Continuing Tales

Twists of Fate

A Crossovers Story
by Stormlight

Part 7 of 14

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Twists of Fate

"What the devil's goin' on?" Wreath cried. "Vincent! Where are you?"

"Where's Jacob?" Sarah cried. "Somebody grab Jacob!"

"I can't find him!" Vincent cried, his voice alarmed. "Jacob, where are you?"

"He's perfectly fine," a new voice suddenly proclaimed, rather calmly amidst the chaos.

Immediate silence ensued, all but for Sarah, who whimpered in recognition of that clipped, British accent. The lights flared up again, suddenly and brilliantly, causing everyone to cringe and cover their eyes, and when the glare had faded, a man stood there beside the fireplace, dressed in the garb of the old style, with a glittering black, high-collared cloak draped about his shoulders. The glow of the flames playing across his beautiful features in blood-red light, giving him the appearance of some demented angel. A sleeping Jacob was cradled in his arms.

"Jareth, let him go," Sarah whispered, her face very pale and her eyes nearly swallowing her face. "They were only reading the story."

"This is Jareth?" Wreath gasped, giving Sarah a sharp glance. Sarah nodded, her eyes never leaving the Goblin King's face. Wreath shook her head, looking back to the silent king. "I guess that dream wasn't a dream after all," she whispered, trying to find some humor in the situation.

Nobody was laughing, least of all Sarah. "I guess not," she whispered back, her hand coming up to cover her pounding heart. She refused to pass out now. She might be the only one who could talk her their way out of this mess. Not that Jareth would listen to her...He didn't seem particularly glad to see her...

"Give me my son!" Vincent suddenly snarled, and launched himself at the stranger, who merely waved a graceful, black-gloved hand, and the giant cat-man was suddenly frozen where he stood. He stared at Jareth in astonishment, as did Wreath.

Jareth cocked his head, a wry smile playing about his lips. "Well, well. What have we here?" he murmured. He strode across the room, toward Sarah, who stood straight as a sentinel, refusing to give in to panic. "Hello, Sarah. It's been a long time," he said softly, a hand reaching up to caress her face in an almost tender gesture.

She flinched back. "Not long enough," she hissed. "Give Vincent his son, and go away. You have no power over me, remember?"

He glared. "Of course I remember!" he snapped. "I've never been able to forget. But I'm not here for you. Not this time. I'm here for this little one, instead." He regarded the sleeping child. "Quite an unusual child," he noted with a touch of amusement. "If I didn't know better, I'd almost think he was a changling. Of course, I can clearly see who his father is." He circled a livid Vincent, who was straining against his invisible bonds, teeth bared in a snarl. "A most unusual creature. A human? Perhaps you're the changling," he added thoughtfully. "You look the part."

"A changling?" Wreath asked, confused.

"It's a faerie trick," Sarah explained in a low voice. "A changling is what a fae leaves behind after stealing a child from its human parents. It could be anything from another fae child, to a common beast, like a wolf cub or a pig...That's why I thought Vincent was from the Underground, at first. He has the look of a creature from there." She shot Jareth an evil glare. "I should have known better. Anybody with as much courage and honor as Vincent holds cannot possibly be from a place like the Labyrinth!"

Jareth returned her glare, then turned to Vincent. "I suppose I should go through that part about offering you your dreams, but as I can see, I doubt you'd be interested in accepting them. So, I suppose I'll simply wish you all a good day and be on my way..."

Wreath and Vincent's cries of protest were drowned out by Sarah's sharp, "Wait!"

Jareth turned to regard her.

She took a deep breath. "Let Jacob go, and I'll return in his place," she said quickly, before she could think about what she was doing. She ignored Wreath's cry, and continued, "I know I'm what you're really after. Think of it, Jareth. After eight long years, you'd finally have a chance to get your revenge on me for defeating you. You don't want Jacob, you want me. Take me, instead. I'm offering myself to you."

Jareth narrowed his eyes further and came closer until he was only inches away, staring into her eyes. "Are you sure you know what you're saying?" he murmured. "If I take you, I could do to you whatever I wished, and you would have no power to stop me. I could torture you...kill you...ravish you anytime I pleased..."

"I know," she whispered. "But at least you won't get your hands on Vincent's son."

His face was expressionless. "Why would you offer yourself in his place?"

"Because it's my fault. I'm the one that threw out that book, instead of destroying it, and now it's found its way down here where it has caused harm to people I care about. If I'd destroyed it properly, you wouldn't be here. This is the least I can do for them after everything they've done for me," she replied bravely. "Well? What say you? Do you accept my offer?"

He searched her face, looking for any sign that she might be lying. But for once, her face was as expressionless as his own, and her haunted eyes were cold. His own eyes, however, held something she'd never expected to see. Was it...hope? "Do you truly wish to be taken into my Labyrinth for the rest of your life?" he whispered. "Truly?"

Sarah hesitated. She sensed, suddenly, that there was more to this question than what was spoken. This was something that would determine his decision. She'd best be honest. "Of course I don't want to go!" she snapped. "But if it will save Jacob then I have to!"

The hope faded from Jareth's eyes like water from a broken bottle, and his usual stoic mask took its place. She knew that it had been the wrong answer. "Your offer is refused," he stated in a flat, emotionless voice. "Jacob comes with me. However, as the rules follow, Vincent, you have thirteen hours to transverse my Labyrinth in order to get your son back. If you fail, he will remain, and you will be returned to your home."

"I'm going along!" Sarah suddenly cried.

He looked at her with open astonishment on his face. "I beg your pardon," he huffed.

"You heard me," she replied stubbornly, crossing her arms.

"I'm going, too!" Wreath pitched in. At everyone's astonished looks, she grinned. "Well, you didn't think I'd let you go and have all the fun, did you?" she added cheekily. "I'd fancy a trip to Fairy Land, myself, and somebody's got to watch Jacob."

"But you have no idea how dangerous it can be," Sarah protested, and Vincent agreed.

Wreath merely waved the protests aside. "You and Vincent are my friends, and I'm not about to let either of you take on this person alone," she replied firmly, "and that's that."

Jareth, for his part, was looking from one to the other in open astonishment. In all of his millennium of existence, never had three separate people argued over who was going to get to go *into* his Labyrinth! It was...unorthodox! "Just wait one moment!" he roared, causing everyone to fall silent and look at him in surprise. He glared at them. "Are you all completely insane?!" he cried. "This is not a picnic in the park, it is a test for your very survival, and the survival of this child! What are you trying to prove here? There are rules to be followed, you know!"

"Well, what do you suggest we do then?" Wreath asked stubbornly.

Jareth blinked, and Sarah almost laughed aloud at the uncharacteristic disbelief that crossed his face. He must have been completely shocked by this! "'Do'?" he repeated in disbelief. "What do you *think* I do?! I take the child, and Vincent must transverse the Labyrinth to get him back. It really isn't a hard concept to understand, you know."

"So you aren't allowing us to go with him?" Wreath pouted. "That isn't..."

"Don't even say it!" Jareth roared, and this time Sarah couldn't stop the sharp laugh that slipped past. She bit her lip as Jareth turned his glare to her, but she was still grinning, and her shoulders shook slightly as she fought for control. "I suppose this is amusing you," he purred.

"It's not at all like I remember," she replied sweetly. Which was the truth. With two other people there, she didn't feel half as terrified as she had the first time around. Of course, it also helped that she knew a little of what to expect this time. Not only that that she was facing Jareth again, she realized that, not only was she *not* afraid, she was...exhilarated! It was that exact same feeling she'd had when she first had started acting, but had lost soon afterwards. That empty space within her was filling up, but she refused to ponder what that meant at the moment, concentrating instead on enjoying watching Jareth getting his face rubbed in the dirt.

His eyes were dangerously narrow as he regarded her. Apparently he wasn't used to being laughed at. He looked as though he was considering doing something unspeakably nasty to her, but Jacob suddenly stirred in his arms, bringing him back to the present. "Enough of this nonsense," he growled. He gestured toward the doorway of the library, and instead of darkened tunnels there appeared a familiar landscape. "You have thirteen hours to reach the castle at the soul of the Labyrinth before your...son becomes one of us forever. Such a pity," he intoned boredly, and began to walk through the portal.

"I wish the goblins would come and take Wreath away right now!" Sarah cried suddenly. She didn't know why she said that. It just slipped out without her even thinking about it. Almost as though somebody else had spoken through her. But it got the desired effect. Jareth stopped dead in his tracks, and she could almost see the stunned expression on his face. Wreath could see it, and she began to laugh.

"Sarah, you sneaky little imp!" she exclaimed, not at all put out by having just been wished into the Labyrinth. "That was a rather nasty trick!"

Sarah grinned. "Well, you wanted to go, and I wanted to go, and this was the best way to get there," she replied. She looked at Jareth, who had not turned around. He seemed a little upset. "Well?" she asked him. "Shall we go?"

Jareth's shoulders slumped in defeat, and with a slight nod of his head and a heavy sigh, he continued on into the portal and promptly vanished. Vincent followed him hurriedly, having been released at Jareth's departure. Sarah and Wreath looked at each other, then grinned and slapped each other a high five. "See you at the castle!" Wreath exclaimed with another wicked laugh, and stepped through the portal, where she, too, vanished. Sarah took a deep breath and released it. "Well," she said softly, "I did ask for it!" With a grin and a shake of her head, she, too entered the portal, which closed behind her with a flash of light.

* * * * *

The Lady smiled as the last of them vanished through the portal. It had been a bit of genius on her part, she thought rather smugly, to have caused Sarah to wish Wreath into the Labyrinth. Or perhaps it was more desperation. Jareth was much more stubborn than she'd first anticipated. It was going to be more difficult than she'd realized to help Fate bring this to pass. It would be a challenge. She smiled. It was a very good thing that she had always loved a challenge.

* * * * *

They stood on that same hill, with the sun just rising over the Labyrinth, casting everything in golden light. Vincent looked on, amazed at the forbidding beauty of it. "I've seen a sunrise once," he murmured. "It was the most beautiful thing I'd ever seen, but this is even more beautiful." "Yes. Beautiful as a viper, and twice as deadly," Sarah replied quietly. "Vincent, you know this is going to be one of the most difficult challenges you've ever had to face, don't you?"

He looked at her. "Yes. Why did you do that?" he asked. "Why did you wish Wreath away? If you should fail..."

"I'm not going to fail," Sarah replied shortly. "I've done this before, when I was just a scared kid half in love with a dream. I certainly can take care of myself now. Now look, we're both going to have to reach the castle within thirteen hours, or we lose and they...well, Jacob will be turned into a goblin. I don't know what will happen to Wreath."

"She'll be tossed into an Oubliette," came a voice from behind, and a rather peeved-looking Jareth appeared. "She's too old to be turned into a goblin, and I have no use for her, really. She'll be tossed in there and be forgotten." He noticed Sarah's pale face and smiled. "Having second thoughts, sweet Sarah?" he asked sweetly. "You really didn't think this through when you wished her away, did you? Ah, but that's how I've always remembered you. Someone who never looks before she leaps, follows her impulses rather than her common sense. You haven't changed a bit."

"Unfortunately, neither have you," she replied bitterly.

Jareth gave a dark laugh. "Oh, but I have," he said dangerously. "I've had eight years to change my ways, and I don't think you'll find they're for the better. For instance..." He paused and began to circle Sarah like a vulture. "This time, I am going to raise the stakes," he purred in her ear. "Remember this?" He held out his hand, and a crystal appeared in his palm. Sarah flinched away from it as though it had bitten her. "Yes. I see that you do." His voice was highly amused. "Your dreams, Sarah. Your true dreams, not those that you thought you knew. Did those come true? Have they filled your life the way you expected them to? No? That's because they *aren't real*! These I offer you *are* real. If you take them and forget this, you'll have everything your heart desires." He moved closer until his lips were nearly brushing her ear. "Everything," he whispered seductively.

Sarah jerked away with a sharp, "No!" Her heart was pounding furiously, and she wondered if she needed to take another pill. "I'll not fall for your trickery, Jareth!" she cried. "I didn't accept them before, why do you think I'd accept them now? I know what my dreams are, and if they're going to come true, they'll do so on their own! Not by faerie glamour!"

His face went hard. "Very well," he bit out. "But know this. When you transverse the Labyrinth this time, you have more than one to save. You have two! Both of you! If either of you fail to reach the castle within the thirteen hours, both the girl and the babe will be trapped here...forever! Now, how do you like those stakes?"

"You can't do that!" Sarah cried. "That's not how the rules work!"

"Well, this evening has just been full of surprises then, hasn't it?" he snapped, his voice dripping with sarcasm. "It isn't every day that I've two at once who willingly wish themselves into the Labyrinth! There are no rules to deal with that! So I suppose I just have to make some up!"

Sarah fell silent, and Jareth sighed and pointed to the clock that appeared in mid-air. "Thirteen hours. Fail, and two innocents who depend on you are doomed. Such a pity." He, and the clock, faded away, leaving Vincent and Sarah alone.

* * * * *

The Lady watched as Jareth left, frowning. He really was very stubborn. Had she misjudged him? His raising the stakes...She had not expected that. This faerie creature was much more complicated than she'd given him credit for. But, it was her own fault, she supposed, that she hadn't remembered the tales of the faerie peoples' contrary natures. When any one of them wanted something, they always went about getting it in the wrong manner. In the most indirect route, using trickery and games to succeed, rather than open honesty. Well, she was a bit of a trickster herself, and she knew that even one such as Jareth could not stop her should she choose to help his "guests" along...

* * * * *

"This is completely unbelievable," Vincent said to Sarah in an awed voice. They had started down toward the outer wall of the Labyrinth, picking their way carefully along the rock-strewn hillside. "Every instinct is screaming at me that this place cannot possibly be real! Faerie lands are not real!"

Sarah gave a bitter laugh. "Oh, it's real, all right, and so is everything that lives in it. Listen up, okay? I don't know when I'll be able to tell you this again. I know Jareth, and I know he'll do everything in his power to separate us and make it more difficult for us both to reach the castle. The stakes have never been this high, and I have a feeling it's going to be a lot more difficult this time around. There are things you have to know if you're going to make it through the Labyrinth in one piece."

She held up a finger as Vincent waited silently. "The most important rule is this: Never, ever take *anything* for granted in the Labyrinth. Things are never what they seem, so you can't trust what's before your eyes." She paused and picked her way the final few feet to the ground. They stood at the door of the Labyrinth, which were shut tight. "Next, watch out for those oubliettes Jareth mentioned. They're probably everywhere. I've had the unfortunate pleasure of being introduced to one. There is no way to escape them. A friend told me that Oubliettes are places to put people to forget about 'em, and that's exactly what will happen."

"But then how did you escape it?" Vincent questioned.

She gave a wry smile. "That friend helped me escape," she replied. "He's a dwarf...yes, a real live dwarf...named Hoggle. Jareth sent him to lead me out of the Oubliette and to the beginning of the Labyrinth again, but he ended up switching sides. I'll have to tell you about it sometime...preferably when we get out of here."

"Do you think we'll meet him?" Vincent wondered. "His help would be valuable."

"I know," she replied with a worried frown. "That's why Jareth probably made sure we won't meet up with any of the friends I made here last time. But no matter. About that oubliette. If you do fall into one, you'll be caught by things growing out of the wall that are called the Helping Hands."

"The Helping Hands?" Vincent looked incredulous, and she gave him a wry smile.

"Yeah, I know. Sounds kind of like an Underground version of the Salvation Army, huh? But it's true. They're hands that form faces, and they can talk, too. They'll ask you which way you want to go. Under no circumstances do you ever tell them 'down'! Say you want to go up instead, or you're stuck in the oubliette, and I doubt that Jareth would have such a convenient escape rout planned this time around."

"I understand," he said, looking a little dazed. She smiled. "Are you okay?" she asked. "You're not gonna be sick or anything, are you?"

"No, I'll be fine. I'm just trying to accept all this," he assured her with a weak smile. "In all my boyhood dreams and adventures, I never dreamed something like this."

"I know. It is hard to believe. But put aside the fact that you're an adult. I mean, Jacob would have no problem believing a place like this could exist. Kids are still innocent. They don't know any better, because Reality hasn't reached them yet, hasn't drilled in all those cold, hard facts about the way the world is supposed to work. That's why they believe in Santa Clause, and the Easter Bunny, and Peter Pan, and all magic in general. I mean, I was here before, and right now I'm still having a hard time accepting the fact I'm here again! I lied to myself all these years, telling myself it was only a dream, because I'm an adult and adults don't believe in fairy tales, even though I know they're real!" She laughed. "Am I in need of a good shrink, or what?"

Vincent was smiling. "No more than I," he replied. "Tell me, what else need I know of this Labyrinth?"

She threw up her hands. "Tons!" she exclaimed with a grin. "But I don't have time to explain it all to you. So I'll tell you what I can, until Jareth finally manages to separate us." She pointed to the gates. "Right now, I suggest we find a way to open these doors."

Vincent pushed against them with all his might, then pulled. They didn't budge. "Please, let us into the Labyrinth," he asked politely. Not a twitch.

"Open Sesame!" Sarah said jokingly, hardly surprised when it didn't work. Finally, she walked up to the doors, knocked three times, and, to their surprise, they swung silently open. "Who'd have thunk?" she asked with a grin, and stepped inside. The door slammed closed behind them. "Okay, let's choose a path and stick with it. Feel along the walls. There are openings in them that you can't see, but they're there. Don't look for them. Let them find you."

They each took a side and started picking their way through the rubble that littered the walkway, trailing their fingers lightly along the walls. "Another thing you need to watch out for are the fairies," Sarah said as they walked. "Those little flitting creatures in the bluebells outside the walls? Those were fairies. Beautiful little things, but don't be fooled. They bite, and really good, too. I found that out the hard way. They're like Tinkerbell on steroids."

Vincent chuckled at that. "I'll be sure to remember," he replied.

She nodded. "Also, if you start to smell anything really, really bad, avoid at all costs. That's the Bog of Eternal Stench." At his skeptical glance, she snorted. "Don't let the name fool you," she muttered. "I was in it, and it was worse than anything you could possibly imagine! It eats right through your skin, and gets into your throat and makes you gag and you can hardly breathe..." She shuddered at the memory. "If you even stick a foot in that Bog, you'll smell bad the rest of your life," she added firmly. "It won't come off. I didn't believe Hoggle either when he told me, not until I was in it, and I don't want to go back."

"I'll take your word for it," he replied. "Avoid the Bog. Is there anything else?"

"Oh, plenty. For instance, avoid peaches...and any other type of food you might come across. The last peach I ate down here ended up with me at a ball."

"How is that a bad thing?" he asked.

"I lost three hours of time, and ended up forgetting what I was there to do," she replied bitterly. "I ended up in the junk heap, and if it hadn't been for my friends I'd still be there."

He nodded. "I understand," he replied.

She stopped and grinned suddenly. "Oh, and never, under any circumstances, are you ever to call Jareth's Labyrinth a piece of cake. Especially not to his face. He doesn't take kindly to that."

"You have experience, I take it?" Vincent's voice was gently amused.

"Um...yeah. Let's see...The first time, I ended up in the oubliette. The second time, and that's the time I said it to his face, he took a few hours off my time and sicced the Cleaners on me. You don't want to meet up with the Cleaners. They keep the lower tunnels clear of...debris. Such as any person who happens to be wandering around down there at the time. Then Hoggle said it in the courtyard of Jareth's castle, and that's when the entire goblin army appeared."

Sarah's hand suddenly passed through the wall, and she stumbled in with a startled "Oh!" Vincent followed her, looking amazed at having just passed through a seemingly solid stone wall. They stood in the inner passageway. "Great! We're making progress!" she exclaimed cheerfully. He gave her a disbelieving look, and she grinned sheepishly. "You have to keep a positive outlook about this," she warned him, "or the sheer size of this place will wear your energy away. And another thing. We don't have any clocks, and time has a way of catching up with you down here at amazing speeds. I don't think it actually follows any set patterns. You must treat every minute you spend here as though it were your last, because it very well could be. Only quick wits and sharp instincts and a lot of luck will get us through this in one piece. We have to keep it together, understand?"

"I understand," he replied quietly, laying a heavy hand on her shoulder. "I'm beginning to realize that there's more to you than I'd ever imagined. Jareth underestimated you once. He may very well do so again."

Sarah blushed at his praise. "Well, I doubt that," she replied with a laugh. "And I'm not about to underestimate him, either, and neither should you. He does things his own way to suit him, and he cares little for the safety of mortals like me. Even mortals like you. But enough talk. I think I told you everything I can, though I'm sure there is much more that I don't know about, so be on your guard at all times. Oh...and if you should reach the Fiery Forest...avoid the crazy red creatures that live there. That's the Fire Gang, and they have a habit of dismembering themselves and playing basketball with their heads. They'll take your head off, too, if you give them a chance at it. It's a goblin thing. Anyway, if we do get separated, or should I say when, just keep heading for the castle, and don't look back." She smiled at Vincent and patted his arm, and they both turned and started down the long, twisting paths that would eventually lead them to their liberation...or their condemnation.

Twists of Fate

A Crossovers Story
by Stormlight

Part 7 of 14

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