Continuing Tales

Return to the Labyrinth

A Labyrinth Story
by ArtemisFallen

Part 2 of 24

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

Something rustled near Sarah's head and she groaned, batting sleepily at the unseen nuisance.

"Go away," she mumbled unhappily, rolling over and yanking the comforter up and over her head.

Her complaint was met with a tittering and a physical body scrambling quickly across her. Sarah's eyes popped open, suddenly alert. Something was in the room with her. She threw back the comforter, already prepared to make a run for the door. Bright sunlight struck her eyes and she was forced to raise her arm against the brilliance of the light. She blinked several times, trying to get her bearings. After several moments, Sarah realized that she was no longer in her room at the motel. Her mouth gaped open as she slowly lowered her arm. She stared incredulously as she beheld the expanse of the Labyrinth beneath her on the hillside she and her bed mysteriously rested upon.

"What?" She gasped, rubbing her hands over her still unbelieving eyes. "It can't be."

But it was. The Labyrinth lay before her, even more massive than she had remembered it. Something wriggled underneath the comforter and Sarah squealed in surprise, tossing the heavy comforter from the bed. She peered over the side of the bed at the massive blanket. It sat still and unmoving. Whatever had been trapped within it had escaped. Hesitantly, Sarah climbed out of the bed, her toe brushing against her backpack that sat open and on the ground. As she stooped down to pick it up, something from inside the backpack snarled at her. She withdrew her hand in fright as a rat like creature peered out.

"Ugh!" Sarah yelped in disgust. "Get out of there!"

The rat-like creature glared at Sarah with deep red eyes and hissed menacingly at her.

"Go on!" She shouted, swatting at it. "Get out of here before I stomp you!"

The creature shrieked as she smacked the side of her backpack. It shot out of the bag and hopped to a safe distance. It was an ugly creature with large red eyes and an elongated nose. Its hair stood off its body in uneven brown tufts and its ears were far too large with several chunks missing from them. Its buck teeth hung from its mouth almost comically, but were big enough to let Sarah know that she didn't want to be bitten. The creature turned to snarl at Sarah again. Sarah grabbed for a rock and raised it threateningly over her head. The creature then took off down the hill towards the Labyrinth. Sarah stared after it in amazement.

"How can this be a dream? It feels so real," she whispered. Sarah grabbed her backpack and checked it for more nasty surprises before zipping it closed. She gazed under the bed hopefully and was grateful to find her shoes. She slipped them on in a hurry and slung the backpack over her shoulder and she started down the hill and towards the Labyrinth.

As she approached the massive gates, her stomach twisted in uneasy knots. The gate that had once been heavy and closed, sagged on its hinges, decimated and broken. Shards of splintered wood, shattered stone and twisted metal lay in ruin all around the entrance. Sarah tentatively peered through the entryway. Untended growth had reclaimed much of the path. Sarah eased herself over a large, upturned stone, ever mindful of her footing as she entered the Labyrinth. Her skin chilled against the eerie air the Labyrinth now seemed to hold. Even though the path was littered with vines and growth, the plants were dead and brittle. Sarah held her breath and listened intently. There was no sound at all, no buzzing, no insects, not even a breeze flowing through the Labyrinth. The Labyrinth was a very different place from how she remembered it.

"It's dying," Sarah muttered to herself, her fingers absentmindedly trailing along the stone wall of the Labyrinth. She began slowly walking, her eyes keenly taking in the details of her surroundings and watching for the subtle changes in the walls that would lead her deeper into the Labyrinth. As she walked through the maze of walls and rock, the feeling of unease and dread began to rise steadily within her. She spied a mound of rubble that blocked the path and she continued to it. The wall had collapsed. Sarah quickened her pace only to stop dead and stare in horror at what lie beyond the crumbling wall.

A mound of charred skeletal goblin bodies greeted her on the other side.. Sarah gasped at the sight of the carnage. There were too many of them to even begin counting. Sarah surveyed the blackened corpses, noting that most were still clad in armor and battlegear. Several charred and ruined weapons littered the ground around their bodies. It looked as if there had been a battle quite some time ago. Sarah bent down and examined the dented and cobwebbed armor. It was brittle and old, rust having gnawed large gaping holes through the metal.

What happened here? Sarah wondered. How long ago did this happen? She felt a sickening knot form squarely in her stomach as she looked down the path that led deeper into the Labyrinth. On impulse, she picked up a nearly intact spear. It did little to assuage her unease, but she felt slightly better having armed herself, dream or not.

Sarah pushed on, finding several more battlegrounds with charred and ruined bodies. It appeared to her that the Labyrinth had been attacked and then burned. She couldn't even fathom the battle that had occurred. She had easily passed hundreds of dead goblin bodies. What really concerned Sarah was that she was only seeing goblin bodies. Whatever they were fighting left no trace of itself when it had been slain.

If they had slain it, she corrected herself, clutching the spear tightly. If a horde of goblins couldn't take down even one of the enemy, how could she stand a chance? Her mind raced with unanswered questions. What could've burned the goblins like that? A dragon? But why would they fight out in the open if there was a dragon? What broke through the walls of the Labyrinth? These questions and a myriad of others plagued Sarah as she navigated the decaying corridors, discovering some to be simply impassable due to collapse or overgrowth.

Sarah trudged on, feeling as if she had been walking for hours. She strove to make out anything that seemed familiar to her at all, but the Labyrinth had become a foreign place. The sun was beginning to dip low in the sky and Sarah longed to rest. She was hungry and had developed an irritable thirst.

"Come on," she complained to the sky. "I just need something familiar. Anything!" Her voice fell flat against the rocks. The Labyrinth could not even give her the decency of an echo. The heavy silence was almost torturous. Sarah kicked a rock in frustration and decided to keep moving. She turned down a corridor and was angered to find it a dead end. She turned around and nearly ran into a solid wall that had formed behind her on the path from which she had just emerged.

"Well, at least that's something familiar," she grumbled, turning back around to see that the dead end now led into an open clearing with a stone fountain at its center.

"Finally!" Sarah breathed happily, trotting over to the fountain and sitting down on its edge. The water glistened pleasantly in the failing sunlight. Sarah reached her hands and appraised the water. It appeared cool and clean. She raised her hands to her mouth and drank sloppily, wetting mostly her clothes instead of her throat. After she had drank her fill, Sarah slid down the side of the fountain and gazed about her surroundings. It was very serene, even with the absence of plant life and insects. The silence here didn't seem as oppressive as it had in the corridors.

Sarah reached down and began rubbing her ankles. She'd walked a long way. She was amazed at the vividness and clarity this dream had. She truly felt as if she were in the Labyrinth.

As her thoughts idled away, the fountain began to bubble softly. Sarah jumped in surprise at the sudden sound that cut through the silence. She watched warily as the water began to turn and then erupt from the spout atop the fountain and cascade down in a sheet of water.

"Whoa," she murmured, trailing her fingers through the curtain of water. She hadn't realized how much she had missed even the simplest of sounds. The running water was like music to her ears. She giggled to herself, watching the twilight hue of the sun reflect off the water in a rainbow effect. It was the most beautiful thing she had seen in the death and decay of the Labyrinth all day.

As she sat and pondered the serendipity of her situation, another sound caught her attention. Unlike the soothing gurgle of the fountain, this noise alarmed Sarah. She stood quickly, gripping her spear tightly as the snap of vines and brush continued to grow closer to her. Rapid footsteps scurried behind her and she turned in time to see a blackened and decaying hedge shudder with movement. Something or someone was hiding within it.

"Who's there?" She called out. "Show yourself!"

"I don't want no trouble!" Came a gravelly voice. "Please just let me be!"

Sarah's brow knitted in consternation. "I won't hurt you. Come out where I can see you."

"How do I knows you won't hurt me?" Came the reply.

"Either come out on your own or I'll come in after you," Sarah threatened lowly. "The choice is yours."

"Alright, alright!" The voice relented, clearly annoyed. "You win. Cor!"

Sarah blinked, another memory flashing across her periphery. A small, lame legged dwarf hobbled out from behind the hedges, his stubby arms held up in defeat.

Sarah let the spear drop to her side as she gazed at the dwarf. She recognized him almost instantly. "I don't believe it...Hoggle?"

"Argh, it's Hoggle!" He corrected her and then stopped. "Oh, wait, you got it right." He eyed her suspiciously, his hands still held in the air. "Who're you?"

Sarah dropped to her knees, overcome with emotions that had long since been lost. She'd remembered Jareth, the Goblin King, but she had nearly forgotten all about her friends.

"Oh, Hoggle. It's me!" She exclaimed, giddy with the excitement and delight of seeing someone familiar. "It's Sarah."

"Wha-What?" Hoggle muttered, clearly confused. He lowered his hands to his sides. He appraised her studiously. "Sarah?"

She nodded enthusiastically, holding out her arms in a welcoming gesture.

"No, you can't be Sarah," Hoggle yelled vehemently as he backed away. "Sarah's gone."

"No, Hoggle," Sarah contended, desperation entering her voice. "I'm here. I came back! I finally came back." Her words were choked with emotion.

"Sarah's forgotten about us," Hoggle prattled as he continued to back away. "She don't need us anymore."

"I do need you," Sarah called after him, collapsing into herself, sudden despair gripping her at the thought of his departure. "Please, don't leave me, too."

Hoggle stopped, anger in his voice. "Why not? You were supposed to be Hoggle's friend. Instead, you forgot about us."

"I thought you were a dream," Sarah replied, unable to defend herself any better. "I grew up."

Hoggle warily approached her, gazing at her. Sarah's sad eyes met his.

"You did grow up," Hoggle said, his voice more gentle. "Why'd you go an' do that?"

Sarah gave him a weak, sad smile. "It's what humans do."

"Cor!" Hoggle exclaimed. "And what good's it done ya?"

Sarah shook her head. "It hasn't done any good. For me or for anyone."

Hoggle sighed, sidling up to Sarah. He begrudgingly opened his arms to her. "Well, I can't stand to see you sad. Even if it's been a long time, you're still Hoggle's friend and always will be."

Sarah leaned forward, embracing the dwarf. "I'm sorry I forgot," Sarah whispered. "But sometimes we forget our dreams."

"What makes you think you're dreamin'?" Hoggle asked.

Sarah pulled away from him and chuckled. "Because magic and Underground worlds don't really exist."

"Humph! You're still as thick headed as ever," Hoggle insisted, tapping lightly on her forehead. "How'd you get here anyway?"

"I woke up here and I've been walking through the Labyrinth all day." Sarah explained. "You're the first person or thing that I've seen since I got here."

"Hmm, did you do that?" Hoggle asked, pointing to the fountain.

Sarah shook her head. "No, it just started on its own. Why?"

Hoggle's brow creased with thought, but he waved it off. "Doesn't matter. What matters is that it's gettin' can't be out after nightfall. It's too dangerous."

"Nightfall?" Sarah inquired. "Why? What happens when the sun goes down?"

Hoggle went over to the fountain,pulling a waterskin from his belt and filling it. "A lot's happened since you left. The Labyrinth isn't what it used to be."

"I can tell," Sarah agreed. "Hoggle, what happened here?"

Hoggle reached out for Sarah, encouraging her to follow him as they walked and talked. "A while back there was an attack on the Labyrinth. It's been dying ever since."

"What do you mean an attack?" Sarah asked, concerned. "Where's Jareth? Did he fight back?"

Hoggle stopped, turning his head to Sarah. "You really don't know, do you?"

"How could I?" Sarah asked emphatically. "I've only just returned, but I saw the remains of hundreds of goblin soldiers burned to a crisp and the ruin of the Labyrinth. All I know is that there had to have been a horrible battle."

Hoggle sighed deeply. "There was."

"Hoggle?" Sarah ventured, the same sense of dread returning to her in chilly waves as she gazed at the dwarf's face. "What happened? What are you not telling me?"

"You're in danger, Sarah," Hoggle said simply. "Just by being here."

"In danger? From who? Jareth?" Sarah asked fearfully. "I didn't think he would ever hurt me."

"No," Hoggle said sadly, shaking his head. "Not him. Jareth… Jareth's gone."

Return to the Labyrinth

A Labyrinth Story
by ArtemisFallen

Part 2 of 24

<< Previous     Home     Next >>