Continuing Tales

Return to the Labyrinth

A Labyrinth Story
by ArtemisFallen

Part 4 of 24

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Leverage: A Christmas Tale

Sarah shook her head, panic building within her. "No, no, no," she chanted. "This can't be real." She shot a wild eyed look at Hoggle. "I'm in my bed at the motel. I'm dreaming all of this."

Hoggle opened his eyes and glared at her. "Cor! You really think you dreamed up that thing?!"

Sarah's mouth hung open as she prepared to deny the reality of her situation, but no words came. "How can this be real?" She finally asked feebly. "It-it was just a story in a book I liked."

"Look, Sarah, I don't know what to tell you. What I can tell ya is that thing's comin' for us and we're not safe out here in the open like this." Hoggle stood, holding out Sarah's backpack to her. "We gotta keep movin' and find someplace safe."

Sarah stared up at her little dwarven friend in shock. Everything she'd witnessed and everything he'd told her had been real. The Labyrinth had suffered an invasion by a powerful and ruthless Queen and her army of Chimera beasts. Goblins had been slain and countless lives had been lost. This wasn't merely some tale of woe spun through words on a page. This wasn't just the desperate creation of her lonely imagination. Jareth wasn't simply a manifestation of a man who loved her. He had really existed. The Underground world was real, just as it had been all those years ago. Which meant that Jareth truly had loved her and even though she had thought this was just a dream, deep down she had always known it was not. Somewhere in the lost recesses of her heart, she had known this place to be real, but her sensible, adult conditioned mind had made her forget. She'd grown up, but part of her had always held on to the truth, refusing to forget.

Sarah shuddered out a breath, a cold chill crawling its way up her body. This is real. Jareth's real.

Hoggle shook the backpack impatiently, causing Sarah to pull herself from her disembodied thoughts.

"Okay," Sarah said, her voice quavering. "Where do we go?"

"I don't know," Hoggle grumbled. "But we can't stay here."

Sarah nodded, slowly climbing to her feet. She grimaced as a red hot flash of pain flooded through her leg. She grunted in exertion as she tested her weight. It hurt, but she could power through. She reached for the backpack and slung it over her shoulders.

Hoggle gazed up at her with concern. "What's wrong?"

"I just hurt my leg getting out of there. I'll be fine," Sarah breathed, feeling sweat begin to bead lightly on her forehead. She scanned the area. They were no longer in the ruins but in the middle of a crossroad with four different paths. Each path looked the same to Sarah.

Sarah turned to the path on her left and began to torturously walk down it, her leg flaring in protest. Hoggle followed her quietly.

As they walked, Sarah reflected upon her journey and remembered the adventure she'd had as a teenager. She remembered the goblin king in all his splendor and wondered how she didn't see his love for her before. A love that was not a dream, but tangible and real. Her sorrow for Jareth had been real. She'd really wanted to see him, to make amends when she thought it was just a dream.

That's why it hurt so much, her mind taunted her. Because part of you knew this was real.

Sarah shook her head, angry at her own thoughts. She decided to talk to her little dwarven friend who was unnaturally quiet as they walked down the corridors of the Labyrinth.

"I'm sorry about your home, Hoggle," Sarah said sympathetically.

Hoggle hummed in acknowledgment, but didn't say anything. Sarah guessed that he was upset about it as well.

"Do you still think you're dreaming?" Hoggle asked after another long bout of silence.

Sarah chuckled lightly. "No, not in the slightest. It was foolish of me to think that this was a dream to begin with. I don't know why i thought it was. Maybe I couldn't accept that there was another world out there besides my own." She scoffed at the irony. "Even though it's what I've always wanted."

"Maybe that's how you got back," Hoggle suggested.

"What do you mean?" Sarah asked, glancing over her shoulder at her friend.

Hoggle walked faster, catching up to Sarah's side, his sullen mood fading. "Maybe you brought yourself back with your magic."
Sarah smiled. "If only. I don't have any magic, Hoggle. I never have."

"What? 'Course ya do!" Hoggle said loudly. "Don't you remember the magic?"

Sarah stopped and looked down at Hoggle, her brow knitted in consternation. "What are you talking about? What magic?"

"Argh!" Hoggle growled in frustration. "The magic he gave you, what else? Cor! Don't you remember nothin'?" Hoggle shouted, throwing his hands up in the air angrily.

Sarah closed her eyes tightly, remembering something she had just read from the book the night before. "'But what no one knew was that the king of the goblins had fallen in love with the girl and he had given her certain powers,'" Sarah recited.

"Finally you remember somethin' useful!" Hoggle muttered.

"But I don't have any magic!" Sarah argued. "And how do you know he granted me powers?"

"Everyone knows that when a Fae falls in love with another, the recipient of that love receives certain powers!" Hoggle retorted snidely. "Don't you know nothin'?"

"Obviously not!" Sarah growled. "So, where are these so called 'powers' of mine?"

"How should I know?" Hoggle asked shrilly. "I'm just sayin' that you've got to have some power 'cause you were able to come back to Underground from your world and the only one who still had the ability to do that was Jareth. And since since he's not around anymore, that means you got the power to do that."

Sarah rubbed her forehead against the impending headache that loomed behind her eyes. "Okay, okay," she conceded. "Let's say what you're saying is true, that when Jareth did granted me his love that it gave me certain magic powers. What good is the power to travel between my world and yours? How does it help us? It doesn't make sense."

"Think about it, Sarah. Jareth lost his power after you left. So, there's gotta be some kind of connection," Hoggle huffed.

"Maybe, you're right." Sarah wondered, feeling even more guilty about denying Jareth. "This just feels like this is one big puzzle and none of the pieces fit together. I don't-" A distant howl echoed in the distance, snapping their attention back to their current predicament.

"Now's not the time to be solving a puzzle," Hoggle whispered. "We gotta move."

Sarah had no intention of arguing with him. She wasn't sure she was ready for a rematch with the creature just yet. She continued to follow the path, turning down dark corridors and pathways with no semblance of direction or purpose. The ruin of the Labyrinth surrounded them ominously and Sarah couldn't help but feel like they were in a tomb. It also didn't help that the pain in her leg was steadily growing.

Just when she felt she couldn't take anymore and was about to suggest a break, they came upon a heavily thicketed path of dead branches, vines and brush. Sarah peered down the path before pushing her way through the dense grove.

"No! No!" Hoggle cried, grabbing her shirt and pulling her back.

"What?" Sarah asked, confused. "Why not?'

"That's the fairy thicket!" Hoggle muttered. "I hate fairies! Not even those damn Chimera go in there!"

"So," Sarah reasoned. "If the Chimera won't go in there, doesn't that make it the perfect place to hide?"

Hoggle gave Sarah a vexed look. "Oh, fine!"

Sarah turned from Hoggle and began making her way through the dense thicket, keeping her arm raised in front of her so that she could avoid getting whipped in the face by stray branches. The path was dense and treacherous, filled with thorns and brambles that pulled viciously at her clothing and snagged her hair. Sarah began feeling extremely tired and increasingly feverish. She wanted nothing more than to sit down and rest, but she continued to fight her way through the mess of vines and branches inch by precious inch.

Sarah was aware that they were being watched as the mischievous fairies would titter in amusement when either she or Hoggle would trip and become entangled in a web of vine and bramble.

"Careful, Hoggle," Sarah warned. "There's a large vine there and-"

"Umph!" Hoggle cried out. "Yeah, I found it. Rotten piece of- GA-AAH!"

"What?!" Sarah yelped in dismay. "What is it?"

"Damn fairy bit me!" Hoggle grumbled hatefully.

Sarah breathed out in relief, struggling to suppress the wicked smile that tugged at her lips. "They're probably just getting back at you for killing their friends."

Hoggle grumbled a rude reply and resumed following Sarah through the never ending mess thistle and burr.

Sarah slowed, squeezing her eyes shut tightly as the little man inside her head pounded furiously to get out.

"Sarah, what's wrong?" Hoggle asked concerned.

Sarah shook her head lightly, wiping the sweat from her brow. "Nothing, just a headache." She murmured, internally commanding herself to keep moving.

"Just a little further," Sarah muttered to herself for encouragement. "Just a few more steps."

Suddenly, Sarah's hand broken through the thicket and she was greeted to a clearing with a large, black tree surrounded by stone and dead grass. Sarah crawled out of the thicket and over to the tree, collapsing against it, utterly exhausted. She sighed heavily, thankful for the reprieve. A few fairies tittered at her presence. Sarah gazed up at the moonlit sky to see hundreds of fairies languidly buzzing about, illuminating the clearing with their light pleasantly.

"Pests!" Hoggle huffed as he saw Sarah admiring them. "The lot of 'em. No good flying rats is what they are!"

"Why do you hate them so much?" Sarah asked, watching several pairs of pretty translucent wings flutter about her.

"They're vile tricksters!" Hoggle said unhappily. "Winged rats. The only good thing about them is that they can kill a Chimera if the ugly beasts eat one."

"Huh," Sarah mused. "So that's why they don't come into the fairy thicket." She wiped her brow again. Her skin felt like it was on fire.

"You don't look so good," Hoggle observed. "Are you feelin' okay?"

Sarah shook her head, realizing that she needed to check her wound. She carefully pulled up her pant leg, tediously unbinding her makeshift bandage, As the bandage fell away from her leg, she stared in dumbfounded horror at her wound.

"Oh, no," she whispered. Her leg had swollen considerably and the bite marks were now incredibly inflamed and ringed with purple and black streaks.

"What's that?" Hoggle asked.

"The Chimera… it bit me," Sarah confessed, her full attention focused on the putrefying wound.

"Cor!" Hoggle exclaimed. "Why didn't you say somethin'?"

Sarah shook her head. "It wasn't this bad." She looked to Hoggle who wore a bleak expression. "What? What is it?"

"It's bad now, Sarah. Real bad."Hoggle said reluctantly.

Sarah nodded, scolding herself for not telling Hoggle about the bite sooner. "Okay, I understand. What do we need to do?" Sarah asked, fighting the fear that spiked through her tone.

"I don't know," Hoggle said, panic encroaching in his voice. "Maybe… um… maybe…" He shook his head miserably. Suddenly, Hoggle's eye opened wide and flashed with hope. "Didymus might know! He's fought hordes of Chimera and the old fox is still kicking."

Sarah nodded in compliance, more than happy to give Sir Didymus a chance. "Okay, Sir Didymus. Where is he?"

"Where he always is, the bog of eternal stench," Hoggle said, making a face. "Not even Euryale will go there!"

"Good," Sarah said, taking in a deep breath and releasing it as she summoned her courage to stand. "Let's go." She struggled to her feet, bracing herself against the tree. As she placed weight on her leg, fire and glass ripped through her limb, causing her to gasp in shock and pain. Sarah fell hard to the ground, whimpering and groaning against the waves of relentless agony. Hoggle was at her side in an instant.

"Sarah?!" He shouted.

"I… I can't. I can't move," Sarah cried, her leg throbbing with the remnants of stinging fire. "It feels like my leg is full of angry hornets. It hurts," she groaned, burying her head in her arm and combating the onslaught of tears.

"Hold on, Sarah! I'll go get Didymus. You wait right here! Don't move!" Hoggle said hurriedly. He scampered off through the undergrowth. "I'll be back! You just hold on!"

Sarah panted out her pain, groaning through clenched teeth. With considerable effort, she managed to roll herself onto her back. Sarah cried out at the jolt of pain that spiked electrically through her leg and body. She swallowed hard and let out a loud whimper, unable to steel herself against the pain any longer. After several moments, the throbbing subsided into a dull ache and Sarah was able to open her eyes and gaze up at the moon of Underworld. It reminded her of her own moon, but yet it was somehow very different.

Sarah concentrated on her breathing, sucking in long, deep breaths and letting them go slowly. Sarah was sure it wasn't helping her cope with the pain, but it gave her something else to focus on rather than the burning venom that had replaced her blood. Eventually, the pain began to spread throughout her body. Sarah first felt it in her hips, rising fiercely up and through her abdomen and then spreading throughout her chest and arms. Her hands began to tingle and she was powerless against the sobs that erupted from her throat.

"Oh, God," she cried, gasping against the pain. She squeezed her eyes shut tightly. This place, the new Underground was a terrible world and she longed for the days of Jareth. She let out a shuddered breath and attempted to soothe herself with memories of him. She remembered his face and his multi-colored eyes. She remembered the pull of his lips as he smiled at her in his own devilish way. She remembered his offers and she remembered his cruelty when she had rejected him over and over again. He hadn't acted rationally when she had denied him. He hadn't understood how to deal with her rejection. He wasn't human, after all. She couldn't blame him for not understanding that she was far too young to have known what he was offering her.

Sarah, Beware. I have been generous up 'til now, but I can be cruel.

"Generous," Sarah recanted in her feverish state. "What have you done that's generous?"

Everything! Everything that you wanted, I have done. You asked for the child to be taken. I took him….I have reordered time. I have turned the world upside down, and I have done it all for you!

Sarah's breathing slowed, coming out in shallow pants. She opened her eyes to peek at the moon once again. Her vision began to blur and the colorful wings of the fairies that floated above her began to combine until they became the color of Jareth's wonderful eyes gazing down upon her.

"Jareth," she whispered deliriously to the fading sky. "I didn't know. I didn't understand. I couldn't understand. Please, give me another chance. I can make it right. You wanted to show me my dreams, but I mistook you for the dream." She swallowed, her head lulling to the side. Darkness began to creep in on her consciousness.

"Jareth, help me," Sarah whispered. As her world began to fall away, a celestial being leaned over her, beautifully white and magnificent.

"Jareth?" Sarah asked as the figure leaned down into her. Then Sarah's world fell away into darkness.

Return to the Labyrinth

A Labyrinth Story
by ArtemisFallen

Part 4 of 24

<< Previous     Home     Next >>