Continuing Tales


A Labyrinth Story
by Jack Hawksmoor

Part 2 of 8

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Sarah almost dropped her flashlight. She stood up sharply, hating the hopelessness on his face.

"It eats...people, then?" she asked, fighting hard against fear. She eyed her umbrella by the door. She had a, damn, she'd left it in the car. There was that extra piece of wrought iron left over from when she'd put her bed together...

"Oh, no," Jareth said quietly, as if he wished it were only that bad. "I imagine that when it gets in you'll be fairly safe. From becoming a meal, at least."

Sarah stepped up beside him, her stomach tightening unpleasantly.

"It wants you," she said, touching his arm lightly. The wound under his shirt was still bleeding, soaking into the cloth.

"It wants power. Magic. It wants to feed off me," Jareth said with a terrible hatred in his eyes. "I've been their guest for..." his face fell. "I'm sure how long now. Years."

Sarah took a step back, her mind groping with the horror of that idea.

"They locked you up," Sarah said, her mouth dry.

"Oh, yes," Jareth said, and there were terrible, terrible things on his face.

God, his eyes...what had they done to him? She found herself suddenly wrestling with a strange, enigmatic pang of guilt. Sarah had been living in her apartment for years, happy and content while he...

Sarah had a thought that she hated.

She gritted her teeth, outraged. Sarah hadn't heard from her friends in ages. One day they'd simply stopped coming. She'd thought that perhaps the Goblin King had put a stop to it, or worse, that they'd forgotten her. sounded like her friends had stopped coming about the time when that beast and his friends had kidnapped the King, and something told her it wasn't a coincidence.

She thought of Hoggle, and sweet Ludo, trying to deal with one of those things outside.

"It won't get in," she growled. "I won't let it, I promise."

Jareth looked startled.

"You...are going to protect me," he sounded like she'd genuinely caught him off guard.

"Yes," Sarah said stoutly, "at least until you can get back to the labyrinth."

Just like that, Jareth was furious again.

"The labyrinth," he said in a mocking tone of voice. There was something in his face, though, that was different. Maybe it was because she'd offered her help, but whatever it was, Sarah could tell that he wasn't angry at her now. He was just angry. "The labyrinth!" he shouted, making her jump.

"There is no labyrinth," Jareth hissed.

Sarah's mouth fell open as her mind fumbled with that. Before she could process it, something began to beat at the front door again. The words above her door burned white-hot, shooting sparks. Both she and Jareth flinched back a little from the heat.

They grabbed onto each other, unthinking. The monster howled at the door. Two people against the Big Bad Wolf. Jareth's temper wilted at the presentation of more immediate problems.

"It won't hold," he said tensely, as if he was a plumber giving a professional opinion. He frowned, squinting to examine the brightly glowing letters. "What is that? A spell?"

Arching above her door, glittering brightly from the attack outside, was a complete mural done in silver of a particular set of gates from a particular story that Sarah had spent many hours reading. There were words written on it, but they weren't written in English.

Sarah blushed beet red, glancing at the words and wishing very hard that he hadn't noticed them.

Speak Friend.

For a moment, the words shone like a star.

"It's from the Lord of the Rings," Sarah said, her face hot. "You know, 'speak, friend, and enter'." she added weakly. "The power comes from the belief, and lots of people love that story, so I figured, why not?" It had taken her hours to get exactly right, standing on a stool with the book in one hand and a paintbrush in the other. Silver paint did not come out in the wash. Plus, everyone who came over asked about it and gave her weird looks.

She still thought it was worth it.

"I see." Jareth said, sounding rather fondly amused, almost as if he could see her thoughts. "Clever of you." He did not try to sound like he meant it. He smiled a rather sharp smile and looked away casually, as if she wouldn't notice he was trying not to laugh at her.

Sarah was abruptly reminded that the man in front of her had seen her at fifteen, in her little princess dress, prancing about and trying to act like a lady to be reckoned with. She put a hand to her face and sighed.

"It should be all right to shoot anyone who knew you between the ages of thirteen and seventeen," Sarah said wearily. "It would save everyone so much embarrassment..."

A particularly heavy blow hit her door, and they both jumped. Sarah found herself clinging to him without really remembering when she'd started.

"On the contrary," Jareth said, rubbing gently at her arms, "It's comforting to see that some things don't change." He was holding on to her, and she was abruptly presented with a sense memory she didn't know what to do with. Jareth smelled fantastic. He'd always smelled fantastic, but she'd managed to forget about it somehow. Self-preservation, probably. Trying to save herself from dwelling endlessly on the brief moments she'd gotten close enough to him to notice it.

It was like summer storms and cotton candy and Christmas...Jareth smelled like dreams, and it was unjustly intoxicating. The scent roused a seldom-visited part of her mind and the memory of what it had felt like to dance in his arms reached out of her past and walloped her across the head.

Jareth's eyes widened a little. Sarah realized with horror that she had a rather stupid expression on her face.

The pounding stopped, and Sarah patted lightly at his chest, relieved more for the distraction than the end to the assault. She avoided the area that was staining his shirt, but looked up at him pointedly.

"You're bleeding all over yourself," she told him. Jareth glanced down sharply and his eyebrows went up.

"Ah. Yes, I see that." He said it as if he really hadn't noticed and couldn't care less. He looked up at her hesitantly, as if to check her face for a return of her dopey expression. Sarah did not oblige him.

"Do you...want something for that?" Sarah said hesitantly, one hand going up to delicately lift away the cloth. It stuck to his skin, and she winced in sympathy. Come to think of it, she wasn't sure what she had that would help. Band-aids, certainly, but it didn't look like that would remotely cover it. Besides, they had Snoopy on them. "I could-" she began, not sure how she was going to finish the sentence.

Jareth covered her hand with his, pulled it carefully away from his chest.

"Best not," he advised. "You won't be able to do much to help. It's not going to close."

Sarah thought hard for a moment.

"Magic?" she asked. He nodded once and might have said something, but they were interrupted by the sound of breaking glass.

"Hell," Sarah snarled, and took off running for her hall closet. She yanked open the door as the horseshoe over her broken window flashed brightly enough to illuminate her whole apartment. She grabbed a handful of sporting equipment -a tennis racket, a hockey stick- and flung them unceremoniously into the hallway, shoving coats aside and lunging for the back of her closet.

"Sarah," the warning came from behind her. She could smell the paint on her wall burning.

"Aha!" she crowed, and brought out a heavy piece of twisted wrought iron that should have gone on her bed, if she could have figured out how it went in. Jareth held out a hand to take it from her.

Surprised, she handed it over gingerly, expecting it to hurt him somehow. He hefted it experimentally, showing no ill affects. Shouldn't it hurt him?

Maybe that was silver bullets, she thought, trying to remember. Of course, he was wearing gloves...

He smiled in grim satisfaction and crossed her apartment in four long strides. He hesitated by the broken window, waiting for her ward to react again. It wasn't a long wait, and he brought the iron bar forward in a sharp stabbing motion. He hit something solid that roared and fell away from her window. Jareth kept hold of the bar, bracing himself, and it dripped smoking gore when he pulled it back inside.

Sarah gaped at him, impressed. Jareth set the gross end of it against her kitchen floor, leaning on it casually. He regarded her kitchen table for a moment.

"Tell me," he said, glancing back at her with casual grace. "Have you any nails?"

She did, in fact she had a whole box of them, and a hammer to boot. She helped him prop her kitchen table up against the window frame so he could nail it in place. The monster outside was oddly quiet while they worked, as if it had run away to lick its wounds.

"Do you think we're safe for a while?" Sarah asked, bracing herself to take some of the strain off her arms while Jareth pounded away.

"A short while," Jareth muttered. "It will go to fetch reinforcements, now that it knows I'm trapped here."

"Maybe," Sarah huffed, "you could make a break for it. I've got these keys that I'm really not supposed to use, but...well, they can get us a door to some pretty out-of-the-way places."

Jareth hesitated, then went back to hammering.

"They would follow," he said with a sigh. "And I would be caught out in the open." He paused again, and looked down at her underneath his arm. His face was cool but his eyes were interested. "Us?" He prompted.

Sarah studied her shoes for a moment.

"Well," she said, and stopped. After a moment of thought, she decided to ignore his question. "We couldn't go to the labyrinth," Sarah said, her voice not quite a question and not quite a statement. "But there are other places we could go and hide."

Jareth stopped hammering for a moment, going still.

After a long moment, Sarah tried to crane her neck to look.

"Are you done already?" she asked curiously.

"No." Jareth said quietly, and stopped for a breath or two. "No, we couldn't go to the labyrinth." He sounded as if he was very carefully controlling his temper, and Sarah decided to push her luck.

"What happened?" she asked softly. She was almost afraid to hear the answer. Maybe it was a total lie, maybe the labyrinth was fine and he was just putting her on, but something told her that whatever the truth was, the answer to the question she'd just asked would be something she wouldn't like to hear at all.

After a moment, Jareth resumed hammering, ignoring her question. Sarah let this go on for a bit until she was reasonably certain the table was attached to the window frame, and wouldn't fall if she let go of it.

"Jareth," she said, and pressed on when he didn't flinch or rage at her use of the name. "After I solved the labyrinth I could call on my friends. I did call on them for years. One day they stopped coming." She stepped around the table legs, looking up into his eyes. "You're telling me the labyrinth is gone now. Are they dead?"

Jareth looked down at her, and for a moment he seemed very cold. Very inhuman.

"If they're lucky," he said quietly.

Sarah jerked back, the words hitting her as solidly as if he'd slapped her.

"You tell me what's going on," she breathed, shaken. "You tell me right now or you can get out."

Jareth gave her a brief look of pity that did more to frighten her than anything else that had happened all night.


A Labyrinth Story
by Jack Hawksmoor

Part 2 of 8

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