Continuing Tales

Twists of Fate

A Crossovers Story
by Stormlight

Part 9 of 14

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Twists of Fate

She watched as Sarah turned this way and that, trying to find her way out of the forest. She feared the dark shadows of the trees, and the creatures that scuttled beneath her feet, and the Lady could hardly blame her. She was unable to help in the way she wanted to, so she did what she could, drifting ahead to seek out hidden dangers.

Presently, she felt something pulling at the edges of her subconscious. Something dark and rank, like a black cloud. She shuddered, her movements causing a faint breeze to lift and settle again. The Something stirred, awakened, drawn out of a deep slumber by her presence. It raised its head and blinked through empty yellow eyes, scenting the air with psychic feelers.

She stopped in her tracks, her entire being frozen in sudden fear. What was awakening? It was unlike anything she had sensed before! It was old. Possibly as old as this realm she walked in, so old that it was forgotten, until now. She sensed the creatures of the forest beginning to stir, their instincts telling them that danger was afoot. She sent out delicate thoughts, trying to find the source of this danger so that she might somehow steer her charge away from it.

In a patch of blackness, hidden beneath the land, a type of nether-world dwelling place existed where only shadows reigned. The Lady shivered as she carefully probed this blackness. There! She could "see" something there, slowly rising from its eternal hibernation, brought out of it by her presence. But how could it have sensed her? She was little more than a wraith in this land. Her power was not strong enough to wake something such as this!

Nevertheless, the Something was now fully awake, and it was hungry. It sent out feelers of energy from its blackness that passed into the Underground, and the birds sent up a loud cry of alarm and took flight, startling Sarah. The woman stopped dead in her tracks, looking around fearfully as the birds abandoned their nests. She knew danger was close, though she didn't know what it was, or where.

The Something was beginning to rise. The Lady tried to capture it in a web of magic, but her power was nothing to this creature, and it shrugged it off as though it were nothing. It resembled a black wolf. A very grotesque, twisted version of a black wolf. Its jaws gaped, and its paws were twisted into thick claws that were nevertheless deadly. It was lean and gaunt, and appeared to be made out of shadows and the night more than anything else. But that didn't keep it from being dangerous.

It had sensed Sarah, and its yellow eyes fixed on the girl. She had not yet seen it; probably never would until it was too late. It hid within the shadows themselves, deep in the darkness with even its glowing, empty eyes dimmed to nothing. It was following the girl, like a cat following a cornered mouse when it knows it has all the time in the world to kill it. The Lady knew that she was going to need to find help. She couldn't take on that shadow creature by herself and expect to do any good.

Sarah continued to walk, knowing something was wrong, but not knowing that the wrongness paced right beside her within the shadows, waiting its chance to attack. The Lady knew that time was running out. She had to do something before it gathered enough strength to hurt Sarah, so she took herself to the castle in the blink of an eye in search of Jareth.

* * * * *

Jareth watched as Sarah felt her way along the forest paths, looking as lost and confused as she ever had been. He almost felt sorry for her. This wasn't supposed to have happened, and yet it had, and he couldn't say he was sorry to have the girl back in his Labyrinth again. But...she was so bloody stubborn! Everything she did was in defiance of him, including wishing Wreath away into the Labyrinth, just because he'd told her she wasn't welcome!

He sighed and banished the crystal, choosing to turn his attention to the odd boy playing quietly in the fire pit at his feet. **An unusual child, in more ways than one,** he thought. Not just in the outer appearance, although that was unusual enough. But his mind was very perceptive to probes and psychic suggestions. This intrigued Jareth. Did this mean, then, that the child was also susceptible to magic, as well? If that were so, he would make Jareth a fine heir, even more than the boy Toby would have. "I'll have to think on that some more," he murmured to himself with a nod. This was most certainly worth pursuing, if it meant that he would be able to finally hand over the reigns of his kingdom to somebody wise enough to handle them, and if the boy were as much like his father as he seemed, he most certainly would be.

* * * * *

Jacob hummed to himself as he picked up the makeshift game he'd been playing. The goblins had grown bored with the game, since it was too hard for them to play. Jacob couldn't understand how something that simple could so completely confuse the odd creatures, but it had. But now what to do? He looked around and saw some of the goblins covering each other with mud. He eyed them with interest. Now *that* looked like a fun game! It was the kind of game his father and Wreath wouldn't like, but that made it all the more fun. He started to creep closer to the filthy group, in hopes that one of them might "accidentally" splatter him. Then he would have an excuse to get dirty the rest of the way.

Just then, a faint glow caught his attention. It seemed to be coming from a lady standing in the corner of the big room. She was a pretty lady, he thought. She was dressed in a long, white gown that floated like it was being brushed by the wind, only there wasn't any. Her hair was long and golden, and her eyes were soft. Her skin was pale, and she glowed all over with golden-white light. She seemed worried as she surveyed the room. Awed, Jacob crept toward her and stood watching her, until she seemed to realize the child's attention was fixed on her, and she looked at him, clearly startled.

"Who are you?" he asked curiously.

She really was startled now. But she quickly hid it. "You can see me?" she asked softly.

"You're standing right there," he pointed out, looking at her as if that should have been the most obvious thing in the world.

"I suppose I am," she replied with an amused smile. Then her expression turned serious. "I need you to do something for me," she added softly. "It's very important, and somebody's life depends on your help."

"Whose?" he asked. "My daddy's?"

She smiled softly. "No, you're daddy is fine. Sarah is in danger, though. There is a...a creature that follows her. A creature of shadows and blackness. I know not what it is, and I can't stop it without help. I need you to tell the Goblin King that he must go to Sarah right away. Can you do this for me?"

His eyes wide, Jacob nodded and scurried to the throne. The Lady watched him go with a wistful smile, then sighed and faded away. She could have told Jareth herself, but she didn't know how he might react to her presence. Best she remain hidden as well as possible until Fate had finished its work. This was much better this way, she told herself. She was surprised when the boy had seen her. His gifts were far greater than she'd assumed, and she couldn't help but feel the slightest bit of pride in Jacob. But of course, it was only natural, she thought. He was Vincent's son, after all.

* * * * *

Jareth felt someone tugging at his knee as he lounged in his throne, deep in thought. Annoyed, he looked down, prepared to send a goblin flying across the room. However, it was no goblin cowering there, but Jacob, who gazed up at him with earnestness written all across his face. "What is it, child?" he asked with some surprise.

"I got to tell you. The Golden Lady told me that I got to tell you that Sarah's bein' chased by a creature that she never saw before. The Lady, I mean," he said seriously.

"Child, whatever are you talking about?" Amused rather than concerned, Jareth straightened on his throne and regarded the boy with tilted head. "What 'Golden Lady' are you talking about?"

"She's right over there," Jacob replied, wounded by the Goblin King's lack of concern. He looked around, but the Lady had vanished. He frowned. "Well, she *was* there. I think maybe she went to help Sarah. She said the monster was made out of shadows an' blackness, an' I think she went to get it before it ate Sarah up." His forehead wrinkled with worry. "She said she can't hurt it by herself. She needed you to help her."

Jareth frowned, his concern growing. The child certainly appeared to believe what he was saying, although Jareth had seen no such Lady in his castle. But still...He concentrated, and sure enough, he felt faint, psychic vibrations in the air, fading quickly. They seemed familiar, as though he'd felt them before. And he had, he recalled suddenly. Not so long ago, there had been a presence in his kingdom that was unfamiliar in the way of his kind. It was the same as he felt now. If there *was* a "Golden Lady," he was very much curious to know what she was doing there, and where she had come from, and why she had come into his realm in the first place. He got the distinct feeling that she was somehow involved in this currant fiasco. Unfortunately, she had conveniently vanished.

He summoned yet another crystal and concentrated, seeking out a creature of "shadows and blackness." His heart slammed in his throat when the crystal brightened, showing clearly a grotesque, wolf-like monster that was, indeed, tailing Sarah, and just about ready to attack, by the looks of it. She was completely unaware of its presence, and once the thing sprang, she'd stand little chance.

"The WolfBane!" he hissed, springing to his feet. How had it awakened? It had been in deep slumber since he himself was little more than a boy, and that was eons ago! Why had it awakened now? "The Lady," he murmured. "She's awakened it, with her presence. Now its after Sarah." He gestured to Wreath, who was standing out the window. "Watch the child. I have matters to attend," he commanded, and without another word turned himself into the white owl and took off into the Labyrinth, leaving a bewildered Wreath to stare after him.

* * * * *

Sarah continued to pick her way through the forest, determination and fear warring with each other to take the lead in her heart. "I'm not gonna let him beat me! I won't quit! I can't! Too many people are at stake now!" She shivered and wrapped her arms around herself. "Wish I knew what time it is," she muttered. She didn't remember the forest being so dark before, although she thought she might recognize the area as being the one she'd been in before, right when she met the Fierys. She shivered again and hurried along, not relishing a second meeting with them.

Suddenly, a coldness washed over her that had nothing whatever to do with the damp air. She paused, gasping slightly for breath. What was it? She glanced fearfully around. Something was there. She knew it was, but she couldn't see anything. It had been following her now for awhile, not attacking, only watching. A malicious, evil stare that seemed to bore right through her. She fought off the urge to bolt, instead looking around for anything she could use as a weapon, although she had the feeling that nothing she found would be adequate. If whatever was following her decided to attack, she was pretty much toast.

This was worse than the thugs who'd attacked her back home, she thought. Those, at least, she could see, and she could at least anticipate their moves and *try* to defend herself. But this...she had no idea how to handle this, and she hated that feeling. The feeling of being completely helpless. She wanted company more than ever. Somebody to help her be brave. She tried to think of Vincent's gentle, noble face, but Jareth's appeared in her mind, instead. That cold, beautiful face with those cold, beautiful eyes.

She found herself wishing he was with her right now.

The coldness washed over her again, leaving her once again gasping for breath. Suddenly, she felt eyes boring into her back. She froze. It was there, behind her, and whatever it was, it was about to attack. She gritted her teeth and whirled about. If she was going to face her death, she was going to face it like a fighter, not like a whimpering coward! The eyes were there, set right in the middle of the shadows, as though the shadows were a part of the creature itself.

"Come on," she muttered, defiantly meeting its burning gaze. "If you want me, come and get me! But I'm not going without a fight!"

It seemed to laugh at her, albeit silently. Then it stepped out of the concealing shadows, and Sarah's hard-won courage immediately turned tail and fled. She was hard pressed to keep from following it. The creature was...was...she didn't know how to describe it! It was the most terrifyingly ghastly creature she'd ever seen in her life, or could even imagine! It was worse than any nightmare, or perhaps all of the nightmares in the universe put together! It shifted and flowed like liquid night, the only color in its yellow gaze. Even its gaping jaws were black.

She tried to scream, but the sound seemed to have fled. She shook violently, wanting to run, but it had locked gazes with her and held her powerless in its will. It grinned, revealing more razor teeth, and stepped forward, savoring its coming victory. **You are mine,** she heard it hiss, like vile steam, in her mind, and she shuddered, unable to do anything but stand there.

"Help me," she whispered to whatever soul might be listening.

It attacked.

She finally found the will to scream, and scream she did, letting the sound rip out of her, her final act of defiance against the creature as it descended on her with teeth and claws extended. She closed her eyes, prepared to feel daggers of poison sink into her flesh in another moment.

She felt something hit her from behind. Something hard, but not at all sharp, and in the next instant she was flying through the air and landing with a bone- jarring crash on the forest floor. The breath knocked out of her, she lay there with stars dancing in her eyes before finally rising to her knees. The monster! Where was it?! She looked fearfully around, expecting it to attack again at any moment.

She did not expect to see Jareth there. He was standing before her, cloak flying back and his face almost blazing with defiance as he wielded a long, black blade that sparked with wicked green light. He faced the creature, who hissed and lunged at him. He repelled it with a wide slice of the sword, and the nightmare fell back, screeching with pain.

Sarah could not take her eyes off Jareth. Never had he looked more beautiful to her than at that moment, and he was defending her to this creature! Why?

**Never mind, why!** a part of her shouted. **He's there, and you're still alive! Be grateful!**

"Sarah, are you all right?" Jareth asked, his voice filled with concern, although he never took his eyes off the creature.

"I...I'm fine," she stammered, her voice shaking slightly. "Wh...what is that thing? What's it doing here?"

"It's called the WolfBane, and until now it was sleeping beneath the land. I'm not certain how or why it woke up, except that there has been a strange presence in my kingdom. I believe that is the reason its decided to wake up prematurely," he explained. "Leave while you can! I'll hold it off for you. It cannot leave the forest. It needs the shadows to survive. Escape the forest while you can."

"You want me to leave you with that thing alone?" Sarah asked incredulously. "I can't do that! What if it hurts you?"

"I highly doubt this thing is much of a match for me," he sniffed. "Leave! I'll handle this myself!"


"For the Underground's sake, Sarah, will you go?! I won't be able to hold this thing off forever! Why must you defy my every order? I am doing this for you!" His words echoed the words he'd spoken to her eight years ago.

**Everything I've done, I've done for you...**

She stared at him a moment longer, than turned and fled into the forest. As soon as she was out of sight, Jareth turned his full attention to the abomination before him and brandished the sword. "I don't know why you've come, but you're going back to where you belong," he told it.

It laughed and lunged forward suddenly, dodging under Jareth's quick strike, and ripped at him with its claws. The Goblin King gave a cry of pain and jumped back, bleeding from three long gashes in his side. **You must catch me first,** the WolfBane hissed, eyes darkening with hate.

Jareth held his side, gasping for breath on one knee, and brandished the sword. "You will not be so lucky again," he retorted. "I have the power to send you back to where you came from, and send you back I will!" He lunged forward and swept the sword downward, but the WolfBane stepped out of the way, and with another slash of its claws, the sword flew through the air and landed, point down, in the earth some feet away.

**Pitiful,** it mocked with an evil laugh. **Such a you will be the first to die. Then your little friend, when I catch her...**

"Noooo!" came a scream from the forest, and both the WolfBane and the Goblin King turned startled eyes to Sarah as she came barreling out of the forest. She snatched up the sword, wielding it as well as any soldier, and threw herself at the WolfBane. It didn't even try to dodge, silently laughing at this pitiful mortal's attempt to attack it. It would kill her, then finish off Jareth.

Sarah appeared to stumble, suddenly, landing on her knees with a painful cry. "Sarah!" Jareth cried in fear, starting toward her, but the WolfBane, seeing its chance, flew past the king with fluid ease, claws extended for a killing blow. Its form seemed to expand, until it hid Sarah from the Goblin King's view, and with a shriek threw itself at the girl...

* * * * *

Sarah didn't know why she had stopped her panicked flight into the forest. It was as if somebody had grabbed her by the shoulders and forced her to come to a stumbling halt, gasping for breath. She'd heard a voice, not her own, whisper clearly in her ear, "You would abandon him to the same fate that you would have faced?"

That had been enough to bring her back to her senses, and her blind fear vanished. She felt a new feeling replace it. Shame. "I abandoned him," she whispered. "He saved me, and I just left him!"

True, he had *ordered* her away, but when had she ever listened to him before? It had been her fear that had acted, not her mind. Her face turned grim as she tossed back her tangled curls. "I'm going back for him, and to the Bog with what *he* wants!" she huffed, and began to retrace her steps. Luckily, she hadn't run off very far, or she'd probably never have found him again.

She heard Jareth's cry of pain, and her heart slammed in her chest in response. Jareth? In pain? She'd quickened her pace and all too soon reached a scene of frightening intensity. There, Jareth knelt before the WolfBane, his arm clutching his side, and she could see a bright red stain spreading across his pristine white shirt. Her hands flew to her mouth in horror, and her mind reeled with the shock of seeing the powerful Goblin King pain...*vulnerable*...It was too much to believe!

But seeing him there, facing his death with that same defiant manner she had come to know so did something to her. The animosity she harbored against Jareth fell away, and in its place rose a fierce protectiveness that she hadn't known she possessed. Her eyes narrowed dangerously as she studied the scene before her. That nightmare kill *her* Jareth? Not if *she* had anything to say about it!

Just then, she saw him lunge at the WolfBane, and then the sword was flying through the air to land only a foot away. She heard the creature's mocking words to the Goblin King, saw it poise to strike a final blow, and she suddenly lost it. She thought she screamed. She wasn't sure. All she knew was that she could not...could *not*...let that creature reach Jareth!

She tore out of the forest, snatching up the blade and heading for the creature. It saw her coming, of course. She hadn't expected otherwise. She was determined to meet it head-on. But she stripped, suddenly, her newly-healed ankle giving out on her, and she allowed herself to fall to her knees, using the sword to brace herself.

She saw Jareth start to his feet, crying out in alarm, but the WolfBane was quicker. It flowed past Jareth, springing toward her, seeming to grow twice its normal size. She watched it coming grimly, her determination having tripled when Jareth had cried out her name. She knew she would sooner die than let this nightmare close to him again.

A part of her marveled at this sudden change of heart. Where had it come from...and what did it mean? But there was no time to ponder it now, for the WolfBane was there, shrieking like a Bane-Sidhe as it threw itself on her. She let it come, bringing up the black sword at the last possible moment, and the creature's momentum was enough so that it couldn't keep itself from being impaled right in the gut, the sword digging in to the hilt.

Its death cry was like the wailing of a hundred tortured souls, and Sarah released the sword and collapsed in pain, her hands coming up to cover her ears. She curled up on the ground and waited for the wails to stop, whimpering softly. Suddenly, strong arms were around her, pulling her against a solid chest, and she realized dimly that it was Jareth. He pulled her away from the convulsing WolfBane and shielded her body with his own, and she let him, curled up with her face buried against his chest and her arms wrapped around his waist, his face buried in her hair, and together they waited for the keening to cease. It did, finally, and Sarah slowly raised her head, looking at the dead husk of the nightmare that was fast shriveling and blowing into dust. The sword remained, wicked light still sparking. She shivered slightly, and Jareth's arms tightened in response.

*That* brought her to her senses quickly, remembering who exactly it was she was clinging to so tightly, not to mention that he was hurt, and she probably wasn't exactly helping him get better by squeezing the life out of him. She very quickly released him and sat up, checking his side anxiously to be sure she hadn't caused more damage.

"I'm fine," he told her, chuckling softly. "I've already healed myself. You see?" He removed the ruins of his shirt and showed her his pale side, where there was no trace of a wound. But Sarah was rather distracted at seeing the Goblin King without a shirt on to really take notice...

She drew in a long breath and looked away, trying to pass off the warmth in her cheeks as an aftereffect of the battle. She could tell Jareth wasn't fooled, judging by the slightly amused smile that crossed his face. "Do I make you uncomfortable?" he asked.

She glared at him and refused to answer. He laughed again and, in an instant, was clothed in a new shirt and waistcoat. "Better?" he asked with a wicked smile. He rose to his feet, and she followed automatically. Her own shirt felt wet, and she nearly went into asphyxiation when she looked down and saw that it was soaked with blood.

"It's mine," he reassured her, seeing her face turn pale. "Don't worry. You've managed to come through relatively unscathed." He reached out to finger her sleeve. "Perhaps you'd like a new shirt?"

She eyed him suspiciously. "This is a first. You're actually being *nice* to me," she muttered.

He grinned devilishly. "You quite possibly saved my life," he replied. "Should that not warrant some respect on my part?"

"I suppose..."

"Just why *did* you defy my order and save my life, anyway?" he asked, a hint of wicked mirth dancing in his eyes. To his delight, her cheeks reddened.

" wouldn't have been very appreciative of me to let you take what was meant for me," she mumbled, refusing to look at him. "Fair's fair, you know."

"Really!" He laughed yet again, amusement plainly showing in that smile and in those beautiful eyes. "How odd. Before, as I recall, you were always saying how *unfair* everything was! What changed your mind?"

Her hands knotted into fists at her sides, and she glared at him through sparking hazel eyes. "Go ahead and have your fun!" she snapped. "We're in the middle of a game, as I recall, and you're keeping me from it! I'll see you at the castle!" She turned to march away, but he couldn't refuse the last word.

"Yes, but will it be before or after time has run out?" he asked impishly, and faded away before she could react. She glared at the empty spot he had stood in, then huffed and flung her hair over her shoulders before marching into the forest, trying to ignore the fact that she was now wearing a clean shirt.


* * * * *

The Lady laughed softly to herself as she witnessed the two lovers' exchange. Well, lovers they *would* be, if she had *her* way about it! She sighed and shook her head as Jareth vanished. "Why could he have not taken her with him?" she murmured. "It would have made the game much easier. They both know how they feel! Why will they not admit it?"

But she had seen the battle, and how Sarah had so valiantly defended *her* Jareth from the WolfBane. The Lady chuckled. Did Sarah even realize how much her possessiveness of the Goblin King was becoming evident? The Lady had heard the woman's thoughts, although reading such thoughts was not something she was skilled at. Only the strongest of emotions was she able to pick up, and Sarah's were very strong, indeed.

"Very soon, now," she assured herself. "But time is fast running out. I know not how Vincent fares, but it is not yet time for his test. For now, I must continue to guide Sarah, so that she may reach the castle in time. Perhaps Wreath, wise soul that she is, will be able to help her see her destiny more than I."

With that in mind, she moved to follow Sarah, using the limited power she had in this strange world to coax the enchanted twists and turns of the Labyrinth into a clear path. By this, Sarah was far better able to reach the castle, with plenty of time to spare.

The Lady sensed that the Goblin King knew what she was about, and yet, surprisingly, did little to resist. Perhaps he was too distracted, but she felt it was more that he just didn't care, and this pleased her. Maybe there was hope for him, after all...

The task soon completed, the Lady nodded in satisfaction. She had done all she could to help Fate guide Sarah and Jareth together. Now it was up to they themselves to complete the task. She had another matter to attend. A very important one, at that. With a soft sigh, she brought herself into another part of the forest, where a cat-like man was facing some problems of his own...

Twists of Fate

A Crossovers Story
by Stormlight

Part 9 of 14

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