Continuing Tales

The Way Back

A Labyrinth Story
by atsuibelulah

Part 22 of 24

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The Way Back

She was tired, really tired, but something was pulling at her, tugging her awake. But she was so tired...why was she so tired? She had been enveloped in blackness, sleep without dreaming. She was glad of it...but why should she fear her dreams? The something tugged at her again. She stirred on the soft bed, pulling the blanket once more around her...a bed? Hadn't she been somewhere else? Why was she even sleeping? Sarah heard voices speaking softly.

"She's waking..."

"He must be near."

What had happened? It seemed to be a familiar question. Sarah's thoughts were sluggish...when had she fallen asleep? She felt as if she'd been submerged in an ocean of blissful ignorance. She could barely remember anything at all, but knew she was slowly resurfacing.

She heard footsteps coming into the room, "Jareth..." It was Nadia's voice, but strained, as if she had let out the name in one awestruck breath. Sarah stirred once more, but was still too tired to open her eyes.

She knew his presence at once, Jareth, her love. The knowledge filled her with an extraordinary peace as his voice filled the room. The sound was strangely soft and calm. Sarah smiled to hear it, "It's alright, just leave us for a moment. Then I'll explain as much as I can."

There were more footsteps and the dull thunk of the door latch. Sarah frowned slightly, she was still tired, and she wanted to sleep. Suddenly there was a weight added to the side of the bed and Sarah's frown vanished. He moved a hand to her face while she shifted languidly, snuggling into his lap, her eyes still shut, the lids too heavy to lift. The room became quiet and still, she could hear his breathing. The sound was deep and calmly rhythmic. She thought vaguely that he hadn't been so calm in days.

Sarah's mind was still buried in sleep and she couldn't remember what had made him so anxious before. But she retreated into her exhaustion and thought no more about it. His hand came to rest on her hair and she took in his scent. It was different somehow...not the warm down and cloves she knew from...before, this was an earthy metallic fragrance. He smelled of sweat and the outdoors and something else...something she'd smelled before...something she'd tasted, but slightly different than even that. It was uniquely him.

", you have to wake up now." His voice and the smell in her nostrils roused her, but she fought it...she wanted to sleep.

"Mmmm tiiired," she mumbled, burying her face further into his lap. The smell became stronger, it was in his clothes. She tried to ignore her unease.

She heard his smile, she felt his hand move over her hair, rousing her even more, "Love, we don't have a lot of time...there's something I need to know." At the last his voice fell slightly, it was less calm, more troubled.

Sarah finally lifted her head a little, propping herself up on her forearms as his hand cupped her cheek. His thumb reached to brush over her eye brow, coaxing her eyes open. Sarah looked at Jareth through bleary eyes and her mind snapped to attention, remembering everything. It was blood, the smell, he was nearly covered in dried and drying blood. His hands were stained completely red, his clothes were spotted and small brown flakes had fallen from him to the bedspread. He had gone to her, she'd bit his lip, he had hit her then knocked her out. The Queen had summoned him, but what had happened? She pulled herself more upright and moved her gaze to look him in the eye. Sarah gasped loudly.

He gave her a reassuring smile as their eyes met and she somehow found herself relaxing. He didn't say a thing, allowing her to look him over thoroughly. The wound had been his right eye, the blood had flowed from that side of his face, but there was not a scratch on him.

Sarah put a hand to his cheek, underneath the healed wound. He seemed to shiver at her touch, although she had no idea why, her hands weren't cold or anything. Sarah needed to know what had happened, what had the Queen done?

His eye was no longer the cold blue that she had disliked so intensely when she saw him after so many years. Its entire surface had become a pearly white color that was strangely luminous, like moonlight through the clouds.

She finally spoke in a hushed voice, although she had no idea why, "What has she done to you now?"

He smirked at her, both his eyes somehow filling with an ironic mirth, "Actually, most of this is my own doing."

"What?" Her voice was choked and harsh and she suddenly remembered how she had despised his penchant for drama and ambiguity when she was young. "Jareth, you're covered in blood! Don't tell me it's smells like you..." she broke off abruptly, wondering how she had perceived that.

His eyes flashed and he cocked his head slightly, as if he were listening to something. "No," he whispered, but she didn't think it was directed at her, "We don't have time for, it doesn't matter, it can wait."

"Who are you talking to?" She was starting to get frightened that he ultimately had gone over the edge.

His gaze flicked quickly back to her and he actually looked rather embarrassed. He stared long at her before beginning to speak, "First, I need you to know something. Before we talk about anything else, know that if you ask it of me, I will kill her for what she has done to you."

Sarah stared at him incredulously. She didn't understand...where had that come from? What had the Queen done to him? Her voice came out strangled in disbelief, "To me? What about what she has done to you!"

Jareth shook his head, but still kept his now even more mismatched eyes locked to her own, "It doesn't matter...I would only seek revenge on your behalf."

Sarah's mind unavoidably turned to the Queen and her dungeon. The things that had been done to her always lurked at the back of her mind. If she forced Jareth to be drawn into it...into even more hatred and violence than he had already seen...he was her anchor. If she lost him somehow in getting that might get her satisfaction, but how much? How long would she have to wait? And at what price? She spoke slowly and deliberately, knowing her words to be the truth, "I don't want it. I don't want revenge, or retribution, or whatever...I only want you. Now, tell me what happened."

He gave her a melancholy smile. She had figured he would have been pretty confident in her answer, but he looked obviously relieved anyway. His voice was still as calm as it had been since he'd entered the chamber, "It's unfortunately a long story that I'm going to have to abridge for you, love."

"Why are we in such a hurry?"

He smiled, "I'll get to that..." Jareth's face suddenly darkened slightly, as, she had begun to notice, it always did when he prepared himself to speak of her. "The short of it is, for the past 500 years or so, my right eye has been the spyglass of the Queen."

Sarah's jaw dropped and her heart constricted in unbridled fear and almost... embarrassment, "She saw everything?"

Jareth returned her reaction with a bleak look, "She did concede that her attention was elsewhere during your 13 hours in the Labyrinth. But since your return we both have been the object of her malicious scrutiny." Sarah looked down into her lap, it was nauseating to think...she had seen everything, she still knew everything about her. Jareth continued speaking, he didn't touch her, didn't console her. Sarah guessed he just wanted to get through the explanation, "She had called me there to...put me completely under her power. I suppose because I was no longer able to be manipulated. I...pierced it with a shard of her black stone and fled from the fortress."

Sarah lifted her eyes again. His face held a haunted look and she shifted closer to him, tucking her head under his chin, offering him her silent support and waiting for him to continue. His arm came automatically around her as he spoke again, "The goblin you conversed with in the Library was not an ordinary goblin."

"I didn't really think it was, babe." She let herself smile into his chest and he chuckled in answer.

"It had been inhabited by the spirit of the Labyrinth. Yes, the Labyrinth has a spirit, a...consciousness, I suppose."

"Well, that explains why he knew so much about you..." Sarah wasn't really that surprised; she remembered that the maze seemed to have a mind of its own all those years ago.

"I called him to the rise. I wanted to talk to him, because I'd never really done that before." His voice seemed to move farther away from her, like he was speaking about a long time ago, but it couldn't have been more than an hour or two.

She interrupted him, wanting to bring him back, needing him to be with her, "Why hadn't you spoken to him?"

"Before he was just...incorporeal, a floating spirit. I didn't even know he could do that. So, I called him. I wanted to know what else I didn't know." He smiled quite strangely and his gaze became distant again.

She pushed gently away from his chest, and cupping his face in her hands, softly spoke his name, "Jareth, I thought we didn't have that much time."

He started and looked half embarrassed once more, "I'm sorry,'s been a strange night." He shook his head again and continued after a moment, "But I didn't have enough strength to learn much. I had lost a lot of blood...I didn't even have even enough power to heal myself. The Labyrinth offered me a bargain..." he paused and shook is head, as if he'd been interrupted, but Sarah hadn't said anything. "No, it wasn't a bargain. The spirit aided me and together we..."

She broke through his explanation once more, not understanding why he seemed so distracted, so far away, "Together? Is he here?" She looked around the room, but saw nothing.

Jareth gave her a slightly pained look, as if was not really sure what to say, "In order to heal me, the spirit entered my body." Her brows shot up, but he continued regardless, "Sarah, the spirit is within me...we have, well, that's the easiest way to describe it."

Sarah was a little weirded out, to say the least, that there was another being inhabiting him at that very moment, but she tried to find a logical way past it. She decided she would do this by asking questions, "So...he healed your eye?"

Jareth nodded.

"And he just stayed in there? He's inside your head?"

He repeated the motion and spoke, sounding surprisingly exasperated, "That's partly why I seem so distracted. It's because he won't shut up!" Jareth turned his eyes skyward and Sarah had to hide a smile as he chided the spirit, now technically his other half, "I didn't think you would talk this much!"

Sarah smiled wider and lifted her hand once again to his face, "Well, I'm glad you're alright...and only half-deranged."

Jareth turned leaned into Sarah's touch for as long as he could, smiling at her oh-so-human way of bringing humor into an otherwise extremely serious situation, while trying to ignore the spirit's surprisingly annoying interjections that something was strange about her.

Why didn't you perceive this before? He irritably thought to the Labyrinth.

I have told you already. Our senses are heightened; our power combined can sense more than was possible alone. When she touched us, I felt something different. The spirit's explanation made sense, but Jareth had no idea how to deal with it at that point, and they didn't have the time for it either.

But without warning a searing feeling of panic and pain swept through them both and Jareth felt himself jerk violently away from his love.

The spirit's frightened voice echoed in his head as Sarah spoke his name in a hushed and worried tone, The Queen's minions have tore through my defenses! They move through the Shadows, Jareth! I do not know where they are!

Suddenly he heard the cawing of one raven followed by the replies of a hundred of them. It was a horrific sound, a multitude of voices, high and sharp, all ringing hungrily of violence and bloodshed and one rose high above them. It was a general signaling his army for a raid, and Jareth knew the voice and cringed as a woman's terrified scream echoed shortly after it.

He knew that voice as well and quickly sent a prayer to the Mother for aid before leaping from the bed and producing a barrier to keep Sarah where she was. He would not send her into harm's way, or into the possession of the Queen. He ignored her inevitable protests and bolted from the room.

How can you not know where they are?

They are the Queen's. Much of her power cannot be affected by my own. I am still her creature. The Labyrinth's voice grew faint in his mind, She is trying to prevent me from aiding you, she still does not know we are linked. I will channel my power through you. You must find them and do as you see fit.

Jareth rushed into the clearing in front of the House to see Aidan sprawled across the grass and leaves of the forest floor. He was struggling against something almost transparent but insubstantial, dark and shadowy, like smoke from a wet log. Aidan's eyes bulged and his limbs flailed wildly, unable to connect with his assailant and slowing quickly. The shadow was choking him. Nadia, who had not been assailed by any of the creatures, was kneeling beside him, attempting to help but her hands only passed through her brother's attacker. She looked up and Jareth with unbridled terror in her eyes.

Jareth looked on stupidly for a moment, the realization of Aidan's danger becoming so intense he could not move. The shadow condensed and seemed to disappear into the golden man's mouth. His eyes clouded over immediately and his skin turned ashen.

The Goblin King shook himself from his own fear and closed his eyes, repeating the process of how he located her spyglass. He knew where one was, he needed to find them and dispose of them all quickly. He searched for the cold, the cold so intense you'd think it was warm.

One by one, in a few moments or a few centuries, Jareth found them. They were in the forest, in the maze, everywhere, the one in Aidan, and four or five trying to burrow their way through Sarah's protection. He realized immediately that Aidan's attack by one lone minion must have been a diversion, set to weaken his defense of Sarah. The Queen must be after her, to take back her former prisoner, to hit Jareth where she knew it would hurt the most, to force him to do something rash and stupid.

Jareth wouldn't allow himself to act rashly, but neither did he waste another moment. The Labyrinth gave him the power. He let it flow through him and into the land and the air, surrounding and crushing each shadow into nothingness.

They were gone. Jareth dropped the barrier surrounding Sarah. He heard the frantic slapping of her bare feet on the floor as she ran out of the house, only to stop short when she saw the scene before her. Jareth heard this, but his eyes were only for Aidan. Aidan who was still upon the ground, struggling to breathe as his sister attempted to force her magic into his dying body.

Dying, yes, dying. Jareth knew it, he felt it. The Labyrinth was strangely silent in his mind. There was nothing any of them could do. Jareth moved his stiff body towards the siblings, coming to the other side of Aidan and kneeling. He heard Sarah sit down hard on the steps to the House, tears streaming silently down her face. He could not go to her.

Jareth looked down at Aidan, the golden man's skin was still tinged grey and he was gasping for breath. Jareth reached across him and grasped Nadia's hands in his own, lifting his eyes to hers he spoke softly, "You must stop, Nadia. There is nothing to be done." The senses his merging with the spirit of the Labyrinth told him that the shadow had tainted Aidan's lungs and heart, they would not function properly for long.

He wrapped the woman's shaking hands around her brother's and watched as they said their silent goodbyes. He knew in all the important conversations there had never been a need for many words. Jareth realized this was probably the most important conversation they'd ever had.

Aidan let go of Nadia's hand and reached weakly for Jareth. His amber eyes were clear and wide open, unwavering on the Goblin King. Jareth caught his clammy hand that seemed smaller than usual and leaned closer as he opened his mouth to speak. Aidan's voice was raspy and he winced at every word. Jareth almost wished he wouldn't speak at all as he saw the pain break across his face, "Jareth...Sarah, s-she is...special...right. I was...wrong...sor--" he was broken off by a fit of coughing that wracked his entire body.

Jareth wanted to wait, wanted to let him finish, but he needed to hear before it was too late, "There is nothing to forgive, Aidan. I know that what you said was said out of love." He moved his hands to Aidan's face, it was already growing cold but he was not yet gone, "There is nothing to forgive."

As Jareth finished he saw the slightest of smiles pass over Aidan's face. He looked to his sister one more time, his hands still clinging to Jareth, and breathed his last breath. It caught and gurgled in his broken chest and a line of black liquid trickled from his mouth as his eyes closed and his head lolled to the side.

A strangled sob escaped Nadia's lips as she threw herself on his body. Sarah immediately rushed from the steps and wrapped her arms around the sobbing woman, gently pulling her from the ground. She tried to lead Nadia back toward the House, but they only made it a few short steps before her tears bore her to her knees.

Jareth turned back to the body of Aidan, glad for Sarah's help. He looked down at what had been his brother, his son, one of his only friends for a significant part of his life and sighed, heavy and mournful.

How could he have never shared his life, his secrets with this man? Aidan would never have...Jareth didn't even know what he'd been afraid of for so long. Maybe it had been another devise of the Queen, her lies would have never been seen through if Jareth had never shared them. He looked up at Sarah, who had broken through it all. He cursed the Queen, cursed her a thousand times and more for everything she'd done and lastly for taking the light of this man from the worlds. And then he cursed himself for running away from her as he pulled the power of the Labyrinth around the body.

Greenery quickly sprouted and grew up around Aidan, enfolding him and absorbing him into the earth. The two women turned at the sight and a small smile appeared on Nadia's face as a small tree sprouted on the spot. Its leaves were a brilliantly bronzed amber and Jareth knew the tree would thrive and the leaves would remain that same golden shade into eternity.

They all looked long at the sight until the hesitant voice of the Labyrinth came to Jareth's mind, This will not be the last attack she plans, Jareth. But we must hurry to make it the last executed. Come to the Tower. Bring them both if you must, but come quickly. Tear us from this world, let us all start anew.

Jareth's gaze moved to Nadia as the spirit spoke. Her smile had vanished, replaced once more with the ravages of her grief. She met his eyes sadly, waiting for him to speak as Sarah's arm came around her shoulders once more.

He paused, choosing his words carefully, deciding to speak across the clearing. He did not want to move until he had to. Despite the danger, despite the fear and the torment, Jareth knew a part of him did not yet want to leave the Labyrinth. It was had been his home, it was now a part of him. But he did not know what Nadia wanted.

He sighed again; it always began with a question, "Nadia, Sarah and I are fleeing to the Aboveground. I will cast the Labyrinth adrift in the veils. She will pursue you if you try escape to the Independent Territories. Which path will you choose?"

Nadia's gaze traveled from his own back to the newly grown tree. Its amber leaves reflected clearly in eyes that were the exact same shade. Jareth nodded, knowing her answer without any need for speech. Jareth knew the Labyrinth would take care of her. She would never have to leave him.

The Way Back

A Labyrinth Story
by atsuibelulah

Part 22 of 24

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