Лабиринт - LABYRINTH II
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CHAPTER XXII

            Sarah woke up to find the moon still forcing its way through a day sky, giving proof that the night had been there before giving up the battle and disappearing behind a canopy of perwinkle. The sun was beautiful, but like a rich man on a poor town that would soon be his own, it shown brazenly from its position on the horizon and climbed up the blue canopy steadily as if to say, "This is all mine now," while the moon hid behind a cloud and consoled herself like an old woman whose grandchildren have been taken back home: "But I will have it back when you return to the horizon."

            Never before had the day seemed so brutal in nature. It looked and felt the same as it had the morning with the elfin tribe, when she had felt peaceful and looked upon the morning as a lovely painting to capture her emotions, but she felt differently this time, hoping the grandmother moon would be back soon to comfort her.

            One of the causes of her low spirits was the impending feeling of doom that weighed upon her. It was caused mainly by the fact that she was worrying about when her friends would be taken, but partly because she felt guilty and embarrassed for thinking of Jareth the way she had the night before; she found herself frightened that he would somehow find out about those thoughts. The morning had begun well enough and her friends were still there, but she knew something was going to happen.

            Later Sarah checked her supplies to find that the water bottles that the elves had given them were empty. It was completely logical - they had been near a stream during the time that they had traveled together and had had enough ale to last for a couple of days, so it was no need to carry the extra weight of water. She got Hoggle to go find a stream in order to fill the bottles.

            He returned quickly, not just proclaiming the discovery of a place where water emptied from the mountain into a wide stream, but telling of two caves that could be accessed by crossing the bridge on the stream.  "What luck!" Sarah exclaimed. "Did you check it out?"

            "I thought you'd rather me come'n tell you first," he explained.

            "Well, then, we're all packed up, so let's get to it!"  Her dreary mood lifted somewhat with their good fortune, but that tingling feeling at the back of her neck persisted, stronger than before.

            She was trailing behind most of the group, Ludo and Hoggle in the lead, Didymus perched atop Ambrosius and covering the rear like the gallant and frightening soldier he thought he was and sometimes turned out to be.

            Sarah's cloak got snagged on a branch and she stopped to untangle it. The others, except for Didymus (who did not forget who it was his main loyalty was to), continued ahead, not seeing Sarah's predicament.  Didymus dismounted Ambrosius who promptly went trailing after Hoggle.

            Hoggle reached the rope bridge and crossed without hesitation to peek inside of the first cave. He walked in to explore, Ambrosius following, while Ludo began to cross the bridge himself.

            The bridge was pulled to its limits with Ludo's weight and gave out a painful creak and groan when he attempted to cross. The wood argued under his weight and groaned with each step.

            Sarah was finally getting herself loose from the difficult branch, with Didymus waiting patiently at her side. She didn't want to tear the lovely cloak that the elves had made for her.

            Hoggle walked down a long corridor before he found that the cave was a dead end street.  No matter how fast he would or could have run, he would not have been able to prevent what happened next.

            None of them could.

            The wood underneath Ludo - who was at the center of the bridge by now, above the violently rushing stream, and beside its small waterfall - gave a final moan and snicker before cracking and sending him falling, howling at the top of his lungs, into the vehement stream. The broken bridge rocked contentedly from side to side as Ludo's red fur disappeared beneath the water.

            Sarah looked up from her cloak in surprise and consternation.

            Hoggle ran to escape from the long, stunted cave only to be greeted by an angry falling of rocks in front of the cave entrance that had reacted to Ludo's profuse howling. Hoggle ran as fast as his small, stumpy legs would carry him to try and outrun the small avalanche, but, by the time he reached the opening, the rocks had stopped tumbling and crashing; when the smoke cleared, his way was completely blocked.  The dog whimpered and inched from behind a hiding place.

             Seeing that Ludo had fallen into the stream, Sarah raced to the water's edge, stripping her cloak off as she did so, and jumped feet first into the water. It was much deeper than it looked and also extremely cold. She didn't let the water's crispness bother her, but instead concentrated on helping Ludo.

            Once she had made it completely under and had opened her eyes against the burning of the cool water, she found Ludo was nowhere to be seen. She swam downstream to see if he had been swept away, but he was long gone.  It's as if he just disappeared, Sarah thought.  She went back to the site of the accident and poked her head above the water, inhaling deeply.

            "Is my brother well, fair maiden?" Didymus asked anxiously.

            Once she had caught her breath she said, "I don't understand...he just disappeared. The stream is a little deep, but not enough for me to be unable to see him."  She lifted herself upon the opposite bank and said to Didymus, "Where's Hoggle?"

            He needn't have answered.  "Get me outta here!" Hoggle cried from his prison.

            "Hoggle!" she exclaimed as she ran over to the cave. After pushing aside a small rock, she peered inside. "What happened?"

            "When Ludo howled there must've been an avalanche. Rocks just don't know the first thing about being friendly. By the way, what got Ludo to howling like he was?"

            Sarah looked at him glumly. "The bridge broke and he fell into the stream."

            Hoggle looked at her expression and frowned. "He ain't...you know...is he?"

            "Not so far as I can tell," Sarah replied. "He just disappeared."

            "You thinkin' what I'm thinkin'?" Hoggle asked with a half frown that was barely perceptable through the small opening.

            "What, that somehow Jareth is up to this whole thing and Ludo's locked in a cell right now? Damn straight I am."

            Sir Didymus managed to cross the wounded bridge, joining Sarah before the pile of rocks, with the supplies and Sarah's cloak in his hand.

            "So, are you just gonna stand there, or you gonna get me outta here?"

            "Milady, have you seen Ambrosius?" Didymus asked. "It doesn't seem as if he has taken shelter anywhere nearby."

            The sheepdog whined from inside of the cave.  "The dog's in here with me," Hoggle remarked irritably, seeming as if he despised the fact.

            "Ambrosius!" Didymus exclaimed. "My poor Ambrosius! Milady, we must make haste to free them!"

            "He finds out the dog's in here and then worries about setting me free," Hoggle remarked sarcastically.

            Sarah tried pushing at all of the rocks to see if her meager strength could move them, but they were firmly in place. She bid her companions let her think a minute and she sat down on the grass and chewed at her lip while water continued to trickle down her face, her hair falling down her back in one long, dark brown rope. Her eyes were red from being under the water and the dress stuck to her skin like a suffocating cloak, her figure poking, humiliated for itself, for being so exposed, through the wet, white cloth. But the heat was already working to dry her, while she lay out the situation before her like an old, time-worn map.

            Seeming decided on something, she finally rose from her place, brushing her rear off, and said, "Hoggle, you'll forgive me if I say so, but I think we're going to have to leave you here-" Hoggle began to protest, "-and before you argue the case with me, let me tell you why." She ticked things off with her fingers.

            "First," tick, "I have limited time as it is and finding a way to get you out might take a week, not to mention that the effort may not work. And I have a feeling that something else is going to happen to put me off of the trail again.  Second," tick, "you'll be safe here. We can leave enough food and water behind for you to survive long enough until I get back and can do something like use the stone to get you out of here.  Third," tick, "It's most likely that Jareth will just take you and put you away somewhere in his castle. Then you won't have to worry about food."

            "You ain't seen the food," Hoggle grunted.

            "I'm sorry, Hoggle. You know I wouldn't do this if it weren't for the good of the whole kingdom or land or whatever you guys call the Underground when being informal."

            Hoggle nodded his understanding, no matter how much he despised the decision.

            He thinks I'm being unfair, Sarah decided to herself. He's saying, 'She's got plenty of time, so why can't she fill me into her busy schedule? I don't much fancy the idea of staying couped up in a cave for God knows how long.'

            She sighed and continued, "I'm not God, Hoggle."

            "Who?"

            "It doesn't matter," she replied with another heavy sigh. She was beginning to wonder about God herself right now. Like, why wasn't he pitching in yet? "There's a lot riding on this, Hoggle. I can't take anymore chances than I have to. You being stuck in a cave for a week or so with a dog and plenty of food to eat isn't exactly a great hazard. But letting Jareth, or anyone else for that matter, get control of that stone, I would say, is hazardous to everyone's health. No telling what he could do with power like that. Power like that would taint him and probably cause him to do things I don't even want to imagine."

            "He's tainted, as it is," Hoggle remarked with a scowl.

            Sarah made no reply, but merely paused and slowly blinked her eyes once before continuing, to back off a jeopardizing thought. "Anyhow, as I was saying, this whole thing might present a danger to my world, too, so I have to be as careful as possible. Please say you understand. Don't be angry with me."

            "I understand, missy. I ain't angered."

            "I appreciate that."

            It wasn't long before they had supplied Hoggle with food and three canisters of water.  Didymus had offered to stay and guard Hoggle's cave, seeming to feel somewhat ashamed for having to leave him there, but Sarah confessed that she would need him with her, for his sense of smell might come in handy, if he possesses one, she thought wickedly to herself. Naturally the fox was flattered and gladly obliged, leaving Hoggle to be alone in the dusty cave.

            They said their good-byes (again, Sarah remarked to herself) and headed into the caves, full throttle.

            Sarah wrapped the cloak about herself, feeling the coldness of Jareth's castle pierce her again from so far away.

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