Disclaimer: See Chapter 1.
AN All right. I know this chapter is rather short. Distinctly miniscule if I do say so myself. However, I want to say that I added it so you could get a feel for the relationships between some of the main characters in the book before any really heavy action picks up. Some of the things that happen here will play heavily on future events in the story (hint hint).CHAPTER 6: INTO THE MYSTIC
We were born before the wind
Also younger than the sun
Ere the bonnie boat was won as we sailed into the mystic
Hark, now hear the sailors cry
Smell the sea and feel the sky
Let your soul and spirit fly into the mystic
And when that foghorn blows I will be coming home
And when that foghorn blows I wanna hear it
I don't have to fear it
And I wanna rock your gypsy soul
Just like way back in the days of old
Then magnificently we will float into the mystic
And when that foghorn blows you know I will be coming home
And when that foghorn whistle blows I gotta hear it
I don't have to fear it
I want to rock your gypsy soul
Just like way back in the days of old
And together we will float into the mystic
Van Morrison--Into the Mystic
Jareth watched the sky fade from pitch to a pale grey with a foreboding feeling. He hadn't slept at all the night before, but had instead laid awake, thinking about his past mistakes. Occasionally, when the weight of the world on his shoulders became too much for him, he turned to thinking about Dulsinea, strangely. A haunting memory from his past, a constant reminder of his shortcomings and yet, at odd moments, the thought of her beautiful smile and refreshingly forward manner somehow seemed to comfort him. One day he would personally beg forgiveness from every one of the Nine for his stupidity, but that was for some other time, when fewer disasters were threatening to break over his head.
He had spent the past week at his father's court, pointedly avoiding Jenrian and trying his best to discover the cause of his brother's ailment. The man's internal turmoil was only visible, however, whenever Jarred thought the Goblin King wasn't watching. It was a dark, cold something deep down in his eyes – an unnatural abyss. Despite this mysterious void, Jarred was nothing but polite, courteous, attentive, and almost servile in his behavior toward his older brother throughout their time together. He was much like a love-starved puppy, finally receiving a few scraps of attention from a bored child.
This was Jareth's last day at court – he had been gone too long as it was, and Jarred had proposed they go out for drinks and entertainment that evening. Hoping to please the dying man and maybe draw him out from his shell, he agreed whole-heartedly. But as the grey dawn poured over the white walls of the castle and gently woke the beautiful countryside surrounding the court, he couldn't help but doubt his own decision. Sarah was now a constant contemplation to him – much like heroin is the single, haunting thought to the addict deprived of it. If he squinted slightly he could almost see her down below, herhazel eyes smiling at him. He shook his head, hoping to free himself of her, but she only smiled mockingly.
Sighing, he closed his eyes and she was gone. He would be with her soon enough, though never too soon.
The rest of his day was consumed with preparations for his leaving. He visited many of his old friends, and some of his old flames, and talked about life with his mother, who had a mysterious wound that she refused to explain. To make the afternoon pass more quickly, he even joined a picnic and gaming event with his old comrades from his wilder, adolescent years. He listened to them talk and laugh, joined in their activities, but it wasn't the same. They were all grown now, married (mostly to each other) with children and all possessing that jaded quality that overcomes adults when they begin to see themselves as such. Their petty gossiping ground on his nerves, their coquettish flirting set him on edge, and their condescending treatment of him, as though he were half-mad, boiled his blood. Still, it was a mostly enjoyable afternoon, and a refreshing reminder of how peaceful and sensible home was.
After an eternity of the day, the time to prepare had finally come, and he gladly took leave of his old friends. He changed in only a few minutes, and nervously paced the floor until it was time to meet his brother.
Sarah kept busy during Jareth's absence. She had begun work at the String Quartet – Caine and the others welcoming her warmly – designing attire for doormen and servants and serving women, as well as costumes for the elite guests of such illustrious events. She enjoyed it immensely, for it allowed her to flex her creative muscle and tap into that long-forgotten, fantasy-loving spirit she had once possessed, or that had once possessed her, she wasn't sure which.
It was a peaceful week, and she missed Jareth immensely, but she had compensations that her lover didn't. Ter's every waking moment, spare or no, was devoted to making Sarah's life easier and fuller. She woke up every morning to a bouquet of exotic and wonderful-smelling flowers, and delighted in surprise picnics and afternoon rides. Their connection at The Silver Unicorn had opened a door between them, and there wasn't a moment when they were alone that they didn't have their hands on each other.
She found herself appreciating him more and more, not just for his gentle, skilled caresses but also for his mind, and she came to understand him in a way that she hadn't ever really understood anyone. By the end of the week they could oftentimes be found together by the lake in the center of the woods, holding each other, both more satisfied with their slight touch than they would have been had they spent the day in passionate lovemaking. Despite their closeness, Ter didn't feel the need for sex; he instead appreciated her company, her warmth, and her deep awareness of him. It was the first relationship he had had with a woman – outside of his sisters and mother – that hadn't been based solely on physical attraction, and he found himself more complete than he had ever been.
On the day before Jareth was supposed to return, they sat together by the lake, watching the peaceful lapping of the waves against the shore. Ter had his arm around Sarah's waist and her hand clasped in his own while her legs stretched luxuriously across his lap and her head rested comfortably in the hollow of his neck.
"Why are you here, Sarah?" Ter asked, bringing her hand up to kiss to tips of her fingers gently.
"I told you, Ter: I don't really know why I'm here. I just know that I don't want to go back Aboveground."
He stopped and shifted so he could look into her eyes. "No, Sarah. I don't mean 'why are you Underground.' I mean why are you here with me?"
Sarah felt her heart melting. He looked so forlorn. His grey eyes were like storm clouds that had rained themselves out and now awaited their imminent destruction by the sun. A lump formed in her throat, and though she tried, she couldn't choke words around it. Instead, she smiled at him through watery eyes. When he didn't turn away or smile, she took her free hand and placed it on his cheek. She could feel the heat radiating from his every pore, and she moved in to kiss him gently.
At first he responded to her touch, but after only a few seconds stopped her, pushing her away. "No, I'm serious, Sarah. Why are you here with me?"
She didn't know what to say. She enjoyed his company, his touch, his scent, but did she have a legitimate reason for this intimacy, this leading on? Or was she like all those girls back at her high school: in it for the flowers and the gifts and the late nights but nothing else?
"Because whenever I'm not with you, it's like the sun doesn't shine as brightly. You make me laugh. I love the feel of your fingers on my skin, and your eyes on my face. I love the way you make me feel."
He shook his head derisively. "But you don't love me, do you?"
"I can't answer that."
She saw a single tear sliding down his cheek and wished for lightning to strike her. This was not her goal. She wrapped her arms around his neck and kissed it away. "Ter…" she whispered.
He lifted her arms from around him and clasped her hands tightly in fingers that had gone deathly cold. "No, Sarah. Stop."
Horror filled her. What had she done?
Still clasping her hands, he pulled her to him, holding her close.
"I'm sorry," she whispered, "I'm sorry."
"Don't be." This is my punishment, he thought. Raven told me it would happen, and I never believed her. Now, after so many years of loving and leaving women, it's my turn.
They sat in silence, holding each other for what seemed an eternity.
"I need to start trusting these bad feelings more often," Jareth muttered to himself as the serving maid wended her way toward them with a pitcher of ale and two dubious-looking tankards. It took her much longer than it should have, mostly because in just the short distance from the bar to their well-lit table, she had her bottom pinched by almost every patron of the grungy tavern, and he saw several sloppy kisses planted on the round mounds of her poorly-concealed breasts. By the time she made it to their table, more than half the ale had spilled, soaking her and her attire. When Jarred paid her, she pulled the grubby lace even farther from her bosom and dropped the coin in with a saucy wink.
"What did you say, brother?" Jarred asked, pouring them both glasses and downing most of his in a single swig. The Goblin King studied his tumbler carefully, wiping the dirty fingerprints from the rim as best he could.
"I said here's to good times and brotherhood," and without waiting for a reply, Jareth downed his drink, trying his best not to touch his lips to the rim of the glass. He repressed a grimace as the foul-tasting brew oozed down his throat.
The Prince finished off his drink with a smile and replied, "Here, here!" loudly. It must have been some sort of secret mating call, for several whores who had been speculating in various other parts of the room all stood as one and began making their way towards the brothers. They must smell money, Jareth though. It wasn't long before almost every prostitute in the room had abandoned their various prospects to come sniffing around the royal table. The Goblin King, not wanting to offend his brother, tried desperately to hide toward the back of the table and take short, shallow breaths from his mouth, mostly to avoid throwing up.
"Come on, Jareth, loosen up!" Jarred cried, clutching two wenches to his lap – one a scrawny redhead with a spackle of freckles across her nose, and the other a voluptuous, dark-skinned, black-haired thing. Grasping the skirt of the next-nearest one, he shoved her laughing at his older brother. The girl, who couldn't have been old enough to marry yet, wrapped her arms around Jareth from behind, her stinking breath hissing in his ear. She nearly drowned him in the ocean of her cheap perfume, which poorly masked the stench of unlaundered linens and sweat.
"Your brother's right, Your Majesty," she slurred, "Loosen up."
He shrugged her off with a roll of his shoulder, trying hard to ignore the greasy handprints left on the expensive fabric of his shirt. She sniffed haughtily and flounced over to where one or two of her compatriots sat on the stairs, paying no heed to their jeers and catcalls as she climbed to a step where she could be alone and pout as visibly as possible.
This was the most miserable he'd ever been. His temper rose in him like hot gorge and he fought the urge to toss Jarred over his shoulder and carry him out of the building, kicking and screaming. Whatever was eating his little brother from the inside out had come to the surface this evening after a few drinks, but its true identity remained hidden behind a mask of self-destructive behavior. Jareth hid a sneer of disgust as the raven-haired whore turned to straddle Jarred's leg.
How much more can I take? Jareth wondered. He resorted to entertaining himself with thoughts of Sarah, imagining the sensation of her soft skin. Eventually, it was almost as if he could smell her, and her scent drowned out everything else. He was protected from the filth by the cocoon of her distinct perfume.
"Jareth, are you all right?" Jarred looked concerned, though the effect was ruined by the redheaded woman biting his lower lip and the alcohol he had consumed.
"Yes, little brother, I'm fine."
"You don't look like you're having a good time."
"No, I'm having a great time."
"I don't believe you." Jarred's eyes narrowed, and his brother sensed an outburst. The Goblin King remained silent, staring down into his glass.
"Poor, precious little Jareth," he sneered across the table, "always has to have everything his way. And he gets it, because he's the favorite, the golden child."
Jareth continued to examine his ale closely, effectively blocking out the taunting tone. He couldn't deny that he had been the favorite while he had been at home, but after falling out with his father, he had essentially relinquished his "golden child" status, as Jarred put it.
"What more could you possibly want, dear brother?" The man's voice began getting louder, and slowly the other noise in the taproom died out.
Quietly, Jareth replied, "I want to return to my castle, Jarred. And I want you to come with me."
Several emotions warred for supremacy on his face. Finally, a strange emotion seemed to win as red stains appeared on the cheeks of his otherwise pallid face. "You really want me to come back with you?" He whispered.
"I truly do. I think some fresh air would do you good. Mother, while she means well, keeps you cooped up in that castle far too much for your own good." He instantly knew he'd said the wrong thing when the flush left Jarred's cheeks and his eyes narrowed.
"That would be just perfect for you, wouldn't it Jareth? You'd like that. You get to go back to your human whore, and you get to keep an eye on me – make sure that I don't do anything that would embarrass you and ruin your chances for the High Throne."
"It's not like that…" The Goblin King couldn't believe that his brother would be so blind.
"Yes it is. You can't deny it. Well, if you want to leave so badly, go." He gritted his teeth and fumed for a second before continuing, "Get. On. Your. Horse. And. LEAVE!"
"Don't let us part like this. You are my brother. What must I do to heal this rift between us?"
"There is nothing you can do. To me, you no longer exist." The prince turned and stared into his drink.
"Jarred…" His brother said quietly, aware that every eye in the house was on them.
He didn't respond. Exasperated, Jareth turned and walked out the door, his footsteps echoing in the eerily silent taproom.
Outside, he took a deep breath of cool night air and fought back a scream of frustration. Was it jealousy? Was that what was haunting Jarred? What was there to be jealous of?
Aikanaro blew softly at him and lipped at his hair. "I know old boy. I'm ready to go home too." He sent one last, miserable look through the open door, and mounted his horse. Without any encouragement, the little stallion began racing for home.
Sarah and Ter sat in silence for a few more minutes, but the situation was too different to ignore.
"I think we'd better leave." Ter said quietly, and he stood, brushing the dirt off of his black attire. Sarah couldn't look at him.
They rode back in silence, each lost in their own reverie. At the gates, as they dismounted, Sarah reached out to take Ter's hand, grasping his fingers lightly, afraid he would pull away. "Listen," she said, but before she could finish he gave her that same sad smile and put a finger to her lips.
"Say no more, my love," he replied, and strode inside. Sarah thought her heart would burst.
She quickly ran inside, but he was already gone. All she wanted was peace, a quiet place to cry. Why is that when I finally have a chance at happiness, I screw it up? Was I not meant to find love?
She opened to door to her room, ready to dive into the soft covers and curl up, but she found Raven already occupying that space. Sarah stopped dead. "Huh?" Was all she could say.
"When Ter walked in a minute ago, he didn't look happy. I figured you could use some comforting." She patted the bed next to her with a tender smile.
Still a bit taken aback, Sarah sat and pulled her knees up to her chest, resting her chin on her folded arms.
"Care to talk about it?" Raven asked, afraid to touch the girl, but wanting to somehow make her feel better.
"I'm not sure what happened. We were just sitting there, and all of a sudden Ter got really serious and asked me if I felt anything for him and I… I couldn't say yes! I wanted to, but somehow I couldn't. And now he hates me."
"There, there. He doesn't hate you." She tilted Sarah's head back so she could look directly into her eyes. "Ter is impetuous and used to women falling instantly in love with him. He just needs some time to adjust to a different kind of woman, another kind of relationship. Go talk to him tomorrow morning. I promise you, he won't think any different of you than he did this afternoon."
"You really think so?"
"I know so." She smiled. "I also know we really haven't had the opportunity to become familiar with each other since you've arrived, Sarah. That is a regrettable fact that I intend to rectify this very instant. So, tell me about yourself."
Sarah was taken aback. Here was a confidant, someone willing to listen to all her problems. But would a Fae woman, thousands of years older than her, be interested in the silly imaginings of a human barely out of childhood? "What do you want me to say?"
"Everything. Tell me all about you."
"There's not much to tell. I'm eighteen, and up until recently I was preparing to go to college to study acting. I had a little brother named Toby that Jareth once kidnapped. Rather, a little brother that I once foolishly wished away. I wrecked my car the afternoon that I was supposed to leave for college, and woke up Underground. And the rest, you pretty much know."
Raven shook her head. "That's not what I mean. Your life Aboveground is pretty much meaningless down here. As far as I'm concerned now, you're as Fae as I am, and you certainly look the part. No, what I'm asking, Sarah, is a question that I suppose one cannot answer about oneself." She mused quietly to herself for a second. "So what about you and Ter? You two seemed to be getting along so well this week." Dangerous territory, the Fae thought. I must tread carefully.
"I don't know. I'm in such a dilemma. I have feelings for Ter. That much I do know. But I also have feelings for Jareth. And what I feel for each of them in no way undermines or cancels out my feelings for the other. Is it possible to love two people so completely and in two such different ways? Is it possible to love anyone so much after only just getting to know them? I'm all mixed up inside until I just don't know how I feel. And if I said any of this to either of them, I'd alienate them both."
"It sounds like you have been at war with yourself over this."
"I have. And I never come up with an answer. That's why I choked this evening. When he asked me if I had feelings for him, all these horrible, confusing emotions I've been having just came whirling up in my mind and I didn't know what to say."
"Can you describe your two loves to me? Maybe, if you talk it out, you'll be able to sort it out."
"Well, I guess if I had to describe them, it would go something like this: Jareth, to me, is like water – I need him to survive; he sustains me. Just having him near me refreshes me and makes me feel all right with myself. He calms me and keeps me sane. But if Jareth is like cool water, then Ter is like heady wine. Whenever he's near, I'm caught up in this... euphoria. His very touch sends shivers down my spine. His every word just serves to drive me further into drunkenness until I feel I could do anything. I'm fearless around him." She blushed. "I'm kind of embarrassed, telling this to his sister."
"It's okay, Sarah. I've heard worse from the man himself. I get to listen to his account of all his escapades." She gave Sarah a commiserating smile.
"So what do I do? Water, wine, wine, water? I always end up talking myself in circles, or into silly, meaningless metaphors, and farther away from the true question."
"It seems to me, Sarah, that only time will tell for this particular issue."
The moon rose high overhead as Jareth rode hard for his castle. He was thinking all the time about how crazy the world had become. Wars started over nothing, brothers turning against brothers, fathers turning against children. He missed the days of his childhood when he woke every morning looking forward to the adventures ahead.
Things had been so simple then, and with just a smile and a wheedling tone he could negotiate his way out of anything. Even that time that he had been caught with one of the maids seemed like a fond memory compared to what he dealt with everyday.
Is there something that's causing this? Some imbalance in the magic, some sick disturbance at the core of the world itself? He vowed that he would find out . Meanwhile, all he could do was prepare himself for the worst, and hope for the best.
These were the dark thoughts that occupied the Goblin King's mind on the road.
After Raven left, Sarah felt immensely relieved. While talking it out didn't solve her problems, it helped her see things more clearly. She lay down, curling up into the fetal position as she had when she was a little girl. She felt her eyelids getting heavy almost as soon as her head hit the pillow. And she surrendered peacefully.
In the final hours of darkness as Sarah slept the sleep of the innocent, her door cracked open silently. A dark figure slid through and closed the door behind it. Sarah slumbered on. The figure crept closer and closer to her bed until it was at the very edge, staring down at her.
It stood, frozen, watching her sleep for a long time before it moved again. It walked softly around the bed to the other side, and there were two muffled thumps. Then, it lifted the sheets and slid next to Sarah on the bed. She mumbled softly, and then settled again. Putting its arm around her, the figure cuddled close to her, taking in the scent of her hair.
A stray moonbeam, lost with no maiden to highlight in its radiant bath, somehow found its way through the curtains of Sarah's room. Searching, curious, it crawled across her bed and gasped to discover the Goblin King and the beautiful maiden comfortably curled together.