Continuing Tales

Return to the Labyrinth

A Labyrinth Story
by ArtemisFallen

Part 20 of 24

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Leverage: A Christmas Tale

Sarah had many reservations about leading a large band of boisterous goblins through the Labyrinth to the fairy thicket. However, her concerns were assuaged when she saw the familiar overgrowth of the thicket and she felt a sigh of relief heave from her chest. She was amazed at how well the rowdy goblins had taken orders from her. She wondered if it was out of respect or a healthy dose of fear, threats of the bog, and Ludo, who they had seen down three whole cooked chickens in one swallow. Sarah was not proud to admit that she'd actually enjoyed the sheer look of terror on the goblin's faces as they watched Ludo eat. Since then, they had all been well behaved, even the rat faced goblin.

Or at least, well behaved by goblin standards, Sarah thought to herself.

She knew she would've been asking for the moon had she wanted them to be timid, polite and graceful instead of rambunctious, rude, and surprisingly flatulent. Sarah was just grateful she was not downwind from them. She now understood how Ludo had been able to smell them so easily.

"We're here, Ludo!" Sarah beamed happily, gazing into the thick, luscious green undergrowth of the thicket which was so dense that it seemed impenetrable. "We made it."

Sarah clasped her hands together as nervous excitement flooded over her. She hoped Titania remained protected beyond the thicket walls and that Hoggle, Sir Didymus and Ambrosius had made it back to her safely.

"There?" Ludo asked, pointing to the dense foliage. Sarah nodded enthusiastically to the great orange beast before turning her attention to the clamoring goblins.

"Wait here for me," she commanded. "Grub, Toot, I leave you both in charge. Rest up and prepare for battle. As soon as I meet with Titania, we will be launch an assault against the Gorgon Queen and her minions." Sarah bit her lip anxiously. "Then, we will liberate the Goblin King."

"I know you got yerself a plan there, lass, and I mean no offense," Grub began. "But we were no match for them beasties last time. What makes you think we can fight 'em this time?"

Sarah sank to her knees so that she was eye level with Grub. His concerns were valid and she understood that the goblins must have numerous trepidations.

"Don't worry," she soothed. "We have an army now and the support of the Fairy Queen at our backs."

"You sure that's enough, lass?" Grub asked. "Us and fairies against them creatures?"

"I have a little trick up my sleeve," Sarah replied with a wink. "I also command the loyalty of the Fireys."

A bunch of goblins gasped in unison. "Fireys?!"

"They be crazy!" Toot echoed, shaking his head in disbelief.

"Ain't no one controlling the Fireys!" A large headed goblin squawked.

"Well, I do," Sarah said in a low, measured tone. She let her gaze drift over the goblin crowd and she met their questioning eyes. "The Fireys will follow my lead. They have a reason to fight just like you. The Gorgon Queen killed their leader and they seek to avenge him. Just as you seek reparation and vengeance of your own."

"How do we know you're telling the truth?" A long, stringy haired goblin with beady black eyes asked. "You could be leading us into a trap!"

Several goblins murmured in agreement, causing a ruckus of doubt to break through the crowd. Sarah shook her head ruefully.

"Ludo, calm them down, please," she whispered.

Ludo raised his head high and let out a long, shrill howl that effectively silenced the tittering goblins. Sarah stood, glaring down at the beady eyed naysayer. The goblin cowered under her scrutiny.

"Look around you," Sarah commanded, gesturing widely with her arm for all to see. "Order to the Labyrinth is being restored. This is my influence. My magic is bringing the Labyrinth back to life. I am descended from the Keeper bloodline and this Labyrinth is as much home to me as it is to you. I would do anything to protect this place and all who reside within its walls." Her expression softened. "Even you. Now, you can either join with me and fight to save this place, fight to save your home and your King, or you can oppose me; running and hiding like cowards. But know this," Sarah's tone became stern and menacing. "If you run now, I will not rest until I find you. Then, when I do find you, which I will, I won't be your biggest problem."

"Wha-what will be?" The goblin asked timidly.

Sarah inclined her head to Ludo. "Him."

Ludo panted, stomping his feet happily like a dog ready to give chase. The goblins cringed in fear.

Sarah turned her attention away from the goblin crowd, sidling up to Grub. She placed a trusting hand on his shoulder. "I'm counting on you."

"You'll not be disappointed, lass," Grub said proudly, puffing out his chest. "I'll make sure this rabble is ready."

"Thank you," Sarah said gratefully. She turned to Ludo. "Are you ready, big guy?"

"Ludo follow Sarah," he hummed softly, extending his large hand to her. Sarah accepted his hand, turning her attention to the dense thicket wall.

"Alright, you mead swilling maggots, let's gear up for battle. We have a master to save!" Grub announced. "Toot, arm 'em. Let's show them beasties not to mess with Goblins!"

"Right ya are!" Toot agreed. "Come on, then, look alive! We gotta a King to save!"

Sarah smiled softly, pleased with the results. She lifted her free hand to the dense growth. "Open."

The thick brambles began to shudder and weave, groaning and cracking as they twisted out of the way, revealing a hidden path into the thicket. Murmurs of awe and wonderment tore through the group of Goblins as they witnessed the Labyrinth bending to Sarah's will. She gave Ludo's hand a slight squeeze, looking to the giant beast at her side.

He nodded resolutely. "Ready."

Sarah pulled in a deep breath. "Me, too."

They stepped inside, following the freshly exposed path through the denseness of the grove. As they progressed, the brambles began to knit closed behind them, leaving the dumbstruck goblins to whisper amidst themselves as Sarah and Ludo disappeared into the depths of the thicket.

"Pretty!" Ludo exclaimed, gazing up in wonder at the myriads of fairies that tittered and floated in the sky above, pointing at them with equal admiration and joy.

"Yes, they are," Sarah gasped, amazed by the sheer number of fairies and the rainbow spectrum of color the waning sun became as it filtered down through their crystalline wings. Sarah continued to gawk at the thicket and their surroundings. It had changed so much since her last visit. White and pink flower petals appeared magically in the air, floating and listing beautifully, as if suspended on a silent wind. The trees had grown luminous, almost glowing with a phosphoric presence, their limbs garnished with glorious white cotton blooms. The soft grass beneath Sarah's feet had grown tall and vibrant, brushing rhythmically against her jeans. Even the air felt different inside the thicket. It seemed to almost caress Sarah's skin, wrapping around her softly like a silken scarf.

The fairy thicket had become a hidden paradise.

"I never knew it was this beautiful," Sarah murmured in astonishment.

"It has not been this way for a very long time," Titania's voice floated over to Sarah. "I have you to thank for its rejuvenation."

Sarah turned quickly to the sound of Titania's voice. The Fairy Queen stood at the edge of the coppice Sarah had awoken in. Her blue eyes shone brightly with tears of gratitude.

A broad smile of relief and joy crested over Sarah's lips. "Titania!"

She found herself bounding over to the Fairy Queen, wrapping her arms around the petite, fragile creature. Immense relief coursed through Sarah. Euryale's trick had been nothing more than a ruse after all.

Titania ardently returned Sarah's embrace, chuckling softly in her ear. "It is good you safe and returned, my friend."

Sarah held tightly to Titania, straining against her emotions, fearing that if she were to release the Fairy Queen, she might lose her to some unseen, pernicious force. She hadn't wanted to admit it, but she had been terribly worried about Titania's well being.

"Is everything alright, my dear?" Titania inquired, pulling away from her gently, reaching out a delicate hand to smooth Sarah's hair behind her ear.

Sarah took in a quavering breath and nodded. "Yes, everything's fine. I was just so worried about you?"

"Worried for me?" Titania inquired, clearly confused. "I was not the one in danger. It is you I have feared for."

Sarah gripped Titania's hand, looking into her large eyes. She saw nothing but friendship and undiluted care reflected from the bright blue depths. How Euryale could've ever hoped to mimic such genuine affection was beyond Sarah.

"Euryale tried to impersonate you," Sarah began, rushing through her words as they spewed from her like an enraged geyser. "I knew it was a trick, but I was afraid something had happened to you. I was afraid that she'd somehow gotten to you and…and..." The words cut off as the pain of them was too much to acknowledge.

Titania smiled sweetly at Sarah. "There is no need to fret for I am safe and well."

Immeasurable relief washed through Sarah and she felt herself slip from her anxious, jittery state into a calm relaxation. Even though she could see Titania and feel her delicate hand wrapped up in her own, she still had massive doubts and fears which she had buried down deep inside of her. It wasn't until she heard Titania's reassurances that she was able to release those pent up emotions and let them go.

"And my friends?" Sarah asked, a tremor on the edge of her voice. "Are they okay?"

Titania stroked her hand soothingly. "Yes, they arrived a short while ago." Her eyes twinkled, unnaturally bright, but beautiful. "I believe they had more difficulty navigating the Labyrinth than you do now." Titania reached out to Sarah and gently traced her fingers over the pendant that rested on Sarah's chest. "You have come to discover your true power and your true role. The Guardian must have been pleased to see you."

Sarah gaped at Titania, baffled. "How did you know about the Guardian?"

"There are tales, rumors, secrets that the Keepers left behind," Titania riddled, a sly smile crossing over her youthful face. "I know of the Keeper history and I have seen in you the glory and future of the Labyrinth."

Sarah blushed. "You place a lot of faith in me."

"I know you will succeed," Titania said resolutely. "You will not abandon us or your fate."

Sarah sighed. "How much do you see? Is there anything you don't know?"

"I see a great deal without seeing or knowing all," Titania answered. "I cannot predict the outcome of this endeavor, but I have what you call faith."

"Faith," Sarah murmured, the word sounding like the fevered dream of a hopeless romantic. It occurred to her that battles were fought and won based upon much less. She hoped she was worthy of such loyalty.

For the first time since she arrived, Titania's gaze shifted from Sarah to Ludo who had hung back shyly. "Forgive my singular indulgence at your return. I have excluded this sweet creature from a proper welcome."

Sarah turned and appraised Ludo. He remained far back, eyeing Titania suspiciously. "Ludo, don't be afraid. Come on." She held out her hand to the great beast.

Ludo reluctantly shuffled towards Sarah, taking her hand quickly and gazing down at the Fairy Queen nervously.

"Hello, Ludo," Titania acknowledged sweetly.

"Hmm, hi," Ludo mumbled, averting his eyes from the Fairy Queen.

"I thank you for escorting Sarah through the perils of the Labyrinth and returning her to us. You are truly a friend to her and to me as well." Titania reached out and stroked Ludo's arm in an affable gesture.

Ludo's shyness evaporated and he gave Titania a gummy smile. "Ludo, friend!"

Titania smiled sweetly, pleased with the reaction. "He is such a wonderfully sweet beast," she remarked. "You choose your companions well, Sarah."

Sarah grinned up at Ludo, snuggling against him in an affectionate embrace.

"Come," Titania said gently, extending her hand to the path that began to appear through the tangle of branches and vine. "Your other friends are eager to see you and we must prepare for the impending battle. Thanks to your travels, our resources have grown."

"You know about the goblins already?" Sarah asked surprised as she and Ludo followed the Fairy Queen through the newly formed paths.

Titania tilted her head inquisitively. "Goblins? Well, that is a happy coincidence."

Sarah stopped. "Wait, so you didn't know about the goblins?"

Titania shook her head. "No, my fairies have had limited access outside the thicket since we began preparing for battle. My reach is not what it used to be."

Sarah was confused. "Well, if not the goblins, then what?"

"I was referring to your little blue worm friend, Batson." Titania resumed her pace through the fluctuating overgrowth

Sarah blinked in surprise, joyful delight spreading through her. "Batson? He's here?"

"Yes," Titania answered. "He has spoken to many of his worm friends who have agreed to aid us from underground in the pending battle."

"That's fantastic!" Sarah gushed. "And what of the Fireys?"

Titania hesitated, visibly cringing at the mention of the creatures. She threw a sheepish glance over her shoulder at Sarah. "Ah, yes, the Fireys. They should be well rested and ready for battle." Titania's voice dropped to a whisper. "As soon as I awaken them."

"What?" Sarah asked, barely registering Titania's words. "Awaken them? What do you mean?"

Titania quickened her pace. "It is not as if I wanted to enchant them," she explained quickly. "They forced my hand! They were loud, unruly and rambunctious. They had not a care for order or compliance!"

"So you put them to sleep?" Sarah asked shrilly, striving to keep the amusement from her voice.

Titania stopped and shrugged. "They left me no choice. They were singing incessantly, tossing limbs about in a never ending grotesque game." She sighed. "'Twas only a small spell. It was best for all, I assure you."

Sarah finally let out a bark of laughter. "Oh, I'm sure!" She remembered how badly she had wanted to send the wild bunch to the bog and she had only spent a few minutes with them. She couldn't blame Titania for bewitching them.

"Besides," Titania said, validating her logic to enchant the Fireys. "Reunions should be sweet and uninterrupted." She stepped aside and Sarah could see Ambrosius, Sir Didymus and Hoggle standing in the clearing, stacking reeds and thorns.

"Hoggle! Sir Didymus!" Sarah exclaimed, racing towards them with a huge smile on her face.

Hoggle turned, gazing uncomprehendingly for a moment at Sarah as she bounded towards them.

"Sarah?" He gasped, dropping a handful of reeds and hobbling quickly to meet her.

"Milady!" Sir Didymus cried, flinging himself forward and losing his hat in the process as he, too, scrambled toward Sarah.

Sarah dropped to her knees and her two friends collided into her open arms. She scooped them into her, embracing them tightly.

"You're safe!" Hoggle wept, his voice shredded by the presence of tears. "We was so worried!"

"I told you she would conquer the task," Sir Didymus contended, wiping away his own tears. "I had the utmost faith in you, fair maiden."

Ambrosius ambled over slowly and licked Sarah's hand. She ruffled his head and scratched behind his ear.

"I missed you guys so much," Sarah said, her voice thick with emotion. "I'm so glad you're safe."

"As are we glad for your safety, fair maiden. As are-Brother Ludo?" Sir Didymus gasped over Sarah's shoulder. "Is it really you?"

Ludo burst into a gummy grin, lumbering quickly over to Sarah and the others. "Brother!"

"Oh, my valiant brother, I feared you'd perished all that time ago!" Sir Didymus sputtered. He reached out for Ludo as the giant beast approached. Ludo gathered the old fox up in his arms like a loving bundle and cradled him against his chest. "Ludo miss brother!"

Sir Didymus sniffled, reduced to quivering pile of emotions. "Where hast thou been all this time? I thought you lost to us, to me."

Ludo hummed placatingly as he swayed with Sir Didymus. Hoggle walked over to Ludo, patting him gently.

"It's good to have you back," Hoggle said in a heartfelt tone. "Whatever happened to you?"

Ludo looked at Sarah, his eyes shining happily. "Sarah find Ludo."

"It was you who found him, milady?" Sir Didymus asked, still being held in the crushing embrace against Ludo's chest.

"Actually, he found me in the tunnels below the Labyrinth," Sarah explained. "During the battle, the ground crumbled beneath him and he fell. He's been lost and wandering all this time."

"My, what an adventure!" Sir Didymus remarked. He turned his sorrowful gaze to Ludo. "My brother, I hope you can find it in your heart to forgive me. I thought you had fallen in battle. I mourned your loss and doubted your return. I should have known nothing could ever topple such a stout warrior. I should have searched for you. I can hardly forgive myself for such a grievous error. I abandoned you and for that, I am truly sorry. Will you ever look upon me again as the brother I should have been to you?"

Ludo set Sir Didymus down, looking the old fox hard in the eyes. "Ludo forgive brother." He smiled at Sir Didymus. "Friend."

"An inspiration and model you are to us all," Sir Didymus cried happily. "I cannot even begin to tell you the joy I feel at having you both returned safe and sound."

Sarah smiled. "It's good to be back among friends."

"You found it," Hoggle muttered, abruptly changing the subject. All eyes turned to Hoggle as his gaze transfixed on the pendant Sarah wore.

Sarah innately grasped the pendant, rubbing it between her thumb and forefinger. "Yes, I did."

"So, it's true! There is a heart to the Labyrinth!" Hoggle balked as if he had doubted its existence.

Sarah chuckled dryly. "Yeah, there is. And it's guarded by a huge Minotaur."

"A what?!" Hoggle squeaked, astonished.

"A Minotaur," Sarah repeated, straining the keep the self satisfied smile from tugging at her lips. "He's the guardian of the Keeper's kingdom."

"Did you engage in combat, milady?" Sir Didymus asked, a worried look crossing his features as he scanned Sarah for new wounds to tend and dress.

The smug smile finally wove its way onto her face. "No, but I did have to answer a bunch of riddles!"

Hoggle and Sir Didymus exchanged confused glances. "Riddles?" Hoggle asked. "Really?"

"That's some right luck for you," Batson interrupted, appearing beside Sarah. "You seem to 'ave a knack for answerin' riddles."

"Batson!" Sarah cried happily. She placed her hand against the ground and allowed the worm to crawl into her palm. She brought him to her face and gave the small worm a quick peck on the head. "Thank you for bringing them here. I owe you so much."

"Ah, it's my pleasure, love," Batson replied happily, his cheeks burning with a slight pink hue.

"Titania told me that you brought some friends who are ready to fight with us and take back the Labyrinth," Sarah said.

"That's right!" Batson quipped. "We'll tunnel under them nasty beasties, you just give the word, love. We'll follow you to the end."

Sarah was suddenly struck by how real everything seemed in that moment. The time for battle was quickly approaching and she held the lives of those around her in her hands. Not only the lives of her friends, but the very fate of the Labyrinth balanced on her shoulders. In a matter of hours, she would be pounding on said fate's door. Sarah couldn't believe it had all led up to this. She felt as if she were teetering on the edge of a cliff. One wrong move and she would topple over and fall into a vast darkness where all that awaited below was certain death. She swallowed hard. It seemed like it was so long ago when she had awoken once again in the Labyrinth, ushered by her desire to flee from a pain that had since been replaced by so many others.

"Milady?" Sir Didymus asked, breaking into her thoughts. "Are you alright?"

Sarah looked at her loyal, caring friends. They would do anything for her and she would do anything for them. The fear of losing them nearly overwhelmed her and she felt sick as her stomach knotted. They were all relying on her.

What if I fail? The sickness deepened, threatening to overtake her. What if I let them down? She refused to acknowledge such dark thoughts.

"I'm ready." Her voice had a slight tremor to it and she fought to maintain a strong tone. "But I need a moment to speak with Titania."

"Of course," Sir Didymus replied amiably. "Take all the time you need to prepare. We are here when you need us."

"Thank you," Sarah said, realizing she still held Batson in her trembling hand. She set him on the ground next to Hoggle. "Would you guys mind checking on the goblins? I left them just outside the thicket."

"What?" Hoggle asked, bewildered. "You found goblins?"

Sarah nodded. "Yes, Ludo and I found a whole camp of goblins hiding in the Labyrinth. We convinced them to help us in the fight against Euryale."

"Well done!" Batson commended. "Come along, chaps, let's give the Keeper a moment." He winked at her as he began to wriggle away and nearly collided with Ludo's foot. Ludo gazed down thoughtfully at the worm as Batson squinted at the large orange creature.

"Oi, you're a big beastie!" He remarked. "The name's Batson, friend!"

Ludo bent down and offered his hand to Batson who climbed onto his finger. Ludo held him close to his face, a pleased smile slipping over his tusked teeth. "Ludo. Friend?"

"That's right!" Batson chirped happily. "Come on, big boy, let's check on them goblins."

Ludo began to walk, holding his new friend up high as they traipsed in the opposite direction, trailed by Hoggle, Sir Didymus and Ambrosius.

"Oh, the missus sure loves goblins," Batson chattered. "Been a long time since we 'ad a nice goblin stew!"

Sarah cocked an eyebrow at the remark before turning her attention to Titania who waited patiently and quietly at the edge of the grove with her hands folded neatly in front of her.

"You are afraid," Titania speculated when the others were out of earshot.

Sarah nodded, watching her friends disappear in the distance. "I'm afraid for them." She turned her gaze to Titania. "And you. I'm afraid I'll let you down."

Titania shook her head slowly. "You have already accomplished so much. You do not give yourself the credit you deserve." She held out her hand, gesturing to the thicket. "This is all because of you. We are here to serve you. The true ruler of the Labyrinth."

Sarah swallowed hard. "I don't know if I'm strong enough."

"When the time comes, so will the strength," Titania promised. "Until then, we are your strength."

It wasn't quite the pep talk Sarah had hoped for, but Titania's unflinching loyalty and belief in her abilities made Sarah feel better. The knot of sickness in her stomach loosened and Sarah felt better.

"What were they doing when I got here?" Sarah asked, unwilling to dwell on her self doubt.

Titania smiled, walking over to where Hoggle had dropped the reeds. "As you well know, fairy blood appears to have a devastating effect on the Chimera."

Sarah cringed as an unbidden memory sailed to the surface of her thoughts. "Yeah, I saw its effects first hand. Your blood saved my life."

"Yes," Titania replied solemnly, looking at Sarah with poorly concealed concern. "Your friends related the horrific encounter with the beast to me. I am happy to see you are unscathed."

Sarah pursed her lips, remembering the gash the creature had left on her thigh. "I wouldn't say unscathed, but I survived."

"And for that, I am grateful," Titania said with genuine relief. "Given your success with dispatching the beast with my blood, your knightly fox friend and I have devised a strategy. We are using thorns from the Thundelbrush tipped in the blood of my fairies and myself to use as projectiles which can be launched from the Silca reed. We have several hundred thorns ready and several dozen reeds prepared. My fairies have been donating their blood tirelessly to the cause."

"Wow," Sarah murmured, impressed. "You guys have been busy!"

"Whatever reservations you may have, know this; we are prepared for this battle," Titania affirmed resolutely. "We are prepared to follow you into the unknown. I am confident you will lead us to victory."

Sarah chewed on her bottom lip, nervously tugging at the pendant around her neck. "Do you think it'll be that easy?"

"No," Titania said softly. "Nothing worth having ever is."

Sarah nodded, mired in her own thoughts. She continued to play with the pendant.

"What troubles you so? What are you not telling me?" Titania probed.

Sarah grasped the pendant tightly, striving to find the right words. "I saw a lot in the Labyrinth since we last spoke. I even saw Jareth again. And ever since I put on the pendant, I can feel…" She trailed off. Titania waited patiently for Sarah to begin again.

"Go on," she urged softly.

"I can feel him," Sarah continued. "I can feel him growing stronger by the minute. It's as if there's an invisible bond between us now. His powers are still severely depleted, but like the Labyrinth, he grows stronger and more alive." She looked at the pendant. "And I know it's because I have this."

"He is bound to the pendant," Titania said. "The pendant serves as the bond between you two. It has forged a bridge of magic, bringing him back from the brink."

"So, what?" Sarah asked wearily. "This was his plan all along? To get me to embark on this treacherous journey only to siphon my magic once I reclaimed his pendant?"

Titania's features twisted and worry lined her brow. "Something has changed in you. You are shadowed by doubt. What happened in those tunnels?"

Sarah drew a shaky breath and prepared to tell Titania of her discovery. "I found a great hall lined with mirrors. Each mirror showed a point of time where my life had been lived in the Labyrinth. I was able to step through the image and relive the memories as they played out. I saw things from a different perspective," she closed her eyes. "I saw how cruel and uncaring I was as a child. How cold I was to Jareth. I relived my mistakes."

"I also saw my mother," Sarah whispered. "She came to the Labyrinth before to rescue me from Jareth when I was very young." She opened her eyes and stared at Titania. "But you already knew that, didn't you?"

Titania sighed, her large blue eyes reflecting regret and sadness. "Yes, I knew."

Sarah shook her head. "Why didn't you tell me?"

"Would you have believed me?" Titania asked. "I did what I thought was right. I told you the story had been played out before. I knew no other way. You had to discover the truth for yourself."

Sarah squeezed the strap of her backpack which still hung over her shoulder tightly. Titania was right. She wouldn't have believed her.

"I know," Sarah muttered, a melancholic trace to her tone. "And I understand. You did do the right thing."

"Yet, something else perplexes you," Titania surmised.

Sarah scoffed. Titania was just a bit too astute for her liking at times. "When I did the dream walk thing with Jareth, I encountered Euryale again. She claimed that Jareth used the last of his strength to open the door into my world and disrupt my life. She said he influenced my fiancee so that he would leave me, so that I would come here and he could take my magic, getting his revenge and his powers back at the same time." The words poured from Sarah like cold honey. She felt ridiculous for even considering the validity of them. "I don't want to believe her, but there are so many things that Jareth has done that makes it impossible for me to trust him." Sarah gazed forlornly at Titania. "How do I know what's right? How do I know if he does still care for me or if he's just using me?"

Titania walked over to Sarah, placing a hand on top of hers which still held firmly to the backpack strap. "You must have faith, Sarah. I cannot give you the answers you seek for I truly do not know what is to come. The path that lies ahead belongs to you. The story and how it ends is entirely up to you." Titania gave Sarah a reassuring smile. "You must either forgive him or let go of him completely. When this is over and you face the Goblin King at last, there can be no doubt. You must have a clear mind and be true to your own heart. You must trust in yourself. Above all else, believe in yourself." She released Sarah's hand and touched her face gently. "Believe in yourself as I believe in you."

"I want to," Sarah whispered. "But I'm afraid I've lost my way."

"You are not lost," Titania whispered ardently. "For your friends will be by your side. You need not face this trial alone. I will not allow you to walk in this darkness alone. Not again. I see you are troubled and filled with questions, but know this, dear heart; we are counting on you. The Labyrinth has begun to flourish since you've discovered the powers which reside in you. It is you who are the true leader of the Labyrinth. You are its Keeper and therefore hold dominion over all who inhabit it." Titania smiled softly. "That includes myself and my fairies. We are but your humble servants."

Sarah bit her lip in trepidation. So many had placed their trust solely in her. She feared she wasn't strong enough to face Euryale after all. The thought of failure was daunting.

"Do not fret," Titania said soothingly, as if gleaning Sarah's fear. "You cannot fail us. You have already given us so much."

Sarah's brow creased. "I haven't done anything."

"You have," Titania argued. "You have given hope where there was none. You have given us a reason to fight back, to reclaim the home which was taken from us. You have given us a reason to believe. The Keepers did not abandon this place. You are here for a reason. You were always meant to come here, no matter the circumstances."

Sarah ran her hands through her hair and sighed. "I'm scared I'll let you all down," she confessed weakly. "I'm scared I won't have the power I need when the time comes." Sarah thought about Jareth. "I'm scared I won't make the right choice."

Titania sighed sympathetically. "I wish with all my heart I had the answers you so desperately seek. I wish I knew the words that would calm your heart and grant you serenity. But alas, I have not the words nor the knowledge to help you. I can only walk by your side and guide you. As an ally, and as a friend."

Sarah smiled weakly. "I'm lucky to have such friends."

"You are truly blessed, my dear Keeper," Titania remarked, returning Sarah's smile brightly.

Sarah nodded resolutely, feeling the pendulum swing ever closer to its mark. "Are you ready to move on the Goblin City?"

"Yes," Titania confirmed. "At your command, we will lead the assault against the Gorgon Queen."

Sarah swallowed hard, endeavoring to center herself even though she felt as if she were being rattled apart from the inside. "Then I guess you'd better wake up the Fireys."

Titania grimaced. "Do you think we really need them after all?"

"Hey, you made me go get them," Sarah complained. "We're going to use them. Even if they are crazier than a bag of rabid ferrets."

Titania cocked her head slightly, unfamiliar with the creature Sarah had compared the Fireys to. "As you command, Keeper. Follow me."

She led Sarah around an alcove to the piled Fireys. They looked like a scene from a bad horror movie. Their limbs were strewn all over the place. Sarah figured Titania must have enchanted them while they were swapping body parts.

Titania breathed in deeply, closing her eyes. The pile moved slightly and a Firey stirred underneath his brethren. He rose up, his body coming together as he stretched. Sarah's backpack rattled and she felt sickened by the thought of the Firey hand jostling around in her bag.

"Hmm," Augie murmured, smacking his beak. He opened his eyes sleepily. "Hey, lady! You're back!"

Sarah unzipped her bag, grabbing Augie's hand and tossing it to him as his brothers began to emerge from their sleep as well. Augie put his hand back on his stumped arm and flexed his long fingers.

"Ah, that feels right good," he muttered happily.

Bodkin stretched, issuing a loud bodily noise as he did. "Oops!" He laughed raucously. "Who's hungry?"

"Not me," Jojul yelped, covering his nose. "Not anymore, anyways."

Sarah took in a deep breath and held it, glancing to Titania who shot her a remorseful look.

Krew yawned loudly, standing up and scratching himself indiscreetly. "What time is it?"

"Fire Gang," Sarah announced, conserving her air. "It's time to chilly down."

Return to the Labyrinth

A Labyrinth Story
by ArtemisFallen

Part 20 of 24

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