Chapter 9

Jareth strode through the hedges on his way back to the castle, angrily blasting sections of greenery out of his way, only to have them reform behind him once he had passed. He knew Sarah was athletic enough that she could easily outrun the Cleaners until she came to a fork in the tunnels that she could take to avoid them. Hoggle on the other hand..

Let that stunted little man try to outrun the Cleaners, Jareth thought angrily. With those short legs he hasn't a chance.

He actually had no idea what would happen once the Cleaners caught up to Hoggle- Jareth had never seen them in action before, as they were also one of the dismal remnants of the old days when the tunnels below the castle had to be as staunchly protected from intruders as the land above them. But Jareth knew that if he ended up trapped as an owl for eternity, he would at least be happy in the knowledge that the man who had helped seal his fate had died a horrible death for his betrayal.

He was still so livid about the treachery acted out by Hoggle, on this his and Olwyn's last and most desperate day of their battle, that for a moment he did not notice the barn owl flying towards him, screeching in alarm. He looked up just as Olwyn landed, claws first, onto his chest, clutching wildly at the leather of his vest while she flapped her wings in fright.

"Olwyn?" Jareth asked as he looked down at her wide, obsidian-black eyes. "What are you doing?"

Agitated, the owl continued to flap her wings, beating him across the shoulders while she shook her head and screeched at him. Jareth gently grasped her wings to her side to stop her from hurting herself in her throes of terror, and beneath her feathery body, he could feel her heart beating so fast it was almost a constant rhythm. Her clawed feet still circled about dangerously, and one talon caught the back of his hand as he held her. He gasped in pain, and watched as a red drop of blood welled up from the cut.

Olwyn stopped struggling in his hands as they both watched the blood run down his hand to land on the stone pavement below, where it was absorbed with an astonishing speed. Jareth met her eyes again saw she was staring at him with such intensity, her black eyes seemed almost watery. Belatedly he realized that he could feel her breathing irregularly, almost as if she were hiccupping, and soft, scared little noises came from her. She shook her head at him again, as if to say don't.

The face she was making was almost so human, he thought, it was if she were..

As if she were crying.

Jareth looked back at his wife, then back down as another drop of his blood joined the first on the ground. It, too, was absorbed quickly by the parched earth. The Labyrinth had tasted blood before, and Jareth knew, without a doubt, that his would not be the last.

"Oh god," he whispered, as he belatedly remembered that the sections of tunnels closest to the castle had been barred off years ago- the section Sarah and Hoggle were currently in. They would be trapped! He had just set a swirling, bladed machinery on Sarah as well as Hoggle. While he didn't particularly care about the dwarf at the moment, he knew he could not harm Sarah; she was an innocent! Eselda had even forbade he hurt her- he could have already damned himself and Olwyn to a feathered prison by his actions.

He quickly released Olwyn, then disappeared in a flash of glitter to the tunnels below ground, where Sarah and Hoggle were trapped.

Jareth had to leap backwards a few minutes in time in order to be able to counter his terrible mistake. Slightly winded, he reappeared unnoticed in the tunnel several yards down from where Hoggle and Sarah were trapped, beating fitfully on a stone-sealed archway. There was a heavy wood and iron gate blocking his path to them, and the Cleaners were mere inches from delivering them a bloody, painful death.

"Push!" Sarah screamed at Hoggle. Their combined efforts had no effect on the stone wall.

Without thinking, Jareth thrust out at the sealed stone wall with all of the Labyrinth's magic behind the force, and it collapsed inward just in time for the pair to scramble out of the way of the twirling blades. Exhausted from exerting so much magic, Jareth staggered against the wall as the Cleaners broke through the iron gate a few yards from where he stood. He struggled to stay upright as his vision went blurry, but he couldn't fight the effects of expending that much magic so quickly.

He collapsed to the stone floor and as his vision started to go black, he could have sworn he saw a silent, smudge of white floating above him, even as the Cleaners sliced through the air towards him.

Author's Note: Dun dun DUN! Will Jareth get sliced, diced, and jullienned to bits? (this would be a much shorter story if so..)

*gets smacked upside the head by Jareth*

Alright, alright.. I (might) not do that to him if you review!

AN2: Yes, I AM still working on this story! I have not given up on it, but had gotten myself thoroughly stuck in a storyline that I did not like where it was headed, and had to re-work it a bit. We're good now, so hopefully more posts will come at a more respectable pace!