Chapter 13 – Punishment and Plans
Paul ran back to the Goblin King's rooms wanting to get there before the palace guards, he needed to get this information to Jareth ASAP. Left over adrenaline made him panic for a moment when a servant suddenly hurried down the corridor, knocked on the door to the suite and entered after permission was granted. Paul followed the girl in, ready to protect his liege.
Paul stopped short and blinked at the state of the bedroom when he stepped into it. Jareth stood near the bay windows ordering the servant girl to clean up the mess. Taking one look at the charred bed Paul raised an eyebrow. "I don't think I should ask."
"It would be best," Jareth snapped.
Paul couldn't have hit himself with his next words. "Brings new meaning to burning up the sheets."
Only Jareth's eyes moved to pin Paul to the spot and for the first time in a long time he feared the Goblin King would kill him. In the interest of self preservation, Paul fell to groveling. "My lord" he bowed dropping to one knee, "I have news-"
"When the girl has done her job" Jareth bit off quickly and Paul flushed at the implied reprimand of talking in front of hired help. He stayed like that – head bowed – for long moments, knowing better than to continue without acknowledgment and permission. For the entire time that the servant cleaned up the room Jareth remained silent and looked out the window. As a result, Paul was sure, the girl worked faster than she had in her life. Within a few minutes the bed was repaired with magic and remade with the servant leaving with no noise but the click of the closing door.
Paul internally winced. "Someone was spying outside your door, my lord."
Jareth spun around. "So you made asinine comments rather than inform me immediately?"
Oh fuck. He was in such trouble. It didn't matter that Jareth had ordered his silence, he should have entered the room and spoke first of the news rather than make side-comments. "Carrick, one of Duke Zekial's courtesan, and I gave chase" he explained quickly, "but we could not catch the spy. Carrick has informed the palace guards of the security breach. He then goes to inform his master."
Jareth nodded. "Zekial will have the means to hunt down this spy and extract any information they may have and who they are working for. You will need to make sure there is tighter security here. We cannot have this happen again. What other news is there?"
"The Fairy King has sent a missive informing us of his vote towards the Labyrinth having independence. As predicted the representative of the Troll Council seeks to undermine our objective; even now he speaks with some of the lesser lords."
"Many of them can be bribed or blackmailed. Others can be brought around."
Paul didn't have Jareth's confidence. "You know the main fear driving a vote against us. The labyrinth is a powerful and self sustaining land. If we gain independence there are those who would fear a future war between the labyrinth and the current united lands. Thousands of years ago we all came under the power of a High King to stop the fighting between different factions. They're afraid this might signal the start of that time returning. Money isn't going to make that fear go away."
"I know the history of the Underground." Jareth snapped. He turned to face the window looking out over one of the many gardens surrounding the palace. Rubbing his forehead he sighed, "What's our progress so far?"
"The four High Dukes, as always, are wildcards, though it's safe to assume that Lord Zekial will side with us. As it is, we can now count on sixteen out of forty-two votes, including some of the lesser lords and the Elf and Fairy Kings. Should we gain all the High Duke votes we will be only two votes off fifty percent, only three votes off a win for independence."
"Is that all?"
"Not as easy as it sounds. We still need to get the other three High Dukes on board. So we need to get six votes before the end of the summit. As well as maintain the ones we already have." Paul took a deep breath for his next news. "The Pure One has arrived, she seeks a meeting with you tomorrow night during the First Day Ball. The missive arrived hardly an hour ago."
Jareth picked his head up "The Pure One?"
"Yes, my lord."
"She knows" Jareth stated.
"It is most likely, my lord."
Jareth rolled his shoulders to try and relieve some of the tension there. "Send word back that I will be there. There was silence. Then, "you have forgotten your place advisor," Jareth drawled. "For your punishment, you will help when I perform the ritual."
Paul paled. "My, lord. I… I planned to be there nonetheless."
"And I would not have allowed you. But now you will be there and you will participate. Do not think this punishment harsh beyond the crime. If I am not granted the right to independence because of this security breach you will wish you had paid for the pleasure of participation in the ritual."
"I understand what is at risk my lord" Paul bowed his head. After a moment, he felt his liege put a hand on his shoulder.
"No" Jareth said gently and pulled Paul from his kneeling position. "You do not, and I am grateful for that. I would rather subject you the horror of the ritual than the horror of the consequences should we fail."
Watching Paul leave the room Jareth acknowledged to himself what he could not say out loud. His order to his advisor were words as a king who knew what had to be done, but his desire to have Paul there was purely selfish. He couldn't do the ritual alone. He couldn't put himself through it alone.
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Sarah knew of only one place in which she could visit and forget her day to day life, Goblin King and all. Making use of what little spare time she had, Sarah quickly made her way into the slums of the town where the orphanage was located. The men who had harassed her last time wisely stayed away from her; at least her previous warning would keep for a few months until some idiot tried her again. Thank the gods, because this time she had not bothered to change to tattered clothing from her finery, rather just throwing a dark cloak over her dress straight after her meeting with Jareth. That fae had thrown her off so much that she just needed to get out.
Susan was standing on the step just outside the sheet covered door as if she knew Sarah was arriving. The sun was starting to set and dark shadows were already stretching along the ground. As always, Susan held a cup of tea in her hands gaining whatever warmth she could from it. She smiled when she saw Sarah and leaned over to hug the younger woman, making sure not to burn her fingers on the mug as she held it away from them.
"Sarah, it's so good to see you again, and so soon since last time."
"I have some spare time if you have some spare tea."
They smiled at each other and entered the orphanage and shifted out of the way of a few children racing out the door and into the street. They talked of inane matters while Sarah let the chamomile tea do its job and settle warmly in her stomach. Some of the stress caused by Jareth started to fade and she leaned back in her chair to look at the children around the room. A group of kids sat around some sort of board games throwing a wooden die, another group were playing dress up and challenging each other to duels and recuing 'helpless' maidens who then beat up their rescuers. Over in one corner, an older child was teaching a younger one to read.
"Where are the twins." Sarah looked around expecting to the two devils making trouble.
"Kyle and Kaden were here not long ago, terrorizing some of the older children. I… don't know where they are now." She looked almost shamefaced that she had let some of her children out of her sight.
Sarah laid an understanding hand over hers. "You cannot be expected to know where the children are at all times."
Susan clenched a fist, "I know, but the feeling is still there. I hate to think that they might already be going out on errands for who knows what kind of people. That they already have on some occasions. As you said, I cannot keep a watch over them all the times, but I can offer then a sanctuary – no matter how likely it is to fall down at a moment's notice." She gave a brief humourless laugh and waved a hand towards walls that were rotting away in many places.
"I'm sorry I didn't bring anything with me this time" another thing to blame Jareth for, "but I will make up for it next time."
Susan smiled. "Whatever you choose to bring is a bonus. It is enough that you spend time with the children."
"I can only spend a few hours this time, I have to be back home for tonight."
"I appreciate any time you can spend here."
Sarah spent half an hour amongst the children before she came across the twins. Her sharp observations knew something was wrong straight off even before their somber expressions registered. They both tugged on the bottom of her cloak and she knelt down to her level. She briefly touched both blond heads, "what's wrong?"
"You have to come" Kaden started his blue eyes big.
"Jerry is hurt." Kyle added.
"He won't talk to us."
"And we've been really nice."
"We offered him food."
"But he just holds something in his hands.
"And he won't let go."
"Ok, ok. Calm down" Sarah soothed their frantic words. "Show me where he is."
Each taking one of her hands the twins led her towards the back of the orphanage and then outside to an ally way that carried the stench of the lowest poverty. The two boys let her go to drop to the ground and crawl underneath the building of the orphanage. Sarah gave a brief grimace before following. There went the expensive dress she had on. She belly-crawled her way following the twins, barely making them out in the dim light and trying to ignore the dust her movement aroused. She put her hand in something wet and foul-smelling and vowed to scrub herself clean when she got back and hoped that Zekial didn't catch her – or anyone else for that matter – smelling of the slums.
She heard the boy before she saw him; heard the sniffles and sobs and even the chattering of teeth before she saw the shivering figure. In the fading light it was difficult to tell exactly what state the boy was in – how much pain was he in and what was the damage? She had to coax him out from under the orphanage before she could do much of anything.
"Jerry?" one of the twins spoke softly. "We've brought Sarah." The boy's head snapped up at the words. There was a sudden moment of stillness of everyone in the dark as heavy feet ran across the floor above them and Sarah had a brief worry that Jerry would scuttle away. If he did there was no chance she could follow him as his smaller stature was a definite advantage in the small space under the orphanage.
Quietly she told the twins to go back to Susan, tell her that a child was hurt and bring blankets and boil hot water for tea. One the twins were gone, Sarah laid in the dirt in silence almost unsure of what to do.
"Jerry?" she called tentatively and then spoke again when the child didn't bolt. "Are you hurt?"
More silence. Then, "my bottom."
Sarah blinked in the darkness. "Your bottom."
"Yeah, on the inside. It really hurts," he whispered.
Sarah swallowed a lump in her throat. "Is there something wrong when you go to the toilet?"
"No, not like that. A man… he…"
'Oh god,' Sarah thought and wanted to throw up.
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Palace guards, Carrick had long since came to the conclusion, were pathetically stupid at times. Really, how long did it take for someone to come and check out the situation? Especially when royalty was involved? He had waited for ten minutes for the guard to get off their collective arses. Another ten minutes telling them the situation. Three times.
When he could, Carrick took off at top speed.
Running fast, Carrick sped to where he knew Zekial would be. The guards let him past at a high class whore house just a few streets away from the High Palace. Soft scents and soft skinned woman and men lounged around, but Carrick ignored them, seeking the Lady of the house. She pointed him in the right direction, knowing who he was.
In the private room, Zekial lay sprawled in a chair, with a woman kneeling between his legs. He had one hand tangle in the black hair, half clenching the strands, half holding the head as the bruised lips of the female fought to take all of him in.
It was a pity, Carrick though almost absent mindlessly, that a man could look bored when partaking in something so pleasurable. He had never known a moment when Zekial truly seemed to have fun unless it was manipulating the situation. Even Sarah and himself only seemed to give him brief moments of respite. Single seconds where the organism was enough that their lord forgot, as all intelligent creatures did, in the throes of bliss.
"My lord" he bowed. "I bring news."
Zekial nodded, but didn't seem inclined to move from his current situation so Carrick switched to a little known dialect to repeat what had happened.
Zekial frowned at the beginning, then halfway through the telling firmly pushed the woman away from him and threw her out of the room. He left his state of undress and Carrick couldn't help a twinge of lust at the sight.
"This is serious" Zekial mused. "I will be meeting with Jareth tonight. I want you to scout the area while we talk, I don't want any more trouble." He sighed, then whispered, "this is too important to fail. Send Sarah to Sairyn – the witch will have potion up her sleeve that will get us some starting information on this spy."
Suddenly Zekial looked at him with hot eyes. "Come here slave" he commanded.
Carrick's breath caught and his legs stumbled over at the dark tone. He shuddered as strong hands smoothed against his own chest and undressed him carefully. Carrick's shouts were lost with others in the house. Strangely, maybe even sickly, Carrick knew that he was cared for.
A/N: Chapter has been edited. Full version found in . See profile for more details.