Categories > Movies > Labyrinth > Labyrinth of Chaos

A Curious Intervention

by shadowlurker13 0 reviews

Sarah Williams thought she was through with her Labyrinth problems. They were only just beginning...good thing help is on the way. Or is it? Crossover with Roger Zelazny's 'Chronicles of Amber' ser...

Category: Labyrinth - Rating: PG-13 - Genres: Fantasy - Published: 2017-05-22 - Updated: 2017-05-24 - 6852 words - Complete

Labyrinth of Chaos

Chapter 1 - A Curious Intervention

Author’s Note: I’m sure that certain parts of this story are going to be old hat for the few but proud Amberites reading this crossover, but for the benefit of my protagonist (and the Listians/Labyrinthians of Shadow Earth not familiar with the One…er… looks over shoulder, sees nodding …Two True Realms), a certain amount of the basics are going to be rehashed up front so nobody’s confused later. Sit tight - the action picks up in chapter two. Enjoy!

(prelude music: Tori Amos, Boys for Pele – ‘Horses’)

With a gasp, Sarah Williams abruptly awoke and sat bolt up, panting, her brow drenched with a cold sweat. With an annoyed groan she collapsed back onto the mattress, catching her breath. The nightmares had started the very night she had journeyed to the Labyrinth, stood up to the Goblin King, and rescued her baby brother. But these dreams were not of brick and mortar, hallways that zigzagged and ran onto infinity for no other reason than they could. They weren’t of armed goblins and other far stranger creatures chasing her, or even of Jareth, with all of his attraction and thinly-veiled malice. This was something far more sinister, more frightening, more… alien. Dark, vague, spidery arms reaching for her insistently. An impossibly immense spectre, a monstrous shadowy moth of wrath and raw power, waiting for her. Endless, nonsensical tunnels and corridors, all black, that constantly shifted perspective with brief flashes of odd worlds screaming by, pulling her every which way until she felt she should be physically and mentally torn to pieces.

And the feeling of being actively watched didn’t abate in the daytime, either; scrutinized, studied under a microscope was a better description of the feeling. She was never alone. Often she would be daydreaming - which wasn’t unusual for her - and part of the landscape would melt away into someplace that looked like another dimension, no place on Earth. There had been one afternoon when the sky had turned a magnificent shade of vermilion and was lit up with so many stars she thought she had fallen asleep. But it turned out she was wide-awake; it was only just after 1:00 p.m.! She had shut her eyes hard against it, willing the sky blue once more, and upon opening them it was so. But she was seriously getting concerned. Was she actually going crazy? Was her trip through the Labyrinth merely the tip of the iceberg, the beginning of an immense nervous breakdown? It had been four days going on five now and this showed no signs of abating.

This was where Sarah’s mind was at about 2:15 a.m. on the fifth day after her trip, when at last he arrived. She had just turned over, trying desperately to calm her racing heart so she could get back to sleep when suddenly she was aware that someone was in the room with her. Not the old feeling of being watched that never left her now; it was the feeling of physical presence. She couldn’t explain that, either; she just knew. Sarah almost forgot to breathe as she reached with painful slowness for the metal flashlight that she’d been keeping under her pillow. Finally grasping the handle, she steadied her nerves and was preparing to whip around and hopefully bean her intruder with it when she heard a very distinct, odd metallic click that didn’t sound like a part of any gun, and she suddenly, unaccountably, just collapsed in relief! It was the first time that she had been able to relax in days! To her surprise, she wasn’t even afraid anymore, and she sat up, facing the direction of the stranger, turning on the light on her nightstand instead.

Unlike her last unpleasant surprise encounter a few nights ago, the only thing that could even vaguely be construed as menacing about the distinguished personage standing in the middle of the room was that there was no logical way for him to have ever entered. Sarah was beholding a man of rather indeterminate age, although he looked far younger in the face than his medium-length white hair. He seemed less otherworldly than Jareth had been in spite of the fact that he was dressed similarly after a fashion: a loose white shirt with a long slit, tucked into more normal black breeches, tucked into sturdy-looking knee-high black suede boots with small silver tassels on the sides, almost a little old-world military. He looked more solid - that was the word she had been searching for. And the longer she looked at him, she was starting to realize that he actually looked more solid than anything in the room. It didn’t make any sense but she couldn’t shake the feeling. She belatedly noted that he seemed to be concealing a small object in his left hand but what it was she couldn’t immediately see.

He had calmly allowed her initial appraisal of him for a moment before offering a warm, off-kilter smile. Sarah was far beyond being surprised by anything weird at this point and her moxie led the way.

“Okay, not to be rude, but is there some faerie prince convention I don’t know about going on in these parts that I’ve somehow unwittingly become a popular attraction for? I mean, it’s either that or I’m officially losing my marbles, and if that’s the case then you can go ahead and bring on Glinda the Good Witch of the North and everybody else my subconscious cares to produce that isn’t scary and we can all have some fun for a while before my parents wake up and call the men in white and I get dragged off to the hospital.”

Her visitor’s expression had changed from tentatively friendly, to quizzical, to jadedly understanding as she rambled on and he finally spoke up.

“If this wasn’t so terribly serious, I’d take you up on recreating the Wizard of Oz in your room; that does sound entertaining,” he smiled. Sarah was surprised; he had absolutely no accent at all; he spoke perfect American English! “And considering what you’ve been through within the past few days, I can quite understand that you are questioning your current mental status, and I can assure you that the hallucinations will pass, although it may take a while longer for you to adjust to the change, being human and all. You are partially correct on one point, however: I am Lord Mandor Sawall, a Prince of the Courts of Chaos, and, until further notice, your guardian,” he announced, striding up to the side of the bed, taking her right hand by the fingertips and bowing elegantly over them. Mandor was not classically handsome as some people would consider it - his nose was a bit too long, his ice-blue eyes a bit too far apart - but his natural grace made up for any noticeable deficiency, and Sarah found that she was smiling in spite of herself. And suddenly stopped.

“Oh shit, it’s all real, isn’t it?” she groaned, momentarily closing her eyes. He let go of her hand.

“I’m afraid so. May I sit?”

“Oh… sure! Wherever!” Sarah couldn’t really place why but she felt that she could trust this man implicitly. There was a window seat and a heavy upholstered chair nearby, but Mandor took the light, wooden chair from her vanity – which she now saw he had already draped his long black coat over – and carried it to the side of the bed; the less she felt she had to move, the less she would notice the spell.

“First of all,” he said, seating himself, “I really must apologize that you had to endure the last few days alone. The initial change after completion is hard enough for us to live through with our sanity intact, and we are prepared beforehand how to deal with it. I came as soon as I found out but there’s a considerable time difference involved traveling here. I’ve only just arrived.”

Mandor knew perfectly well that the conversation he was about to have with this young earthling would be halting and ponderous at times. He had to start at the very beginning and try to explain this as simply and succinctly as he possibly could. It wasn’t that the human girl was stupid; in fact, she seemed rather clever for her age, from the report. It was simply that she was human and anything to do with Chaos already seemed like a nightmare to her, and no wonder. It was alien to this world at best and the Logrus had actively been seeking her - which was ‘worst’. He had to break this to her gently or all that could be accomplished through her would be lost.

“You don’t understand what’s going on here at all, do you?” he said with a sad half-smile. This was going to be so hard for her to accept. He very lightly nudged the ‘acceptance’ value on the metal sphere he still held in his left hand. Sarah’s composure, even upheld at his will, almost faltered. She appeared near tears, but she bravely looked him squarely in the eye.

“This is all my fault, isn’t it?” her voice broke. “I made the wish. I screwed with Faerie, with magic. And now I’m paying the price. I get that,” she spat out, hurt. “What I don’t get is what all this has to do with you.”

Mandor’s expression softened. “Sarah, none of this is your fault - no, none. It wasn’t even your choice, believe it or not.” He paused. “The Logrus chose you.”

At the mention of that name, a familiar frosty chill ran through Sarah to the core, terribly familiar and near at hand. She was still oddly calm but her eyes widened.

“That…that thing?! That’s what’s been watching me? What’s causing all this insanity?”

Mandor grimly nodded. “As to the reason I am here, it happened on my turf, so-to-speak. With one of my shadows.”

“What? Who? … I mean, if it’s not too much trouble can we please get to the point soon because this whole situation is really starting to creep me out,” her voice shook.


Sarah automatically took a deep breath, eyes closed, and found that she felt centered once more. And finally put two and two together. She eyed him a little suspiciously.

“How are you doing that?”

Frankly, the Chaos lord hated tipping his hand like this but it was imperative that the girl continued to trust him. He had to let it slip just this once. With a guilty little half-smile he brought up his left hand and opened it, revealing the small metal sphere, maybe all of an inch in diameter.

“You can look but don’t touch; you don’t have the training to handle certain types arcane objects safely, although someday you may. Among other uses, these are compulsion spheres, and while they are less flashy than the crystal balls my doppelganger enjoys waving about, these are far more practical and precise in use. If I hadn’t turned this one on, for example, you would be a hysterical screaming mess at this point rather than having a calm, rational discussion with me. Was I wrong to use it?”

Sarah couldn’t stop examining the thing. Even if it ran on magic it looked more like a machine of some kind; the ball was two separate halves that looked like they could rotate independently of each other, along with an ultra slender, flush ring right around the center. There might have been more stuff on the back that she couldn’t see. The idea of controlling other people in this manner definitely brushed her the wrong way, but she had to concede that there did seem to be decent uses for such a thing if immediate experience was any indicator. It might even be wise in a dangerous confrontation: why fight someone when you can simply stop them in their tracks or just change their mind? She sighed.

“Well, this is the first time in about five days that I’ve been able to relax at all, so I guess it’s okay for right now.”

He gave a small lip smile at her concession and concealed it on his person once more. “I am currently utilizing one myself as a translation device. My younger brother Merlin is comfortably fluent in the English language, but I am not; I might have picked up all of a dozen words from him over the years,” he smiled self-deprecatingly. “I realize this brings up many more questions but I will try to continue on in order as best I can. This is going to take a while and my throat is already going dry. Would you care for something to drink, too? Anything you like.”

The whole situation was definitely bizarre but he was actually doing his best to be hospitable and in spite of minor misgivings Sarah decided it would be rather rude to decline.

“Know what hot chocolate is?” she ventured.

Mandor grinned broadly. “Do I ever.”

Sarah couldn’t quite make it out - it actually looked blurry - but it seemed exactly as if he had just thrust both of his hands up to the elbow into a black void that had spontaneously appeared behind him; within moments he had extracted two steaming drinks in handmade earthenware vessels of some kind and the smell of the rich chocolate literally made her salivate. The void was gone and he handed her one by the top edges, letting her take the handle.

“Careful, the mug’s hot.”

It looked fabulously dark but she watched him take his first sip before very tentatively venturing her own… and closed her eyes in pleasure it was so unbelievably good! It was, in fact, the best hot chocolate on the face of the earth. Only the temperature slowed her consumption.

“What in the world did you put in this, cocaine?!” she laughed.

He smiled at the odd compliment. “Whole high-theobromine-yield cacao beans and just a scrape of fresh vanilla,” he confided. “I believe I am, what you would call in your parlance, a ‘foodie’, in my spare time, which is usually considerable.” He took a large swallow from his own mug and sighed in satisfaction. “To business. Sarah, have you been taught anything yet about the ancient Greek philosopher Plato?”

She blinked, surprised. “Not at all; I’ve heard of him but that’s about it. Should I have?”

“No, no, it’s all right; I suppose you are a bit young to have taken that yet in your schooling. Among many other great exercises in thought and logic, Plato postulated that the world that we see here about us,” he sweepingly gestured at their surroundings with his free arm, “is not true reality but only an imperfect reflection, like light shone onto a blank wall, and that the true reality lay beyond this world in the realm of the gods. His students in many subsequent centuries added to this hypothesis, some even going so far as to make it into a kind of religion in which one traveled through many progressively perfect reflections until reaching unity with the great One.” He paused, taking another sip. “They weren’t entirely right but amazingly close considering the fact that they had absolutely no external proof to even suggest such an idea. This world that you know is indeed such a reflection, or what we would call a Shadow. But there are far more Shadows than Plato ever could have dreamed of, all sandwiched closely together, many similar to their immediate neighbors to the point that even the individual creatures who inhabit them appear to have nearly-identical doppelgangers in at least three others. The sameness begins to distort with distance.”

Sarah looked off into space in utter and complete dumb shock. She felt distant, asleep, like this couldn’t be happening. The information was simply overwhelming. And that there might even be other Sarahs drifting around out there…somewhere…it was far too much. And that none of this was truly real…did anything matter anymore?

Mandor quickly read her face and grabbed her free hand. He had seen this bewildered, mad despair before. She automatically met his eyes.

“You exist,” he stated firmly. “Your existence has meaning. You still are as you always have been. You just know more about it now. If it’s any consolation, Shadow Earth has been, and still is, a popular destination for both educational and entertainment purposes for the Court of Amber for well over a millennium.” He let go of her and took another sip of his drink.

Amber. Something dark within her that she hadn’t previously noticed shied away from that word in caution, but in her heart it felt like the sun.

“Amber? And you’re from Chaos. Just how many courts are there?”

“To my knowledge, just the two. You see, the reason I said Neo-Platonism is incomplete is because both ends of the spectrum are actively creative. Both Chaos and Amber cast these Shadows, an infinite catalogue of worlds with an odd, colorless void right in the center where they all but cancel each other out. It is the ancient dichotomy of power: The Logrus and The Pattern, Chaos and Order, the Great Serpent and the White Unicorn, at odds with each other since the dawn of Time, struggling together until the end of all the worlds, ultimately including Chaos and Amber themselves.”

What Mandor said was wordy and eloquent and it took Sarah a second to process what he’d actually just told her. And then a terrible idea hit her hard and fast. Even the Chaos lord’s power could not completely erase the pit in her stomach, the cold unease she suddenly felt dealing with this charming creature who looked so much like a man. She couldn’t even look him in the eye and almost didn’t have the nerve to say what she knew she had to. When she did, her voice was only a whisper.

“You’re from hell.”

Mandor quietly exhaled. When it came to Order-side shadow-worlds, this misconception appeared to be culturally universal. There was a reason he didn’t like coming out here. He couldn’t blame her for it, though.

“I cannot deny that true Chaos would certainly seem so initially to anyone born in Amber’s shadows. I even own a few private hells,” he half-smiled wanly, “but I can assure you that I have never seen a single human being there. It is not the lake of brimstone that awaits evil souls when they die. In the same breath I will also state that Amber is certainly not Heaven, even though quite a number of its denizens enjoy playing at gods and goddesses. I have only been there on two occasions and neither time for as long as I would have liked, but parts of the city look as though they would be pleasurable and the Palace itself is definitely a work of art in its own right. A genuinely interesting place, as far as Order is concerned. And there actually is a human who lives there; the Royal Family’s attorney is in semi-retirement now,” he laughed quietly.

Sarah dared to look at him again. “So there’s no afterlife, then?”

Mandor looked thoughtfully down at his cup. “I still wouldn’t rule out the possibility here, considering how many worlds there are.” He looked up with a sudden, playful look in his eyes. “Perhaps some god favors the short-lived shadows. Aside of power and longevity, they certainly don’t favor us.”

Sarah was surprised. “What do you mean?”

Mandor’s smile turned a bit jaded with a light scoff. “You can’t begin to imagine what it’s like to have internal family feuds that quietly - and sometimes not -so-quietly - rage unabated for centuries, not even perpetuated by descendents, but by the original parties involved. Blood relations are both the blessing and the bane of our existence.” He noted Sarah’s appreciative nod. “The House of Amber seems to fair much worse in this respect than we do, actually. Perhaps the Chaos in their heritage has no other form of release,” he lightly teased. “They are distantly related to us paternally and have only been nominally independent for…four generations now, but that’s a very long story, and for another time.” He finished his cocoa and Sarah quickly followed suit, handing back the empty mug with a quiet thank-you. His responding look said all was right between them; nothing more need be said. He turned away and made the mugs vanish as they had appeared.

“As to the matter at hand,” he turned back to face her, “now that you have a little background knowledge, I can explain the rest easily and at once. Being a Prince of Chaos, I cast dozens of shadows of myself. The man you know as Jareth is one of my most distant reflections.”

He had mentioned this before in passing - almost right away, actually - but the statement hadn’t made any sense at the time. The implications were positively staggering now that she finally understood and could piece it together. The two men were oddly similar in certain superficial characteristics, she reflected, but it struck Sarah less as familial resemblance and more like close stages on an evolutionary chart, like Darwin’s finches. Only they weren’t close at all.

The open comparison, both physical and otherwise, was inevitable after such an admission. She was obviously looking for what she recognized, wondering if parts of his personality would also follow suit.

“Alas, the shadow is the handsomer of us two but I hope you will find the genuine article far worthier of your trust,” he placed one hand to his heart with a slight nod of acknowledgement as his young human companion automatically smiled, blushing. Being this disarming was a natural gift and Mandor used it dexterously. He had to keep her at her ease; she couldn’t be given the time to think about any of this too long. “And just as the people of Chaos and Amber cast shadows, so do those two great cities, and the powers behind them. In fact, the cities themselves are the very first shadows of the Logrus and the Pattern. I have never seen the true Pattern, but from what I have learned it looks rather like what you might know as a walking labyrinth, a tool of meditation. It is Grand Design, simplified in its execution, static and solid even though it flows with immense power. This, too, casts shadows, and the first three copies are in Amber itself. There are six more but only the Amber three are nominally perfect; each successive copy becomes more and more progressively flawed until it is no longer usable with any modicum of safety. Oh yes, it is used. Each of the Family of Amber, upon coming of age, walks the Pattern to gain the initial power of their birthright: the power to walk in shadow, to find or form lesser worlds at will. After that, it can be walked for any number of reasons - even to instantly travel somewhere - but the difficulty, the resistance the Pattern itself puts up against the walker, is always uniform. The lesser Patterns are also technically walkable, but with less predicable results. These are called The Broken Way, which is walked conversely along the interstices; much of the power flows through the cracks.”

“In comparison, the Logrus is far more complex and much more harrowing to navigate on a number of levels. It is constantly flowing, changing course and even perspective without rhyme or reason simply because it is the nature of Chaos. It could be reasonably compared to an incredibly difficult maze, one which never ceases to move, to course with the raw powers of creation and destruction. Even in the Courts of Chaos there are those who have taken one look at it and refused to enter, even knowing the power that would be theirs upon completion. It is walked once, if at all, for there is always the risk of death or serious injury to the brain, and permanent madness far more often. In fact, a brief period of the latter is common after such a trip. Even now, you yourself are living through the side-effects of a successful journey.”

Sarah was almost trembling; she knew the truth before he said it.

“Yes, Sarah. The maze you know as the Labyrinth is the last functional shadow of the Logrus. And you are the first of your race to complete any of them.” He was practically beaming at her.

Sarah’s mind was racing. She’d…but that meant…then…there were far too many questions!

“So…I have power then,” she started tentatively.


“I could do things like what I’ve been seeing you do?”

“Potentially, but you must be taught how to properly use it. Which is why I was sent to you.”

The thought was elating. Learning real magic! But all that still didn’t explain…

“What’s one of your shadows doing living in a copy of the Logrus?”

Mandor sighed, lowering his eyes. “He’s in there because of me.” Was there a touch of guilt in his voice? He took a deep breath. “A very, very long time ago I was traveling in the shadows far from Chaos but still cast by it, close to the dividing wasteland. I ran across him by sheer chance but knew immediately, instinctively, that he was one of my shadow-copies. To my surprise, he recognized himself in me as well and we fell to talking.” He looked away toward the window, as if remembering. “I should have left him alone. I quickly discovered that he had a warped sense of ambition and none of my tact or sense of responsibility toward anything. He could already perform some small magics of his own but he wanted more. He wanted power, real power, such as the Courts of Chaos possess. Even as his originator, the gift of the Logrus is not mine to give. Knowing that such a brash request would never be truly honored, I agreed to ask the High Priest of the Serpent on his behalf on my return home.” He looked back at her and reflexively smiled just a little, and Sarah suddenly recognized the mannerism; Jareth did the same thing, only his was a semi-permanent smirk. “You can well imagine my surprise when his wish was nominally granted - to a point. He was allowed the opportunity to walk one of the distant shadows of the Logrus, but on the condition that he then had to reside there and guard it should he succeed - unheard of, but perhaps wise on the part of the Logrus; She could keep an eye on him and restrict his power this way, you see.”

Sarah blinked. “She? The Logrus is female?”

Mandor’s habitual smile never seemed to remove itself for long. “Sometimes. At any rate, it sounds a little more personable than ‘It’. Anyway, that sort of a challenge is always a fool’s errand, and death was certainly waiting in the wings to claim the fool.” He paused, thinking. “He did it. It nearly destroyed him but he did it, and She rewarded him handsomely. On that shadow, Jareth is practically a god; he’s fashioned his own world, his own subjects. Outside of it, however, he’s all but powerless, left only with the tricks he knew before I met him. He can never fully leave that shadow, though; a portal to the Labyrinth stands gaping open wherever he is, watching, pulling him back in after only a short while.”

Sarah gasped, her eyes widening at how she had been taken in. “ Oh my gosh, I could have totally beat his skinny ass and demanded my brother back! He’d scared me half to death!”

Mandor genuinely threw his head back in laughter at her response. Perhaps the Logrus did know what She was doing; this human girl certainly had the nerve to stand her ground and fight! He recovered himself presently and continued, eyes twinkling with merriment. “As I said, for a time he was happy, content to play with it all like a new toy.” He suddenly turned serious. “And then the boredom of his own self-imposed imprisonment began to get the better of him. He began to invent twisted games to bide the time, finally culminating in stealing innocent beings from distant shadows for his own amusement, going so far as to pervert the use of the Logrus, daring mortals to walk it, destroying their minds. And then you came along,” he smiled crookedly again, crossing his arms and leaning back slightly in the chair. “I still don’t fully understand just how you survived that, and in such good condition, other than you were supposed to. She helped you against his will, turning his own creatures against him, guiding you to the center. It is actually very lucky that you wished to return home at the end - once at the core, you can travel anywhere you desire, any shadow, any time-period. Anywhere.”

Sarah did a full-body shiver at the thought. “So… you’re here why? I mean, I’m sort of relieved that you are,” she laughed self-consciously, “but I still don’t see how this directly concerns you.”

Mandor inclined his head slightly, acknowledging the question; it was logical. “I was notified because he is still technically mine and in such a serious situation I am held responsible for him because he is there by my hand. But this is no mistake. You earned that power, Sarah. She gave it to you, but you must learn to use it properly or it could still destroy you, and for all my talent and experience, I am no teacher. But my uncle, the honorable Lord Suhuy Swayvil, is one of the best,” he said with a touch of pride. “It cannot happen here, however. I must bring you back with me.”

Sarah froze. The words seemed to echo in her brain, especially after his foreboding description of what ‘back’, in all likelihood, entailed. She was trapped between the proverbial rock and hard place; she needed help, desperately, but surely there had to be some other alternative. Having no idea when he planned on leaving with her in tow, she stalled, quickly trying to whip up another plan.

“If I just disappear with you tonight, my parents are sure to think I ran away.”

Mandor instantly deduced what she was up to and almost pitied her. Thankfully, he had been given no conditions on how to transport her or what her living arrangements were to be upon arrival. His only instruction, and from an oracle of the Logrus no less, was to simply get her there. If she felt that she had even a modicum of control in this…

“Would you feel any better about this if they did not believe you missing?”

Sarah arched one eyebrow, highly suspicious. “How?”

“It’s quite simple, really. All I have to do is locate one of your closest shadow-doubles and convince her to take your place for as long as you are absent. You could re-exchange places upon your return home. Nothing easier or cleaner.”

Sarah thought about the possibility seriously for a moment. “But then she would be missing form her world! You can’t just yank somebody out of any situation you please!”

Mandor was amused at her concern; he certainly could. “Which particular situation would you like me to find her in and take her out of, then? Go ahead and be as specific as you please; chances are good that she will exist.”

Clearly there was no getting out of this, Sarah thought ruefully. But perhaps it didn’t have to be so bad. Maybe she could make life better for someone, if only temporarily. Slowly, an idea began to form. It might work…

“What if - now don’t just dash off and grab her!”

“Of course not.”

Now, that smug look is definitely familiar. “Let’s just say, hypothetically-speaking,” she began again carefully, “if there’s a version of me who’s living with her real mom in New York City and, for some reason I couldn’t even begin to imagine, is unhappy there and wants nothing more than to come and live in this quaint little hellhole of a suburbia - oops! Sorry, no offense.”

“None taken. Actually, that’s quite a decent plan for being forced to come up with it so quickly. That shadow world would be a little farther away than the one I had hoped to use, but I imagine that it’s still close enough for our purposes here. Could you give me your mother’s address? I’m far from omniscient; I only located you by your energy imprint from the Logrus.”

“Of course! I’ll write it down for you,” she moved to get her journal from where she hid it under the far side of the bed, next to the wall. She hurriedly scribbled down the street and apartment number on an empty leaf in the back and tore out the page, handing it to him. He gave it a cursory glance, nodded, folded it and put it in his pants pocket.

“Chances are the address will be a little different but it shouldn’t be difficult to find. Now then,” his demeanor suddenly turned deadly serious, demanding attention as he lightly steepled his fingers, “when you are finished with your classes at school today, do not come home - this is vital for our illusion. Is there somewhere near here where we could meet relatively unobserved?”

“Well, there’s a big park just a few blocks from here. I often go there anyway to rehearse lines or just to be alone.”

“Perfect. Is there a decent bathroom facility?”

“…yes, why?”

“Because you are going to have to swap clothing with your double. I could try to replicate what you’re wearing but it wouldn’t be an exact copy and she’s going to look somewhat different as it is. We don’t want to risk doing anything more that will draw attention to the fact. When can you be there?”

“Can we say about 3:00 p.m.? It takes a little while for me to walk there from the high school. Is there anything I should pack?”

“Take nothing more than you need for school that day. And your backpack goes home with her.”

Sarah was shocked. “But…my stuff! Nothing?”

Mandor’s demeanor relaxed a little again with half a smile. “If you truly care about your belongings, you’ll leave them at home. Shadow travel has its way with ordinary, inanimate shadow-objects, usually mutating them beyond all recognition if any real distance is covered, which will assuredly be the case. You probably wouldn’t want any of it by the time we get there, nor can I guarantee that it would return to its original form whenever you return to Shadow Earth. Anything you could possibly need will be provided. Where in this park should I be waiting?”

“There’s a stone bench beneath a big oak tree just beyond the footbridge and two obelisks. It’s far in but pretty obvious.”

He nodded, getting back up. “We’ll be waiting for you there.” He lightly picked up the chair and replaced it at the vanity, retrieving his jacket, draping it over his arm. Sarah couldn’t shake just how graceful his movements were. Not even effeminate, just… graceful, like someone who habitually danced through life because they could. Mandor took the metal sphere out of his side pouch and clicked it off, releasing her.

“Until this afternoon, then. Goodnight, Sarah,” he lightly bowed and turned to go. A swirling black portal had opened in the middle of the room; the inky darkness was about to envelope him when Sarah suddenly panicked.


Mandor looked over his shoulder. She was obviously terrified again. “What’s the matter?” he casually strode back over. The blackness just hung there, rippling like an oil slick but without color, for it was all darkness and Sarah’s eyes were glued to it, barely able to believe it was truly there now that she was in full control of her senses.

“Is it…going to still be bad like it has been?”

Just seeing her like that jogged an odd memory for Mandor, of a time when his little brother Merlin had been scared of the dark as a very small child and had called for him in the dead of the Chaosian night. He brushed the thought aside, knowing that a very different course of action lay before him. He had meant to try this with her sooner or later. By the looks of things, it would be sooner. He removed a small silver ring with a flat polished oval of black stone from his right little finger and presented it in his pale palm, holding it out for her.

“Go on, take it, it won’t hurt you. Put it on,” he gently encouraged her.

Curious, Sarah reached out and took it, looking it over. Almost without her conscious volition she easily slid it onto her ring finger. It just fit. “What is it?” she asked, still eying it.

“A direct link back to me. It holds a little of my own energy and magic and should keep the Logrus from being so insistent. And if you are ever in any real danger, I will know immediately and can be at your side in an instant,” he smiled benevolently down upon her, satisfied that she would be so easy to work with, that whether or not she would ever openly admit it, she had already missed his gentle control. And in a flash Mandor suddenly remembered something terribly important. “Sarah, when you traversed the Labyrinth did you bring any objects through with you? I am not certain if it would work in quite the same manner with the copy, but with the true Logrus they would become magically charged upon one’s completion of the circuit. Did you have anything at all on your person, even something small? A pocket knife, a watch, a house key, any jewelry?”

Sarah thought out loud, staring at the ceiling. “Well…I had my lipstick in my pocket but I lost that early on,” she sighed, “and I had to bribe a dwarf with my bracelet, and I paid an old Wiseman with my ring…”

Mandor nodded grimly with a wry smirk: she had been deliberately picked clean. Perhaps a human wasn’t allowed to-

“…my brooch? Yes I still have it!” Sarah suddenly exclaimed.

Mandor snapped to attention. “Where is it?”

“Right there on the vanity,” she pointed. “It’s a costume piece, just topaz-colored glass and gold-painted base metal. It’s only paste, I can’t even begin to imagine,” she laughed.

Mandor strode over to the small table and spotted it immediately; it was a gaudy, cheap-looking thing, but if he was right… He brought forth one of his metal spheres and slowly lowered it to the brooch, careful not to touch it. Sarah could scarcely believe her eyes when the glass jewel began to brightly glow. He returned the sphere to its pouch, smiling.

“As you also can see, this is no longer what it seems. Be sure to bring it with you - it is to never leave your person again.”

“But…what you said about shadow-objects changing with inter-dimensional travel…”

“I think we’ll get to see what this is really made of.” Along with its mistress, he thought as he returned, took the hand she wore the ring on and lightly kissed the back, his eyes still fixed on hers. Sarah couldn’t quite describe how, but she felt moderately safer. He let her go and paced backwards toward the portal. It didn’t look quite as scary to her now.

“Get some rest; you have a very long day ahead of you. Sweet dreams.” And with that he stepped into it and was gone; a split-second later the portal disappeared, too.

Sarah turned out the light and snuggled under the covers, suddenly exhausted. Everything will be alright, she thought, fingering the ring. The next moment, she fell into a blackness soft as velvet and was asleep.
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