Continuing Tales

The Way Back

A Labyrinth Story
by atsuibelulah

Part 24 of 24

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The Way Back

Jareth stared at Sarah as she flew towards the veils. It was necessary to transform her into a bird to make the journey; that being the only way he knew how to do it. He had cast the spell without warning, knowing that Sarah could stall as long as she wished unless he took some initiative. Sneaky, dubious initiative, but he had taken it anyway. She would be angry about it after all of it was over, whenever it was all over.

She was still within sight as Jareth contemplated her anger, as well as the form she had taken. His spell had not been specific, he had actually been curious about what the unknown form would say about her nature.

Sarah's avian form was a kestrel...he thought, but her coloring was much darker. Where she should have been white, she was a mottled grey, where she should have been rust brown, she was a deep chocolate brown. Her wings were barred thickly with a strikingly dark shade of ebony. This was not the coloring of a normal kestrel.

Jareth shook his head, kestrel or not, she was definitely a bird of prey, something he had not really anticipated. Most humans did not take any type of animal form as a predator. It was magically too difficult for them to hold such powerful spirits. He certainly would not have expected it of Sarah, who was in an incredibly weakened state from her recent traumatic experiences.

He watched as she disappeared into the veils, knowing that Sarah would not stop in her swiftly majestic flight until she came to the place from which she had summoned the Queen, for he had designed the spell that way. He shook his head as he turned from the view, his love was constantly surprising him with her astute ability to grasp the finer points of life in the Underground. She understood the way of things with an ease he had never seen in any other mortal, she sensed things from this world and from him that she should not have been able to sense.

There is something strange about her, the Labyrinth's voice returned to invade his "private" musings.

"Will you please stop going on about it?" Jareth snapped out loud, not sure if he could sound as irritated as he wanted to inside his own head. He felt the spirit flinch within him and sighed heavily. It was like arguing with a part of himself, not very difficult but always extremely self-revealing and thus, painful. He lifted a hand to wipe across his forehead in irritation because the Labyrinth was right and neither of them had the time to sit and figure it out. He spoke this time through the link between them, Come, we have wasted enough time. Show me what to do.

He felt the spirit's resistance to his request, This is something that must be investigated. This cannot be ignored, it is important.

Jareth shook is head again, this time emphatically negative, We don't have the time.

She has stayed her hand this long

That's because we are lucky, she could be on her way at this very moment.

She is not. I would know if she were near. The darkness is not closing, not like before.

He still shook his head. The motion had become something like a nervous twitch, something he could not stop, No, we do not have enough time. You have no idea how long something like that would take. I know that.

But we must-

"No!" He spoke aloud, once more, using his natural form of communication to overpower the Labyrinth's notions. Jareth's head was pounding. He did not enjoy arguing with this new and alien part of himself. He felt the reasoning of the spirit encroaching upon his own, merging together into something that was not his, not his thoughts, not his decisions. Somehow, he could feel it becoming theirs... ours.

"No!" he repeated in a voice that was too laced with fear for his liking. He battled for himself within his own mind, "You promised me...that was the said you would not take control from me."

Jareth could feel the spirit's confusion and rising anxiety at his ardent denial of what appeared to be obvious. The Labyrinth ignored his fearful statement, and continued to try and dissuade him. Jareth suddenly felt an intense desire to soothe its concern, to commiserate, to agree that...of course we must understand the strange thing about Sarah...our Sarah...the thought reverberated in his head as two voices melded together.

Jareth silently screamed in frustration and terror as he threw up a wall in his mind, dredging the last of his reserves of power. He had not used his own power since he had let the spirit enter him. The barrier would not have blocked this unconsciously powerful onslaught, but it was the fact that he had thrown it at all that stopped the spirit in his metaphorical tracks.

He felt the Labyrinth's distress at being cut off from him, even within the same body, Why do you keep yourself from me? Do you not wish to leave here? Are we not now one?

"We are not..." he spoke, breathless with effort, continuing aloud to keep as much of himself separated as possible, "we are not one in the sense that you seem to think we should be."

Are we not?

"No. You assured me that you would not take control."

I was not taking control. The spirit actually sounded affronted by that statement.

"Oh, were you not?" Jareth half-mocked the Labyrinth, trying to keep himself from becoming hysterical, knowing that his worst fear had just nearly been realized, "You were consuming me. A few moments more and neither of us would have known where one ended and the other began."

He felt the Labyrinth start violently, as if he had just realized that that was what had happened. There was a long pause, That was not my intention. I was only trying to convince you-

Jareth interrupted again, "You must understand, I cannot have you take control. I have allowed you within me, but everything that is done must be my decision. It is my body and my mind, my will."

Yes, of course.

He pressed on, needing to ensure that the spirit understood what was at stake, "You cannot ever try to convince me of something in such a manner again. I am not strong enough to deny you."

The spirit paused for another long moment, gave the mental equivalent of a nod and then returned with a jarring non-sequitor, Why do you not wish to understand Sarah?

Jareth was keenly reminded that, although the Labyrinth was a creation of the Mother, it was far from any other of Her children that He had ever known or heard of. He took a deep breath and answered, more truthfully than he would have wished, but knowing that denying the truth would lead to confusion between the two of them and down the path to his own destruction. He let down the barrier and spoke once more in his mind, I fear the answers I would receive.

What would you have to fear from Sarah?

I fear the unknown. I fear that the answer is something I will not wish to know. However, I will escape to a place where it will no longer matter.

But that is only for a time.

Jareth winced, he had not clearly thought past the Aboveground. He almost believed it wouldn't really matter after he lost Sarah to her mortal death. He answered anyway, suppressing a shudder, There, it will not matter and after my return it will no longer be a concern at all. I will treasure my extended ignorance.

Should not all ignorance be replaced with knowledge? Is that not the way of Fae and Man, alike?

Jareth smiled at the small irony, there was a time when he would have thought the same. That is the philosophy of some. However, sometimes ignorance is the less painful of the two. I have had enough pain derived from knowledge. What I do not understand will not harm me in the Aboveground. There is much I will not understand there, at any rate.

He felt the Labyrinth consider this followed by a kind of mental nod and an intense new awareness of...rightness, of a final complete understanding between them. Jareth was calmed by this feeling and truly knew that the spirit had not intended to usurp him. His fears subsided and, to his surprise, the Labyrinth sent words of comfort to him, Even though you go into a simpler existence, Jareth, know that the connection we have forged spans all worlds and all time. You will feel it in the mortal realm, though you, undoubtedly, will not understand it. A part of me will still be within you, no matter where your spirit travels.

Jareth smiled and was about to suggest once more that they begin, but was struck by a thought that he could not ignore, You must find a way to speak with Nadia on a regular basis. It will be quite lonely for her.

The spirit again took a long moment to consider this statement and finally answered, Yes, I have grown accustomed to solitude. But it will be...interesting to have a companion. She shall not be alone. I will not leave her to her grief.

Thank you, Jareth sent back and, surprisingly, felt lighter, less burdened, knowing that Nadia would not be left completely alone, that he had not abandoned her. Now, let's not waste any more time.


The Queen of Shadows ground her teeth in suppressed frustration. Her shadows had been...defeated. He had crushed them, he had smote them, he had...obliterated them...somehow. How had he done it? He had rid the damn maze of her minions and he had protected his sniveling girl-creature. Where had he obtained such power? He should not have had near enough to do any of what he had done.

Morgane's long fingers ground into the arms of her throne. The boy was maddening. How had he done it? The dark wood groaned under the pressure of her grip and she heard Accolon make some sort of strangled whimpering noise. She sneered at his fear. She'd just beaten him in her anger at Jareth's Mother-cursed removal of her "spyglass", why should he think she would get any satisfaction from doing it again, so soon after? She thrust herself from the throne in disgust.

The Queen moved her thoughts back to her wayward Steward as she stepped from the dais. Well, he would still not escape her, oh no. He still had no where to run and she could remove him from the Labyrinth at any time. It was her creature after all, just as he was.

She had suffered losses before, she was not infallible. Morgane glided across the black stone floor, moving at a leisurely pace. There was no cause for urgency. He would be shaken by the death of his servant. There would be a burial, there would be much grieving. She knew of his...regard for the dead mortal, she had time.

Morgane entered her chamber, lit the lamp at her vanity with a thought, and divested herself of the heavy brocade cloak she wore in court, throwing it idly on a daybed. She completed each act slowly, searching for her balance. She would have Jareth back, but it would not be soon if she did not reign in her anger. She went to her vanity and removed all the jewelry from her hands one by one, then looked up into the mirror to see Accolon lurking in the doorway.

"Chamberlain." she kept her voice even, allowing herself to take her normal pleasure in this simple but satisfying torment.

"Is there anything that you require, my Queen?" Hoarse from screaming, his voice barely traveled across the room, but she heard him.

She turned to face him so that half her face became enclosed in shadow. She noted how he held himself, even more hunched than usual, cradling his wounds from her previous anger. Of course, if he had not inquired at all, she would have been equally as incensed. She saw the fear in his eyes and reveled in it, "I require that you leave my sight before I thrash you once more. And you may not be so eager for it this time, old man. You might not escape with your life."

Her withered warrior visibly flinched and limped quickly away from the entryway. She smirked and slammed the large dark wooden door with another thought, hearing a stifled yelp immediately after. Morgane kept her eyes on the closed door for a moment. At any other time she would have cackled mercilessly at Accolon's terror, but that night she felt herself fall into a contemplative mood.

She remembered a time when the actions of the mortal knight Accolon of Gaul would have incited anything but laughter from her. He had never been a man to be laughed at, to be ridiculed so. Morgane had driven him to such a pitiful state. Nearly five hundred years of her torturous service had dwindled him to a shadow of his former glorious, if mortal, self, even to a shadow of a man.

Morgane rarely thought of her lifetime in the Aboveground, except to muse on the failings of her beloved "brother". She had felt things and done things for reasons she found increasingly hard to remember, year after year.

During her mortal life, she had been unusually aware of her Fae heritage and remembered often subduing the most inconvenient of the emotions her mortal body and heart had granted her. She had gone there to complete a mission, and she had succeeded in that. But she had not been able to entirely remove her humanity. She had not left Accolon for dead. Sometimes Morgane thought she tormented the man so because he was living proof of the human morals that had been thrust upon her. But still, she could never kill him. And she thought...she would be...sorry...when he died.

The Queen of the Shadows shook her head and turned from the vanity, somehow, unsettled even more than she had been upon entering her chambers. She went to a shelf on the wall and took down her tools for scrying, a long, ornately hilted, dagger, and a shallow basin of the same black stone and tarnished silver interlocking knot and raven design. The basin was full, nearly to the brim, with murky brown water, but she did not spill a drop. This water was not to be wasted, nor was it to be cleansed. It was her own blood that muddied the water, and it increased the power of her sight with every single use.

She placed the basin upon her circular scrying table and drew the knife expertly across her palm with no hesitation. The pain had only ever bothered her once, she had been a child then, and it had been her first glimpse into the waters. She spoke the ancient words, words to send her a vision of he who she sought, and slid her hand into the still water, feeling it immediately begin to roil. It churned and pulled around her hand, sucking the power from her wound. She tightened her other hand's grip on the table, this should not have been so difficult. Why did it take so much power to see him?

Suddenly the water stilled and Morgane removed her hand, frowning slightly as she peered into the vision she had conjured...

She saw a smallish room, with smooth white walls adorned with thin paintings of strange subjects and large words. Papers were scattered haphazard about the room, all over the few desks and chairs, some having fallen to the floor. One window and a few square shaped lamps illuminated the small space. A young man sat before one of these lamps, perhaps one of the mortals' many newly invented machines.

Morgane shook her head; the machine was of no importance. She focused on the man. This was a mortal man, living in the Aboveground. This was not what she sought. Why was she granted this vision? Who was this man? She turned back to the pool...

She could not see his face, but his was an uncommonly pale color. Morgane's nerves tightened. She heard a low sound emanating from his direction; it rose and fell in a softly hummed tune while he worked on his unfamiliar machine.

"Hmm, hm, hm, hm, hm, hmmm hmm hmm, hmmmmmm." As he poked at the desk in front of him the words to his tune broke through his lips that had been pursed in concentration, "You starve and near exhaust me." While quiet, the man's voice was compelling and echoed out from the pool. The familiar melody reached her ears, followed by familiar words that forced her mind to reach into the past.

Morgane was drawn into another vision, this one from her own memory. Guinevere had been beside the fire with the other ladies, weaving on a loom, humming the same melody, whispering the same words. Interrupted by a mask of geniality, "Wherever did you learn that song, my queen?" Returned with an embarrassed smile, "Oh, it has just always been in my head, sister. I must have heard it when I was very young, for it has always stayed with me." Morgane had left the room with an air of barely disguised contempt. Until that moment she had not been sure if the queen had known anything of her true nature.

She forced her thoughts back to the scryed vision. A stray hair fell into his eyes and he paused to brush it back as he smiled, probably from the absurdity of singing to the machine. He did not stop however, letting his smile broaden as he continued a little louder, "Everything, I've done, I've done for youuuu...I move the stars for no one."

Someone called to the man from a door that had just opened behind him. "Singing to the system again, eh Travers?"

He turned about swiftly on his chair and she saw his face fully for the first time. She saw his eyes, the very image of his mother's, hidden behind the mortal trappings of wire and glass. His face still held the nobility and grace of his forebears, but it had been softened. His brows were still made for rising in indignation, his eyes for glaring in defiance. But they also seemed more inclined to offer a kind glance, a smile, a laugh.

He returned the other's jibe with a confident air, "I'll do whatever the hell it takes to reach our efficiency rate, Burke. Perhaps you should try sonnets. I'm sure Professor Hansen would love to hear some. Because, you know what an incurable romantic she is." He removed the glass from before his eyes and rubbed the bridge of his nose before turning back to his machine.

He sang on, sometimes with the words, or just humming, as if he only knew some of them. The other continued speaking, "Y'know, I think you may be working too hard, Travers. I realize that you've got to work for the degree, that's the bane of all grad students. But when was the last time you saw the sun?" He had paused in the tune, drumming his fingers on the desk. The other noted this and continued quickly, "I mean, you are beyond pale. You can't live in a machine!"

He turned about swiftly, pointing a finger at the other, a smugly satisfied grin on his face, "That's it. I can't live within you. I could never remember that line. Thanks, Burke." And he turned back to the machine, still softly humming the tune.

The other sputtered, "You haven't been paying attention to a word I've said, have you?"

"No, I am just choosing to ignore it. But thanks also for the concern. I'm fine." The song continued after the break, as if he had not stopped.

"You're hopeless, Travers." A long pause, the man seemed to be reluctant to leave, "Where did you learn that song, anyway? I've certainly never heard it before."

"Oh, it's been lurking about my head for a while...pops up now and again. I must've heard it somewhere, though I can't really remember." The song started up again, it seemed to be on a permanent loop, for it was not very long. "Though I do believe in youuu..."

She marveled at him, at his changed appearance and demeanor, at the aspects of his nature that remained, inherently, the same. Still, even after the shift in worlds, he bore the eyes of that woman and they flashed when he let loose another slightly superior smirk towards the closing door. Their light seared her vision, they burned her soul.

Morgane had never seen them do that, for he had never known any cause for mirth in her presence. A wave of desire suddenly overcame her, to know this man, to see him as the mortals now saw him, to see him as the girl had seen him...Jareth. But, somehow, she felt this was something she could never achieve, something beyond her capacity. She shuddered, trying to dismiss her insidious thoughts, and clutched the marble tabletop to bend over her scrying pool, once more.

But she paused as another, now violent, shudder coursed through her and she felt something shift, something large, something unaccountably significant. She felt it being torn from her, felt it as the severing of a limb. She felt it fall and crumble away from her...the Labyrinth. She felt her prize slip through her taut fingers. She felt its growing absence from her well of power, scrambling to draw from it, only to find she could not.

She was brought to her knees by the force of her myriad of workings that had been supported by the power of her now lost prisoner. She searched for the power to pursue the thieves, grasping the table to haul herself to her feet. But the burden of the entirety of her dark magic settled on her shoulders and she knew she no longer held enough even to sustain it all. She collapsed heavily, bringing the table down with her. The blood and water of her visions plummeted and the basin shattered as the gash on her palm reopened, the blood pouring freely from it.

Morgane watched the dark liquid merge with the growing puddle upon the stone. They had come together somehow, in a way she had not been able to foresee, a way she did not understand. She thought of the smile on the mortal Jareth's young face, she thought of the memories and desires she had exposed in the girl, and she wondered at the things she had never allowed herself to know, as the blood stained her hand crimson and flowed into the water. She knew she would not die, she had suffered losses before, and it would take much more to bring her even close to the arms of the Mother. But still, she keened the anguish and sorrow of defeat...and perhaps...something more.

Jareth leaned heavily against one of the Tower's narrow turrets, letting the steady wind caress his face. He watched group of goblins, made tiny by the height, engage in one of their mindless scuffles in his courtyard. He shook his head, letting loose the beginnings of a laugh. Life would continue as it had for centuries in the Goblin City, regardless of whether or not he would be there. The goblins obeyed him out of fear, but they would not really notice his absence.

Jareth's muscles quivered and his hands shook slightly with fatigue. An astonishing amount of power had been channeled through his body. The spirit of the Labyrinth had told him what to do, had put the power within his reach, and Jareth had done it. They were safely away. She did not have the resources to pursue them.

He lifted his eyes to gaze out in to the hazy mists and clouds of the veils, lost in thought. The Labyrinth now felt very alien, very removed from the worlds. Surrounded by a thick white and grey miasma, he wondered if anything could reach it now.

He directed his concerns to the spirit, How will the players find their way into the game now? From where will you draw your power?

I have no real need for the game, the Queen kept it to add to her bottomless well of power. I will welcome the travelers of the veils and those destined to play the game will come whether or not I desire them. I have enough power, retaken from the Queen, to sustain me for many generations. Fear not, Goblin King, you will have a realm to return to.

Jareth shook his head, I have no real desire to return. I do not know if this world will hold anything for me.

It may not hold anything you desire, Goblin King, but do not leave your mind in the Aboveground along with your heart, for you will need it upon your return. The denizens of both sides of the Underground will not leave me to the veils for long, and I will not be able to hold them at bay for much longer than your absence.

Jareth felt an emptiness form within him at the thought of being in this world once more, of being without Sarah, forever...not long at all. A horribly sardonic noise escaped his throat, it might have been a laugh, but Jareth cut it short. He could not dwell on this now. I will deal with what comes at my return, upon my return.

By all means, Jareth sensed the Labyrinth realizing he should drop the subject.

Jareth turned from the narrow window and looked at the empty Tower, sighing with finality. There were things that he enjoyed about his life in the Labyrinth, but his time in it had been too laced with pain and loss. He had said goodbye to Nadia, there was nothing else that he loved well enough to take the time to bid any more farewells. The Labyrinth would always be a part of him, and through time, he expected that feeling would grow. But while Sarah lived, she was his only home.

Is there anything I must do to prepare? Jareth actually had very little idea of how the spirit sending process worked. He had not stayed long enough in the Court of Light to witness the ceremony.

You will undoubtedly want to find a place to sit down. I trust you do not wish your body to be standing for the next century.

No, Jareth chuckled, that would probably not be very wise. He produced a crystal and dropped it where his favorite reading chair from the library appeared a moment later. He sat in the deep cream upholstered cushions, feeling slightly ridiculous. Now what?

The spirit's voice filled the entirety of his mind and his body, making them both feel extremely heavy, Relax and let go. He slumped in the chair, muscles going slack, his arm fell over the side of the chair to brush against the dusty floor, and his eyelids became too heavy to lift any longer. It did not occur to him to be frightened. This was not the unconsciously hostile takeover that he had fought through not so very long before. Jareth welcomed the invasion of the spirit. He knew that something wonderful would come from it. He felt his own spirit strain to be free of such weight, he felt it reach toward the place the Labyrinth was drawing him. I will guide you there, Jareth, you need only trust and wait for her to find you.

Jareth smiled, slow and dream-like, his last thought before succumbing to the Labyrinth's overwhelmingly strong compulsion was of her. He would enter this new world with a vision of Sarah fixed in his mind. This time, nothing would keep him from his love.

The Way Back

A Labyrinth Story
by atsuibelulah

Part 24 of 24

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