(A.N.)--- as promised (to those who read "Twice Upon a Time"), here is my very first labyfic. in all its imperfect glory. chapter one may seem a little slow, but it picks up.
and no, i didn't name Loki after me---i named him after the Norse "trickster" deity, as homage to one of the most fascinating personalities i have come across.
Please review/comment! Thanks! ^_^
Disclaimer: not mine. some of it, anyway.
and if i'd the spell to claim your existence / your clandestine thoughts / your soul's soft persistence / i'd follow the mirror aglow with your image / your water-grave eyes and your lingering fragrance / but unknown by you lost in the shadows i Fade and Remain~Faith and The Muse (Fade and Remain, Annwyn, Beneath the Waves)
~ * ~ * ~ * ~
Chapter One: La Torre
"You're a stupid girl, aren't you
Sarah's head shot up like a bolt; quickly she passed a look over everything surrounding her. Nothing. All seemed as it should be. The grass soft, the ceiling of swaying branches casting web-like shadows about her, the very air still as if enchanted. Had she heard that? It seemed to be more of a thought. . .a thought that breathed on its own.
"As it should be? What do *you* know of how things should be?"
With that she rose to her feet, studying far beyond what she had first seen. But still. . . Still she saw nothing out of place. Should I see something out of place? Have I not learned that things aren't always as they seem?
"Ah! Well, perhaps you do know something!"
"Who are you?" she called out, her voice barely carrying above a whisper. Where are you? She knew---she knew that any sensible soul would be terrified out of their wits, but she just . . . wasn't. What out there could really frighten her, a girl that had faced and defeated the Goblin King? Was that real? It was real, she snapped at that part of her mind that refused to accept what had happened. The part that always wanted her to believe it was a dream and the world was really all that you could see before you. It was real. Wasn't it?
"Do you really think you're *that* special of a girl? There are many more frightening things than the Goblin King."
For some reason, Sarah disagreed. There was something much more frightening about the Goblin King than your average faerie tale monster. What he was . . . No, *who* he was.
"Who are you?" her voice rose once more, it being less of a question and more of a demand.
"My My! You *do* think you're that special." And it then became more distinct. It wasn't just a thought inside her head anymore, it wasn't just a mocking tone or an elusive laugh carried on the lazy breeze. It was something real, something she could now actually hear with her ears. She spun around, prepared for whatever sight that would greet her eyes.
"Who . . . Who are you?"
The boy looked up, his eyes clear and almost feral, but still innocent. There was something undeniably innocent about him. He was now resting in the exact spot she had been in moments before, and to her horror he was mindlessly thumbing through her notebook.
"Hey! That's private!" She snatched it out of his hands in a way that could only be described as blind fury, seemingly forgetting this was no mere boy. But realization soon snaked its way into her eyes, and then fear. The creature before her only smiled softly. And then he shrugged as if he couldn't care any less about what 'private' meant to her.
"Please!" he said. "If you should say that once more I shall lose my pleasant mood," and he looked as if he would vastly hate being forced to do such a thing. Sarah's mouth snapped shut, she hugged the slightly worn notebook tightly to her breast. Silence falling all around her.
"Better. Better." He then stood up, brushed dirt from his palms. She said nothing, waited. The gold eyes that fell on her didn't seem to notice.
"I have a gift for you," he spoke, holding his hand out to her. She stared at it inquiringly as between his index and thumb a card appeared. And then her gaze climbed to his, her narrowed eyes asking how much of a fool he took her for.
He laughed softly, waved the card at her as if giving a formal invitation. "It will not bite, nor will I demand your precious brother as payment. This is a gift from me, no harm will come to you because of it," he reassured her, that innocence becoming clearer in his feral eyes.
"What *will* it do?" she asked hesitantly, her notebook dropping to her side, her eyes curiously lighting on the supposed 'gift'.
"Nothing, if you will it. However, it can grant you some insight. But that, too, is only if you will it."
Nervously she reached out to it, touched one edge. Nothing happened. Slowly she took it from his hand, then brought it closer to study it. She had seen something like this before. A tarot card. Or, at least, she thought it was by the simple design on one side. The other side was utterly blank though. Light ran along the glossy edge, pooled.
"What is . . .?" Her eyes lifted to the boy only to discover that she was once again alone. She would have argued that it was only her imagination swelling again-if it wasn't for the card she still held. Looking it over once more proved it just as blank.
"Useless," she sighed, gathering her book bag and starting off in the general direction of her house. "Utterly useless."
Sarah's mind grew ever so tiresome with each step. She was concentrating on that 'gift', but her thoughts were miles ahead of her, and she was struggling to catch up, struggling to force them to obey her. Her eyes bored endlessly into the card, seemed to ask what it was, why it was. But the only conclusion she ever arrived at was the same mindless stalk.
She passed into her room blindly, still holding the card between her fingers. She was, in all actuality, lost in thought-that much was clear if one could interpret her face. She had passed through the streets, before the houses that lined them as if she were a zombie. Her walk home had been more like a dull habit.
She moved to her vanity and placed the card face down, so she couldn't see its blank side anymore and wonder why. Her book bag slipped to the floor, landing with an ungraceful * thump* at her feet. Vacantly she situated herself in the chair before her mirror, raised her occupied eyes to her reflection then visibly tensed.
"You!" she gasped, turning about.
The boy smiled once again, appearing to be very comfortable on her bed.
"It is *not* useless," he whispered.
"Name." She snapped, turning back around to face herself once more. "I will not listen to you until you give me a name."
He seemed completely amused by her shortness. He swept his platinum hair to one shoulder and grinned. "Loki," he said. "You must call me Loki."
A moment more and she waved his words away, appearing indifferent even as her hazel eyes never left his reflection. She could appraise his 'unearthly' beauty, but it only made her suspicious. It was her belief that the most beautiful flowers dripped with the most potent poison.
This wasn't such a shock; it didn't grip her throat so tightly as before. In the beginning there had been more---Appearing in her room, her dreams. Some appearing in a flurry of theatrical dazzle, others shyly announcing themselves. Over the years the numbers had dwindled. In fact, this was the first one in a long time, almost a year. He was no more impressive than the rest. She sat quietly in wait for the words that always came.
*How did you do it? How did you beat the Goblin King at his own game?*
They never asked about how she made it through the Labyrinth; they didn't bother with words about the horrid Bog. As if defeating the King seemed such an impossible feat to them---The Labyrinth was a piece of cake!
O yes, and then their promises and their gifts and their offers.
Did defeating a King automatically put you on the Underground's most eligible bachelorette list? She shook her head, seeming only to wish that all would disappear with the movement of her dark hair. Another glance proved just how a wish could only be a wish. At first she had been so flattered---and very much afraid of all the creatures that had come to 'speak' to her. But after awhile it became just plain annoying. The idea that this could possibly be the King's revenge had presented itself to her sometime ago. It was certainly an original type of torture.
"Why do you always refer to him as 'the King'?"
Sarah sighed, picked up her brush and started running it through her hair. Not because it was tangled, but because it gave her ultimately something to do . . .besides satisfy her 'guest' with her undivided attention.
"What do you want, Loki?" she replied indifferently, refusing to acknowledge his previous inquiry. "If you have come to offer me something than save your breath."
"I only offer knowledge. Something I dare say you are in desperate need of," there was a ripple of platinum as he raised soundlessly from the bed and moved to her side. She watched him closely, having decided that anyone who came bearing only knowledge was indeed a suspicious character. No matter that he looked to be only about fifteen. That meant nothing.
He rested a finger atop the card, directing her attention to it. "Seek an answer," he said, "But do not be surprised if what is said does not pertain to your questions. This will answer the questions you have here," that finger then moved to the spot above her heart, which jumped erratically as if an arc of electricity had coursed through his veins and into her. "The questions you may refuse to ask, even of yourself," he continued in a soft whisper, his mouth sliding into a small, aware smile. With nothing short of shaky annoyance she slapped his hand away, as if his very touch offended her.
"It's blank," she reminded him, distrust stitched into her very tone, she felt as if there was every reason for it.
With something like infinite patience reflected in his feral eyes, he shook his head, waved a hand at the card. "Seek an answer," he repeated, his smug tint not lost on her.
Sarah wondered a moment if it were too late to shove the card back into his hand. She glanced in the direction of her window, out into the tree that cradled the night between its branches, growing ever so weary of the situation. She huffed, snatched the card up and turned it over, prepared to present her guest with an 'I told you so'. Instead, she found herself staring at a very distinct image, her eyes tracing its lines without fully comprehending them.
"Ah," Loki leaned over her, his shimmering hair brushing her shoulder. "The Tower."
And it was just as he said, a high tower---crumbling.
"What is this supposed to mean?" she whispered hastily, knowing only magic could have brought this about. In fact, she would stake her life that every fiber of that card was wrought with spells.
His smile softened out, as did the intensity of his eyes. He looked at her reflection as if he were seeing a child held captive in its silvery depths. "It explains itself. The Tower is made of stone, very resistant, but stone is not above decay."
She didn't believe a word of it, but still . . . something in her was suddenly terrified, shaken to its core. His gaze pulled at her, but she refused to raise her eyes to his, she was afraid her fear would spill out, and continue to spill.
"O, don't look so stricken," he laughed outright. He smoothed a hand over her hair, almost soothingly before he seemed to catch himself. "The Tower does not mean your world will end," he spoke with the same casual sympathy. "It only means that a change is nigh. There are no negative answers, only answers."
"This is all very well," she snapped, not liking the fear she had displayed only moments before. "But a gift of this sorts is not *just* a gift. Tell me why you have come to be here, Loki. And if you so much as offer me my dreams---I will toss you headfirst out my window!" she was breathing rather hard, she couldn't recall why.
His pitying smile melted away into seriously sharp features, the transition so quick that she didn't even see it happen.
"Since you insist on paying for my gift, then I will ask of you this . . ." he spoke warmly, but there was a sharp coldness edging it, as if he wished to cool the words as they passed his lips. He knelt down close to her ear, taking the card from her hand and laying it aside. There was fear in her suddenly, and excitement, the two deep-rooted emotions warred, their impact startling her. "Promise," he whispered, his voice lowering to the point of intimacy. "Promise that you will try to reach beyond the surface of the world. But far more importantly, try to see beyond your own surface . . ."
She froze as his breath passed over her ear, the words meaning almost nothing, all her focus was on that hand of his which was wound in her long, dark hair. He raised a tress to his lips and kissed it, smiled almost sleepily into the reflection of her startled eyes.
"That is all," he straightened, and was gone.
She only sat quietly, glaring at herself before realizing that her reflection seemed to be just as annoyed as she was. With veiled movements she ran her fingers through her hair, as if to shake off any lingering remnants of his touch. Her jaded gaze then dropped to the beautifully drawn, yet somewhat disenchanting card. She studied it blankly a long moment then forced her eyes away, rose. Crossing the short distance from vanity to window, she let her weight fall against the glass, seeming to rest against it as if trying to draw comfort from it.
"I wish it would rain," she said aloud, but softly. "I would very much like to go outside and sit in the rain."
~ * ~ * ~ * ~
There was glow of warmth residing just above her forehead, then a small, silvery laugh.
"Open your eyes, my pet," he said, " I know you are awake."
Sarah blinked, glared up at the creature that was balancing beside her on the bed. "O," she mumbled, turning away from him and pulling the cover tighter around her. "It's you again."
He smiled brightly at the controlled indifference in her voice, shook his head. "You're a fine actress, Sarah," he whispered, moving to stroke her hair in an almost appraising way. She shot up and pushed his hand away, almost knocked him to the floor.
"Go away," she hissed, "I'm not interested."
Loki's hand returned to his lap, his golden eyes shining with unmistakable amusement. And then he grew somber, arms crossing over his breast. She stared at him, seemingly trying to will him away with her eyes alone. He continued to watch her warmly.
He took a breath. "My gift *was* just a gift. But I do have a proposal for you." The knowing annoyance flashed so quick in her eyes that he hurtled on, afraid she would begin to shriek and he would never be able to finish. "Actually, it's more of a favour that I would ask of you. Please, you don't have to agree, but I need your help."
She listened blindly to his words, her mouth a dreadful line. "My help? What could you possibly need of me?"
Loki grinned, his head tilting to the side, causing his silver hair to slip over one shoulder. "You're listening. Does that mean you might even consider what I will ask of you?"
Sarah's eyes narrowed. "Not likely," she answered, "but you may ask." She rested back against the headboard, her refusal already resting on her lips. She didn't even know why she bothered listening.
"Because you heard it," he provided, "You heard the desperation in my voice, and it is real." He paused, seemed to address her humbly without visibly changing. She held her breath. "I *am* in need of your help."
"I wish you wouldn't do that," she sighed, her eyes dropping closed. Her hands knotted into the navy fabric of her cotton pajamas as she sank further into her bed, seemed to melt into the wooden frame itself. Part of her didn't comprehend the fact that she was no longer asleep.
"Habit, I suppose. But allow me to move on to my reason for being here---"
"By all means!" she laughed, without hint of any amusement. She watched him a moment as he stared at her, could almost feel herself growing smaller and smaller, could nearly feel his eyes weaving over a thousand thoughts.
" . . . I need you to solve the Labyrinth again." He turned expectant gold eyes on her, seemingly in wait of a rain of hysterical fury, but she remained motionless, the only indication that she had heard him being the widening of her gaze. She glared at him in the dim moonlight that trickled in through the window as if he were a bear and she Goldilocks.
"Uh-uh!" she jumped from the bed, almost scrambling over him, the comforter falling away as if it were afraid to tangle about her. She huffed a moment, as if she were choking on the very air. "Out!" she snapped, struggling to keep her voice down. "Get out!"
He shook his head, remained on her bed with his hands folded neatly in his lamp. "You don't understand," he whispered soothingly. "You see, Jareth has my brother locked up in that castle, and he has it so I can't get in to him. But you can. I know you can get through it again."
Sarah hesitated, her breath softening out. "This is a trick," she accused quietly, as if her words were a personal wish. Her light voice fell heavy through the air. "Did," she continued in a strange whisper, "the King put you up to this?"
Loki stood then, that innocence she had seen before shimmering in his eyes, and to her surprise they were of a pleading nature. His hands dropped on her shoulders, lightly---but in a way that said he was going to make her hear him out. "Please," he said, "I miss my brother and want him back." She stared up at him silently. "I know this is asking a lot, and there really isn't anything I can offer you that would aptly show how much I would appreciate your help. But, if it means anything to you, then I will be in your debt forever."
Something in her despised it, the desperation to his voice, it just didn't seem right that such a broken sound should come out of his mouth. Where was the creature that had mercilessly teased and mocked her this very afternoon? "What did your brother do?" she asked hesitantly.
Loki paused, tried to figure out if it had been pity or carefully veiled sympathy he had heard worm its way into her voice. "Nothing," he said. "He wished himself away and nobody knew the better . . . does this mean you will help me?" His face was suddenly eager, she wasn't sure it was wise to believe a word he said. Beauty such as his had a purpose, usually that purpose was deceit or to distract---experience and reason whispered in her ear. But still . . .
"Fine," she stated, her arms going about her waist, "But you will accompany me."
"Jareth won't allow it," he replied, it sounding very odd because of the sharp edge of joy and appreciation mixing into it.
"Then I suggest," she turned on the light and began rummaging through her closet, "that you find a way to come without him knowing. If you can appear and disappear at will then I am certain that this should not be so large a feat for you . . ."