, reaching out and scratching Ambrosius lovingly behind the ear. His tail flicked rapidly with happiness.

"Take care of them," she whispered to him as she unfastened her backpack from Ambrosius' saddle and carefully slipped it over her arms.

"Batson?" Sarah asked, pulling her hair from underneath her backpack and resting it over one shoulder.

"Yes?" Batson replied, gazing up at her with remarkable sadness in his eyes.

"I don't know what's going to happen to me in there," Sarah said, her voice quavering slightly. "But I'm counting on you to get my friends to safety. Can you do that for me?"

"Of course, love," Batson answered emphatically. "I'll make sure no 'arm comes to 'em."

"Thank you," Sarah replied earnestly. "You have my everlasting gratitude."

"Good luck, Sarah," Batson murmured, sadness betraying his once happy timber. "May you find your way back to us."

Sarah nodded, looking mournfully once more at her friends before striking the Firey hand against the ground. It took a few tries, but the Firey hand finally exploded into flames. Sarah reluctantly held the Firey hand close to her chest, feeling no heat from the flame.

Above all else, believe in yourself, Sarah chanted to herself.

She closed her eyes and concentrated on the flame, visualizing it consuming her, surrounding her until she shone more brightly than the ice jewel which adorned the door. Since the flame held no heat for her, Sarah was unaware if it was working until she heard the startled gasps of the others.

When Sarah opened her eyes, she found herself enveloped in heatless flame.

She wanted to turn to her companions one last time and wish them a final farewell, but feared doing so would interrupt her concentration and she would lose focus due to her unruly emotions. Instead, Sarah faced forward, grim set with determination and resolve. She stepped towards the blue jewel until she was upon it. She reached out, tentatively placing her hand against the blue ice jewel, bracing herself for the worst. The jewel began to melt, dripping liquid in long brilliant blue white lines that seemed to eat away at the shining black filigree that no longer reflected the flames that consumed Sarah.

Soon, the jewel had melted down enough of the filigree to allow entrance. Once again, Sarah was overwhelmed by the desire to see her friends once more, but fought the urge. Sarah removed her hand from the ice jewel and observed that the filigree immediately began to mend itself. Without thinking, Sarah burst through the hole and to the other side of the door before it closed. The flames extinguished around her almost immediately as her concentration wavered with her haste.

Just as she turned around to look at the door, she watched the hole knit closed completely, allowing her not even a glimpse of the others before it was gone. A jagged stone wall had replaced the intricate filigree door. There was no trace of the ice and stone chamber she'd just emerged from and Sarah knew there was no way she could go back the way she came.

With a heavy sigh of loneliness and regret, Sarah turned and began to slowly make her way down the dark and seemingly unending corridor that patiently awaited her.

Return to the Labyrinth

A Labyrinth Story
by ArtemisFallen

Part 14 of 24

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