I hope that you enjoy the story.
Ya Nefer Ma'at
(the Dancer formerly known as Lisa)
Queen of the Goblins
by Ya Nefer Ma'at
Aidan raced down the empty highway, slicing smoothly through the silver moonlight on his motorcycle. The forest bracketed him, giving the path a magical aspect, with the full moon hanging over the ribbon of the road stretching before him. Aidan felt euphoric, one with the wolves he knew to be hidden in the trees. As he lifted his handsome face to the moon, he wanted to howl, voicing his pleasure that he was coming home to his Sarah.
A flicker of movement caught his eye. A deer darted onto the road too suddenly for him to avoid a collision. Time seemed to stretch as he hit the beautiful animal. The impact threw Aidan into the night air. The sensation of flying was oddly familiar, as if it was quite natural for Aidan to take to wings silvered with moonlight. When the road raced up to meet him, Aidan heard his scream as if it ripped free of someone else's throat.
The harsh shriek of the crash drew the Goblin King's head up sharply, despite the separation between the world of mortals and his kingdom. Next to hit him was a raw wave of agony as he felt the man's injuries. It took all of Jareth's control to stop Aidan's scream from escaping his tightly clenched teeth. Once his magic had distanced him from the hurt, he smoothly flew from the balcony of his throne room, gliding as an owl across the boundary between the two worlds. He came to the ground beside the dying, first touching the heaving side of the deer. The animal looked at him with glazed eyes, too deep to respond to his gentle magic: Jareth thinned his lips and released the wounded deer into death. When he knelt beside Aidan, touching his pale face, he was tempted to do the same. The mortal dipped in and out of consciousness. Jareth cradled the dying man, easing his pain. He studied how well Aidan mimicked the Goblin King's beauty. Aidan had the King's strong, handsome features, overlaid with a delicate elegance, features which Jareth's magic had enhanced to make the mortal even more his echo. Sarah couldn't have helped but love the man, just as the Goblin King had planned when he saw to it that Aidan crossed Sarah's path.
Aidan roused under Jareth's touch, focusing with effort on Jareth. A radiant smile spread slowly over Aidan's face. "You're.... real. I... I knew... no dream..."
"Of course I'm real, Aidan."
"Take... c-care of..."
"I will. Rest quietly, my mortal shadow. You've served me well."
Blood flowed in an ever-widening pool from Aidan's body, until his breathing failed and his heart became silent. The Goblin King closed the dead mortal's sky blue eyes.
Standing silently over the dead man, Jareth looked at the shadows extending along the road. He himself did not cast a shadow, despite the intensity of the moon's face. "Heel.", the Goblin King commanded, snapping his fingers. Immediately, Aidan's shadow rolled away from his body and knelt beside Jareth, dark face raised adoringly. Jareth lightly touched the dark head, stroking along the shadow of Aidan's short hair before posing his hand in readiness. The dark form promptly turned to smoke, condensing into a crystal on Jareth's fingertips. Jareth idly rolled the crystal over his glove, then dropped it neatly at his feet. He lightly rested the sole of his boot on the crystal before sending it unrolling across the silent road. When Jareth turned and raised his face to the moonlight, his shadow, with its majestic cape and full corona of hair, stretched out behind him.
Jareth considered his next action. He was tempted to try to go to Sarah, to tell her of her husband's death, but he knew she would irrationally hold him responsible. He shook his head at the thought. Besides, she might want to see the body. Looking at Aidan's broken form, Jareth had no desire for Sarah to remember Aidan like this. It would be hard enough when she saw her late husband without the mantle of Jareth's magic over him. Jareth briefly wondered if Sarah would even recognize Aidan. And so, he would have to be satisfied with spying on her, witnessing her in her last moments of ignorant happiness. With owl's wings, and dipping between the two worlds, he covered the miles as if they were inches, alighting outside Sarah's window.
Careful not to be seen, Jareth watched Sarah. She was alternately staring out the window, in the hope of seeing Aidan arrive, and dancing through the house. Jareth could see that she had set the stage for romance. He wished he could be with her, could offer her such comfort that Aidan's death would be but a cold whisper on the edge of her emotions. He shifted, frustrated that he could not face her without her invitation, and so could not hold her, shield her from the sorrow soon to collapse her fragile reality. He was also frustrated that Sarah would most likely fight him, irrespective of his kindness or the purity of his intentions. Even years after their first encounter, Sarah still unconsciously blamed him for everything that she perceived as unfair.
She should have instead been thanking him. Unknown to her, the Goblin King had been her unfailing champion. She had 'won' the first engagement, but he had sworn, even as he stood among the ruins of his plans, that victory in the war would ultimately be his. At that point, his vision of 'victory' was to have Sarah cowering before him, begging the great King of the Goblins for his attention, enslaved by his smile. Time had eased the Goblin King's hurt, and he had become aware of deeper emotions regarding the girl. At first, the recognition that he loved a mortal horrified him. In answering the question of how Sarah had managed to solve his labyrinth and rescue her brother, the answer to his emotions had also been found: his Sarah wasn't mortal after all. She was a changeling, as he discovered, and of noble blood. In fact, an entirely suitable bride for a king.
He had often gone to Sarah, in the guise of an owl, watching her as she grew up, making the turbulent transition from child to adult. He had hoped for a time when she would call him back to her, but instead, she had first been arrogant with her victory over him. Unaware of how she hurt him, she had replayed their interaction, using 'You have no power over me.' as her watch-words. He had swallowed the hurt then, as he did each time she had thrown rocks at him in the form of an owl. As she grew up, her childish jubilation had been replaced with hormone-laden fantasies- Jareth blushed even now- and interest in the boys around her. It galled him that she unwittingly sought him in her choice of beaus. Despite her unconscious preoccupation with him, she would either stare balefully at or actively attack any owl she saw. In her continuing mistrust of owls, she kept Jareth beyond stone's throw, all the while seeking a mortal equivalent of the breath-taking Goblin King. 'Everything I do, I do for you.' Bowing to her unspoken command, Jareth had swallowed his impatience and created Aidan, a mortal version of the King's majesty. Jareth's puppet had swept Sarah from her feet, captivating her so thoroughly that he became the center of her existence. It was difficult to accept that mortal hands were touching her, and mortal lips kissing her, but Jareth took comfort in the knowledge that he was Aidan. Aidan had quickly become but a waking dream for the Goblin King, a substream of his consciousness. Deep down, Jareth knew that the mortal would cease to exist if Jareth forgot to think of him, so little human remained of the boy once Jareth had created in him his image. And so, through Aidan, the Goblin King was with Sarah, across the magic binding their two realities. Sarah had never realized that Aidan, breath-taking, magical Aidan, was the Goblin King, who still haunted her dreams. Hence, it was Jareth who had danced her through a 'fairy-book' courtship and who married her, all with the sweetest romance a girl could desire. Jareth frowned, wondering if he had run out of time. Whether she was ready or not, he would soon come to bring home his bride.
Sarah stared desolately at a portrait of Aidan, sitting prominently above the fireplace. She was huddled in a blanket on the couch. Beside her was a photograph of she and Aidan from the school production in which they had met. Sarah had been one of the secondary characters, while Aidan, multi-talented so-and-so that he was, the lead singer and actor. Sarah had always marveled that someone as amazing as Aidan had chosen to fall in love with her, when surely he could have had his pick of all the girls at the school. They had been inseparable thereafter, and had wed as quickly as was legally possible. Even the quick rise to fame that Aidan had enjoyed shortly after their marriage, with its attendant swarms of talented, breath-taking beauties, had not challenged Aidan's devotion to his Sarah, as Sarah had secretly feared it would.
The room was a mess, dusty and disordered, but Sarah didn't notice. Since Aidan's death, since she had seen his casket lowered into the cold ground, she had been sleeping most of the time. The whole affair seemed unreal. Even now, Sarah was not sure that Aidan was really gone. The man she had buried was surely not her Aidan; he didn't even look right, though everyone else acted like it was him. She'd thought that she'd long since cried herself dry, but fresh tears blurred Aidan's image. When she stood up, faintness swayed through her. Dimly, she wondered when she had last ate. Not that it mattered, nothing mattered, without Aidan. She found she was staring out an open window, still half-blinded by tears. "Oh husband," she sobbed, "if only you were with me. Please, please, make this horror end. Please, take me home. All I want is to be with you again..."
Through her tears, she didn't see the owl perched beyond the window, nor did she recognize that, when she surrendered to the dizziness, strong arms caught her. Jareth easily picked Sarah up, shocked at her slight weight and the thinness of her face. He was aware, and concerned, that she hadn't been eating, but hadn't realized how quickly fasting had affected her. "Your wish is my command, my Lady." he smiled, stepping across the boundary between the two worlds and into an exquisite guestroom in his castle. He tenderly settled Sarah into the bed, singing to her as he smoothed her long hair away from her face. Under his gentle touch, his magic worked to restore Sarah's lost strength. He smiled softly, murmuring, "You haven't even realized yet, have you, you precious thing?" Once she was deep in a peaceful sleep, he reluctantly withdrew.
Sarah approached consciousness as if it would bite her. When she stirred fitfully, eyes open but not willing to see, the sound of restless footsteps roused her. Someone was calling her name, and his voice was familiar. Her brow wrinkled as she tried to remember whose lips belonged to the voice. As she tried to concentrate, a sense of unease set her heart pounding.
"Sarah? Are you awake?"
"I am now." she pouted, blinking slowly at the person beside her bed. 'Something's wrong here!', she thought, as the person came into focus. "Hoggle?!"
"No, don't try t'get up yet, Sarah." Hoggle coaxed her back against the soft pillows. "You don't look so good."
"I feel awful! Hoggle, where am I?"
"Here, smell this."
Sarah pushed his hand away. "Don't baby me!" she snapped, trying to sit again. The movement was rewarded by intense pain behind her eyes and a whirling pool of nausea filling her middle. Sarah gagged. Hoggle held a basin for her, patting her back awkwardly as she threw up. The effort seemed to rip her apart, and she fell back with a sob once the whirling eased slightly.
Hoggle pushed a posy under her nose, saying gruffly, "Smell this, Sarah: it'll ease your gut."
Sarah took the posy from him, smelling it cautiously. She did feel better with the thick scent of the flowers washing through her.
"Sorry, Hoggle. God, I didn't get you, did I?" Sarah was relieved when Hoggle chuckled.
"Just me nose! Here, drink this."
The brew looked evil, but the taste was fine, and the effect as quick as the flower's perfume had been. Sarah's headache receded, as did the sour taste in her mouth. She looked around hesitantly. Part of her was little surprised to find she was in an ornate bed chamber, tucked into the most luxurious bed she could have imagined. Meeting Hoggle's darting eyes, she spoke with anger edging her calm words. "Where am I?"
"Well, where you are ain't the point, Sarah." Hoggle stalled, patting her arm nervously. "How you're feeling is. You've been sleeping for three days straight."
"I'm in his castle, aren't I?! Hoggle, I'm back in the Underground, aren't I?!"
"Well, yes, I guess you are." Hoggle looked around the room as if discovering their whereabouts for the first time.
"He brought me here?!" Sarah found she was half sobbing and half shrieking, "How dare he?! What does he want?" She seized Hoggle's arm, making the dwarf jump, "Hoggle, what is he going to do to me?"
Hoggle stuttered, frightened by Sarah's panic. Before he could say anything coherent, Sarah collapsed back against the pillows. Hoggle jumped as an elegantly clothed arm reached past him. He looked up to discover Jareth's face close above him as the Goblin King leaned over, deftly rescuing the glass from Sarah's slack fingers.
"I ain't done nothing to her, your Majesty!"
"I know, Hoggle. I put her back to sleep."
"I din't want to upset her..." Hoggle continued nervously, aware of Jareth's frown.
"You didn't. She needs only her overactive imagination to become upset. Pity. I had hoped that she would be stronger by now." Jareth stroked Sarah's brow. "Be patient with her, Hoggle. She has truly suffered."
Hoggle glanced over at the picture on the bedside table, of Sarah grinning in the arms of a mortal man. Jareth had advised him of her loss. Hoggle was distinctly uncomfortable as he looked between the man in the picture and the man leaning over Sarah, both sets of eyes steadfast on her face, both smiles a caress. He wanted to ask Jareth bluntly what he'd done to Sarah- Hoggle was convinced something had occurred since Sarah's earlier meeting with the Goblin King, for the man to be looking at her with such light in his eyes- but Hoggle was certain that the King would not take kindly to a dwarf questioning his intentions. Even if the dwarf felt paternally responsible for the lovely woman sleeping before them.
Jareth straightened up, clapping for a pair of women to attend to Sarah. As they bathed her face with scented water and brushed her hair, Jareth murmured, "Perhaps it would be best if you allow Sarah to wake up alone tomorrow morning, Hoggle. Leave the elixir for her." With a wave of one gloved hand- yet Hoggle had noticed those fingers had been bare when touching Sarah- Jareth filled the room with the flowers that had eased Sarah's stomach. "She may still be unsettled, but you'll be next door if she calls. I will see to it that breakfast is here at 9:00: the aroma will likely wake her." Looking back at Sarah, Jareth continued, "Tomorrow, my Lady, I promise you that your appetite will return, and with a vengeance."
"What's wrong with her, your Majesty? Surely this goes beyond mourning." Hoggle ducked as he spoke, fearing rebuttal.
For a long time, Jareth neither answered, nor looked at Hoggle. When he drew his gaze from Sarah's still face to meet Hoggle's darting eyes, his countenance was troubled. He seemed as if to speak, then looked sharply at the women still stooped over Sarah. Their faces were carefully disinterested, but their hunger to hear Jareth's answer was obvious. Jareth straightened, dismissing Hoggle's concern. "She is mourning the death of her mortal husband. Is that not enough?"
'Not with you in her life, Jareth.' Hoggle covered his mouth to keep his ill-advised thought inside. Looking again from the King to the man in the picture, Hoggle felt distinctly ill. Things were rarely as they appeared in this castle, but the game the Goblin King seemed to playing this time looked especially dangerous to the dwarf.
Hoggle was trying to teach Sarah how to play chess. "No, no, no, Sarah: the knight can't move like that!"
Sarah really wasn't interested. She picked up the crystal king moodily. The tiny sculpture even looked a bit like Jareth, and so it pleased her to suffocate it within her fist. "Hoggle, why hasn't he visited me? I swear I've been in this room for months now..."
"One month, I guess."
"...and still he stays away. Does he hate me so, that he can't stand to be in the same room as me?"
Hoggle wisely refrained from informing the brooding woman that the Goblin King had visited her every night, checking her as she slept. She had recovered quickly under his care, since that first awakening. As predicted, her appetite returned, and with her strength, the humour lurking under her smile had returned. Her fire was back too: she was snapping a lot more lately, as if craving a fight.
"Who cares about Jareth?" Hoggle said dismissively, peaking at Sarah.
Her glare was dagger-sharp. Sarah started to speak, then bit her lip and smacked the crystal chess piece down onto the board. She paced around the large room, kicking at the skirt of the lovely dress she had chosen. Pausing to look at her image in the mirror, Sarah sighed. "Did you ask him again why I'm here, Hoggle?"
"And did the weasel avoid answering, as usual?"
"Jareth ain't a weasel, Sarah..." Hoggle looked uncomfortable, hoping Jareth wasn't listening. "You shouldn't be unkind to him."
Sarah rounded on the dwarf. "Don't defend him! Why shouldn't I be rude? Think of all he's done to me! Oh, it's not fair!" Sarah pouted, very much the girl again, in her temper.
Hoggle swallowed, thinking of all he'd seen Jareth do for Sarah since he'd brought her to the castle and consigned her to Hoggle's watch. The Goblin King had been quite frankly loving in his care of the girl, in Hoggle's opinion. The dwarf had doubted Jareth's motives, at first, but it quickly became apparent that the King had only the noblest of intentions toward what Hoggle now realized was his intended bride. No, Hoggle no longer suspected Jareth's intentions, but was darkly worried about what the King might do to achieve his goal. Jareth seemed determined, and yet, watching Sarah pace intemperately through the room, Hoggle wondered why Jareth wanted such an ungrateful Queen. Hoggle was sincerely fond of Sarah, but not for all the jewels in the Underground would he want to spend a lifetime with her capricious moods. "Well, yes, he did answer..." Hoggle cleared his throat, having caught Sarah's attention. "Jareth said he brought you here at your request, that you needed his help."
"What? That's a lie: I never asked for his help!" Sarah said hotly.
"No!! Well, not that I remember..." Sarah spoke without conviction, trailing one finger along the dresser. "I wish I could talk to him directly." Turning to look at Hoggle, Sarah fidgeted. "Hoggle, do you think... that he might... oh, I don't know, dine with me, one night?" she slowly asked.
"Well, I can't say, Sarah." Hoggle picked up the crystal king, lips pursed. "Why don't you write him a note an ask him?"
"That's a great idea!" Sarah sat at her escritoire with new enthusiasm, missing Hoggle's sigh. She drew a sheet of the elegant parchment to her, then pondered what to say. Before she was done, many sheets were balled up and consigned to the fire. Sarah folded the letter, then sealed it as Hoggle directed. Giving the sheet to Hoggle, Sarah was both frightened and filled with excitement. "You will come right back with his answer, won't you, Hoggle?" she asked artlessly.
Sarah paused in her pacing as the clock chimed 8:00 PM. She cast one last look at her reflection, hoping that the Goblin King would find favour in her appearance. Her women had spent all day preparing her, much to her embarrassment. While they had worked without spoken censure, they had strongly conveyed the sense that Sarah was entirely unworthy of the honour Jareth was bestowing on her. She was also unnerved by the crash-course in etiquette the women insisted on giving her. The rules seemed arbitrary and too numerous to count. Furthermore, even the smallest infraction, apparently, would condemn Sarah to Etiquette Hell. As impatient as she was of these conventions, Sarah felt inclined to meet Jareth with proper respect, in gratitude for his recent treatment of her. At least, this was the reason she gave herself; that she was playing the role of the Fairy Princess, about to meet the most intriguing King imaginable, was entirely incidental.
Servants threw open her doors. Sarah caught her breath at Jareth's appearance. She recalled him as being splendid, but remembered him with the naiveté of a girl. Seeing him now made her wonder how she had ever resisted his allure.
Jareth stepped forward with a smile, recalling Sarah to her lessons. She curtsied with credible grace, thanks to her dance training, her electric blue skirts held out in white-knuckled grips.
"Very nicely done, Sarah. Allow me to reciprocate." Jareth bowed fluidly, capturing Sarah's hand in his gloved fingers and bringing it to his lips. He smiled against her skin at the gasp that rewarded his touch. When he raised his bright head, he was amused to see that she was blushing adorably. "You look beautiful, Sarah."
"So do you."
"Really? Hum. I rather thought I looked handsome." Jareth's smile quirked engagingly.
"That too." Sarah sighed, then bit her lip at her careless words. She couldn't seem to draw her gaze away from his.
Hoggle's muttered words recalled Sarah to her surroundings. She turned to find the dwarf glancing away from one of the pictures of she and Aidan to glower nervously at Jareth. Sarah missed the frown and warning glance Jareth sent Hoggle, as she had missed the significance of the look Hoggle gave to the photo. For his part, Hoggle couldn't fathom why Sarah was falling for Jareth's act.
"Hello Hoggle." Jareth said politely, drawing Sarah's hand through his arm. She stared up at him with a smile as she took her place beside him. "If you're ready, my Lady, dinner awaits."
"Hold on!" Hoggle burst out. "King or no King, you behave yourself, you hear, Jareth?!"
Jareth scorched the dwarf with such a haughty look that Hoggle stumbled back. Sarah burst out laughing.
"Don't be silly, Hoggle! Bye!"
Jareth lead Sarah along a stone walk to the dining room associated with his chambers. He was surprised to find that she was stiffening up on his arm, stealing glances up at him with wide, frightened eyes. 'Now what could be bothering her?' Jareth sighed. "Sarah, if Hoggle's ridiculous insinuations are preying on your mind..."
That helped: Sarah relaxed and giggled, remembering Jareth's face when Hoggle had the nerve to question his intentions.
"...then please rest assured: I'm a gentleman. You can dine with me tonight without fear for your virtue."
"M-my virtue?!" Sarah chuckled again, more her old self. "Isn't that something only virgins need worry about? Not married women." She shook her head quickly, frowning. "I mean, not widows." Looking up to meet his steady gaze, she mused, "No, it's not you I'm frightened of, it's how I feel..." Immediately, colour flooded her cheeks and she dropped her gaze in confusion. What was it about that man that she spoke with such candor, she wondered. Sarah was glad that they had reached the dining room, and that the presence of servants made it unlikely that he would answer. At least, not until she had regained her composure.
As he lead Sarah to her seat, Jareth considered her admission. 'Promising, very promising...' He judged it best to leave the comment, with all it's intriguing possibilities, for the time being. Instead, he sat her politely and took his seat at the head of the table, some six feet from Sarah. As the servants uncovered plates and poured their drinks, Sarah studied the setting, wondering why Jareth had chosen to sit so far away.
The food smelled wonderful. Sarah smiled across the candle light to Jareth as he raised red wine to salute her.
"Good health, my Lady."
"Thank you, your Highness." Sarah dimpled, raising her glass. "And happiness."
"Indeed." Jareth nodded, sipping delicately from the crystal goblet. He maintained compelling eye contact with Sarah as she drank. Inside, he chuckled when her eyes widened. She looked at the ice-cold frothy white liquid in her glass, eyebrows raising, then at Jareth's ruby wine with a frown.
'Here we go.', Jareth thought as he looked innocently at the glass Sarah still held up. 'Might as well get the fireworks started.' "It's milk."
Sarah tilted her head. "Milk...?" she asked. Jareth could easily tell that she was reviewing her tenure at the castle, only now realizing that she had never been offered wine. His face told her nothing. "I'm a big girl now. Don't you trust me with alcohol?"
"I trust you, Sarah." More than you realize. "I just think you're better off drinking milk."
That drove her crazy. Sarah narrowed her eyes, staring across at him. "Why?" she breathed with deceptive calm.
"Why are you sick each morning, despite having recovered your health?"
Sarah opened her mouth to retort, then broke off, struck by his question. She took a slow bite of her dinner, considering him. Jareth watched, avidly drinking in her reaction on the instant when she finally realized what he had known all along. She stood up so suddenly that her chair fell over.
"I'm... pregnant?!" Sarah gasped. "No way, I can't be..."
Jareth stood politely, remaining silent. Better to let her work out the truth of the statement. Inside, he was disappointed, though not surprised, that she wasn't elated by the news. Sarah broke off, swinging around questingly. "You can see the moon from the balcony." Jareth commented blandly, gesturing off to Sarah's left.
She went quickly out into the fragrant night air, leaning on the balcony wall and staring up at the full moon. It had been coming on to full when she had first looked at it from her room in Jareth's castle, and so more than a month had passed without, without... Jareth came up beside her, looking even more magical, if possible, in the moon's caress. Sarah caught her breath, unsure of whether she was going to scream or sob.
"H-how dare you know something like that about me!" Sarah gasped, glaring up at Jareth. "I-I. Oh, how unfair!"
That made him smile. "In what way?"
Sarah looked up at the moon, turning away from Jareth. He saw that she was shaking. "Aidan would have been so happy that I'm pregnant," she said in a muffled voice, trying not to cry in front of Jareth, "while I-I don't even want a baby. No fair!" Sarah stamped her foot.
Jareth coaxed her to face him, gently drawing her against his chest. He plied her with soothing words as she stood in his arms, rigid and shaking. She pushed away, feebly trying to break his hold, before submitting to the comfort he offered. She didn't cry, though, as Jareth thought she would. Rather, her breathing smoothed out and she brought her arms up to return his embrace, sending his heart racing. Her hair was soft and scented against his chin as she nestled against his shoulder with a sigh. Just when he judged her a heartbeat away from lifting her face in invitation, and wondered if he'd have the willpower to remain the gentleman, she dropped her arms and pulled back instead. Feeling the crescendo of tension within her, Jareth smoothly released his embrace, allowing her to believe that she was in control of the scene. She stared up at him with huge eyes.
"I fear I've over-taxed your strength, my Lady." Jareth stepped back. "I will call Hedgewart-"
"Hogwart!" Sarah almost smiled.
"Hoggle to escort you back to your room, if you'd like, though I'd rather you stay. You have hardly eaten a mouthful." Jareth righted Sarah's chair, inviting her back to the table with a gesture.
She stood in the moonlight, looking so lost that it took all his self-control not to go to her, to shelter her with his love, to force her to recognize in turn her love for him. He stayed impassive instead, while she fought with herself. At length, the panic passed, and she stepped back into the room. "Forgive me, Jareth." she murmured, allowing him to seat her again. "I did not mean to... sour the evening with my moods..."
Jareth smiled reassuringly. "You haven't, Sarah." He sat again, resuming his meal. "No one would blame you for being upset. I'm surprised, though: why would you not want a baby?"
She looked at her plate, palpably uncomfortable.
"Ah. You're afraid you'll offer me your baby, as you did Toby?"
She winced, guilt all over her face. "What kind of mother would I be, when I didn't even care enough to take care of Toby? What kind of girl wishes away her baby brother, for God's sake?" she whispered, glancing at Jareth but afraid of what she might see in his eyes.
"A melodramatic one, full of fairy tales and dreams, Sarah. Certainly one who did not believe that her wish would come true. Don't be harsh on yourself. You love Toby: you know that. You'll love our baby too, even more." Jareth broke off with a soft gasp.
Sarah was gazing moodily into the candle flames. "Well, since I'm apparently having a baby, I hope you're right. I guess I did love Toby enough to cross you and get him back." She met his eyes then, with her old fire.
Jareth relaxed slowly, drinking to cover his relief. He didn't want Sarah to learn the whole truth tonight. In order to distract her from realizing what he'd said, he offered another gambit. "Indeed. Why do you think that you won Toby back, Sarah? I warned you that you're no match for me."
"And you were wrong, weren't you?"
His words seemed to carry extra significance, as did the laughter lurking in his face. Sarah found that she was blushing, as if her cheeks had understood what Jareth was really saying, even if she had missed his message. She ground her teeth.
"There are several possibilities why you prevailed, Sarah. One, I overestimated my power..." Jareth narrowed his eyes. "And no, I did not, young lady, so you can wipe that look off your face. I know my abilities. Two, you are more powerful that I realized."
"Really? Am I?" Sarah was pleased with that view of her abilities.
"In fact, yes. But that wasn't the reason you won Toby back." Jareth held his hand up, silencing Sarah. "I don't think you'll be surprised to know that I spent a lot of time soul-searching after you defeated me. I was not... pleased. It was intolerable that I, the King of the Goblins, was humbled by a mere mortal girl. You should not have had such success with resisting my magic, or with my subjects. And Sarah, you would not have, had you been a mortal."
"Oh, so I'm not mortal, then?" Sarah grinned.
"No, my Lady: you're a changeling. You're one of us. In fact, you're of noble blood."
"I'm like... you?" Sarah was incredulous. "That's appealing, but..."
"You're quite fragrant with magic." Jareth smiled, breathing in her scent. "Should you choose to stay - yes, Sarah, the choice is yours - then you will come into your full power with us."
Sarah smiled, "Cool! But that's not why I won?"
"Next you'll be saying that I was successful only because you allowed me to win!"
Jareth steadily regarded her.
"Oh no! No, no, no! You're not using that lame excuse, you weasel!"
"What did you call me?"
"I defeated you fair and square!" Sarah ignored Jareth's frown, "I won because my will is as strong as yours! You have no power over me, remember?!"
A ghost of pain crossed Jareth's face. "I think we both know that's not true, neither then, nor now, Sarah." he answered quietly.
Sarah gasped. For a long moment, she danced on the verge of telling Jareth exactly what type of arrogant idiot he really was, but the growing conviction that he was telling her the truth held her back. Amazing how much the truth could hurt. Sarah clenched her teeth, glaring into Jareth's carefully impassive face. She stood abruptly. "Thank you for an... interesting evening, your Majesty." she curtseyed.
Jareth sat for a moment, regarding Sarah with shifting emotions. He stood politely, nodding. "It was a pleasure, my Lady." Clapping for a servant, he continued, "Summon Hoggle." Sarah stiffened as he approached. Jareth bowed over her reluctant hand, rekindling the torrent of emotion his lips had earlier given her. "I hope that we can dine together again, soon. Ah, Hoggle! Lady Sarah is ready to retire. Sleep well, my Lady."
'Really, he's totally in control; I only think I am!' Sarah mused, turning slowly away from Jareth's smile.
Jareth watched her go. He strolled out onto the balcony, sipping his wine while the moonlight bathed his white face. He smiled as he reviewed the evening. It had been more successful than he had hoped. "Promising indeed."
"How you've turned my world,
You precious thing,
You starve and near exhaust me,
Everything I've done,
I've done for you.
I move the stars for no one.
You've run so long,
You've run so far,
Your eyes can be so cruel.
Just as I can be so cruel.
Though I do believe in you,
Yes, I do.
Live without your sunlight.
Love without your heartbeat,
I-I can't live within you.
Sarah paced her chamber, stalking out into the night air to stare up at the night sky before repeating her circuit through the generous room. Her women had been waiting to help remove her finery, when she returned from dinner with their King, but Sarah had cooly sent them away without so much as a sniff of gossip. She was full of emotion, trying to come to terms with the news, and with the depth of her emotions toward Jareth. As she paced, she tried to find the error in his argument that would prove that she did not win Toby back just because he let her do so. And yet, that would explain much, not the least of which, why she wasn't a skeleton in the oubliette. Jareth's aching song came back to her with crystal clarity, as did his words to her in their final showdown. Could it be that he had done all those things, those horrible things, just for her, at her unspoken request? Perhaps he had been generous, as he claimed. Looking out over the labyrinth, Sarah wondered just how dangerous his world really was. She puzzled over his song, seeing with adult eyes how blind she had been, and how very deeply she had hurt the Goblin King. And yet, despite treating him so poorly, he had returned to save her, and then treated her with such kindness. Such...love. Sarah gasped. "Good lord, you love me, don't you?" Sarah whispered. The revelation startled her, as it evoked in Sarah profound remorse, far greater sorrow and regret than the news of Aidan's death had, closely followed by a storm of answering love. "A-and I love you too. I-I always have. Bloody hell!" Sarah batted an offending throw pillow onto the floor. "What am I going to do? Oh, Aidan, forgive me for betraying you all along. I'm such an idiot!" Sarah gave the cushion a kick. "I know I can't trust myself to go any where near him. I've got to get out of here!" And yet, the thought of leaving the Underground was as painful as the realization that she had hurt Jareth. Frustrated, Sarah fell back on her familiar complaint, "No fair!!!".
Jareth watched alertly as Sarah paced the confines of the crystal in his hand. She was so easy to read, all her emotions playing across her lovely face. He was thrilled by her imminent awakening. He sang softly to her, forcing himself to relive his defeat at her hands, in the hope that his hurt would arouse her true emotions and strip away the lies she had wrapped herself in. When she realized how she had treated him, and that she loved him, Jareth was jubilant, his pain forgotten. He chuckled when his Sarah swore to stay away from him, knowing that he could easily overcome her resolve. "Let's see..." he mused, "what would be an appropriate setting in which to rekindle romance? Ah! I think it's time I took my Lady to another ball."
Sarah was venting her frustration with spirited dance, covering the space within her quarters with ease. She danced to the sound of her heart beat and her breathing, speeding her tempo according to her body's lead. Conscious of the life within her, Sarah constrained her movements to those so much a part of her as to be instinctual. She had studied all aspects of the performing arts, and was an accomplished dancer. Jazz dancing strongly appealed to her, as did modern and world dance. Smoothing her movements, Sarah let her body flow into one of the birth dances of the Middle East, arms graceful and hips carrying the rhythm. She was only partly clothed, Hoggle safely excluded, having found nothing appropriate in her closet for her present activity. This lead her involuntarily to considering Jareth's dress, and how useful his tights and billowing shirt would be. Sarah shook herself at the images this thought naturally evoked, resolving to resist his charm.
He had politely refused her request to return home (the weasel), and with no reason given. Sarah fumed at the thought of his high-handed behaviour, refusing to admit to herself that she really did not want to leave, and so his decision suited her perfectly. Again, her love was merely acting as she would have him act, despite what her stubborn brain and lips might say. The sense that he might know her better than she knew herself made her want to scream. He had also, so far, neither invited her to dine with him again nor granted her desire to speak directly with him. Was he again merely obeying her wishes, to stay away from him? Surely not: she was forced to admit that she wanted to be with him more than anything, despite her brave words to the contrary. All things considered, he was being maddeningly aloof, despite the overt indications of devotion that he had surrounded her with. As such, he left Sarah with her thoughts, allowing her the privacy and time to come to terms with his revelations. She understood his forbearance, but would have preferred his company, even if she had sworn that she must avoid him.
"Lady Sarah! Lady Sarah!"
Sarah's ladies burst in, Diana in the lead and calling her name. When they saw her, her skin alight with the sheen of sweat, her body unclothed to reveal her dancer's physique, they stopped, mouths agape. Sarah frowned as the doors closed on their own behind the women. Again, Jareth was solidly in charge, despite the façade of control he allowed Sarah.
"Well, what is it?" she snapped, continuing her dance.
"Oh no!" Diana cried, "my Lady, you must never dance so!" Beside her, Adrianna nodded, her eyes wide with shock.
"What?" Sarah wheeled to face them, the pair of lovely, vacuous women that Jareth had assigned her. "Why ever not?"
Adrianna snatched a wrap from the bed, hurrying to cover Sarah. "You'll catch your death, my Lady!" she pouted, "What ever would his Majesty say if you couldn't attend the grand ball!"
"That's enough!" Sarah bit out, "You are neither of you making any sense. What are you talking about?"
"King Jareth has announced a grand ball!" Diana laughed, curtseying and waltzing gracefully around Sarah.
"All the jewels of his kingdom will be there!" Adrianna joined Diana, swirling like butterflies around Sarah. "It will be such a magical evening!"
"A ball." Sarah frowned, her mind on the last time Jareth had taken her dancing. He had been breath-taking, that much she remembered, and had very nearly turned her from her course. Even now, the memories were confusing, and a bit intimidating. "Yippee."
"My Lady! How can you talk so?!" Adrianna and Diana were waltzing together now, fighting over who was to lead and who to follow. "I hope, oh, I hope Jareth will dance with me!" "Me too!" The girls sighed in unison, raptly imagining themselves in Jareth's embrace.
"I don't." Sarah ignored the looks this statement evoked.
"Don't be silly!" Diana giggled, "You'll get to dance with him for sure, you lucky thing! You'll probably get to dance with Prince Raven too! I vow and declare I'll swoon if Raven dances with me! He's almost as delicious as Jareth!"
"Jareth's dashing dark cousin." Adrianna sighed.
"How can you be so sure that either man will pay me any attention?"
"Because you're to be Jareth's guest at the ball. Oh, how I envy you!" Diana pouted, offering Sarah a rolled-up parchment, wrapped in gay ribbons.
When Sarah unrolled the elegant parchment, the scent of heady blossoms filled the room. The single sheet of vellum bore an invitation for the Lady Sarah to be King Jareth's guest at the ball, to be held that night. The invitation suggested that Jareth had placed a special ball gown, suitable for one as lovely as his Lady, in her quarters. The wording and presentation was perfectly gallant, as if Sarah were in a fairy tale. As a girl, it would have left her breathless; as a woman, while Sarah was amused by the courtly wording, she was more interested in the unspoken promise within Jareth's invitation. She put the paper down, trying to sort out her feelings.
Diana immediately pounced on the sheet. She and Adrianna cooed over the wording, sighing gustily, before shooting into Sarah's closet to see what Jareth had created for her. From the noises presently heard within the wardrobe, Sarah gathered that the dress was magnificent. Her ladies tumbled out, eyes alight with pleasure, a gorgeous dress tenderly displayed between them. The dress was splendid indeed, of rich fire colours, with gold threads woven through the fitted bodice and the flaring skirt. They pounced on Sarah, talking incessantly while they drew a bath and settled her tenderly into fragrant water. Diana rubbed Sarah's shoulders while Adrianna brushed perfume into her thick hair. They fused over her, making sure that her skin and hair glowed. Then they herded her to the luxurious bed, insisting that she sleep through the afternoon, so that she would be well rested for the night's festivities. Leaving her tucked in, and suddenly tired, the women danced out, promising to return in good time to dress and prepare her.
Snuggling into the silk sheets, Sarah smiled. She looked over to the dress, her heart beating faster at the idle speculation of what Jareth might be wearing that night. "Really, I'm as bad as they are!" she chuckled, sleep slipping over her.
"Cor, Sarah, you do look beautiful." Hoggle spoke wistfully, admiring the glow of excitement on Sarah's face. She was a different person since dining with Jareth, brooding and disdainful of Hoggle's company some of the time while bursting with happiness at other times. Hoggle shrewdly guessed that she now realized her condition, and was glad. He had no idea how a woman could miss the signs that she was with child, but Sarah certainly had. Hoggle wondered if Jareth had admitted his love for her. Would that make her happy? So far though, she had given Hoggle no indication that Jareth had admitted to meddling with her mortal marriage. Hoggle was acutely nervous at the response that bit of truth would evoke.
"Do I?" Sarah turned to critically evaluate her appearance. The fire tones did suit her well, highlighting her rich colouring. "Thanks Hoggle!" She turned to her women, smiling at them. Diana and Adrianna were already decked out in their finest frocks, ready for the ball. "Thank you, ladies. Off you go! I'll see you at the ball."
They avidly scurried away, bubbling with the possibilities of the night. Sarah shook her head, wondering if she had ever been that preoccupied with the promise of romance. Foolish thought: of course she had, and still was.
"Here Sarah: Jareth asked me to give this to you."
Sarah recoiled slightly, then forced herself to make light of the situation. "Not a peach, is it?"
"No!" Hoggle looked guilty, making Sarah regret her words. "I'm sure it's safe. He's been protecting you, not trying to hurt you, I'm sure of it."
Odd words. Sarah looked closely at Hoggle, who shrugged and looked away. It was as if Hoggle was trying to convince himself that Jareth had no secret motives. Sarah frowned. She had studied every aspect of her time in his castle, every word (or so she thought), without finding reason to mistrust the Goblin King. Old habits die hard. She took the velvet box from Hoggle, opening it to find the exact jewelry that would complete her dress. "Good Lord.", she gasped, stirring the precious jewels with one finger. Hoggle's eyes widened.
"Wow!" the dwarf breathed reverently, starting to touch the jewelry before pulling away nervously. "You've sure got his attention!"
"Have I?" Sarah was unguardedly jubilant. She put the jewels on. The necklace glowed richly against her white skin, pointing to the low neck of the bodice. Sarah shifted, not entirely comfortable. The dress seemed to offer too much. "Has Jareth ever treated another lady this way?"
Hoggle shrugged. "I don't know."
"Good answer to a foolish question, my friend." Sarah laughed. "I feel as giddy as a little girl, dressed up like this." Squaring her bare shoulders, Sarah smiled, "Show time!"
Jareth was already in the crystal ballroom when Sarah arrived. She took him by surprise with how lovely she was. She had been a pretty child, innocently beautiful when he had dressed her like a princess, but that appeal paled compared to the sensuous beauty she radiated as a woman. The gown and jewelry were perfect choices; Jareth congratulated himself on his excellent taste. She stood by the stairs, smile sweet and eyes delightedly absorbing the splendor of the scene. He went immediately to the base of the stairs, to greet her. Her eyes lit up quite gratifyingly when she saw him. All his subjects watched avidly as Sarah floated down the stairs, each sultry step a saucy presentation of her grace and dancer's body. She took Jareth's hand, curtseying while he bowed, then looked up into his smiling face with an answering smile.
"Good evening, my Lady. You are more beautiful than ever tonight."
"Thank you, your Majesty, both for your kind words and for your generosity."
Jareth touched one of Sarah's earrings before stroking along the necklace. Sarah breathed quickly, blushing at his touch. "The gems suit you, my dear. As does the glow of excitement." Jareth smoothly swung Sarah into the stream of dancers, his black and crystal formal dress a magnificent compliment to her attire. "I expect that your glow is the shine of the expectant mother, though I would like to think that I am responsible for some of your excitement...?"
"Fishing for compliments, are we?" Sarah countered, dimpling, "Judging from the room full of adoring subjects, you don't need me to massage your ego."
Jareth started, glancing around at the eyes ever on him. "Touché. You appear to have come to terms with our dinner discussion. How are you feeling?"
"Fine, thank you." Sarah sighed, "I am both reconciled to the thought of having Aidan's baby, and looking forward to it. I only regret that Aidan's not here to share my joy."
Jareth frowned above her head. "Do you still miss him so much?" he asked carefully, wanting to add, 'even when you're with me?'
Sarah looked up, surprised. "Of course." She scanned his face, wondering if she really did miss Aidan. For a moment, she had felt like it was she and Aidan, rather than Jareth, dancing with such easy grace. She seemed to fit the Goblin King's arms as comfortably as she had Aidan's, and their bodies moved together with the same ease that time had given she and Aidan. It hadn't occurred to her before, but Aidan even looked like Jareth. "How ironic it is that I am here with you." she murmured, speaking to herself despite addressing Jareth. "I convinced myself long ago that our previous meeting was but a dream, one that I would have forgotten, but Aidan wouldn't let me."
Jareth frowned, realizing that Sarah was heading into dangerous waters. It was too soon, and the setting too public. Why ever was she focusing on a dead mortal, when she was in the embrace of the Goblin King? He tried to recall her attention, "Sarah, do you remember the song I sang for you, when we last danced?"
Sarah started, refocusing on
Jareth's fascinating eyes. "I-I think so."
There's such a sad love, deep in your eyes,
A kind of pale jewel, open and closed,
Within your eyes.
I'll place the sky within your eyes.
Jareth sang softly, keeping Sarah's
eyes on his as they danced. She swooned into the song, flowing within the
lilting melody, face rapt.
There's such a fooled heart, beating so fast,
In search of new dreams,
A love that will last, within your heart,
I'll place the moon within your
As the pain sweeps through,
Makes no sense for you,
Every thrill is gone,
Wasn't too much fun at all,
But I'll be there for you,
As the world falls down,
It's falling down,
Falling in love.
Sarah shook her head slowly, staring
intently into Jareth's face without seeing him. The song was achingly beautiful,
so puzzling in the words. "The world's falling down?" she murmured, trying to
remember when she had last been told that. Someone else had sang that to her,
she was sure of it, but the memory remained maddeningly elusive. Sarah closed
her eyes and surrendered to the memory when the singing continued.
I'll paint you mornings of gold,
I'll spin you valentine evenings,
Though we're strangers 'till now,
We're choosing a path between the stars.
I'll leave my love between the
As the pain sweeps through,
Makes no sense for you,
Every thrill is gone,
Wasn't too much fun at all,
But I'll be there for you,
As the world falls down,
Falling in love.
"Sarah, look at me."
"I have my whole life ahead to enjoy looking at you, Aidan." Sarah grinned, eyes still closed, as she twirled smoothly in Aidan's arms. They were sharing their first dance as husband and wife. Oh, how she was looking forward to their wedding night! Her pulse quickened at the thought. The song Aidan had composed for her was so beautiful, though the words largely puzzled her. But that was Aidan, though, through and through: always play-acting that he was the Goblin King.
That he was the Goblin King.
The Goblin King.
"I'm not Aidan, Sarah. Look at me."
Sarah opened her eyes, meeting Jareth's cold gaze. She stopped abruptly, her mouth agape and colour flaring as she forced Jareth to stop dancing. Jareth looked uncomfortable as dancers tried to move past them. He gestured sharply with one gloved hand, and the gay procession of dancers froze around them. The tableau thus formed was like a crystal snapshot of the ball.
"You're not Aidan, but Aidan was you!" Sarah spoke in panting bursts. "He was you, all along! You... bastard!"
"Silence!" Jareth frightened Sarah with the fury of his delivery. "How dare you speak to me like that?!"
"How dare I? How dare you meddle with my life! Because of you, everything I've done has been a lie! I thought I was with Aidan, and really, really..." Sarah sputtered, too angry and too unnerved by the look on Jareth's face to articulate her thoughts.
Jareth turned sharply, glaring at an unfrozen man who was watching intently from across the ballroom. Perhaps this was Prince Raven, whom her women had mentioned? Clearly, that Raven was witness to Sarah shouting at Jareth was stoking the Goblin King's anger. Next thing she knew, Jareth had seized her arm and was roughly dragging her from the ballroom and along the stone corridors of his castle. "Let me go!" Sarah tried to break his grip, but could not. She was helpless as he marched her back to her quarters and threw her in.
"Of course Aidan was but an echo of me, my gift to you!" Jareth snarled softly, his face white and his eyes burning. She cowered at the force of his words. "He was all you would allow me to give you! I would have offered you my kingdom, my companionship, my... heart, you ungrateful thing, but no, you had to push me away." Jareth stalked around Sarah as he bit out his words, showering them on her like blows. "And you, how dare you criticize me when you cavorted with me in your dreams, looked for me in the faces around you and in the arms of other men, yet spurned me! You were a complete trollop, behaving like that! I sent Aidan to you because there was nothing else you would allow me to do! That was the only way I could be with you, through him!"
"I never wanted you! That's a lie!"
"Really?" Jareth stopped directly in front of Sarah, looking down into her white face. "You're the liar, Sarah. You're lying to me and to yourself." Jareth silenced her retort by yanking her into his embrace, firmly planting his lips over hers. He kissed her just as Aidan had (only better), as she had enjoyed being kissed so many times. When he released her mouth, Sarah stared with horror at her new understanding.
"Jareth, was it ever just you with me, and not you through Aidan? Jareth...?"
He stood back, looking cornered.
Sarah gasped. "Oh, no!"
"Oh, yes." Jareth hissed.
Sarah put her hands to her abdomen, vividly remembering how playfully Aidan had blindfolded her the last time he had made love to her.
"Remember how wonderful that last time was, Sarah?" Jareth stopped her when she tried to turn away. "Passion such as you had never experienced before? Do you really think that it was Aidan with you that night?"
"It was Aidan! It was!"
"It was me, Sarah. I was magnificent that night. Aidan never played your body as I did, never carried you to such heights as I am easily capable of." Jareth forced her to meet his eyes. "And Sarah, it was me, not Aidan, who held you through the night, while our son was conceived."
"No! No! You're a lying weasel! This baby is Aidan's, not yours."
"Hardly." Jareth stepped away, steadfastly regarding Sarah.
"I hate you! I hate you! I never want to see you again! Oh!" she yelled, pulling her wedding band off and throwing it at him. The ornate red-gold band passed right through him, his image fading, the hard look in his face remaining only in her mind's eye. Sarah threw herself onto her bed and gave in to her emotions.
What had she done?
Sarah awoke to the feeling of profound loss. She had cried herself to sleep, once the exhaustion of her deep sobbing and the sound of Jareth's cold words echoing in her head had battered her to the point where she was suspended in black dizziness. Now she found herself still fully dressed, lying on top of the bed. Light was streaming in the windows, and she could hear birds singing vigorously outside. Something was different, and that realization made her roll over quickly.
She was back in her and Aidan's bedroom. Jareth had sent her home, banished her from his kingdom in disgrace. The thought of him turning his back on her affected her so deeply that Sarah ran into the bathroom and threw up. Looking at her white face in the mirror, Sarah ground out, "You're a fighter, damn it! He can't have abandoned you forever, not when you're carrying his son. Rally, girl! If he's the one for you, then fight for him!" Even to her own ears, her brave words sounded desperate. Sarah slowly pulled her finery off, throwing the dress and jewelry on the bed, then tried to ease her aching muscles with a hot shower. She found that Jareth's fingers had left bruises on her arm, when he had dragged her to her room. The bruises were sobering reminders of how badly she had enraged the Goblin King.
Sarah come out into the bedroom to discover that the dress and jewelry were gone. She felt like he'd hit her in the stomach, by not even allowing her those last reminders of his affection. And yet, the scene was eerily familiar: Sarah had offended Aidan a number of times, and this type of treatment had been his response. Sarah pulled on some clothes, discovering that her belly was already bigger. As she wandered through the house, looking at the pictures of she and Aidan, Sarah realized how blind she'd been. Jareth was right there, his unmatched eyes staring at her out of Aidan's handsome face. Watching their wedding video was even more disturbing, as she could see more of Jareth than of Aidan in the man who swore to love and protect her until death did they part. It was almost too much for Sarah to hear the song again, with Aidan's voice a poor echo of the beauty of Jareth's. As she watched herself twirling in Jareth's/Aidan's arms, Sarah racked her brains on how she could apologize, how she could rekindle his love. First things first, though. Sarah looked around, saying clearly, "Jareth, you're welcome here at any time. This is our house, and I am yours for the asking."
Sarah sat hopefully before her mirror, searching the image for the path to the Underground. Jareth had claimed that she had magic, that she was like him. Sarah wished that her childhood reading had given some clues as to how she could use that magic. If only she could get back to the castle, preferably without having to solve the labyrinth again, she might be able to heal the rift she had created between she and the Goblin King. She had forced herself to calmly review her experiences in the Underground, trying to find her way. The most promising memory had been of Hoggle, Ludo, and Sir Didymus appearing in the mirror's reflection once she had saved Toby. She had but expressed her need for their friendship and they had crossed into her world.
"Hoggle?" She concentrated, envisioning the dwarf behind her, willing him to hear her. "Hoggle?!" Still nothing. Sarah bit her lip, stretching her senses to try and find the magic. She felt foolish, but if Jareth said she was magic, than she was. As she studied the image, she became aware of swirling at the edges of her vision, as if the scene was framed with fire. Her head started to hurt, but the fire was swirling more clearly through her vision. "Hoggle? I need you, Hoggle."
His voice was distant, but he could hear her! Sarah ignored the blossoming pain and looked harder for him. The mirror suddenly flowed like water, and she found herself looking into Hoggle's face rather than her own.
"Sarah? Sarah, where are you? Are you alright?"
"Can you see me, Hoggle?"
Hoggle started. "I can now." He peered closely at her, relief dancing over the wrinkles on his face. "He sent you back Above!" Hoggle sat down weakly. "I thought he'd put you in the dungeon, or, or..." Hoggle swallowed with effort. "What happened, Sarah?"
"I made an ass of myself."
"You must have been a whole stampede of asses to have enraged him this much!" Hoggle looked around nervously. "No one wants to be anywhere near him. He's a storm waiting to break." Hoggle looked closely at Sarah. "You found out he'd been messing with your mortal marriage, is that it?"
"How'd you know about that?" Sarah snapped, caught off-guard.
"It was obvious that your husband was a mortal version of Jareth. How could you have missed it, when you were with them both?" Hoggle was honestly puzzled.
"What are you going to do, Sarah?" Hoggle looked worried. "You still have his child, don't you?"
"Y-yes. Are you saying that he could take my baby from me?" Sarah wrapped her hands over her stomach.
"Of course he could. He gave it to you in the first place, din't he? Well, he can't have turned his back on you for good, if you're still pregnant."
Sarah was speechless, praying that the baby was still inside her. He couldn't have done something that cruel. "Hoggle, I have to come back to the Underground. If I can talk to him, I can patch things up between us. Do you know how to move between here and the castle?"
"Not really, Sarah."
"But, how did you come over here, then, when I'd come home with Toby?"
"Oh that! Jareth sent us over. I don't know how he does it."
"Jareth sent you?" Sarah felt sick, seeing again how all that he had done, he had done for her.
"How are you talking to me, anyway? Is he letting you do so?"
"I don't think so, Hoggle. He told me that I'm like him, that I have magic too."
"You're a changeling?"
"I think I got the magic to contact you, but I don't know how to cross over to you."
Hoggle looked perplexed. "They say that Jareth an his folk just thinks themselves around, Sarah."
"Think themselves between places? Does that mean envision themselves?"
"I don't know. Try it."
Sarah stared past Hoggle, seeing herself standing by the fire merrily burning in the dwarf's room. Fire seemed to surround her, carrying her in swirling flames and dancing colour, and within a heartbeat, she was back in the castle, feeling the heat from Hoggle's fire place. Hoggle hurried over to her, hugging her paternally.
"I was w-worried about you, Sarah. " he admitted, shuffling. "I wanted t'believe that Jareth wouldn't take such good care of you an then toss you away, but I ain't never seen him like this."
"It's all my fault too, Hoggle." Sarah was paradoxically glad that Jareth was sulking. That was just like the way that Aidan had behaved, when she had hurt him. She went into her own room, Hoggle trailing behind her. The room was untouched, and her wedding band still lay where it had fallen when she had thrown it through Jareth. Sarah pounced on the ring. "Hoggle, can you find out what Jareth is doing, without having him lash out at you?"
"Just watch me." Hoggle bustled out.
Sarah looked at her image, seeing how drawn she looked. Using the magic took a great deal of effort, and made her head pound. "Very attractive, Sarah." she bit out, trying to ease her expression, "He won't be able to resist you, will he?" Sarah went into her closet, randomly choosing a silver-white dress, which looked like it was dusted with stars. As she dressed, she tried to compose herself, determined to apologize to Jareth as quickly as she could. By the time Hoggle returned, she had found jewelry appropriate for her gown, and was brushing her long hair.
"His Majesty's at another of his fancy dances, Sarah."
"Ah. That makes sense." Sarah smiled tenderly. "What better way to heal your wounded pride, than by surrounding yourself with fawning beauties." She tried to pile some of her hair up, framing her face. "Wish me luck, Hoggle. I'm going to the ball."
Sarah hesitated outside the crystal ballroom, trying to raise the courage to enter. Couples danced in gay streams of colour past the arched entrance she had chosen. They seemed unreal to Sarah, their passion so far removed from her aching heart. Jareth was in the ballroom, among his adoring subjects, moving among the throng of noise and movement with his cool splendor. She could have been there too, by his side, if not for her temper. Sarah muttered, "It's not fair. I wish, oh I wish I hadn't made such a mess of things!"
She steeled herself and entered the ballroom, chin high. Sarah didn't notice that Raven was watching as she moved into the stream of pedestrians along the outside of the room. The loveliness of the setting delighted her as always. She was but another butterfly in Jareth's collection, another beautiful work of living art brought to decorate the room.
There he was. Sarah forgot to breathe, held captive by Jareth's allure. He was dressed in red and gold tonight, magnificent as always, moving gracefully among the throng of fawning courtiers. When he took a lady onto his arm and swirled her through the music, Sarah felt faint. She caught sight of herself and was ashamed. Turning back to follow Jareth with her eyes, Sarah smiled with overwhelming love. She bounced her wedding ring in her hand.
Jareth was dancing, his face politely hiding his boredom. The ballroom was filled with gorgeous women, each of whose sole desire was to spend a few precious moments in the circle of his arms, and yet he was distinctly aware that he scanned the faces for Sarah. Mentally shaking himself, the Goblin King reviewed all the reasons why he should abandon the tiresome girl, if not actively punish her. Her behaviour was intolerable, after all, and her temper untamed. Jareth tried to convince himself that he was far better off with the compliant lady swooning on his arm (for example), her eyes appropriately worshipful and steadfast on his face. Jareth smoothly swung his partner around, and noticed Sarah. He was caught off-guard by the strength of his emotion. She had returned to him! His heart seemed to beat again, his interest returned, and his mood lightened. Sarah had chosen a dress very much like the one she had worn on their wedding day, her luxurious hair spilling over her shoulders and down her back. Instead of elegance, she had achieved an exotic appeal that was refreshing to the Goblin King. She was smiling with such love that Jareth felt his heart speed up. When she lifted their wedding band to her lips, kissing it, all Jareth's excitement froze in anger. As the music changed and Jareth released his partner, he saw Sarah's lips moving. Was she mocking him? As he drew near, she surprised him by slipping the ring back onto her ring finger.
"Good bye, Aidan. I loved you. Thanks for leading me back to Jareth." Sarah sighed, before slipping the ring back where it belonged. She turned to find herself facing the Goblin King. Momentarily off-balance, she gasped at the arctic fire in his eyes. She curtseyed, saying, "Please forgive me, your Majesty. I'm so sorry for my temper." She held her curtsey submissively, smiling up at him, lost in his eyes. Jareth stood, aloof, as she searched his face. At length, her smile slowly faded, and still he stared coldly into her wide eyes. 'Your eyes can be so cruel.' Sarah flushed, dropping her gaze to the ground. Standing with hands clasped tightly at her waist, she was frozen in shame while he stared, and as he turned his back on her. The crowd closed in on her as he walked away, jeering and pushing her. Sarah's pain seemed too great for tears, and she numbly stumbled back, trying to escape. Jostled among the laughing courtiers, Sarah fought her way out of the crystal ballroom. She had glimpses of Jareth as she left, his back still turned, women surrounding him hungrily. In the crystal mirror of the room, he watched her leave, his face cold.
Sarah ran along a dark corridor, letting the music and laughter grow distant. Rather than forgiving her, Jareth had indicated that she had wounded him beyond reconciliation. She was blinded by pain. She now realized that she had ruined his love for her, ungrateful fool that she was. Before she had her bearings, Sarah raced around a corner to discover herself in the Escher stairs. She pinwheeled on the edge of the path, fighting to regain her balance. By the time she turned to leave, the door had been replaced by a wall. Had he brought her here? Sarah looked around, hopeful but also frightened. He had been so cruel, as she had been cruel: was this more of her punishment? As much as she knew she deserved what-ever treatment he chose for her, Sarah was fearful. She only now understood how generous he had been before. "J-jareth?" she whispered, her voice echoing across the stairs. Recalling how he had defied gravity before, Sarah moved along the maze, looking over the edges. She lost track of how many stairs she ran up and down, without any sign that he was near. Sarah stopped at one of the many precipices. "Last time, overcoming my fear and jumping solved this puzzle." Sarah slowly said. "Is that what I must do?" She stared down to the platform below. "Oh Lord. I hope so, for your sake, little baby..." Screwing up her face, Sarah launched herself off the edge.
She fell normally, the air screaming past her. Sarah stretched her new sensitivity desperately, seizing the magic swirling like flames around her and using it to slow her descent. Even so, she landed hard, going onto hands and knees, on the platform. The impact stunned her, and she gasped inelegantly. Sitting and clutching her knees, Sarah gave up and allowed the despair to take over. She stared blackly across the stairs, too sad to cry.
His shadow fell across her. Sarah twisted around, ready to throw herself before Jareth, to plead with him, when she found herself staring into depthless black eyes. The man towering over her was the one she had seen earlier, staring at her across the frozen dancers when she and Jareth had quarreled. Like Jareth, he was slim and regal in bearing, with a wild head of blue-black rather than golden hair. He smiled, and Sarah's skin started crawling. She stood quickly, looking about her for an escape, but he stood in her way.
"Hello, pretty. I'm Raven." the stranger smiled, studying Sarah carefully. She gulped, acutely aware that he was assessing what was modestly covered by her gown. She was too unnerved to blush, though his gaze made her feel filthy.
"W-where's Jareth?" she whispered.
He laughed. "My royal cousin isn't here, pretty little fool. He has quite clearly turned his back on you. Forget him. He's forgotten you." The stranger stroked Sarah's hair as he spoke, chuckling when she twisted away with a cry. "You'll need a new protector now. If you please me, I'll be... gentle." Raven ran his fingers down Sarah's bare shoulders and along her arms, pushing down her sleeves. He caught his breath when he saw the vivid imprints of Jareth's fingers.
"Stop it! Don't touch me!" Sarah tried to pull her sleeves back up, fighting his strong fingers.
"Unless you prefer your men rough?" He ignored her attempts to stop his hands, his breath hot on her down-turned face, "Did you like him hurting you? Did it make you ache for his-"
"Jareth!" Sarah screamed, trying to push Raven away. "Help!"
Raven scowled, looking around quickly. He evoked a sphere, plucking it from the air as Jareth did. His sphere looked like a dark crystal, as black as his narrowed eyes. Before Sarah could react, he'd touched the sphere to her neck. She gasped as the cool crystal slid fluidly around her throat, effectively silencing her screams. Raven seized Sarah by her gown, ripping it as he yanked her against the hard plane of his torso. He laughed as she tried to twist away, then forced her face up. Sarah kneed him as hard as she could, making him jump back with a cry. The look in his face completely panicked her as he launched himself at her with a snarl. He struck her hard, throwing her back against one of the stone walls. Raven towered over her. Sarah curled up into fetal position, arms shielding her head and legs tightly drawn up, crying over and over inside, "I'm home, I'm home, I'm home..."
A hand brushed her and she drew away with a silenced cry. When she wasn't attacked, she peeped up at the man standing over her. Jareth's mismatched eyes looked cooly down at her. Sarah saw that she was back in her home, away from the Underground. She whimpered, launching herself against Jareth. He sighed against her hair, gently disengaging her grip on his chest. Sarah's eyes filled with tears, but she stood without protest at his rejection, head hanging and hands very tightly gripped across her stomach.
Jareth gently drew her head up, his fingers on her chin. She met his eyes timidly, afraid of the emotion she would find in his face. A ghost of a smile eased the thin line of his lips. "Poor Sarah." he murmured, smoothing her hair and looking at the crystal choker Raven had forced on her. Easily drawing the crystal off her neck and crushing it in his fist, Jareth shouted, "You better fly, Raven! When I find you, you'll rue the day you dared covet my Queen!"
Sarah's heart leaped. Perhaps it wasn't too late after all. The thought made her tremble.
Jareth brushed her face, healing where Raven had struck her. He circled her as he looked for other wounds. "Where else did Raven hurt you, Sarah?" he asked, his face close to hers as he leaned over her shoulder, insistently covering her abdomen with his hand.
Sarah tried to resist the urge to lean back against him, to run her lips along the sculpted contours of his cheek. "Is our baby ok?" she whispered.
"He's fine. Where else do you hurt?"
"My s-shoulder and side, where I hit the wall."
Jareth ran his fingers probingly over her shoulder and down her arm. When he saw the bruises, he froze and his face hardened. He lightly fit his fingers onto the marks. "I see Raven wasn't the only one to hurt you." he ground out, "My apologies. I would never knowingly harm you. Normally, I have more self-control than that."
It was horrible, hearing him reproach himself. Sarah cringed, whispering, "It was all my fault."
"Yes, it was, Sarah, but I still should have had more discipline." Jareth stroked her, erasing the marks and easing the deep pain. He ran his hand along her side, ignoring how her ragged her breathing was, with his proximity, finding and healing the injuries to her ribs. When he was done, Sarah's physical pain was gone.
She turned to him, timidly searching his face. "Jareth, please let me apologize."
"Shh." Jareth touched her lips, still considering her. "Begging doesn't become you."
"No 'buts'." Jareth smiled, "Come here, you precious thing." He pulled Sarah into his arms. "You're stubborn and annoying, but I love you all the more for it. What a pity."
That earned a weak chuckle from Sarah, who was locked against his chest so hard that Jareth found breathing uncomfortable. "I love you, Jareth. I always have." she murmured into his shoulder, dizzy with relief. "Can we go home, please?"
"As you wish, my
Sarah and Jareth's adventures are continued in "Trial by Fire".
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