Continuing Tales

Return to the Labyrinth

A Labyrinth Story
by ArtemisFallen

Part 19 of 24

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Leverage: A Christmas Tale

Even though they'd left the bog far behind, the foul stench seemed to linger. Sarah couldn't tell if it had completely permeated her clothes or if her very sinuses had been tainted by the hideous odor. She longed for the cool, cleansing waters of the fountain and wished she could swim in them again.

"Where go?" Ludo asked, interrupting her thoughts.

They'd been walking silently through the Labyrinth at a fast pace ever since leaving the bog and the doomed Chimera far behind.

"We're going to the fairy thicket," Sarah explained, stooping under a low archway that stood between the maze walls. "Titania and the others are there waiting for us."

"Ti-Titania?" Ludo asked skeptically, nearly having to crawl on his hands and knees to avoid thumping his head on the low entryway.

Sarah stopped and turned to him, realizing how confused he must be.

"Oh, right," Sarah muttered. "Who we saw back there wasn't Titania. That was Euryale. She's the one who attacked the Labyrinth and took the Goblin King prisoner."

"Hm, bad queen?" Ludo mumbled inquisitively.

"That's right," Sarah agreed. "Very bad queen."

Ludo pointed to the pendant which still hung exposed over her shirt. "Wanted that. Why?"

Sarah reached up, protectively grasping the pendant in her hand and nodded. "Yes, she wanted the pendant. I guess she thought if she looked like Titania that I would hand it over." She hesitated, reliving the recent memory. "But I knew it was a trick."

"How?" Ludo asked curiously. "How you know?"

Sarah rubbed her thumb absentmindedly over the curves of the pendant. "Because Titania never wanted the pendant. She told me she couldn't use its power and therefore would never have asked me to give it to her. Plus, I knew she'd never leave the fairy thicket like that. At least, not without the others. But there was something else." Sarah continued to rub the pendant, her brow creasing thoughtfully. "I can't explain it, but she didn't feel like the Titania I knew. She wasn't warm or welcoming. Her smile was forced, almost sinister." Sarah shuddered as the image of Euryale ripping through what appeared to be Titania's skin seeped back into her mind.

"Titania safe?" Ludo inquired.

Sarah felt a cold chill rush over her as she gaped at Ludo. The thought hadn't occurred to her that Euryale may have actually been wearing Titania's skin.

Could Euryale have possibly found the fairy thicket and captured everyone? Sarah wondered, panic stricken. How else would she have known about Titania? Did Euryale actually take her skin and try to trick me?

Sarah let out a wavered breath, her body shaking with anxious chills.

No, she reasoned slowly. Euryale has spies everywhere. She could've known about Titania the whole time. She's ruthless. She would do anything to tip the scale to her advantage.

"Sarah?" Ludo inquired softly, liberating her from her dark thoughts.

Sarah cleared her throat, trying to hide the disquiet which now flowed rampantly through her. "I'm sure she's fine, Ludo. We just have to get back to her and the others."

"Okay," Ludo hummed agreeably, resuming his pace behind Sarah.

They hadn't gone far when Ludo stopped, tilting his head to one side curiously.

"Wait," he motioned for Sarah to stop.

"What's wrong?" She asked, a slight edge of trepidation to her voice.

"Hear something," Ludo muttered lowly.

Sarah instantly became alert, her wide eyes darting frantically about their surroundings. "Where?"

"Hm, this way," Ludo mumbled, turning around and heading in the opposite direction.

"Ludo! Don't go that way!" Sarah hissed. "We can't outrun the Chimera. We need a plan!"

"Not beasts," Ludo called to Sarah. "Goblins."

Sarah blinked, the announcement catching her off guard. "What? You hear goblins?"

Ludo nodded fervently, continuing to walk away from Sarah. She scoffed in surprise, jogging lightly to catch up to him.

"Hear them?" Ludo asked, his head still slightly tilted.

Sarah held her breath and strained her ears in an effort to hear what Ludo heard, but was unable to discern anything other than the happy buzzing of various insects and the leaves which rustled softly in the gentle breeze.

"I don't see or hear anything," Sarah complained as she followed the great orange beast.

"Close now," Ludo replied. "Can smell them."

"You can smell them, too?" Sarah asked in disbelief.

Ludo nodded. "Goblins smell bad."

"You don't smell like a basket of roses yerself, beastie!" A shrill voice rang out sharply.

Sarah yelped as three goblins burst from the hedges, advancing at her and Ludo with their crude, but effective nipper sticks.

"Get away from me!" Sarah yelled, kicking the stick as hard as she could, sending the goblin holding it spinning around in a semi circle.

Ludo growled, swiping at another goblin's nipper stick. The goblin shrieked as Ludo made contact, dislodging the weapon from the goblin's hand and sending it flying down the path.

The third goblin advanced, sinking his nipper stick into Ludo's leg. Ludo let out a howl of pain and fury.

"Knock it off!" Sarah yelled, sliding her backpack off her shoulder and heaving it as hard as she could into the goblin which had attacked Ludo.

"Ow!" The goblin whined, releasing his nipper stick. Sarah dove for the stick, picking it up and keeping it defensively in front of her.

"Well, this was a great idea," she grumbled, glancing with disgust at the perpetually gnawing creature attached to the end of the stick. "What now, Ludo?"

"I-unno!" Ludo babbled, swiping fiercely at the goblin Sarah had kicked. The goblin ducked, avoiding Ludo's strike easily, shouting derisive comments in retaliation.

"Attack!" The defenseless goblin commanded, rushing at Sarah in an attempt to recover his weapon.

Sarah stabbed the stick at him in reply to his outburst. The goblin screamed in pain as the nipper did its job and latched onto his arm. The goblin struggled against the wrinkly nipper's death grip, but was unable to liberate himself.

Sarah took the opportunity to raise the nipper stick she held up high, hoisting the flailing goblin the nipper was still attached to along with it. She shook the stick hard, rattling the goblin before swinging it with all her might and sending the goblin flying over the hedges into a nearby wall. The goblin's armor rang dully as it struck the stone wall and he slumped heavily to the ground behind the bushes.

Sarah turned panting to Ludo, barely able to warn him in time about the goblin who rushed at him. "Ludo, look out!"

Ludo turned, quickly bringing his first down on top of the attacking goblin's head. The goblin sunk to his knees and then collapsed onto his back, out cold.

Sarah and Ludo turned to look at the last goblin. He quaked in his tattered armor as he appraised them both. Sarah readied her nipper stick, advancing menacingly at the lone goblin.

"Retreat!" The goblin cried, running down the path and tripping over an upended stone in his franticness to flee. He scuttled away on his hands and knees until he was out of sight.

Sarah shook her head and looked to Ludo who panted good naturedly, happy with the outcome of the short battle. Sarah discarded her nipper stick in the nearby hedges, not trusting the vile little creature which continued to chatter hungrily not to try to attack her as well. She bent down to retrieve her backpack when she heard the stirrings of the goblin Ludo had subdued.

"Oh, me aching head," the downed goblin complained, running his hands over his face. Ludo placed a foot gently over the goblin, locking him in place and peering down intimidatingly at him.

The goblin opened his eyes and peered through his fingers. He let out a small, frightened yelp as he saw the giant orange beast staring down at him. He struggled feebly under Ludo's weight.

"Don't eat me, beastie!" He whimpered. "I'm stringy, no good meat on these old bones!"

Ludo looked at Sarah and shrugged as if to say he never intended on eating the goblin, but it wasn't out of the question. Sarah snickered at the thought, kneeling next to the fallen goblin.

The goblin relaxed measurably when he saw Sarah. "Oh, why hello, lass. Do you, uh, know this beastie?"

"Yes," Sarah answered softly. "He's my friend."

"Aye, quite the friend ya got there," the goblin replied, eyeing Ludo fearfully. "He looks hungry."

"Well, it's been quite sometime since either of us have eaten," Sarah remarked casually.

The goblin's eyes widened considerably. "Oh, has it now?"

Sarah nodded, sucking in a breath through her teeth. "Yes, quite sometime. I'm not sure how much longer I can keep him at bay."

"Hm?" Ludo looked at Sarah inquisitively. Sarah shook her head slightly, hoping Ludo would play along with her ruse.

"Uh, I-er-I," Sarah could hear the goblin swallow hard. "That don't bode well for me, I take it?"

"No, not really," Sarah clicked her tongue. "But if you were to tell me what I want to know, I might be able to persuade him to let you go."

"Anything!" The goblin shouted vehemently. "I'll tell ye anything you want to know!"

"Why did you attack us?" Sarah asked bluntly.

The goblin blinked in shock, as if she'd asked the most ludicrous question in the world. "Have ya looked around here, lass? Beasties 'round every corner and no master to help us. We attack everything that ain't us."

"How many are you?" Sarah inquired.

The goblin scrutinized her closely, his large bushy eyebrows knitting together in distrust. "Why ya wantin' to know?"

Sarah leaned in close to the goblin, dropping her voice low, no longer in the mood for games. "Because while you cowards hide away, the Goblin King is being ruthlessly tortured and tormented by the Gorgon Queen."

The goblin jerked suddenly, wriggling quickly out from under Ludo's foot, causing Sarah to reel back in surprise. Ludo stumbled, but regained his balance, looking at the goblin with bewilderment.

"The master? He's alive?" The goblin inquired, wonder and hope gleaming in the depths of his eyes.

Sarah's initial contempt for the goblin melted away as she realized that only a few knew of Jareth's true fate. All the others, including Hoggle, thought he'd been turned to stone when Euryale laid claim to the castle beyond the Goblin City.

"Yes, and time's running out. We have to save him," Sarah implored. "I need your help in order to rescue him. Now, please tell me, how many goblins are with you?"

The goblin's good spirits seemed to dissipate and his eyes shone lacklusterly. He kicked the ground shyly. "Well-er- I can't rightfully say, lass."

"Why not?" Sarah demanded, feeling her impatience rise hotly. "Are you really so selfish that you'd rather run and hide instead of helping me take back the Labyrinth and save the Goblin King?" She felt a sneer of disgust form judgmentally on her lips. "What's wrong with you?"

"No, no, no! It's not that," the goblin stammered nervously. "It's not that at all! It's just, well, I don't know how to count, lass."

Sarah felt her impatience grind to a screeching halt and plummet into a pit of guilt and sympathy.

"Oh, I-I'm sorry," she murmured, completely abashed. She shook her head, ashamed with her horrible attitude and manners. She decided to take a different approach with the goblin.

"What's your name?" Sarah asked softly.

The goblin gaped at her. He appeared shocked that she would care enough to inquire about his name.

"Me name's Grub," he answered after a moment.

Sarah gave the goblin a gentle smile. "Hello, Grub. I'm Sarah and you've already met Ludo."

Ludo gave Grub a small, friendly wave.

Grub's eyes widened. "Sarah? No, not the Sarah?" He asked. "The master's Sarah?"

Sarah nodded solemnly, trying unsuccessfully not to roll her eyes. "Yeah, that would be me."

"But you left!" Grub exclaimed. "You bewitched him and then broke his magic!"

Sarah sighed unhappily. "Yes, yes, I know, I caused all of this, blah blah blah," she blathered in annoyance. She really didn't have the time or the patience to explain herself. "Look, I know I messed up and that the Labyrinth is in this state of chaos because of me. That doesn't change the fact that I want to set things right. I want to save the Labyrinth and the Goblin King, but I need your help to defeat Gorgon Queen and her Chimera."

"My help?" Grub insisted in disbelief.

"Yes," Sarah pressed. "You and your friends. I have a plan to-"

"Oh, sure, a plan!" Grub interrupted, throwing his stubby arms up in the air. "Like it's that simple!" He paced for a moment, rubbing his pig like nose. "Ya know what the Gorgon Queen does when she catches you, don't ya? She turns you to stone! How do ya propose to get around that little obstacle, lass?"

"By using this," Sarah explained, lifting Jareth's pendant up for the goblin to see.

Grub gasped, pointing at her with a trembling finger. "You've got the master's pendant!"

"Yes, I do," Sarah replied in exasperation. "This makes me immune to Euryale's power. Now, I have a plan, but again, I need help. Are you with me or not?"

Grub narrowed his eyes at Sarah and then at Ludo. "If you can promise beastie here won't eat me, I'll bring ya to our camp."

"He won't harm you," Sarah assured, patting Ludo on the hand. Ludo nodded in reply, giving Grub a gummy smile. Sarah shook her head slowly and Ludo seemed to understand, closing his mouth quickly.

"Right," Grub muttered anxiously. "Follow me."

The lithe little goblin scampered off down the path, following the same route his fleeing comrade had taken.

"Come on, Ludo," Sarah called, quickly running after Grub. She didn't entirely trust the goblin not to try and ditch them.

"Okay!" Ludo rumbled, bounding heavily behind her.

Sarah watched as Grub swiftly ran through the vines and the overgrowth of the Labyrinth. It seemed Sarah's influence on the Labyrinth was taking quite the effect. The foliage proved difficult for Ludo to navigate, but with sheer brute strength, he was able to rip through the obstacles which slowed him down.

"How far is it?" Sarah panted, a stitch of pain forming in her side. She pressed her hand tightly against her ribs, willing herself to keep moving.

"Not far now!" Grub shouted. "Just past them pillars, lass."

Oh, thank God, Sarah thought. Much further and my lungs are going to burst out of my chest.

After what seemed like an eternity of hearing her own shallow breaths rasp in her ear, they entered a stone glade which reminded Sarah of an old picnic area.

"Here we are!" Grub announced. "Home sweet home."

Sarah bent forward, resting her elbows on her knees and concentrated on taking in deep, ragged breaths. She wasn't used to running that hard or that fast unless something was chasing her. She hadn't realized how much the adrenaline had helped propel her forward in those situations.

"Halt!" A small goblin commanded as he leapt out from behind a pillar. He shook his nipper stick, his small stature making him appear less intimidating and more laughable. "Who goes there?"

"Toot, it's me!" Grub barked defensively, throwing his hands up in the air.

Toot held the nipper stick tightly, eyeing Sarah and Ludo. "Who's she? And what in the singing saints is that beastie?"

Ludo gave a friendly wave to Toot. "Hello!"

"Egads! It speaks!" Toot yelped, trembling behind his weapon.

Grub looked to Sarah, his hands still in the air. "Calm down, Toot. They're friends, they are. She's come to save the Labyrinth and return our master to the throne!"

Toot stared at Grub for a moment before breaking down into a spurt of laughter. "Says who? Them?" He sputtered. "The master's dead. Why you trutsin' them likes? This a joke?"

Sarah was still breathing hard, but had caught enough of her breath to speak. She stood up straight, grasping the pendant again so that Toot could see. "Does this look like I'm joking?"

Toot stopped mid-laugh, staring wide eyed and shocked at the pendant Sarah brandished.

"Where you get that?" Toot demanded. "You ain't supposed to have that! The master'd gone n' hid it!"

"I know," Sarah griped impatiently. "Listen, I have gone to hell and back to find this pendant and I am going to use it to rescue the Goblin King with or without your help." Sarah narrowed her eyes at Toot. "But be warned, when I do rescue Jareth, how do you think he'll react when I tell him that his goblins sat idly by while he was being tortured by the Gorgon Queen?"

Toot fidgeted nervously. "Uh, well can't imagine he bein' happy 'bout it."

"The lass makes a strong point, Toot," Grub encouraged. "We don't wanna incur the master's wrath."

Toot sighed unhappily, looking between the trio before resigning and lowering the nipper stick. "Sure, sure," he grumbled. "Ugh, follow me then."

"Come along," Grub prattled, looking excited by the prospect of being home. "You look a wee bit famished, lass. 'Course, you mentioned somethin' about not havin' a proper meal. Let's get you and beastie there somethin' to eat."

Sarah followed closely behind Toot and Grub, her stomach rumbling at the mention of food. The last time she'd eaten had been in Batson's home. She shook her head at the realization. It seemed like such a long time ago.

Laughter and chatter soon filled the air and Sarah gawked in amazement at the goblin camp. She counted nearly sixty goblins congregating around various fires, laughing, drinking and eating what appeared to be chicken.

"Ahem! We gots visitors." Toot announced loudly, disrupting the merriment. The goblins turned and were stricken into a stunned silence when they saw Sarah and Ludo.

One goblin shrieked in fear and dove under a pile of heavy sacks. Sarah recognized him as the goblin who had fled from them.

"Who brought 'em here?" One goblin shouted, ripping off a big mouthful of chicken meat.

"I did," Grub answered indignantly.

"Traitor!" A female goblin derided.

"Yeah!" A few goblins jeered.

"Cook 'im!" A fat goblin hollered.

Before Sarah knew it, the discontent from the goblin camp began to grow, the sheer volume of ridicule and restlessness drowning out all logic and reason. The ruckus was enough to give her a splitting headache.

"Alright! Enough already!" Sarah screamed as loudly as she could. Her shouts were drowned out and unnoticed by the rambunctious crowd. She looked at Ludo despairingly.

"ARRGH-HOOOO!" Ludo howled, causing all the goblins to silence immediately, freezing them in a concoction of bafflement and fear. One goblin had masticated food spill sloppily out of its mouth as he stared in concern at Ludo.

Sarah sighed gratefully. "Thank you, Ludo." She turned to the crowd. "Listen to me and listen well. Your master, the Goblin King, lives."

A quiet, restless chatter began to disseminate down through the goblins.

"He lives?" An old goblin clucked.

"The master ain't dead?" A short goblin with tusks inquired.

"She lies!" Another goblin with a rat-like face accused.

"You gonna eat that?" A rather plump goblin asked his friend while reaching for his plate.

"Hey!" Sarah yelled, clapping her hands together in an effort to gain their waning attention. "Your master needs help! Our help! I plan to take back the castle from the Gorgon Queen and end her reign of terror."

"Then what?" A scrawny goblin inquired.

"What do you think?" Sarah asked, her tone leaden with exasperation. "Then we'll rescue the Goblin King and things will be back to the way they were."

"How do you know the master's alive?" A grey haired goblin asked.

"Because I've seen him," Sarah answered. "I've held him in my arms."

"Why we believin' you?" The rat faced goblin jeered. "What makes you so special?"

Sarah clenched her fists tightly at her sides, striving to control the anger that swept through her.

"The master ain't dead!" Grub interjected before Sarah could contest the rat goblin. "Listen to the lass! She wears master's pendant."

The goblins silenced once more and gazed expectantly at Sarah.

"Go on," Grub urged. "Show 'em."

Sarah reached around her neck, pulling the pendant off and holding it up high for all the goblins to see.

"She-she's got the power?" The goblin hiding under the sacks asked, slowly climbing out.

"Ye got the power," an old withered goblin hunkered forward. "But have ye gotta name?"

"I'm Sarah," Sarah announced loudly.

The goblins tittered and chattered amongst themselves once again.

"Nah, it can't be!" The rat goblin exclaimed.

"She's Sarah?" A robust goblin asked. "The Sarah?"

"Aye," Grub nodded solemnly. "That she is."

"So what?" The rat like goblin admonished, "We really want to follow the likes of her? She betrayed our master's love and look where it got 'im!" The goblin sneered at Sarah. "I say we run her out. We don't need her here. She's nothin' but trouble."

Sarah glared at the goblin, lowering the pendant back around her neck. "So help me, I will cast you into the bog of eternal stench if you continue to oppose me!"

The rat like goblin snapped his mouth shut quickly, unnerved by the threat.

Grub chuckled. "The lass even sounds like the master."

The other goblins began to cackle, breaking the tension of the moment. Grub turned to Sarah and surprised her by taking a knee. "I'll follow ya, lass."

"Same goes for I!" Toot declared, taking a knee as well. Sarah looked over to Ludo who shrugged at the display.

"Thank you," Sarah said, genuinely grateful for their fealty. She turned back to the group of goblins. "Who else is with me?"

"I am!" The robust goblin announced.

"Me, too!" The cowering goblin shouted, flinging the sacks off him.

"Here!" Several other goblins announced, taking a knee just as Grub and Toot had to show their allegiance to Sarah. She watched as all the other goblins followed suit with their brethren, leaving all but one hold out. The rat faced goblin glared up at her.

"Well?" Sarah asked. "What say you?"

"Would you really throw me into the bog of eternal stench?" The goblin asked fearfully.

"Without hesitation," Sarah answered with no inflection in her voice. "Or you can deal with Jareth's wrath after we rescue him," she added smugly. "Your call."

The rat like goblin sighed, reluctantly falling to his knee. "I guess I ain't got much choice. I'll follow you."

"Good," Sarah remarked. "Get your gear ready and prepare to move out. We head to the fairy thicket before nightfall."

The goblins began to chatter amongst themselves, picking up strewn pieces of armor and weapons that lay discarded about the camp.

Grub clapped his hands together and rubbed them fervently. "Sounds like a solid plan, lass, but let's get you both somethin' to eat and drink before we set off," he offered accommodatingly.

Sarah sighed impatiently, wanting nothing more than to get to the fairy thicket before it got too dark. However, she allowed Toot and Grub to usher her and Ludo into the camp. Sarah sat by the fire and was surprised when the goblins brought her a plate heaping with chicken meat and roasted potatoes. The pungent aroma caused her stomach to gurgle with anticipation.

"There ya go, dear," the robust goblin remarked. "Eat up now. Can't go off into a battle on an empty stomach!"

"Thank you," Sarah remarked appreciatively, picking up a piece of steaming chicken and blowing on it before popping it into her mouth. She groaned happily, the juicy and tender meat quelling her ravenous appetite. Ludo sat beside her and panted happily as the goblins brought him a whole roasted chicken and a barrel of mead.

Grub offered Sarah a tankard and she took it reluctantly. She smelled the brew, throwing a worried glance at Ludo who tipped his barrel up high, allowing mead to slovenly slosh and spill into his mouth.

"Guess there's a first time for everything," Sarah mumbled, taking a small sip of the mead. She was pleasantly surprised to find it was not bitter as she had expected. It was light, crisp and just mildly sweet. It went with her meal perfectly. She set the tankard down and began popping the small potatoes in her mouth, enjoying the savory herbs they had been spiced with.

Grub sat beside her, a tankard in his hand and a chicken leg in the other. "Now that we're settled, can I ask ya some things, lass?"

Sarah nodded, swallowing with effort. She reminded herself to slow down and take smaller bites before she choked to death.

"You say you gotta plan and I accepts that. But how do you intend to battle the queenie's beasties?" He asked.

"I have a plan for that, too," Sarah answered between bites. "It relies heavily on Titania and her fairies. As it turns out, fairy blood is highly poisonous to the Chimera."

"Whoa," Grub reeled back in surprise. "That's a mighty fine thing to know!"

"Depending on the weapons and resources we have, I figured we'd attack by the castle gates and push our way through into the courtyard and to the castle doors," Sarah explained.

"Why not just take a small group in through the secret entrance while the others create a diversion?" Grub asked.

Sarah dropped her potato to the plate. "There's a secret entrance?" She asked, flabbergasted.

"Oh, aye!" Grub answered, taking a swig of mead. "It's hidden in the far wall. Unless you know where it is, you ain't finding it."

"And I suppose you know where it is?" Sarah inquired knowingly.

"That I do, lass," Grub said with a wink. "That I do."

"Good," Sarah remarked, retrieving the discarded potato and popping it into her mouth. "That'll be a great asset. Thank you, Grub."

"No worries, lass." Grub bounced his tankard on his leg, appearing as if he wanted to ask Sarah something else.

"What's on your mind, Grub?" Sarah encouraged.

Grub waved his hand dismissively, battling with himself. "Ah, it's nothin', but I am just a tad curious, lass. What're you gonna do when you find the master?"

Sarah chewed thoughtfully. "I'm going to save him from Euryale and give him back his throne."

"Yes, of course," Grub replied emphatically, letting Sarah know she had evaded his inquiry. "But then what? What're you gonna do after that, lass? You and the master?"

Sarah swallowed hard, her throat suddenly bone dry. She reached for her mead and took a long, drawn out drink as the question resounded over and over again in her mind.

Yes, what am I going to do?

She truly didn't have the answer.

Return to the Labyrinth

A Labyrinth Story
by ArtemisFallen

Part 19 of 24

<< Previous     Home     Next >>