Continuing Tales

The Way Back

A Labyrinth Story
by atsuibelulah

Part 20 of 24

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The Way Back

Aidan watched his king fly into the approaching night as he shifted the deeply sleeping girl more securely in his arms. He looked over to his sister, "I don't have the energy to transport her to the Castle, do you?"

She sighed and shook her head in response. The two of them had used more power in the past two days than they had in some years, transporting the children of the House of the Wished to temporary homes with adult Wished in the Independent Territories. They could not have done it any sooner and Aidan was glad that they had. The important events that Jareth had vaguely outlined to them the night before last seemed to already be starting.

Nadia stepped towards him and moved to brush a stray hair tenderly from Sarah's smooth brow, her hand wandering down to the fresh bruise blooming on the girl's cheek "We'll have to walk her to the House. I'll heal this when we get there." She looked up at him wearily, it had been a long day, "You can carry her that far, can't you?"

He transferred his gaze beck to the sleeping girl. She was light, too light, and he was reminded of the sad events that had brought her back to the Labyrinth. They had only ever heard stories of what went on in the Shadow Queen's dungeons. Aidan felt a sharp stab of guilt at the way he had treated her the previous evening, "Yes, I can make it." His sister nodded and started down the path, walking slow until he caught up with her.

As they walked, Aidan's eyes drifted down to Sarah's peacefully slumbering face. When Jareth had practically thrown her into his arms she had looked half-dead, alarmingly pale and gaunt in her unnatural sleep. Aidan now assumed it had been for the benefit of the Queen's messenger, for Sarah was now easily relaxed in his hold, a slight smile played on her rose blushed lips and her head rested gently on his shoulder, the silken darkness of her hair spilling over his shoulder and reaching down his back.

Aidan let out a sigh of...understanding, he supposed. Like she had told him the night before, I least a little. They had shared similar pains, but where he had sat around for centuries, languishing in his own private romantic misery, Sarah had taken more initiative than he had ever been able to muster. She had persevered and won her way to Jareth's side, he had no right to begrudge her of it.

As he gazed at her serene face, Aidan also understood why Jareth loved her. If there was one person in all the worlds that Aidan understood perfectly and not at all, it was Jareth. But, Jareth and Sarah he understood, inexplicably, they He now knew that he and his king would never have been like that. He was almost glad he had never gathered the courage to pursue it any further. And at least Jareth never need know of his century old secret, he knew Sarah would say nothing. He almost unconsciously tightened his protective embrace of the frail woman.

Aidan looked up slowly to see his sister watching him, a smile brightening her tired eyes. She had seen his silent peace-making with the sleeping woman and he returned her smile with a sheepish one of his own as they approached the House.

The House of the Wished was imbedded in the Labyrinth's forest. Mantled in the thick greenery, it was almost invisible to one who didn't know what they were looking for. Nadia went ahead to open the dark green door and Aidan stepped through into the modest entryway. He looked around for a moment, almost expecting something, but sighed as the emptiness of the House encroached upon him.

The House of the Wished held as many rooms as the caretakers needed at any given time. There was always enough room for all the inhabitants, Jareth had made it that way when the twins were given their powers and positions. But the House was empty now, all the children smuggled to the Independent Territories in case the Queen's wrath should come down upon them all. Aidan resisted another sigh, it had been so long ago now, and he wondered silently what he and Nadia would do when all of this was over. After that night, things would never be the same.

Nadia said nothing, but walked towards her own room on the ground floor and he followed her. There was no reason to prepare one of the children's rooms for Sarah, he didn't think either of them would sleep that night. He laid her down on his sister's richly colored red and gold bed covers and pulled the decorative throw over her for comfort. It was a warm night so she wouldn't need much more.

As he did so, she shifted languidly and unconsciously grabbed for his hand. Aidan looked up at his sister almost like a mouse caught in a trap as the sleeping woman gently pulled him by his captured hand onto the bed. Nadia only grinned at him, a wicked twinkle in her eyes, and moved to the other side of the bed. She smoothed her fingers across Sarah's bruised cheek, pressing her palm lightly over the darkening purple, closing her eyes and tensing her body. To anyone else it would have looked as though she was doing nothing, but Aidan knew she was using her last dregs of strength. Slowly the mark receded until it was gone completely and Nadia removed her hand, leaning heavily on the bed.

Aidan reached over Sarah to steady her, "Alright?"

She nodded slowly, " tired..."

He gently pulled Sarah closer to him, widening the space on the other side of her, "Lie down here. I'll watch for Jareth, nothing's going to happen till he gets back anyway."

She nodded again and laid herself next to Sarah, falling asleep almost immediately. One-handed, Aidan pulled some of the blanket over her and smoothed her hair back from her face. He shifted into a more comfortable position, leaning back against the headboard and could not restrain another sigh. He was not looking forward to waiting through the calm before the storm.

The Queen of Shadows walked to her throne room, readying for her audience and contemplating her Steward. He was, she grudgingly amended, he was essential. She could not retain the Labyrinth without him. In the beginning she quite possibly could have, but now that the two were linked in their "imprisonment", as her Steward so liked to term it, she could not separate them.

Her musings continued as she glided into the chamber. Her subdued green and purple heavy skirts swirled with her confident but smooth strides. Bedecked in the skins and teeth of some of her most prized and memorable toys, she also glittered from the myriad pieces of gold and silver hanging from her neck and hands and woven through her rippling darkly auburn curls. She cut a motley but striking figure; it was how she had appeared for millennia, even favoring the style in the High Court of Camelot. She was, after all, the Queen of Shadows and shadows were a dense gathering of the sundry aspects of darkness itself.

Mounting her beloved obsidian dais, she lowered herself onto her throne. The boy was clever, she would grant him that. Had she not the advantage of his eye...but she would not dwell on what was not. He had the disadvantage that his idiot mother had bestowed upon him, the love he felt for her, still, after all this time, the love he felt for the bleeding chit, after all she'd done to the filthy creature. It was a weakness, one she could and would use against him.

It was out of the question now to allow him any more freedom, until recently she had enjoyed watching him in his misery. But he needed to be taken in hand. The Queen smiled in anticipation, oh how she would enjoy this audience. She would forge unfailing loyalty in his eyes and she would see both the color of ice and shadow before the night was out.

Jareth strode determinedly towards the massive ebony doors as the Queen's foul messenger flew past him to merge with the pervading darkness, its task completed. The Goblin King's face contorted into a fearsome scowl. He loathed the place and everything to do with it. He cast his hateful glare over every horribly brawny guard, cursing each one for any role they had played in Sarah's imprisonment.

He bared his teeth as the puny Accolon admitted him to the throne room, a feral air about him, and a wild look in his eyes. Jareth let the flames of anger lick the core of his power red hot. He felt the waves of his hatred roiling off of him as heat from a furnace.

The Queen, the witch, sat comfortably on her throne, almost lounging. Jareth's eyes flashed as she leaned forward in the blackwood chair, her elbow resting on the arm, her chin cupped elegantly in her hand. She spoke low and sweet, as if greeting an honored guest or an old friend, "How kind of you to answer my summons so quickly, my Steward."

Jareth's stomach turned at her honeyed tone, and he spat the words at her, "I am nothing of yours."

She tilted her head, her cold eyes so bright with knowledge he had no notion of that they almost glowed in the all-consuming dark of the immense chamber, "Are you not?" Her mask-like face split into a red-tinted grin, "Did your mother not teach you to lie well, boy? Or did she ruin you and tell you not to lie at all? The foolish bitch. I saw in you, Jareth, you could have been the best of the Mother's Honored Race, you would have outstripped your dense, light-reaching Father. Nothing would have stopped you. But your Mother-cursed Guinevere left her freakish ideals imprinted in your young mind. The whore taught you something no Fae should know, and I've tried to break you of it, but you refuse to attend."

Jareth's fury reached a breaking point, he cast his power to the ebony stone floor and to the walls, shaking the foundations of the room. Shards of stone fell about him from the ceiling as he snarled, "Speak of my mother in that manner once more and-

She broke him off with a mirthless cackle, "And you'll do what, boy? Do you think you can challenge me, here in my place of power? That was quite a spectacle, Steward, but you cannot hope to defeat me unless you have the power of the Labyrinth behind you." She smiled at him and spoke as if she were addressing a child, "If it were any other enemy you desired to pursue, I'd say you could do it. But don't you think I would have taken precautions against such mutiny? There is no way the Labyrinth will turn against me."

Jareth said nothing, he stood in the center of the chamber, his hands shaking from the pent up fury. He could only wait for her reason for summoning him.

"Speaking of spectacle..." she produced another grin, but somehow this one was filled with a black humor, as if she were laughing at a personal joke, "That was quite a display you put on for my messenger."

Jareth's blood ran cold as she continued speaking, "But you showed your more ways than one."

He grasped desperately for something to keep his secret, whatever it was. He tried for a slightly flippant tone, "My hand?"

"Oh come, Jareth, it was a very nice bit of acting, on the chit's part especially," Jareth gnashed his teeth at her casual insults, but she didn't stop, "But you made a fatal mistake."

When she paused Jareth spoke, but he could hardly believe he was forming coherent words, anger and frustration had begun to tinge his vision red and he could see almost nothing but his desire for her death, "What was it?"

Her grin never left her face, "If you had really wanted to hurt the chit, if you were not secretly concerned for her ultimate welfare, you would not have hesitated to put her completely under your power. You would have allowed one transgression and then taken her, there would have been none after that and she would have been conscious the entire time."

He looked her straight in the eyes, trying to keep up his pretense, "That would have ended the chase."

She stood and stepped gracefully down the dais, slowly approaching him. Jareth's whole body was quivering, it would be extraordinarily bad if he attempted to strike her, but oh, how he wanted to. The Queen spoke bluntly, "You are not your father, Jareth. You are not a sadist."

Jareth closed his eyes in resignation, knowing her words to be truth and welcoming that affirmation, but still hating her for seeing through his ploy. She had come closer to him when he opened his eyes again, but he refused to back away.

Her words became softer than he had ever heard them, "I always thought that what he did to your mother, however much I dislike her, was excessively cruel. By waiting so long to effectively take her, not only did he break her will and power, but he also broke her mind. He also lost you for any useful purposes by not taking her to task at a much earlier time. He should have done it immediately after you were born. I would have had a much easier time of it if those silly dreams of yours hadn't got in the way. And now, here we are...I suppose we can just blame all of this on dear old Arthur."

During her speech, Jareth had almost lost track of what she was saying. Something...strange was happening, coming over him. It felt almost as though someone had wrapped a blanket around his head, the world became softer and muffled. But as she said the word "dreams" he came slightly awake, flashes of recent memory pierced the haze...dreams...Sarah.

Jareth stumbled back, away from whatever spell she had been trying to envelope him in. He ran through what she had said, trying to make sense of it. He spoke finally, breathless and the Queen smiled again, he wished she would stop it, "A much easier time of what?"

"Making you mine completely, dear boy."

Jareth's whole body went still at her words, "Completely? I told you, I am nothing of yours."

"Jareth, my dear, you are in denial," she gave him a smile of pure condescension. "I have had you wrapped around my finger since the day I met you on the road to the Independent Territories."

His eyes widened, did she know...

"Yes," it was as if she read his mind and all of Jareth's anger and strength faltered as she completely undermined any power he thought he may have had. "Ever since that day, you have heard nothing, seen nothing, and done nothing that I did not know. I see through your eye, Jareth, I see all that you see and I know all that you know. Granted, my attention has wandered from time to time...when your beloved little chit managed to beat the game, for instance. But since she has reentered your life, I have paid careful attention to everything you've done." The witch grinned wickedly, mockingly and Jareth felt numb and small, "I especially liked the part when you combed her hair, very tender, Jareth, very romantic."

Jareth mind was reeling, all he had done, all he had felt, she had seen and laughed at and belittled...all his pain, all Sarah's pain. He began to desperately cast his gaze about the room. He had to find something, to get himself away. He had to get Sarah away from her...from the Underground all together.

She stepped forward again, approaching him slowly, as a predator to its prey, "What are you looking for, Jareth? Do you think you can find an escape? I am in your head, boy, I know your mind!" Her voice was laced with triumph and Jareth steeled his resolve once more, she had not won yet. There was a way out, a way that she could not see.

He closed his eyes, trying to at least veil her vision of his thoughts. She had said she saw through his eye... Jareth searched his awareness; he needed to discern which eye. Finally, he felt it, a slight difference. His right eye held an almost imperceptible coldness, in fact, so cold that it seemed to merge with the heat of his own body.

The Queen's voice penetrated the lengthy quiet, and he was surprised that she had waited even that long, "You should be clever enough to know that just closing your eyes is not going to help."

Jareth's eyes snapped open in defiance and he thrust his left hand out towards her, casting his power to one of the ebony shards that littered the cold stone floor. His answering words dripped thickly with hatred and his own defiant triumph, "I think that it has. I also think that you have not considered that I would be foolish...or clever enough to do this."

Jareth decisively pulled his hand back, sending the shard to pierce directly into his right eye, like the swift bolt of a crossbow. He staggered at the impact, but did not cry out. Grinning almost inanely as the Queen screeched her fury at his bold defiance; he righted himself and faced her.

For some reason, Jareth felt no pain as he reached again with his left hand, this time to wrench the shard from his frozen eye. He held it loosely for a moment, turning his head downwards as if contemplating the thing. Dark crimson blood melted the ice of the shadows and flowed freely from the now open wound, dripping into his palm, soaking his tool of choice...or tool of convenience for self-mutilation.

He somehow found the whole situation rather amusing now and looked up, a frightening humor lurking in his good eye and in the tilt of his brow, "Will you see into my mind now, my Queen? Will you see what I do that I have removed your spyglass?" His hand tightened around the sharp stone and he hurled it at her, knowing that she would deflect it without a thought, but taking her momentary distraction as a means for escape.

Jareth didn't bother with his owl form, opting to utilize a greater amount of power and disappearing from the cold, black chamber at the drop of a crystal. The only evidence he had ever been there the fresh blood left discarded on the stone and the frenzied curses of the Queen of Shadows.

The Way Back

A Labyrinth Story
by atsuibelulah

Part 20 of 24

<< Previous     Home     Next >>