Continuing Tales

Return to the Labyrinth

A Labyrinth Story
by ArtemisFallen

Part 9 of 24

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Leverage: A Christmas Tale

Sarah was unsure what to expect as they traveled down the passageway. She wondered what other twisted horrors waited for them. However, her concerns soon turned to annoyance as they discovered that the path on which they traveled appeared endless. Sarah craned her neck and strained her eyes in search of any foreseeable end.

"Do you see anything?" Hoggle asked.

Sarah shook her head, sliding her fingers across the stone walls. She wasn't about to take anything for granted. The Labyrinth was full of surprises and hidden paths. She'd been fooled once before by a hidden entrance in plain sight and she was not about to make the same mistake twice.

"No," she mumbled distractedly. "It just goes on and on."

As Sarah continued to walk, she observed that the corridor was gradually becoming narrower. She had never been what you would call claustrophobic, but she couldn't ignore how tight and cramped the path was starting to become. At one point, Sarah wondered if she would have to scale the stone walls to get out of the passage they were stuck in. She lifted her eyes and was discouraged to see the the stone walls appeared to melt into the sky above. Sarah sighed in frustration, continuing to maneuver her body down the narrowing corridor, creeping along slowly. At one point, she became wedged between the walls and the group had to back out so she could remove her backpack and give it to Sir Didymus for safekeeping..

"Ugh, I hate this Labyrinth!" Sarah griped as she painstakingly slid herself against the rough wall, pressing her hands to the opposite side so that she could inch herself along.

"You ain't the only one!" Hoggle huffed, struggling to make his way through the narrow path as well.

"Ambrosius, I fear the time has come to put you on a diet!" Sir Didymus grunted with exertion as he pushed Ambrosius through the narrow passage. Ambrosius growled in response.

"How dare you take that tone with me, you ungrateful steed!" Sir Didymus snarled. "Why, I have half a mind to…"

"I see the end!" Sarah interrupted happily as a brightly lit opening suddenly appeared at the end of the corridor. An immense measure of relief washed over Sara.

"Oh, finally!" Hoggle huffed in relief. "I'm not sure I could've made it much further."

"I'm...almost...there…" Sarah strained as she pulled herself along the wall. "I can almost reach it." Sarah's fingers reached for the immense brightness and kissed the sweet, fresh air of freedom. Excitement overwhelmed her and she grasped the edge of the entrance, wrenching herself through into the bright and awaiting sunlight. As she stepped out, the ground beneath her disappeared. Sarah felt the unforgivable pull of gravity as she was yanked down. She began to scream as she fell, her hands flailing wildly around her, desperately looking for anything to grab. Her frantic grasping hands snagged a hard, twisted vine. The force of Sarah's weight caused her to slide down the dried, knotted plant until she skidded to a jerky halt. Her body collided with the wall, forcibly knocking the wind from her lungs. She panted, uncontrollable fear, pain and confusion sweeping through her. Her hands burned and complained, but she ignored them, clinging to the vine with all the strength she possessed.

The shock of the fall had stripped Sarah of her ability to rationalize and it took a moment before she fully understood what had happened. She looked up to see the entrance of the passage had let out into a stomach shifting drop. Sarah scanned the wall for a ledge, using her feet to feel for any kind of solid mass to prop herself against. The search turned out to be futile as the stone wall was smooth with the exception of the dead plants and vines adorning it. Sarah finally coaxed herself into looking down and saw a dark forest looming far below her. It looked like a predator, waiting for her to fall so that it could devour her.

"Help!" She wheezed, swaying on the vine, dangling precariously over what promised to be her doom.

"Sarah!" Hoggle shouted from the entrance several feet above her. Even though he must have known it was an impossible feat, Hoggle still reached out for her.

"You can't reach me!" Sarah cried out, looking around desperately for some kind of succor.

"What do we do?" Hoggle called down.

"I don't know," Sarah replied, her skin prickling with fear. Sweat had begun to bead on her forehead and she felt on the verge of panic.

She took in several, deep controlled breaths. "Okay," she said, forcing herself to remain calm. "We just have to-"

The vine Sarah held to creaked menacingly and then gave way, dropping Sarah even further. Sarah yelped, clinging to the plant even though it was breaking. She came to another forceful halt. Her hands screamed in pain.

"Sarah!?" Hoggle's frantic wail drifted down to her.

Sarah shuddered in fear, panting heavily. Slowly, she was able to force her eyes open to look up at a very concerned Hoggle. She had to swallow several times as her mouth had gone dry.

"I'm okay," she whispered shakily, which was a lie. She was very far from being okay.

"Hold fast, fair maiden!" Sir Didymus shouted over Hoggle. "We'll save you! ...Somehow…"

Sarah nodded, afraid to make any other gestures. "Hurry," she whined. As if to punish her for making a sound, the vine groaned again in protest of her weight.

"It's slipping!" Sarah cried out despairingly.

"What do we do?!" Hoggle shrieked, concern and terror heavy in his voice.

"Seize another vine!" Sir Didymus commanded, positioning his body between the two walls and hiking himself up above Hoggle. "Lower it down to her. Perhaps we can pull her back up!"
Hoggle nodded, stretching around the opening for a close vine. "I can't grab it" Hoggle gasped.

"Allow me to try," Sir Didymus said, reaching out as well.

Sarah watched them anxiously as they struggled to rescue her. That's when she heard a snap that caused her stomach to twist into sickening knots.

She pulled in a shuddered breath. "Hoggle…"

The dwarf's eyes met hers as the vine threaded and broke with one final snap.

"Sarah!" He shouted.

Sarah's world fell out from under her as she tumbled away from the wall. She screamed as she dropped down into the dark unknown of the forest. She clawed the air frantically, but nothing was going to save her this time.

Sarah felt the air rip at her sharply as it cascaded over her skin and tore through her hair. Her stomach rose to her throat and took up residence there. The wind stole away the very breath she needed to refill her lungs to scream again. Finally, an unsettling reality occurred to Sarah.

This is how I die, she thought. This is how my story ends. How can it end like this?

A powerful warm wind whipped over Sarah as she fell and it carried with it a voice.

"It is you who are the keeper of the Labyrinth," the voice echoed in her ears. "Your power is greater than you could ever imagine."

Sarah gasped, recognizing the voice.

Titania, she thought.

Sarah closed her eyes and focused on the reassuring words. She understood the message Titania had sent to her.

I am the keeper of the Labyrinth, Sarah recited to herself. I have the power to control this place. Believe it. Believe in yourself!

Sarah was finally able to draw in a deep breath. "I am the keeper of the Labyrinth!" She shouted. "I beseech you! Save me!"

She spread her arms out beside her, as if stretching from a long sleep. A quiet calm began to spread throughout her body and she found a sense of peace despite the tumultuous situation in which she found herself. Without warning, another breath of warm wind enveloped Sarah and she felt her descent begin to slow. Gradually, Sarah came to a complete stop. She opened her eyes and saw that she remained suspended several feet above the ground.

She let out a shuddered breath of relief followed by a bout of nervous laughter.

"Oh, my God," Sarah breathed as the warm wind began to ebb until she was gently laid upon the dark forest floor.

Sarah sat up and trembled, wiping the tears of relief that had sprung to her eyes. She was alive. The Labyrinth which had almost killed her had saved her. She pulled in a shaky breath and gazed about her surroundings. She appeared to be on the forest floor which was a soft spongy mass covered in rock and moss.

The ground beneath Sarah suddenly began to quake.

"What in the world…" Sarah gasped, scrambling quickly to her feet. A bellowed growl followed the rumbling and Sarah stumbled, falling against the already raw palms of her hands. She braced herself for the pain, but it never came. Sarah blinked in surprise as she bounced off the ground. Her brow knitted with consternation as she tentatively pushed on the forest floor again. It retracted under her hand and then sprung back into place, reminding her of a child's bounce house. It took Sarah only a second more to realize that the ground was unusually warm. Sarah pulled her hair back as she leaned in to get a closer look at the ground.

Upon further inspection, Sarah realized to her horror that she wasn't on the forest floor at all. She was knelt on a gigantic creature which lay beside the cliff she had just fallen from. Sarah stood up, quickly surveying the ground beneath her, listening to gentle rumblings of the growl that began to slowly die out.

"It's sleeping!" Sarah said to herself astounded. Just as the words left her mouth, the creature exhaled and Sarah could see pores open up through the moss like several tiny mouths. As the creature exhaled, Sarah was once again lifted up into the air, suspended delicately over the growth and foliage that had accumulated on the creature's back.

"Saaaaaarrrrraaaaaaahhhhh!" A shrill voice floated down to her.

Sarah looked up the stone wall, unable to see her companions.

"Hoggle!" Sarah yelled. She looked down and hoped her shouts would not wake the creature. "Sir Didymus!"

"Milady!" Sir Didymus called down in evident surprise. "Are you badly scathed?"

"No, I'm fine." Sarah called up to them as she was once again gently lowered back down to the creature. This time, however, she landed on her feet. "Jump!"

"Are you MAD?!" Hoggle shouted down shrilly.

"It's okay!" Sarah shouted. "You'll be fine."

"Ain't no way, no how!" Hoggle argued.

"Just do it!" Sarah yelled again, feeling the creature's rumbling snore. To avoid being jostled, Sarah sat down and crossed her legs comfortably as she waited for her companions.

"Ambrosius, jump, you coward!" Sir Didymus scolded. "I said JUMP!"

"I ain't gonna jump either!" Hoggle yelled. "You're just gonna have to- ARGHHHH!"

Sarah's hand flew over her mouth to stifle her giggle as Hoggle came screaming and flailing down the cliffside.

"GERONIMO!" Sir Didymus screeched moments later as he and Ambrosius came flying off the cliff after Hoggle. Ambrosius let out an unholy, bloodcurdling wail all the way down while Sir Didymus laughed maniacally.

Just as Sarah had anticipated, the slumbering creature exhaled, levitating her once again and slowing the descent of her comrades.

"You VILE, SICK OLD FOX!" Hoggle shouted as soon as he was able to catch his breath. He kicked helplessly in the air. "I'm gonna rip your tail off and bludgeon you to death with your own spear!"

Sir Didymus cackled in crazy delight as the warm exhale of air slowly began to ebb and they were all planted safely on top of the creature's back.

Ambrosius promptly fell over, fainting from shock and fear. Hoggle clutched his chest breathing rapidly. Sir Didymus seemed thrilled by the trip they had just taken.

"Ho! I verily enjoyed that. How refreshing!" Sir Didymus exclaimed happily. "What an adventure!"

"Cor! YOU TRIED TO KILL ME! ARGH!" Hoggle growled as he dove for the old fox.

Sir Didymus growled and barked in response to the attack, easily dodging Hoggle's sloppy advances.

"Come get some!" Sir Didymus challenged, striking Hoggle in the back of the leg with his spear.

Hoggle howled in pain and rage, stumbling about the soft surface in his hopeless attempts to catch the nimble fox.

They scampered and tripped over Ambrosius who had come to, but still lay panting on his side, his eyes wide with fear and surprise. Sara shook her head in amusement.

"That's enough, Hoggle!" Sarah chided. "Sir Didymus, stop, please!"

They ignored her, continuing to chase and fight one another over the uneven terrain. The low rumbling of the creature's snore finally stopped them.

"Oh, great, what now?" Hoggle griped.

"It's the creature. It's sleeping. We need to get off it and to the forest floor." Sarah explained, scooting herself across the mossy surface.

"Cr-creature?" Hoggle asked astounded, picking up his foot and examining the ground. "You mean, we're not on the ground now?"

"My word!" Sir Didymus declared. "We are on top of a living being?"

"Yes, it was slumbering against the cliff wall," Sarah answered. "When it exhaled, it suspended me in the air and brought me down gently The same thing happened with you guys."

As if to prove her point, the creature began to exhale and they were all levitated in the air again. Hoggle cried out and thrashed violently against the invisible force.

"Calm down, Hoggle," Sarah soothed. "It's okay. It'll be over in a second."

Once they were sat down again, Hoggle began to hurriedly scurry along the creature, tripping and falling unnecessarily. Sarah cautiously scooted along in her sitting position while Sir Didymus used gentle, but insistent encouragement to coax Ambrosius along at a steady pace. Soon, Sarah found herself sliding off the creature and onto the hard, dark forest floor.

Sarah turned, appraising the beast that had saved her life. She stared at the massive animal. To the naked eye, it appeared to be a giant hill covered in rock, vine and moss that breathed with life.

"What is this thing?" Sarah wondered out loud.

"Cor!" Hoggle exclaimed. "It's a Bufo!"

"A what?" Sarah asked.

"I thought they no longer inhabited the Labyrinth," Hoggle continued. "I ain't seen one in years!"
"Nor have I," Sir Didymus appended. "How ever did it end up here? And how did it come to be so massive in size?"

Sarah examined the creature closer and was shocked to discover that it began to resemble a giant toad the size of a house. It unnerved Sarah to think that she was the perfect size for a meal and Hoggle and Sir Didymus would be the perfect snack.

"What do you mean?" Sarah asked. "Are you they rare?"

"Very rare, indeed!" Sir Didymus announced. "They are said to bring good tidings and fortune to those whose paths they cross. I have never had the privilege of seeing one this mighty."

Sir Didymus looked at Sarah. "Milady, you appear to be injured once again," he said motioning to her hands. "Allow me tend to your wounds."

Sarah scoffed. "I'm going to end up as one large bandage after this is over."

"You're lucky that's all you need," Hoggle said contemplatively. "If this big fella hadn't been here, you would've…" he trailed off as he looked at Sarah.

"I called him," Sarah replied softly, still looking at the Bufo as Sir Didymus gently massaged the salve into Sarah's palms before wrapping them with clean strips of cloth.

"What? How'd you do that?" Hoggle asked, giving Sarah an inquisitive look.

Sarah shook her head. There was too much to explain, but she didn't want to leave her companions in the dark.

"When I was falling," Sarah recounted. "I heard Titania's voice. I heard her tell me that I was the Keeper of Labyrinth and I was more powerful than I knew. I beseeched the Labyrinth for help." Sarah gestured to the Bufo with her newly bandaged hand. "This can't be coincidence. This can't just be luck."

"Titania? You, uh, really believe her don't you?" Hoggle asked.

Sarah nodded. "Yes, I do. There's something about her that I can't explain. I feel like there's a connection between us."

"Doesn't it bother you that she knows so much about you?" Hoggle asked. "I don't know how you can trust her when you don't know nothin' about her."

"I don't know why I trust her. I just do. It's true, she does know a lot about me," Sarah acknowledged. "I don't know how she knows, but somehow she does." Sarah smirked. "I doubt I'll ever know because even if I get the chance to ask her, she'd probably only answer in a riddle."

"Humph, them's fairies for ya," Hoggle scoffed.

"All is well now, fair maiden," Sir Didymus announced as he finished the wrap for Sarah's other hand.

"Thank you," Sarah said appreciatively. Sarah reflected on Hoggle's words and reached up to grasp the small crystal vial that still hung around her neck. She pondered how Titania knew so much about her and how Jareth did as well.

"You appear troubled, milady," Sir Didymus observed. "What ails thee?"

Sarah dropped the vial against her chest and crossed her arms. "It's just...Jareth knew a lot about me, too."

"That's cause he watched you in your world," Hoggle said. "As the owl."

Sarah's mouth dropped open as she stared at Hoggle. "What?"

Hoggle's eyes opened wide in dismay. "I-er-uh-I thought you knew!"

Sarah shook her head, suddenly comprehending that the owl she always saw in the park was Jareth.

"I did know," she mumbled. "I mean, I knew he turned into an owl. I remember that from the last time I saw him. I just didn't put it together that he was the owl in the park. I didn't realize he'd been watching me for so long." Sarah gently rubbed her arms, careful not to displace the bandages on her hands.

How long has Jareth known about me? She wondered, chewing on her lip pensively. Did he intentionally seek me out? If so, did he seek me out because of my Fae blood? A ripple of dismay worked its way through her body. Did he just want my magic?

Sarah hated herself for the thought that crept into her mind, but it was something she couldn't ignore. Jareth had discovered a young, naive, Fae blooded girl in the human world who knew nothing about Underground. He took her brother away at her request and then refused to give him back, forcing Sarah to complete the Labyrinth and testing her fortitude. Was it possible that Jareth had constructed the whole thing just to further his magic and his hold on the Labyrinth? Sarah could plainly see that her powers rivaled his when it came to the Labyrinth. It had bent to her will despite his oppressive magical influence. Now that it was free of his hold, the Labyrinth lived and breathed for Sarah. She was giving it life when before under Jareth's rule, it was merely surviving. Was it possible that Jareth wanted to test her influence on the Labyrinth to truly see if her power rivaled his? He had called it his Labyrinth when Sarah had first come to Underground, but she knew now that the Labyrinth was far older than that and Jareth had only come to be its most recent master.

"What if," Sarah started, the words sticking painfully in her throat as a knot of sorrow began to form. "What if Jareth was trying to use me? Use my love to gain better control of the Labyrinth? What if his proclamations of love were only meant to lure me in so that his magic would grow stronger?"

Hoggle noticeably jerked at the words.

"Hoggle, do you know something?" Sarah asked as she noticed the dwarf's uncomfortableness.

Hoggle kicked the ground, shrugging his shoulders. "I don't know nothin' about that."

Sarah bent down so that she was close to him. "You were kind of close to him. You knew of his plans. Tell me the truth, Hoggle. Did he intend to use me?"

Hoggle shifted his gaze up to Sarah, an indiscernible sadness reflected in his eyes. "I don't know what he planned to do with you and that's the truth. I just know I didn't want him to hurt you and he could've without a second thought. But he didn't."

Sarah nodded, not overly satisfied with the explanation Hoggle had given her.

"Pardon, milady, but did you not say that the Goblin King gave you powers?" Sir Didymus recanted. "Does it not say that in your book?" He asked, patting her backpack.

Sarah shook her head. "Titania told me to remember that the story in my book had already been written and played out; that I was writing my own story. I think she was telling me that I shouldn't rely on that story for answers. I should look to my own heart. And my heart tells me that Jareth lied about giving me powers."

"Why would he do such a thing?" Sir Didymus asked.

"Because he's a brute," Hoggle remarked snidely.

"To keep me from knowing that the powers I possessed came from within me," Sarah explained.

"Humans have great power?" Sir Didymus asked, genuinely surprised.

Sarah sighed. "No, not like this. I think Jareth didn't want me to know something about myself. Something he had discovered long before he brought me to the Labyrinth."

"What's that?" Hoggle asked.

"I'm part Fae," Sarah confessed.

"Verily?" Sir Didymus gasped.

"You are?" Hoggle asked astounded.

Sarah ran her fingers through her hair, immediately regretting the gesture as the bandages caught and pulled at the strands. She exhaled forcibly. "I just found out. I needed time to think before I told you guys."

Hoggle fidgeted nervously and Sir Didymus scratched his head.

"Does this change our mission?" Sir Didymus asked.

Sarah leaned up against a tree, reclining her head and closing her eyes. "I don't know."

"I suppose the real question is, does this change how you feel about Jareth?" Hoggle interjected.

Sarah swallowed hard, tears threatening to spill from her eyes. She couldn't deny the hurt she felt at the thought of being manipulated and used. However, it was unfair of her to jump to any rash conclusions. Jareth deserved the opportunity to give her a proper explanation. Sarah thought back to the kiss they shared. She couldn't deny the affection she had felt from him seemed absolutely genuine. He had beheld her as if she were the only thing in his world, as if he hungered for her. Sarah fretted with the bandages on her hand. Jareth had looked at her like that once before. She had seen it in his eyes when he'd offered her everything she had ever dreamed of after she had solved the Labyrinth. She remembered the sorrow and desolation in his eyes when she proclaimed he had no power over her. She recalled how his crystal ball had shattered.

Just like his heart, she thought grimly.

No amount of reasoning could make Sarah deny the truth that she knew deep down inside her own heart. Despite her revelations, she did still love Jareth and she wanted nothing more than to give him a chance to prove her misgivings about him wrong. A deep ache of longing began to fill her chest as she realized she wanted nothing more than to leap into his arms and discover the love she so coveted. The love he had promised her all those years ago.

"No, it doesn't," Sarah finally answered wistfully, swiping away the tears that had begun to fall from her eyes. "I can't give up now. No matter what, I won't give up. Even if I'm right about Jareth and he did use me, this is still something I have to do. For everyone," she set her sad gaze upon her friends. "For you."

"You owe us naught," Sir Didymus argued.

Sarah raised her hand to silence him. "I am indebted to both of you for everything; for your loyalty, your kindness, your friendship." Sarah managed a weak smile. "I won't let you down now."

"We're with you, Sarah," Hoggle said, reaching up and patting her arm. "Until the end."

"Until the end," Sir Didymus echoed.

She nodded, looking around the dark forest. It seemed more foreboding than it ever had before.

"Then we continue forward. The Fireys live somewhere within these woods," Sarah said softly. "We should find them before it gets too dark."

"Yeah," Hoggle whispered nervously as his eyes darted about. "We don't wanna be out here after dark."

"Are you alright, milday?" Sir Didymus asked.

"I will be," Sarah assured him as she took off down the dark path that led into the mouth of the forest.

Sarah didn't know if what she said was true. She had no idea if she would be alright. Her thoughts drifted back to Jareth as she and her companions navigated the treacherous woods. She hoped for her sake that she was wrong about Jareth and that when she liberated him that he would assuage her ridiculous fears. She hoped that by saving him she was not damning herself.

Return to the Labyrinth

A Labyrinth Story
by ArtemisFallen

Part 9 of 24

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