Chapter Nineteen: A Village Beneath the Glass
The whole world was slipping away from her and there was nothing that she could do to stop herself. The black water was enveloping her entire array of senses. Far over her stood Jareth, still pounding soundlessly on the glass surface. However, the darkness was covering her. She felt it in her eyes and her mouth, choking off all the air. Sarah gasped and only succeeded in filling her mouth and airway with stinging cold water. She coughed and gagged and lost any air that she had left. She could no longer struggle against the forces pushing her down. Her lungs felt as if they would burst. They needed air and so did she. Reality was slipping out of her grasping fingers. She had to hold on tighter. Sarah beat her legs pathetically. It only pushed her up a little, but it was far from enough. She lost her last bit of strength shortly later. Her legs felt like dead weights attached to her body. She felt detached from everything. Her fingers were numb and blue from the chilling water. The pressure beat on her head and a dull pain flared up. Her ears were ringing in protest to the force of water they were enduring, and still she sank further below.
"I am dying. I always wondered if it would hurt. I guess that this is the worst possible way to die, this, or maybe burning to death. However, I certainly wouldn't recommend drowning. Not being able to breath is discouraging," her thoughts were strange and almost calm as her lips turned blue and she lost her sight.
She flailed slightly in the water, for being blinded and falling without air is entirely frightening. She turned in a circle and water trickled into her ear. It rolled around and only annoyed her. It was stupid to think about water in her ear when she was dying, but it didn't settle right with her. Sarah tried to move her hand to her ear, but it didn't listen to her.
"My brain must be shutting down. Sorry Ladies and Gentlemen but, due to lack of oxygen, we'll be ending the show early. We're really sorry and we offer half of your money back. There will be no further showings," she thought in a delirious way.
Something grabbed her by the arms and Sarah's head lolled backwards as the thing jerked her upwards. Sarah's eyes were of no use to her and she was very near unconsciousness. She only knew for sure that something had grabbed hold of her. She felt something else grab her head and blow lifesaving air into her lungs. Sarah savored the breath, but she was slipping away too quickly.
They were pulling her down further and she had to go with them. Her ear rattled with the horrid water and nearly drove her crazy. However, it didn't last long, for she had blacked out in the next instant. Sarah slipped into unconsciousness vaguely aware of the powerful grip of the strange, unknown entities that were pulling her ever downward into the darkness. She continued to descend to the floor of the lake, which was also surprisingly deep. The pressure could have very easily killed her, but in the Underground things were just different.
They stopped and looked down at the pale visitor. Her eyes had not yet opened in the few hours she had been in their home. They had only managed to save her by a very scant margin. She had already shown the death color of blue-purple when she was pulled into safety. It was said that her chances of survival were fairly good since she was thought to be a fighter. It was just another poor soul who had been trapped beneath the magical surface of the lake. They watched over her and waited for her to come to.
The home was warm and dry, which was surprising considering it was located at the bottom of Lake Crystal Moon. Stranger things had happened and this had been the way the Mirameds had lived their whole lives. They had stayed beneath the surface, not necessarily of their own accord. You see, the surface was just as glass to them as it had been for their not so fortunate visitor.
She shifted in her sleep and muttered something under her breath. The one that had been watching over her rushed to her side and looked at her resting face. It seemed that she was out of the coma-like state she had been in. However, she was still very much asleep. Her lips twitched slightly. The one Miramed in the room observed her colors and was thankful that she had regained the living hues of lush peach and pink.
"Jareth," she spoke in a slightly shocked voice.
The watcher jumped back at the sound of her voice. He inched closer and waited for her to speak again, but she didn't. Her eyes were twitching in her sleep. She was having a dream, probably a very vivid dream as well. She rolled on to her other side and huddled beneath the covers that laid over her wet body. They had tried desperately to dry her, but it only worked so much in a town at the bottom of the lake.
Her eyes fluttered briefly and then closed once again. The Miramed looked over his shoulder, wondering if he should fetch superiors to talk to her once she had awakened. He glanced back and realized that he couldn't risk it. She appeared to be returning to consciousness quickly. He would just have to wait until after he had told her what had happened. She would be scared, that was a fact. Her last memory had been drowning and now she was in a home.
Her eyes flashed open and she looked around herself with a wide, frightened stare. They flicked around her, but she did not move her head. Her eyes were the only thing awake. They dashed around frantically, as if searching for an escape. Her wild gaze fell on the Miramed and her mouth formed into an 'o' of surprise. She could only look at him in shock.
The Miramed rushed up to her and immediately placed a hand to her head. Sarah cringed away from him, still unable to speak, but at least she had moved. He attempted to touch her again, but she shied from his hand. He backed away a few steps and held his hands up to show that he meant her no harm. She looked at him and to his splayed fingers. She was not ready to trust anyone quite yet. Her ordeal had happened too recently and for all she knew this could be the thing that had dragged her below in the first place.
"Are you all right?" the Miramed asked.
Sarah nodded apprehensively. She touched her throat with one hand and rubbed it slightly. There was something wrong. Her voice couldn't come out. Sarah tapped her throat frantically, trying to persuade her voice box to work. However, there was no sound emitted from her mouth. It gaped open, but that was all she could do. Sarah looked to the Miramed in the hope that he would know what was wrong.
"You won't be able to speak for a while. The water you swallowed really hurt your throat and we gave you something to take your voice away. It'll heal faster that way. If you talk with your throat like that, you could damage your voice forever. I think you understand that we had no choice," he explained as he carefully edged closer to her.
Sarah thought this over and then finally shrugged. It didn't matter, at least she was alive. She could never speak again and she would still be happy. Being alive after death gripping you, was a feat in itself. Sarah closed her mouth with a snap and removed her hand from her throat. She could wait. Who was there to talk to on her journey? However, how was she going to communicate with these creatures?
"We have heard about you. I thought that you should know that. I have to go and fetch some of my superiors. You see, they wanted to be here when you woke up, but I couldn't leave you here alone. Hopefully they won't be mad," he said as an afterthought.
Sarah observed the strange humanoid being. He looked human from the waist up. He was male and muscular. He had long hair that was a surprising color of green. Sarah noticed that he had a strange diamond shape on his forehead. Below his waist were scales. It had been a fin, but now he had legs that were still coated in scales and green skin. Strange.
Sarah nodded and smiled to the Miramed. She was fairly sure that that was what he was. She wished that she could ask his name, but her voice was still gone. This was going to offer more difficulties than she originally anticipated. Sarah pulled the blankets up below her chin and snuggled further down.
The Miramed opened the door and then shut it behind himself. Sarah was surprised that there was no water around her. She had thought that the Mirameds lived at the bottom of the lake. Why did they live in cottages instead? She heard no water nor did she see any. Perhaps Leader had been mistaken. They must live out of the water and go in to hunt...maybe. Sarah only dwelled on that perplexing thought for a short time. There was no answer yet, but she was sure that she would get one soon. Once the superiors came she was sure that a lot of her questions would be answered, but how would she ask them?
She allowed her mind to wander back to the sight she had seen moments before falling too far beneath the water. She had actually seen Jareth transform from the Pegasus to his real self. It had shocked her, to say the least. However, she had known that that horse was something different. She had seen it in his blue-rimmed eyes. She should have known that it was Jareth. What was his reason for wanting to become a Pegasus and fly her closer to the next crystal? Was he actually trying to help her?
Sarah could not even begin to understand his wild mood swings. One moment he pushed her away, then he would help her and then he would threaten her with some horrible form of punishment. She didn't know what to do or say. She had finally decided that Jareth was an enemy and nothing else. However, Leader had told Sarah that Jareth was evil and kind. That certainly didn't help her very much.
Then there had been that time in the castle. She had been so vulnerable and he had just acted too sweet and charming. Her long-hidden emotions had rushed to the surface and enveloped her in a sea of passion. However, it was not the right time. Perhaps it had been too soon or far too late. Either way Jareth had rejected her and pushed her away when Sarah had been ready to give herself over to the Goblin King. He didn't care about her, she had decided. Then he helped her!
Sarah knew that the answer to all of her questions was held within her 'pieces', as Leader had called them. However, she just didn't understand how they were connected. Sarah touched her necklace and was very relieved that it had not fallen off during her struggle to survive beneath the deadly water. It was still warm to the touch and the faint glow remained embedded deep inside of the golden medallion. Sarah ran her thumb over the carved surface and circled the tiny crystallized shimmer. She had to find out what it was.
The door flew open and Sarah very nearly screamed. It wouldn't have done any good, her voice, she remembered, was still gone. She let out a deep breath when the Miramed who had been there earlier walked in. There were three others behind him. Those were the superiors. They had the same royal air as Jareth. They were dressed in fine cloaks of green and blue silk. They billowed behind them from an unseen breeze. All three had their hair done up into intricate styles, making them look only more regal. However, they had kind faces and Sarah felt safe around them.
"Why, if the young woman hasn't awakened. We are very pleased that you decided to live," the female remarked as she sat upon the bed by Sarah.
She was older than the other two, because Sarah could see wrinkles lining her mouth and the corners of her eyes. Sarah was shocked to see someone who actually looked old. Most of the inhabitants of the Underground simply looked young. This woman had obviously been around for a great while.
"I am Nerissai, the high queen of the Mirameds. I hope that you find your quarters acceptable. We do not have exceptionally fancy accommodations, as you have probably guessed by this cottage," she said with a wonderful smile.
Sarah smiled back. She looked around the room and then nodded her head in agreement. The place was simple, but it was dry and very comfortable. Unfortunately, Sarah was not able to say any of these things. She touched her throat and shrugged.
"We know that you cannot speak, but we would like to find out as much about you as possible. The medicine should wear off in a short time. At that time, we invite you to come to our great hall to meet the rest of the superiors," another Miramed said from the doorway.
Sarah looked over to him and nodded again. It sounded good and she would be glad to get her voice back. If she had been in her world perhaps she would have had paper and pencil. However, Sarah couldn't even ask if they had any of those items. She was pretty much stuck until her voice decided to return.
"I wish I knew how long I've been here," Sarah thought to herself.
Nirissai placed her hand on Sarah's shoulder and then stood up. Her long cloak brushed past Sarah and swept over her face. It was the kind of silk that the glorious sheets in the castle had been crafted from. Yet, the silk fell away from her quickly and only left her clutching simple woolen sheets. Sarah sighed, she didn't want to get spoiled from one night in a royal bed.
The three walked back out of the door. The first Miramed waited until they had left and then turned back to smile at Sarah. He certainly was a friendly fellow. He pulled a small chair over by the side of her bed and placed himself in the seat.
"So, are you feeling better?" he asked.
Sarah nodded once again. It seemed like the only thing she could manage to do anymore. She wished that she had learned sign language in school, but she hadn't really thought she would ever need it in her acting career. How many deaf actors were there? Besides, the Mirameds probably didn't even know signing and if they did it was probably totally different than the kind used on Earth.
Sarah finally decided that she would try mouthing the words. Perhaps the Miramed would figure it out that way. She just had to know how much time she had wasted nearly drowning and laying in the bed. If it had been a long time then her quest was doomed, but if it had been a short time then she would be lucky.
Sarah pointed to her mouth and began forming the words silently and slowly. The Miramed looked at her with extreme curiosity. He probably didn't even know what she was attempting to do. He looked at her closely, trying to understand her movements. The Miramed stared into her mouth, seemingly oblivious to the words she was attempting to show him. He then shrugged.
"I don't understand," he stated.
Sarah finally gave up with a discouraged sigh. She would just have to be patient. The Mirameds were only trying to help her with her problems. They had not set out to take her voice away from her. She could wait a little while longer. It couldn't possibly be that lengthy. Could it?
"I'm sorry. I know that you want to speak, but you have to wait if you want a voice to come back to you. I'm Briler. If you need anything either I or Tartia will help you. I don't know where she's gone off to. I just hope she gets back soon. I have to get going," Briler explained.
Sarah fiddled with the sheets for a bit longer. Her gown she wore felt like the same material as the bedding. It was warm and entirely different than the dress she had had when she fell in the lake. Sarah felt her cheeks rising with a faint blush. These Mirameds had changed her! She hoped with all her soul that it had been Tartia and not Briler. Sarah hid her face in the pillows, not wanting to think about such embarrassing topics.
"What's wrong now?" Briler asked.
Sarah shook her head, but remained buried in her pillow. She wasn't about to look at him, for fear that she would turn beat red at the thought of being changed like a baby! Briler didn't seem to understand. He simply leaned back in his chair and closed his eyes. There was much sleep to catch up on now that the guest didn't need constant supervision. It had been his luck to find her. Now he and Tartia were stuck watching her. It disturbed the whole regular schedule.
"Hey, Briler, are you sleeping on the job?" a female voice asked from the doorway.
Briler nearly toppled over. The chair slanted dangerously backwards, but he caught himself and rested all four legs securely on the floor. A female Miramed walked over to Sarah's side and rubbed her back.
"Hey, sleepy! Are you awake yet?" she asked.
Sarah glanced up at the young woman. She was probably close to Sarah's age, by appearance. However, Jareth looked close to Sarah's age as well and he was certainly a lot older. She guessed that the new Miramed was Tartia, coming to take over the watching. Sarah rolled on to her back and scooted up into a sitting position to look at the new person.
"You took long enough. I need to get going, Tartia and she's your responsibility now," Briler said.
He rushed out the door without a look back. Sarah was thankful that he was gone. He was nice enough, even though he had gotten impatient towards the end. However, the idea of him changing her out of her clothes didn't settle right with her. Sarah shivered a bit and pulled the blankets around her tighter.
"So, is that voice coming back yet? We gave the medicine to you nearly ten hours ago! I thought that you were going to sleep forever!" Tartia said with a lovely laugh.
Sarah had finally gotten a hint towards how long she had been with the Mirameds. If she had gotten the medicine ten hours ago, then... that would make it Midnight!! She had lost a whole day. It wasn't as bad as it could have been. She could have been down there for days. As it was she still had eleven days to find ten crystals, or ten days to find them and one to return to Jareth.
Sarah opened her mouth and tried to say anything. A faint whisper fell from her lips. Sarah smiled. Her voice was coming back. However, it would still be a while before anyone else could understand what she was trying to say. Her whisper was still far too faint to be heard.
"I guess it'll be back in a while. Don't you worry though, I'll take good care of you until you feel tip top again. You're lucky we found you when we did. You looked like you were on death's doorstep. Briler had to give you some air just to get you down here! I thought that we had a dead body, but you kept muttering something the whole time you were asleep. Oh, and don't worry about clothes. We'll give you some new stuff. Your old ones got damaged from the whole chain of events," Tartia explained in a hasty voice.
She was surprisingly beautiful. She wore a sleeveless pink dress that flowed about her like water. Her long hair cascaded far past her waist and was a remarkable shade of turquoise. In the center of her forehead was an enchanting blue diamond that sparkled in the torch light. Her eyes looked like sapphires, that matched the stone on her head. She was graceful as she walked and as she sat. Sarah couldn't help but admire her refined beauty. She was a Mermaid after all.
"I guess you don't understand that we are at the bottom of the lake. It doesn't seem like it, huh? I can hardly believe that we have thousands of tons of water rushing around us as we speak. Kind of scary, but there's no need to worry. We have magic surrounding us!" Tartia stated.
Sarah's heart skipped a beat. Tartia had said that magic was protecting them. That meant that they did have a crystal and that when it died then the water would rush in. The magic was fading, did that mean that the water was close to crushing all of them? Sarah shuddered at the thought and silently prayed that the orb would hold out a little longer. She didn't feel like drowning again.
"I.." Sarah croaked.
She broke into a deliriously happy smile. Her voice had actually been loud enough to hear. It sounded hoarse, but that didn't mean that it wouldn't return to normal. Tartia laughed and hugged Sarah tightly. She then sat back down on the chair and waited for Sarah to attempt to use her voice.
"Thanks," Sarah finally managed.
"Oh, come on. We don't need any thanks. I'm sure that you would have rescued us if we had been in trouble. We couldn't just let you die! After all, who would save the crystals if you died?" Tartia asked.
Sarah was astonished. They knew about the crystal too. Of course, Briler had told her that she was recognized by the Mirameds. She wasn't used to being so popular. Everyone she met, recently, knew who she was and what she was doing for the Underground. Sarah wondered if they knew her name as well.
"I'm...," Sarah was cut off by Tartia's finger across her lips.
"No, don't waste your voice. I know who you are, Sarah. Why wouldn't I? After all, you have been promised to us for a very long time. Personally, I think that you should just defeat our most wonderful king and take over the Underground. Everyone likes you anyway," Tartia said as she reclined in the chair.
Sarah gazed at the Miramed strangely. They wanted her, a mortal from Earth, to rule the Underground! They actually had the gall to think that she could defeat Jareth!! The Goblin King would not take such a wish lightly. Sarah silently hoped that he wasn't watching her. However, he had acted genuinely terrified when she was slipping further into the water. Perhaps there was a chance that he himself did not even know about the Mirameds at the bottom of the lake.
"No, I don't want...," Sarah's voice cracked.
Tartia rolled her lovely blue eyes and gestured for Sarah to be careful with her recently healed voice. She picked up a glass that had been placed upon a nightstand by the head of Sarah's bed. The Miramed held the glass to Sarah's lips and allowed her to drink the cool, soothing liquid it held. Sarah savored the calming feeling that immediately swarmed over her raspy throat. She swallowed a few times and found that most of the pain had suddenly faded away.
"Thanks again," Sarah remarked.
Tartia only shrugged. She placed the glass back down and then rested in the seat once again. Her eyes flashed, almost like Jareth's and for a brief moment they nearly looked related. However, that was absurd. The Goblin King and a Miramed had no relations whatsoever. Still, the similarities were intriguing.
"I was saying that I wouldn't dream of trying to overthrow Jareth. He's way too powerful for me to attempt to fight. Besides, I have a life elsewhere. I need to go home after I've restored the crystals," Sarah explained.
The expression on Tartia's face seemed to fall from Sarah's bit of news. She looked towards the ground and scuffed her feet through the dry dirt floor. Her pink dress brushed against the soil, but never was marked. It remained pure and spotless. Sarah marveled over the magic quality. It was quite amazing.
"You can fight him. He's just protected by that pathetic power. The magic is having problems, Sarah. He's weak now and it would be very easy to take over the throne. You know that you would much rather live here. Imagine being royalty. You would be the queen and all of the Underground would be yours to rule over! Wouldn't that be amazing?" Tartia asked with a wild twinkle in her eyes.
Sarah shook her head. Tartia was going overboard with the whole plan. Maybe the Mirameds had expected Sarah to be a sort of warrior, but she most certainly wasn't. She was barely able to stand up against Jareth's seductive nature. It would be impossible to defeat him and all of his magic.
"I appreciate your faith in me, but I'm sorry that I can't do that. If there is anything else that I can help you with, like trying to save your orb, I would be happy to do so. But, I can't defeat Jareth. You don't understand," Sarah explained.
Tartia was crushed. She offered Sarah a slight smile, trying not to show her discouragement with their supposed savior. Even if Sarah did save the magic, then the Mirameds would remain captive in the lake until the end of time, or until someone finally decided to kill their evil king. Sarah wasn't going to. Tartia realized that there was something more to Sarah's failure to defeat the king. She couldn't quite put her finger on it, but there was something else there.
"I understand. You see, he's kept us captive down here since he first came. One of our ancient kings tried to defeat Jareth when he had only just formed his fabled Labyrinth. The king lost and so all of us suffered. Jareth banished us to the lake and he suspected us to die without any ability to get out. Contrary to popular belief we do not enjoy staying in the water all the time. We would probably be dead if it hadn't been for the orb that had been found at the great cave shortly later. My ancestors studied the magic and used it to make a secure fortress here. We can go out and in easily, but no water ever penetrates the barrier. Now, with the orb dying, the water has begun to trickle in. It's only started to leak, but the superiors fear that soon the water will fill the entire fortress and we will be forced to move into the lake for all time. Then we will be doomed to die, for even the Mirameds cannot live their whole existence without life-giving oxygen. We could only hope that you would come, and here you are. However, since you cannot defeat the Goblin King we will be forced to remain in this damned watery prison for all time. I don't mean to blame you, Sarah. I just wish that I could find that horrible Jareth and kill him with my own hands. I can only hope that the suffering he is rumored to be undergoing is horrible and painful and will drive him from his sane mind, or what is left of it. I fear that your dear king has never been totally sane, not by my standards anyway. For what sane man would sentence hundreds of Mirameds, or any kind of creature, to death?!" she demanded.
Sarah listened to her tale. Her anger was flaring up as the story of Jareth's evil ways came into view. He had atttempted to kill them! How could anyone, with a heart, try to annihilate a whole race? It was like Hitler! She had thought many things about Jareth. Sarah had decided that he was evil, not fair, and haughty, but she had never believed him to be a murderer. She shivered in thoughts of Toby being with the viscous man. Her poor little, innocent brother was in the clutches of the murderous Goblin King.
"I'm sorry," was all Sarah could manage.
Tartia shrugged it off. She was too vehement about the past. Many had told her that she should just let it all go. It was gone and she was urged to focus on the future. They had a plan to escape. They just needed to unite all the Mirameds to join an entire force. The plan was too far ahead and Tartia was ready for something to happen immediately. That was where Sarah had come in, but she was not going to be of any help.
"Let's not speak about such things. I heard that you were asked to see the great superiors in the grand hall when your voice returned. Since it is back I suggest that we get you dressed and hurry on over there," Tartia replied with a slightly better mood than before.
Sarah smiled and tossed the warm blankets away. Cool air struck her and shivers coursed up and down her spine. Sarah had not guessed at how cold it was in the Miramed's fortress. She grasped her arms around herself and shivered to gain her heat back. Tartia looked over her and then placed the blanket on Sarah's shuddering shoulders.
"I had no idea that you wouldn't be ready for the temperature change. We don't get much sunlight down here. You just need to stand it for a while. I guarantee that you will get used to it in a very short time," Tartia stated as she pulled the blanket away from Sarah.
Sarah stood up and attempted to control her shivers. She rubbed her hands over her bare arms and tried to convince them to stay warm and ignore the cold of the room. Tartia pulled a dress from the closet and then approached Sarah once again. She held the dress out to her and placed it in Sarah's awaiting hands.
"I'll just be outside if you need anything. I thought that you would like your privacy," Tartia explained as she walked out the door and shut it carefully behind herself.
Sarah held the dress in front of her. Once again they had chosen a garment that wasn't practical. However, it was remarkably beautiful. The dress was a shimmering azure blue color. It was sleeveless and looked fitted to her exact form. The neckline was not as high as her previous dress had been, but it was not shockingly low either. It flared out at the waist and drifted in the cool breeze, as Tartia's had done.
Sarah snapped her gaze away from the dress. If she was going to analyze everything then she would never be able to get anything important done. It was a dress, after all, beautiful, but still just an article of clothing and it was not important exactly how it looked down to each sequence.
Sarah pulled the simple cotton shift over her head and put the new dress on. Her previous assumptions had been correct. The dress fit as if it had been made for her. It was tight around the bodice and the neckline was cut under her collarbones. She observed the lovely color as it shone in the flickering torch light. Sarah spun around, admiring the way it twisted and floated through the air. It was like a dream.
"Now, Sarah, you're acting like a giddy teenager! This is a dress, a dumb dress! You need to go and speak to the superiors and ignore the dress!" she told herself.
Sarah walked quickly towards the door and threw it open. She cringed back, expecting the water to rush in on her. However, there was nothing to meet her. Tartia looked at her with a strange expression upon her face. Sarah looked back out and was instantly struck with awe towards the amazing sight around her.
The whole village was dry. There were many houses in the town that laid around the large hall that had been placed in the center of everything. Surrounding the entire city, like a forcefield, was a bubble. It had been produced by the magical orb. That was apparent. Sarah noticed a few Mirameds swimming towards the bubble. They had their lovely green and blue fins. However, when they burst through the shield the fins faded away to reveal legs, still in the same colors as before. The women were clothed in dresses the moment they lost their fins. Strangely, different than the movies Sarah had seen before, the fins reached all the way up to their chest, not giving them the need for seashells. Sarah laughed at the thought.
"So what do you think of our humble abode?" Tartia asked.
"Wow!" Sarah exclaimed as she continued to gape at her surroundings.
A crash surprised both of the girls. They spun around to see a rather large crack in the top of the huge bubble. A trickle of water streamed from the injury. Tartia sighed and turned back to Sarah. There wasn't much time left for Sarah to speak to the superiors and get out before the whole place collapsed in on itself.
"Hurry. This place is falling down, Sarah, and you don't want to be stuck here when all Hell breaks loose."