Continuing Tales

Return to the Labyrinth

A Labyrinth Story
by ArtemisFallen

Part 3 of 24

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Leverage: A Christmas Tale

Sarah felt the earth sway under her and before she realized what was happening, she was on her her knees. Hoggle's words had literally knocked her off her feet.

"Sarah!" Hoggle exclaimed in concern. "Are you alright?"

Sarah braced herself against the hard ground with her palm and rubbed her head with her other hand. Her mind reeled with unconcealable loss and pain as Hoggle's words echoed in her ears. "Wha-? What do you mean? How can he be gone?" Sarah stuttered.

Hoggle pulled ineffectively at Sarah's hand. "Come, Sarah. I'll explain everything, but it's not safe out here." Hoggle muttered, his eyes flicking nervously to the darkening horizon. With a little more urging, Sarah finally manage to her feet, her head still spinning from Hoggle's revelation.

"This way," Hoggle called, hopping along quickly. "Hurry!"

Confused and distraught, Sarah repositioned her backpack on her shoulders and continued after the dwarf who, for having two lame legs, was surprisingly quick.

The thought of Jareth being gone resonated deeply within Sarah and an overwhelming sense of loss began to consume her. She lagged behind her dwarven friend, wrapped up in a haze of her own sorrow. Unbidden tears began to form in her eyes and trail down her cheeks.

"Don't fall behind!" Hoggle scolded, shaking Sarah from her cloud of misery.

"Okay," Sarah answered, sniffling and wiping her eyes, resolving to keep up better. The dwarf was running now, ducking through low archways and sliding through short, narrow pathways that proved extremely difficult for Sarah to navigate in such a haste.

"Hoggle!" Sarah called out as she became wedged between two stones. "Wait!"

Sarah pushed and grunted, having to retreat back down the path and crawl through on her stomach. She groaned as she pulled herself over the tangled mess of weeds and earth, ripping a piece of her cardigan off in the process.

"Great," she grumbled as she continued to wiggle out through the passageway. She stood up and ineffectively brushed herself off. She squinted against the rapidly growing darkness, searching for her dwarven friend.

"Hoggle?" Sarah called out softly.

"Over here!"

Sarah quickly followed the sound of Hoggle's voice and despite the darkness, caught up to him.

Sarah panted with exertion. The little dwarf was quick when he wanted to be. Sarah gazed about their surroundings. Hoggle had led her to what appeared to be ancient ruins inside the Labyrinth. Crumbled statues and decaying vines littered the ground. Sarah watched curiously as Hoggle tapped along the stones, finding a loose one. He grabbed for a branch and began working to pry up the stone.

"Down there," he whispered, his eyes frantically darting in all directions. Sarah stared down the hole at a ladder.

"Go on," Hoggle urged. "I'll follow."

Sarah was unsure of the darkness that awaited her, but she decided to trust her little dream friend. Carefully, she began to descend into the darkness. She was at the bottom before Hoggle began coming down the ladder, carefully replacing the stone above him. Sarah waited in the oppressive black until she heard Hoggle's feet hit the ground. He struck a match and lit a lantern that was hanging on the wall next to the ladder.

"This way," Hoggle said, hobbling down what appeared to be an unending path. Sarah followed him, having to duck down so she could continue through the low passage. By the time they reached the door at the end of the long corridor, Sarah was crawling on her hands and knees.

Hoggle set the lantern down and mumbled incoherently as he fumbled through several keys. He found the right one and opened the door. Sarah was greeted by a large, simply furnished room with a warm fire and a stew bubbling in the pot over it.

"Welcome to my home!" Hoggle beamed proudly. Sarah crawled through the door after Hoggle. She was relieved that she could stand once she entered his home. She looked around, admiring the wicker wood furniture, the stone tables and the wool blankets that decorated the place.

Sarah smiled. "I love it," she said genuinely. Hoggle grinned in pleasure and indicated for Sarah to sit. Sarah did so, having to adjust her long legs to accommodate herself comfortably on the low furniture. The chair she chose groaned slightly under her weight, but held her despite her size.

Hoggle went over to the fire and began stirring the stew. He breathed in appreciatively. "Just in time! Nothin' like rumpleshrew stew. Caught 'im just this morning! Want some?"

"Ru-rumpleshrew?" Sarah asked, afraid to ask what a rumpleshrew was. The rat-like creature she had encountered earlier that morning suddenly ran across her memory and she feared she knew what a rumpleshrew was after all.

"It's good for ya!" Hoggle announced, reaching inside a crude cabinet for two rock carved bowls. He piled them as high as he possibly could with the stew and carefully brought the bowls to the table in front of Sarah. He set them down and bounced eagerly back over the the fire, uncovering a pan of bread and pulling two large chunks from it. He offered a large piece to Sarah before sitting down across from her, rubbing his hands together in delightful anticipation of the meal. Sarah watched Hoggle begin to eat while she eyed her own bowl of stew cautiously.

It appeared to be like any other stew she had ever had. The meat was dark and thick, and there were large chunks of potatoes and carrots floating in the dark brown broth. She inhaled the steaming aroma wafting from the bowl and felt her stomach growl appreciatively. She couldn't deny that it smelled wonderful and she was positively famished. Tentatively, Sarah dipped her wooden spoon into and nibbled on a piece of meat. She tried to push the image of the rat out of her head as she did this. She was surprised as a wonderful flavor flooded her mouth. The meat was tender and incredibly flavorful. In fact, it reminded her of the taste of lamb. Impressed and no longer bothered by the lingering image of the rat creature, Sarah began to eat heartily, savoring the stew.

Hoggle and Sarah ate in silence. Hoggle went for a second helping and Sarah bashfully accepted when he offered her another bowl as well. Once Hoggle was done slurping up the remains of the broth from his second bowl, he sat back against his chair, a satisfied smile plastered across his face.

"Hoggle," Sarah began, wringing her hands with worry. "What did you mean when you said Jareth's gone?"

Hoggle absentmindedly stroked his full belly, his expression unhappy. "I suppose you gotta know. You must've come back for a reason." Hoggle narrowed his eyes at her. "By the way, how did you get back here?"

Sarah turned her head, a blush coming to her cheeks. ", I asked to come back."

Hoggle's eyes widened in surprise. "Ya did? Why?"

Sarah felt her mouth twitch. "I don't know. I was unhappy. My life didn't turn out the way I thought it would. I've always felt like there was something missing, something that was waiting for me, but I could no longer reach it." She shook her head, she knew she was babbling. "I was lost, Hoggle. I didn't know where to go. No matter how far I ran, I couldn't escape the life that was laid out for me. But then I found something." Sarah reached for her backpack and unzipped the front pocket where she had put her book. She picked it up and showed it to Hoggle, smiling at the confused expression the dwarf wore. "I found this book. It's about the Labyrinth and I remembered my dream from so long ago. I remembered that this was the last place where I felt like I could truly be myself. I wasn't just a player on a set stage going through the motions of a scripted life. I felt like this was my story, that it was written for me and I longed to be a part of it once again. So, I wished for the Goblin King to take me away." Sarah held the book in her lap, stroking the cover lovingly. "I wanted to return to him, Hoggle. I needed to come back to him."

"Him?" Hoggle asked. "You mean, Jareth?"

Sarah nodded, still stroking the cover of the book.

"Why?" Hoggle asked, astounded.

"Because," Sarah whispered, her pink hue turning to hot fire upon her cheeks. "I think...I love him."

"What?!" Hoggle exclaimed. "Jareth?! Cor!"

Sarah shook her head and swallowed hard, her eyes burning with the threat of tears. "I know how it sounds, but it's the truth. I came back to find him. I asked him to bring me back." And now he's gone, too.

"Humph," Hoggle muttered. "Well, ain't that somethin'?"

"What do you mean?" Sarah sniffled.

Hoggle rubbed the back of his neck and sighed. "I've known Jareth my whole life. He was cruel, deceitful, conceited and spoiled. You know this, too. But he was the Goblin King, he's always been self absorbed, self loving. He don't know any better, I suppose. Not that it's any kinda excuse, mind you. But when you summoned him and he met you, something changed. He cared 'bout somethin' else other than himself." Hoggle shifted uncomfortably, throwing nervous glances at Sarah. "It was like he was bewitched. You consumed him. After you denied him, he fell into despair. We didn't know it at the time, but Jareth… well he, uh…" Hoggle's eyes met Sarah's. "He loved you."

Sarah felt her heart take a suicidal leap from her chest as it tried to escape out through her throat. She'd been right. Her memories had been correct. Jareth, the Goblin King, had loved her. Sarah closed her eyes and placed her hand over her face, trying to conceal her heartbreak from her friend.

"Tell me what happened," Sarah said, knowing deep in her soul that she was the cause of all the misfortunes that had come to pass on the Labyrinth and its inhabitants.

Hoggle cleared his throat. "It's a long story, but after you left, Jareth began to lose his powers."

Sarah pursed her lips, struggling to remain composed. "Lost his powers? How?"

"I guess it was because you… broke his heart," Hoggle answered unwillingly. "Without his powers, he couldn't control the Labyrinth. I always thought Jareth was a rat. A spoiled rat with the magic to get everything he wanted and he didn't care who he stepped on just so he could get his way. What I didn't know was that he protected the Labyrinth and all those in it from the darker forces of the Underground." Hoggle's sad eyes met Sarah's. "Turns out there were worse things out there than Jareth."

Sarah swallowed hard. "What things? Tell me, Hoggle. Why are you in hiding? What happened here? And don't spare my feelings in the details. I need to know."

Hoggle hesitated before continuing, considering Sarah's request. "When you left, you cursed Jareth. Your words were his undoing and you left him with a broken heart, fracturing his magic. His powers started to fade and the Labyrinth fell into chaos. It may not've seemed like it, but Jareth did maintain a certain order to things. Without his power to control the Labyrinth, it grew and became unstable."

"That's why it seems so much bigger," Sarah muttered, riddled with guilt.

"It grows everyday, but it can't sustain its own growth. The more it grows, the more it dies. Soon, there won't be any life left in the Labyrinth," Hoggle explained. "Without the protection of Jareth's magic, others from the Underground began to challenge his rule. Desperate for help, Jareth reached out to an old alliance in hopes of regaining his powers. Mizumi, the sorceress Queen of Moraine, scorned Jareth for losing his heart to a mortal girl." Hoggle cringed and looked at Sarah, hoping she was not offended by his recount. Sarah simply nodded, allowing Hoggle to continue.

"She refused to help him even though she knew his power was the only thing from keeping the Labyrinth from falling." Hoggle shook his head. "Rotten thing to do, even to someone like Jareth, if you ask me. Mizumi's known Jareth for centuries. She's a jealous and spiteful breed and I think she wanted to punish him for loving a mortal over her. But that's another story."

"Mizumi," Sarah mumbled, the name held no meaning to her, but still she raged with jealousy over the thought of someone else wanting Jareth. "They had a history?"

"Well-er-yes, for centuries. But Jareth, of all people, felt she was too self-centered to have his heart and he left her," Hoggle explained. Sarah nodded, realizing there was much more to this world than she had ever imagined.

"Where was I?" Hoggle asked, deep in thought. "Oh, yes. Eventually, Jareth's power vanished completely and the Goblin City was vulnerable to attack. The goblins still fought under Jareth's command, but his army fell to the threat of the Gorgon Queen of the Northlands."

"The Gorgon Queen?" Sarah echoed. "Who's she?"

"A horrible, wretched creature that can turn her enemies to stone with her foul gaze. She commands legions of Chimera. They burned through the goblin army. Those left standin' retreated into the Labyrinth and have been in hiding, like me. Jareth made a stand at the Goblin City, but the Gorgon Queen had her minions burn it to the ground. She captured Jareth, making him kneel in front of her 'fore she turned him to solid stone." Hoggle finished, gauging Sarah's reaction. "Or at least, that's what I heard."

Sarah gaped in horror as Hoggle's story ended.

"She turned him to stone?" Her skin prickled at the thought.

"That's what I heard," he repeated. "The Gorgon Queen ain't known for takin' prisoners."

"But he could still be alive!" Sarah said, her voice laden with hope.

Hoggle shook his head. "No one's ever come back from stone. All I knows is that Jareth's gone and so's his magic. If he is alive encased in stone, it's only 'cause Euryale keeps him as her prize."

Sarah shuddered at the thought. It would be such a cruel fate to be imprisoned within stone.

"But if Jareth's magic is gone, then how did I get here?" Sarah asked.

Hoggle turned his palms up to Sarah and shrugged. "I don't know. Jareth's the only one with the power to cross between worlds that I know of."

Sarah shook her head. "This doesn't make any sense. This wasn't in the book," she muttered, her fingers rapidly dancing over the pages of the book she still held in her lap.

"Whaddaya mean?" Hoggle asked.

"This part of the story," Sarah muttered, still flipping through the pages. "There was nothing in here about someone named Euryale…" Just as the words left Sarah's lips, she noticed that the book actually had more pages than before. Shocked, she began reading the freshly printed lines. Her eyes skimmed over the story and she read about the Princess who had returned to the Labyrinth and joined with an old friend, listening to the tale of woe that had befallen the Labyrinth and its King in her absence. She flipped to the next page and the words appeared right before her very eyes. It was as if the story was being written as she lived it. She dropped the book to her lap and looked at Hoggle who gazed inquisitively back at her.

"Sarah, what is it?" He asked, concerned.

"The story," she said, bewildered. "It's writing itself as I live it." Her words to Hoggle returned to her. "It's like it's my story. It's being written for me."

"What do you-" Hoggle's question was cut short as a thunderous rumble resounded throughout the small abode.

Hoggle was on his feet quickly, running to the door.

Sarah stood as well, fear pricking at her. "What was that?"

"Shhhh!" Hoggle hissed, leaning his ear against the door. An unholy screech ripped through the air, causing the flesh on Sarah's arms to quiver. Hoggle shot back from the door, the color draining from his face. "It's them! They're here!"

"Who?!" Sarah cried.

"The Chimera! They must've tracked us somehow. We gotta get outta here! They'll burn us to ashes!" Hoggle grabbed Sarah's hand and pulled her deeper into the house. Sarah was barely able to snatch her backpack and toss her book inside as Hoggle dragged her behind him.

"This way!" Hoggle screeched as the door behind them groaned and splintered under the barrage of a heavy thud. Sarah turned in wide eyed fear towards the door, frantically searching for the attacker. Another heavy thud shuddered the door, sending shards of splintered wood into the room. Through the gaping hole, Sarah witnessed the most terrifying creature she'd ever seen.

It had the jaws of a lion, but the twisted yellow eyes of a goat. Horns rose from its fiery orange mane at the top of it's head. It snarled, shooting flames from it's grotesque maw. It reached in one long, scaled paw, and clawed at the latch with lizard like claws that were sickeningly reminiscent of a human hand.

"Oh, my God…" Sarah gasped, petrified with horror at the abomination glaring at her. The Chimera snarled and reached for her, but she was thankfully far out of its grasp. It pulled its body back out of the hole and hurled itself against the door again, buckling the faltering wood even more. A snake slid through the hole in the door, it's ruby red eyes trained on Sarah. It opened its mouth wide to reveal deadly, sharp fangs dripping with venom. Sarah's stomach turned in horror and disgust as she realized that the snake was part of the creature. It was in fact, the Chimera's tail.

"RUN, Sarah!" Hoggle yelled, shaking Sarah from her shocked state. She looked over her shoulder to see Hoggle huddled in a shallow passage. Sarah nearly dove for him, shoving her backpack into the passageway first and quickly wriggling into the tight crevice. She began to crawl as fast as she could, hearing the disconcerting groan of the wooden door as the creature broke through and bounded towards them. Sarah screamed at the heavy and rapid footfalls that fastly approach her. She pulled her legs into the crevice as fast as she could, but she was too late. Twin daggers of pain stabbed through the fabric of her jeans and tore at her skin. Red hot points of pain danced through Sarah's vision and she cried out as waves of searing agony coursed up her leg and throughout her body.

She kicked out frantically, using the heel of her sneaker to grind the creature's snake tail into the ground. The creature howled in pain as Sarah kicked furiously with her other foot and managed to dislodge the snake head from her leg. Now free, Sarah dug viciously at the soil surrounding her, pulling herself up further into the long passageway, effectively gaining distance from the blood thirsty creature.

The creature shrieked hellishly behind her, frantically clawing and digging at the earthen hole. After several moments of intense anticipation, Sarah realized that the creature was far too big to follow and she was safe for the moment. Sarah continued to crawl and pull herself along the earthen hole, the creature's bellows becoming distant and muffled. Sarah grasped at stray roots, pulling herself through the tight crevice. Finally, after what seemed like an eternity, Sarah saw moonlight peeking through the opening. She reached for the moon, almost hoping she could grab it and pull herself to freedom. As she continued to stretch, her hands shot through and kissed fresh air. She wiggled out of the hole, gasping in deep gulps of fresh, clean air. She rolled out of the crater and lay on her back next to Hoggle, who clutched Sarah's bag tightly.

Sarah panted and reveled in the cool, fresh breeze, relieved to be free of the nightmare that had chased them.

Sarah's leg began to throb, tearing her away from the relief she felt from the cleansing night air. She sat up and winced at the sight of the ripped and bloody mess of her pant leg. Sarah tentatively moved pieces of tattered fabric from the wound to examine her leg. Two large angry red gashes adorned the back of her calf. Even though it hurt like hell and looked nasty, it could have been much worse. She remembered that the creatures breathed fire and she could have been roasted in the hole. Distractedly, she wondered why the creature hadn't burned her alive. Sarah shook her head, pulling at the torn fabric of her cardigan and ripped off a strip. She wove the makeshift bandage around her leg, hoping it would help stop the bleeding.

She looked over to Hoggle who laid with his head back and his eyes closed. He struggled to catch his breath.

Sarah swallowed thickly, a heavy realization finally dawning on her. "I'm not dreaming, am I?"

Hoggle shook his head, his eyes still closed. "You never were."

Return to the Labyrinth

A Labyrinth Story
by ArtemisFallen

Part 3 of 24

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