Continuing Tales

The Way Back

A Labyrinth Story
by atsuibelulah

Part 9 of 24

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The Way Back

Jareth opened the door connecting his bedroom to his study and walked through, exhaustion even in his steps. He found Nadia sitting primly in a straight-backed chair opposite his own modestly cushioned one behind the great mahogany desk. Aidan was pacing as usual. The Goblin King mentally restrained himself from turning on his heel and tucking himself in with Sarah.

Jareth regretted his harsh treatment of Nadia earlier. He could tell the twins were shaken by his behavior. He could not run away, they deserved better. The truth was that he did not know what to tell them. Sarah's pain and his own helplessness had sent him into a state of mind he had not experienced in many years.

As he deliberately walked over to his chair, Jareth's mind mulled over the passions of his youth, which he had so long repressed in his exile. He had always loved deeply, but he suspected something more was developing in relation to Sarah. His anger had burned so cold it almost frightened even him. It had never been that intense in his father's house. Sarah was different, Sarah made him different. Now that was frightening.

The sound of a tentative cough came to his ears and Jareth realized he had been staring off into a corner, lost in his memories and doubts, and the twins were waiting for him to speak. He still had no idea what to say. His behavior had scared them both badly, and had undoubtedly hurt Nadia, but he felt reluctant to apologize. The relationship between the Goblin King and his two vassals was a complicated one, lost somewhere among father, lord, and old friend.

They had spent so many years together but Jareth had kept many aspects of himself and his past apart from them, and had always held his authority over them tightly. He had drawn a line in their relationship early on and they had learned quickly not to cross it. Jareth knew Aidan preferred matters that way. Nadia was the one who would loose patience every once in a while, get sufficiently drunk, so he could not be too upset, and push as far as he would let her.

Looking back after a few centuries, it may not have been the wisest choice to establish things the way he did, but the emotional wounds from his exile were still too fresh to relive for anyone. Jareth was currently trying to figure out how to get out of telling them more than he wanted to, which was nothing.

After looking at his stricken vassals for a long moment, Jareth decided just to launch into the explanation for Sarah's sudden appearance. He began with a question that probably seemed totally out of the blue, "Do you remember the last time I appeared before the Shadow Court?"

The King almost laughed at the absurdity of it all as Aidan gave him a look like he had gone insane and Nadia answered in a slightly exasperated tone, "Yes..."

"Do you remember anything strange about that visit?"

Aidan answered this time, remembering before his sister, "You returned early...something happened, I remember you were upset."

"Yes. Something happened. I never told you, there was no need. At the time I thought it unimportant, not even concerning me, let alone you. It was just an inconvenience, or a stroke of luck, taking up the time I was supposed to spend with the Queen." Jareth grimaced at the bitter irony of the whole situation as he continued, reluctantly warming to his tale, "I was approaching the throne, ready to bow and scrape and excuse whatever faults she had found throughout that year, when I saw the maddest grin break across her face. She stood and pointed directly at me. She said quite calmly that my presence would not be required until the next year's audience and that I was free to leave. I turned around and left the hall. It was all a little unsettling. When I reentered the waiting chamber, I asked that ancient chamberlain of hers...Accolon, what she had been called away to. He told me a mortal had summoned her from the Tor." Jareth paused to catch his breath and Nadia spoke as realization dawned.

"Oh yes, Glastonbury was always the place of her highest power. It must be the only place that she can reach without the aid of the Labrinth now."

Jareth started up again, "Yes, and she can only take those who call her. Nowadays, not many do, I imagine she was quite ecstatic, she is able to do whatever she pleases with them. You have heard the type of things that go on in her dungeons?"

Aidan nodded mutely and Nadia shivered.

"I crossed the veils to speak with Sarah's brother," they both started at this change in subject, and Jareth continued before the could voice any questions, "He told me three pieces of crucial information: Sarah did not forget her experience in the Labyrinth, she didn't even try to, she has been missing for a year, and she had been studying in Southern England."

Nadia's eyes were wide as her hands flew to her mouth and Aidan sank to the floor, for there was no chair nearby, and put his head in his hands. Allowing time for these revelations to sink in, Jareth tipped his head back and closed his eyes. He was so tired.

A few moments later, when he reopened them, Aidan had stood and was pulling the other seat in the room towards Jareth's desk and Nadia was still sniffing from the short cry she'd allowed herself on Sarah's behalf. Jareth reached across the table and clasped her hand. She looked up and he asked her quietly, "What happened this evening? Why was Sarah in the ballroom?"

She looked like she would burst into tears again, but held them back saying, "Oh Jareth, I was so careless. I didn't think about what room we were standing in front of. When she woke up we talked a little, then she had a small cry," Jareth's gaze darkened slightly at this statement, but she continued not noticing. "We ate dinner together, and I asked her if she wanted to see some of the castle, get out of the room for a bit. She wanted to see the library, so we had to pass the ballroom. I knew you wouldn't want me to take her there, and I was trying to just go past it quickly, but then the castle shook. The damn goblins were up to some mischief, you know how they get. I called Aidan to help me take care of it...I thought they were going to blow off a chunk of the castle..." she was beginning to get flustered, afraid of his anger, he raised his hand slightly and she ceased. Jareth knew it was an honest mistake, and really no lasting damage had been done. It was probably a blessing that Sarah's memory had returned sooner rather than later.

"You need not fear, Nadia. I was not angry at you earlier. I do not blame you for today's events, they would have happened one way or another. I have frightened you both, and for that I apologize. Things are going to be happening very quickly now and I want you two to prepare yourselves and the children in the settlement."

His voice had quickly transformed from the informal to the official and Nadia took that cue when she spoke, "Your Majesty, may I ask what will be happening now?"

He straightened in his chair and told them calmly, "There has always been a way to escape from this place, but there was never a need dire enough. I will take that path, if the Shadow Queen does not come for us all first." They took the finality in his voice as a dismissal and quietly stepped into the corridor as Jareth leaned back in his chair.

He felt his exhaustion eating away at rational thought and let himself sink into memory. Dreams: they had always been at the center of everything. They were the heart of Sarah's quest and Sarah's pain, of his role in the Labyrinth. It went as far back as his childhood, and his exile.

When Jareth was still very young, when he was still at his mother's skirts, she had said he was a strong dreamer. He remembered often not being able to distinguish between the dream and reality. Looking back, he thought that it was not such a feat, not in the court of the Sun King, where the dreams of many were reality and vice versa.

The court of Jareth's father was a place of ancient stoic ritual and extreme private excess. His mother had abhorred everything about it and had instilled a deeply buried resentment in her only son. It was a resentment that Jareth thought to rid himself of and take his place beside his father, and he almost succeeded.

As he grew older, it was no longer difficult to distinguish between dream and reality but his dreams were always vivid and the line between the dreams of his sleeping mind and the dreams of his dormant heart was often blurred. When the ritual began the dreams had come in such a force, of a future he would never see, a love he would never hold. It was because of the dreams that he had refused to complete the rite, refused to pay the price. After they exiled him, the dreams stopped altogether and Jareth only remembered them in a haze, when before they had been as clear as if he had been living them.

A tear leaked out of the corner of his eye, he let it fall. Maybe they had been a test he had failed. Maybe they had proven him a coward. If he had only paid the price none of this would have happened. The twins would have stayed above, as would have every other child. She would have never been able to hold the Labyrinth, and Sarah would be safe, never running the maze, never tormented by the Queen.

Jareth shook himself and stood up quickly, irritated for wallowing in self pity, and nearly tripped over his desk. Cursing the desk for being in his way and himself for being so tired, Jareth stumbled into his bedroom. Actually forgetting until it was too late that Sarah was sleeping in his bed. He looked down at her peaceful form from the opposite side of the bed and knew he did not have the energy to conjure even a footstool at that moment. So he did the only thing possible, collapsing heavily onto the mattress, still completely clothed. Sarah didn't even stir, and after a moment, neither did he.

The Way Back

A Labyrinth Story
by atsuibelulah

Part 9 of 24

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