He looked out over the ruin of his once great kingdom and wondered where exactly he had gone wrong.
He clenched a hand and felt the leather of his glove crush under his fist. Imagined it was her throat.
Jareth turned away from the window and scowled into the darkness of his bed chamber. He was done sulking and hiding in the shadows. He was the Goblin King and he intended to reclaim the power that the title once held. He would not be broken by some nothing of a girl. Kings were not made of such fragile stuff.
He pulled a cape from its hook and swirled it around his shoulders. The sweep of it against his legs as he walked across the room made him feel more powerful. Not what I once was, he thought, apprising himself in the mirror. He looked flat, his mismatched eyes missing their ferocity. He looked weak for the first time in his centuries of life. Unacceptable. He was barely in his prime.
"Perhaps it's time for a crown," he muttered.
Jareth had never worn a crown before, never thought that kind of kingly trapping was necessary. His natural charisma and confidence had always been more than enough. Once. Before Sarah.
Her rejection had destroyed him and his kingdom followed. But no more. Though his servants had fled and his castle lay largely empty, there was still the whole world for him to go out and conquer...
As he stalked through the corridors, a small shadow detached itself from the darkness of the wall. Despite himself, Jareth started. "You should really do something about the goblin rebellions in the south," croaked a voice, insolently.
Jareth stopped and sighed, pressing a finger to his temple irritably. "You know, I'm really finding you much more tiresome dead than you ever were alive. At least then you had proper respect."
Hoggle glided forward, the beams of sun through the high windows falling through him. "What's left to fear now?" he asked, bitterly. "You have no power over me," he added with a nasty sneer.
Jareth flinched. He scowled at Hoggle. "Be gone from my sight!" he growled.
With a chuckle, Hoggle dematerialized into nothing.
When he had gone, Jareth let his ridged posture slump. He'd killed the creature in a fit of revenge shortly after Sarah's rejection. Her other helpers had evaded him and disappeared long ago. Had Jareth known then that Hoggle would return to pester him for the rest of his very long life, he might have stayed his hand. Perhaps not. He wasn't exactly thinking clearly then.
He straightened his spine and looked around him. Where was Eluned? His housekeeper was one of the few staff that had not deserted him. Little mouse of a fae though she was, Eluned had weathered her master's foul, and sometimes violent moods for more years than he could remember now.
He carried on down the corridor, occasionally seeing small figures sink back into the gloom or dive behind a tapestry. So, there were still a few goblins here and there and it was good they still appeared to fear him. Perhaps they thought him mad. No matter. Fear was fear and he wanted his subjects to fear him.
Likely for a time he was, indeed, mad. It was the only explanation for his falling in love with Sarah, a mere human girl. He could see now that she was nothing special. Powerless. It was as if the fog had lifted from his eyes. Finally, he could see that he was getting weak, letting his grasp on his kingdom slip. But no more.
Jareth brushed aside a tattered black curtain and stepped down into the hot kitchen. Across the room, nearly lost in a cloud of steam over a boiling pot of something that smelled decidedly unappetizing, Eluned waved a dirty rag in his direction. "It's about time!" she spat. "I sent you for meat hours ago! The king might be hiding away in his misery, but I still have to put meals on his table!"
Quirking an eyebrow, Jareth took a step forward and said, "Not hiding any longer."
Eluned let the spoon she was holding in her other hand slip beneath the surface of the glutinous mixture in the pot and spun around so quickly she nearly stumbled. She brushed a few wild strands of hair from her red face and dropped into a strangely graceful curtsey. "Your Highness!" she practically shrieked, her voice high with anxiety. "It is good to see you out in the castle once again!"
He waved a hand at her irritably to raise her from the bow. "Yes, yes. Eluned, I have always valued your opinions and I find myself in need of them now."
She compressed her lips into a tight line, but said nothing.
"How do you feel about the… climate of the kingdom?"
"Well," she began slowly, not looking him in the eye. "There are rumors of a rebellion in the south and…"
"And?" he barked.
She reached into a pocket of her apron, pulling out a battered parchment envelope. "This came for you today. It is from the Court of Breaking Dawn."
Delicately, he took it from her and broke the ornate, red seal. His face grew grim as he read the letter's sweeping calligraphy. "From my father," he said distastefully. "He believes my grasp is slipping and suggests that perhaps he needs to come take the reins, so to speak." With a look of disgust, Jareth let the pages fall into the cooking fire. "That is simply unacceptable."
He curled one long, gloved finger beneath his chin and paced the stone floor in long strides. "I must convince him that it is a waste of time and that I have things firmly in hand."
Eluned tried to remain very still, like a mouse trying to remain unseen by an especially predatory cat.
"I could put down the rebellion," he mumbled, "but, no. It would not be enough and I can easily take care of them at my leisure."
He took several more steps and then turned suddenly on his heel, long hair swirling around his shoulders. Eluned jumped at the sudden move and cowered slightly under his intense stare. "I could tell them that I have merely been locked away- rapturous on my honeymoon, but his letter snapped me from my reveries and I shall return to business immediately."
She relaxed visibly. "Shall I fetch materials for you so that you may return his letter, Your Highness?"
Jareth's face creased in a laugh. "Oh no! I cannot send a letter and hope to satisfy them. I will have to go to them and take my queen with me. That should prevent him from openly declaring war and trying to take the kingdom. I am sure I could defeat him, but I find killing my relatives extremely tiresome."
She hesitated, afraid to state the obvious. "Sire, you have no queen. How will you obtain a wife in time?"
Before she had even finished the thought, he had waived away her concern. "I have no intention of obtaining an actual wife. Clearly I cannot take a goblin. We like to steal away humans, but he will see that as a weakness, and there is but one other fae."
Blanching, Eluned took a step back. "Highness, I cannot-"
"Come, come," he soothed. "It's just a bit of playacting."
"But, we cannot lie, Your Highness!"
He looked unruffled. "What is the punishment for breaking that particular geas? Banishment from the paradise of faerie? I believe we both know how bitter that paradise is. We are already outside their lands. I have no intention of giving up my throne to be a bootlicker among their shining court." From nowhere, he pulled a crystal orb and with a breath, sent it floating out the window. "I have notified them that we intend to come for a visit. I believe you shall find all the necessary items you need to ready yourself in your chamber. I expect you to be ready tomorrow by dawn."
With that, he swept from the room