Continuing Tales

The Way Back

A Labyrinth Story
by atsuibelulah

Part 6 of 24

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The Way Back

When Sarah awoke Jareth was gone. She wasn't surprised and vaguely wondered why. It seemed that nothing had happened to her since arriving in this place that she was surprised or frightened by. Maybe she was in a state of perpetual shock, letting things slide by her, avoiding reaction...or confrontation. Sarah wondered where that thought came from. She remembered nothing before waking up to the Goblin King's face. But her surroundings seemed strange, like things were missing or...her head began to hurt and Sarah decided to stop thinking about it.

The area of the bed next to where she lay was cold. He had left long ago. She felt an intense desire for him to return and wondered again about her natural reactions. What had she been like before the loss of her memory? What kind of person was she? Why had she lost it in the first place? What had she been searching for?

Sarah took in the chamber and realized it must be his. She smiled, it suited him so well. The bedcovers were like his hair, warm ivory and feather-soft. All the furniture was made of a light brown wood that was swirled with an earthy green color, adding a comfortable and inviting look to the light of the fabrics. She was reminded of his eye, the one she liked. The various ornate sconces and lamps were made of a darkened bronze and shone brightly in the light of the setting sun.

Sarah looked out through the crack between the curtains of the windowed doors. The dusk painted the sky violet, orange and red, a frightening beauty, and she wished again that Jareth would come back. She was jolted out of her reverie by a soft knocking. Sarah stared at the great wooden door diagonally across the chamber from the bed. For some unknown reason, she had no idea what to do. She should call out, tell her visitor to come in. She wasn't undressed, there was no reason not to, but as she moved her lips no sound would come.

She felt panic taking hold of her, sending shivers up and down her body. Was she unable to speak? Had she never had the ability? Sarah couldn't remember. A thousand questions pounded on her subconscious mind, and she felt each answer just barely slip through her trembling fingers. Why couldn't she remember? A strangled cry flew, unbidden, from her throat. The ice cold panic rose higher. She could produce sound, why the hell couldn't she speak?

The door opened slowly and Sarah's panic transformed to irrational terror. How was she to know what was behind that door? She began to scramble across the large bed, trying to make her way to the corner of the chamber opposite the door, as far away as possible. She froze when the visitor emerged slowly and soundlessly from the corridor, a tray of steaming food in her arms.

Sarah consciously reigned in her fear, hands tightening around one of Jareth's feathery pillows. She would not show weakness. If she could not remember her real nature, she would invent one, she would take charge. She stilled herself on the rumpled bed and fixed her gaze on the visitor and thought at first it was a woman made of gold.

A few seconds later she wanted to laugh at herself, but could not put out the effort even to smile. Sarah was comforted by the fact that the woman did enough smiling for the both of them. She was taller than Sarah and sturdily built but with voluptuous curves encased in shimmering pale yellow silk that flowed to her bare feet. Her warm amber eyes were focused on Sarah and a concerned smile was fixed on her golden visage. Golden bronzed hair fell in large dramatic curls down her back and past her waist. Sarah thought she had never seen a more beautiful woman and then wanted to laugh again. She felt herself smiling back at her guest and her fear was forgotten.

The woman spoke with a low musical voice as she placed the tray on a table positioned along the wall, "How are you feeling, Sarah?"

Sarah had little idea of how to answer and found herself making a vague questioning gesture with her hands. Had she been feeling bad? She recalled she had been shaky when she was on the balcony with Jareth and thought it was only fatigue, but remembered nothing else.

The woman chuckled quietly, "Sorry, silly question." She curtseyed shortly at Sarah, who found the action quite disconcerting, and spoke again, "I am Nadia. My brother, Aidan, and I are vassals of the King. Jareth has sent me to make sure you are cared for while he is away." Sarah smiled at Nadia's use of his given name and realized the woman had just indirectly told her much about the relationship between this King and his vassals. She suddenly felt very ridiculous, perched precariously near the edge of the bed.

It was obvious what she had been doing immediately before Nadia walked in, but Sarah's visitor did not comment at all. Only smiled once again and pulled a long, thin piece of wood out of a pocket, hidden in the deep recesses of her gown. Sarah realized it was a matchstick just before Nadia struck it on a rough stone she had produced from some other pocket.

The golden woman moved about the rapidly darkening room with the long matchstick in her hand, holding it like a wand, lighting the many candles interspersed along the walls and on surfaces. She smiled again at Sarah when their eyes met and answered a question that was barely formed and could not be voiced, "We do not use power lightly in the Labyrinth," she paused and thought a moment, "Well, one person does. But he likes candlelight anyway."

Sarah thought at first that by "power" the woman meant electricity, but she realized immediately that that was what was missing from the room. Modern technology...there was no electricity. Sarah had not seen one lamp or light switch could she have not noticed? She was in an actual castle. Sarah felt the panic rising again within her and fought to control herself. She recognized the fact that it was not her surroundings that were making her upset, it was that she had forgotten something so mundane, so essential to normal life. Sarah wanted to cry. This place could not be her home. She would not have reacted with confusion to the lack of electricity.

Sarah felt Nadia's comforting presence on the bed next to her and a hand rubbing her back gently. It was at that point that the tears started to flow. And she had thought not to show weakness...Sarah cried harder. She turned into the beautiful golden woman's waiting arms and heaved wracking sobs for so long, Sarah began to think that she was now crying for other, deeper reasons. She could not remember but did not cease.

"Shhh," Sarah finally heard Nadia's softly lilting murmurings, "Look, Sarah, the sun has almost set completely. You must eat something," the golden woman smiled once more, "None of us know how long it's been since you've eaten. That can't be good."

Sarah began shaking with silent laughter, for no other reason than sheer desire to do nothing else, and pulled herself up from Nadia's tearstained lap. The tray of food, consisting of roast chicken and some cooked vegetables that Sarah could not identify, was still warm and very good, although she did not eat much. Nadia joined her in the meal and the two ate in companionable silence.

When they were both done, Nadia stood up from the table and looked Sarah over, an appraising, then considering air about her. She began to move her hands in swift, decisive motions, spoke a single word, and to Sarah's surprise, thrust her right hand into a pocket of the flowing dress, pulling out a long pale green piece of fabric. Sarah's eyes widened only slightly and Nadia let out a playfully irritated huff, "That was some fancy bit of magic, Sarah! You should be more impressed."

Sarah thought that she should have too and belatedly loosened her jaw as she lightly smacked her hand against her cheek in mock awe. Nadia laughed as she motioned to Sarah to stand up, shaking the cloth out a little before holding it up to the woman's wasted frame. "I pulled this from one of the older children's closet. It's a simple design so if it doesn't fit you properly it won't take much to fix." Sarah looked down at the fabric being held up to her and realized it was a dress, shaped in the form of a loose robe that could be tied to fit a number of sizes.

When the pale green dress was on Sarah and tied properly, hugging her slim body, she fingered the fabric as Nadia bent low to adjust the hem that fell just below the knees, it felt cool against her hands, shimmering and light. Sarah marveled that even the fabrics of this place felt magical. How did she end up in such a place?

Nadia's voice penetrated her thoughts halfway into a sentence, "...can get out of this stuffy room now."

Sarah hardly thought the room was stuffy, but smiled at the golden woman and mouthed a "thank you." She found herself wondering what the rest of Jareth's home was like.

Several minutes later the two women walked barefoot by the light of a single candle through the dark, dusty halls of the Castle Beyond the Goblin City. Sarah thought they were quite bare, dark and silent from disuse. She listened as Nadia explained, "You see, Sarah, Jareth hardly ever physically walks through the castle. He can just transport himself from place to place, so he doesn't need to. The only things that really come through many of the passages are the rats and the goblins."

Sarah started at the mention of goblins and then mentally smacked herself on the forehead. Of course there were goblins, the man was the frigging Goblin King.

Nadia continued, unaware of either Sarah's confusion or inner thoughts, "Jareth really has no need for a serving staff. He conjures his own food and clothing. He keeps mainly to his rooms, study, the gardens, and the library. I believe he will remember to furnish a room for you when he returns. I don't have the power to conjure everything that you will need."

Sarah nodded and mouthed another "thank you".

She smiled, "Well, I wouldn't have actually done anything there. But you're welcome anyway. Now, where would you like to go? The gardens or... the library..." at that Sarah nodded emphatically and opened her hands like a book for good measure.

"Alright, alright, the library it is then," Nadia said, laughing as she led Sarah down another corridor.

They were passing by a pair of large bronze doors, Nadia looking slightly uneasy, when suddenly a booming sound shook the castle, causing the two women to clutch at the walls. Nadia swore under her breath and said, by way of explanation, "The goblins... ah... can get a little rowdy if Jareth goes away for too long. He is the only one they pay attention to." The golden woman shoved herself irritably from the wall and handing the candle to Sarah, directing her slightly bewildered companion, "Just stay here for a minute, ok? I need to go take care of this. It shouldn't take too long." Nadia gave Sarah a quick smile and muttered under her breath, "Adrian, I'll need your help," before twisting in a swirl of fabric into the form of a small bird and zipping down the passageway.

Sarah stood, waiting for a few moments, before she became bored. Who knew how long Nadia was going to be. She turned around, idly looking about her by the light of the candle. The corridor itself was unremarkable, dark stone riddled with dust and cobwebs so Sarah turned to the doors. She moved her candle upwards to see the intricate bronze designs better. Each of the two doors were as wide as the span of Sarah's arms and probably twice as tall.

The designs were simple upon first glance, etched in a vaguely late medieval style. Each door encompassed one side of an aisle the viewer looked down into. This struck Sarah as strange because the forced perspective that demanded would not be developed in classical art until the Renaissance. The figures that lined the aisle were all dressed in medieval style dress and armor, although the right door depicted tall, elegant, serene-faced human-shaped figures, while the left was lined with distorted forms and faces, almost writhing with such strong illustrations of hate and anger that Sarah was forced to slide her gaze aside.

Sarah lifted her face upwards to focus on the center of the two doors. It looked like a sun, round and large, spreading lines representing rays across the span of both sides, although quite possibly not as many on the left side. As Sarah strained to look closer, raising herself on tiptoe and squinting through the candlelight, she discerned something almost like the face of a woman, benevolent and ageless, regarding the whole scene with a bemused all encompassing love. Sarah wondered how she could have picked all that up from an etching she could barely see two or three feet above her head, but dismissed it as another thing she had forgotten and decided to enter the room. Maybe she would find something beyond these beautiful doors that could help her.

There were no door knobs or handles, so Sarah pressed her palm lightly against the right side and it swung with surprising ease. She paused and collected herself a moment, strangely nervous, then stepped slowly into the vast room, only assuming it was vast by comparison to the size of the doors. The light of the candle only did so much to alleviate the darkness that encompassed the room around her. Walking a little further in, Sarah saw that on the wall to her left large windows had been boarded up, barring any light.

Busy focusing on the windows, Sarah did not notice exactly where she was walking as she made her way across the wide empty floor and nearly fell as she ran straight into something hanging from the ceiling. She jumped back quickly, images of giant spider webs and giant spiders flashing through her imagination, but as she moved the candle the light revealed a low-hanging chandelier.

She raised the light in her hand higher, trying to see and understand the purpose of such a room, as she did so the space grew brighter. Sarah gasped loudly, the sound echoing among the various muted decorations that the small light had been caught and reflected by. It was a ballroom. Sarah's hands began shaking, almost imperceptibly, as she gazed at the forlorn scene, trying to ignore her reaction and the small beads of wax that began falling onto her hand, pretending she didn't notice.

The ballroom looked as though it had been abandoned in the middle of a party, decorations hung, collecting dust and some half falling down. The floor caught her eye as Sarah walked even further in, she half smiled as her bare feet made small footprints in the dust and discarded glitter that had probably been floating through the air during the ball. She took advantage of her solitude and did a little pirouette, swirling some dust into the air with the force of her movement.

A small light moved with Sarah's candle almost straight in front of her. For a moment, Sarah was startled, but curiously took a few steps forward. The small light bobbed up and down with her steps and she realized she must be before a mirror. Sarah walked forward more quickly, eager to see the end of the ballroom, but stopped suddenly when the candle and mirror illuminated her face.

Sarah stared wide-eyed at the stranger before her and dropped the candle, her hands shaking more violently now. She knew intuitively what she should look like. As she stared at herself, her subconscious randomly threw a memory at her. She saw a girl of about fifteen or sixteen, herself, sitting at a vanity strewn with the make-up and personal articles of one at the threshold between childhood and adulthood. She saw her large, hazel doe-eyes, her long dark hair, her creamy white, healthily flushed complexion. That was what she should look like, older of course, but similar anyway.

Sarah gazed at the figure in front of her, taking in the gaunt frame, the hollow cheeks, the dark circles, the scars and bruises. What had happened to her? What hell had she gone through?

Sarah tore her gaze from the reflection, focusing on the mirror itself. Her jaw dropped as she realized it claimed the entirety of the wall and her mind took her down a path to the past.

She saw herself in front of this mirror, the same age as before the vanity. She wore an elaborate gown that seemed to be made of silver and crystal, hair pulled back dramatically and curled with silver and white feathers and ribbon. The sounds and smells of many revelers bombarded her senses. She thought for some reason the mirror should be shattered, she did not like what she saw.

Pain lanced through Sarah's head and she came back to herself, turning from the mirror, from the memory. But her mind was not done with her. The darkness took her just as it encompassed the ballroom. It pulled her in and she would not let her go.

Sarah saw her, smelled her, felt her touch. She felt the force of her machines, felt the probing of her dark powers, felt the coldness of her dungeon, felt the shackles on her own wrists, felt the searing of her own flesh. She felt the revolting touch of the guards, felt the icy contempt in her hands, in her possessive caresses. Sarah remembered. She had kept nothing, had revealed everything. She had broken her, she had won.

For the second time in as many days Sarah screamed his name, the name that she had tried so hard to forget, to conceal, to protect.

The Way Back

A Labyrinth Story
by atsuibelulah

Part 6 of 24

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