While the leaves whipped up around him in a dry rattle, Hoggle hunched his back and continued to walk with a grim expression. The forest had always had a dark mystique to it, with the ancient trees seeming to exude a sense of weary sentience. The fireys, of course, were happily unaware of any such feelings on the part of their home. The most that they noticed, though Hoggle grumpily, was how far they could chuck their various body parts.
However, there was no sign of anyone in the forest today. Hoggle tried to walk as swiftly as he could with his short legs.
Sarah only had so much time.
His gaze fixed on the faintly glimmering ground, he continued on his determined way.
"Yaaaah!" he yelled and stumbled back a few paces.
His vision had suddenly been overtaken with a pair of black boots. A terribly familiar pair of black boots.
Hoggle cursed silently, and his gaze flicked up to rest on an even more familiar set of pointed teeth. He gritted his own rather more blunt teeth.
"Hallo Hoggle." The Goblin King's tone was cheerful. He was dressed as flamboyantly as usual, a blue waistcoat adorned with a profusion of buttons over a comparatively sober white shirt. Jareth adjusted his midnight gloves with a relaxed air.
Hoggle scowled even more. "Yer majesty." He hoped vaguely that his dark thoughts that he'd give the no good rat a good kick in the arse if he'd been able to get higher than his shins didn't show on his face.
The wind whistled violently through the trees. Jareth walked a few steps from Hoggle, his attention caught by some moss which watched him with a vague kind of unease. Hoggle shuddered. He recollected himself, and tried to look blank.
Jareth stroked the moss delicately, and it shivered.
He turned away, suddenly bored. There was a curious kind of heaviness to the air, as the storm began to build in earnest.
"You know something, Hoggle," Jareth said conversationally. "She's come back."
It was obvious to both of them Hoggle knew who Jareth was talking about. Hoggle tried to swallow but it seemed his mouth had become drier than the deserts of the east. Beads of sweat formed on his forehead.
"Really?" asked Hoggle, wincing at the slight nervously high pitch to his voice. His wiped his forehead with his sleeve, trying to find some vestiges of courage within him.
Jareth watched with a peculiarly sinister breed of a patient smile "Yes, really." He paused, and Hoggle had an odd sensation of wanting to wilt. "Now, Hoggle, do you happen to know where she is?" he asked gently, walking closer and kneeling down in front of the gardener.
Hoggle eyes darted around swiftly, never resting on anything for more than a second, and avoiding the King's gaze like the plague. He quivered, I'm a coward! He wailed inwardly. Why does she insist on me being brave for her? I could just tell him, and go back to living the way I used to. She forgot about us. Why should I risk everything for her?
The simple answer surfaced in his thoughts. Because you promised yourself, long ago, to be brave.
If you don't do it for her, and by gods you always would, do it for yourself.
"Uhm…Um…Er…No." After stuttering for a good few moments, Hoggle gave an abrupt finish. Hoggle squeezed his eyes shut and grimaced, expecting some sort of punishment. Even the Bog would be too much to hope for.
Nothing happened, and Hoggle tentatively opened his eyes. Jareth was smiling at him, like a fiend, thought Hoggle shakily. Jareth stood up suddenly, tossing a crystal swiftly between his hands, his attention diverted. "Of course. If you do see her, be sure to tell me then." Said Jareth lightly. He walked away and leant against one of the thick trunks of the trees.
Hoggle gaped at him, Jareth raised an eyebrow. "Please, do go about your business." He said politely, waving an eloquent hand in the direction Hoggle presumably wanted to go in. Hoggle stood there, dumbfounded, his jaw hanging open.
Jareth grinned "You'll catch flies in there soon." In a swift twisting motion with his gloved fingers, he disappeared in a sparkle of magic.
Hoggle finally recollected himself and closed his mouth. He frowned. It was obvious Jareth was toying with him. He knew. Never mind the fact a goblin could have guessed Hoggle was lying…But why was Jareth letting her stay? Hoggle dug his hands into his pockets tensely, turning the knucklebone between his fingers. He began to walk again, just a little faster.
Jareth paced to and fro across the corridor. A narrow shaft of weak light came through the small window; the candles in the sconces were lit, casting an even weaker rosy light. The light only seemed to create more wavering shadows. He strode over to the window, leaning a hand on the wall beside it.
The sky was cloudy; on the horizon silent distant lightening flickered and forked. Barely any light filtered through.
Despite it, he still found the view stunning. His kingdom stretched out before him, filled with treacherous paths, trickery and riddles. Yet at the same time, it glowed with a strange wild beauty. A familiar feeling of weariness stole over him, and he leant his forehead against the side of the window frame. He felt tired.
She was out there somewhere. Despite his best intentions, she was back. She would have to fight her own battles now, perhaps even against him. He had tried to save her. It was her own fault she had returned. Jareth smiled ruefully.
She wouldn't be Sarah if she hadn't. He couldn't condemn the very qualities in her he admired.
He chuckled humourlessly; he couldn't afford to dwell on her like some lovesick fool. His plans would never work if he was so weak. But then again, she was always a wild card in any scheme.
He felt the cold presence of the Labyrinth behind him, in corporal form. It said nothing.
Jareth pushed himself away from the wall, and turned around.
"Where is the boy?" Jareth asked softly. The Labyrinth, its features roiling and changing, spoke. "Nowhere you will find him, we no longer trust you." It sounded like the grinding of stone, and the rumble of thunder.
Jareth narrowed his eyes and crossed his arms. He jerked his head towards the window "You see what good that is doing to the kingdom." Far away, here and there were the tiny glows of fires. The storms were wreaking destruction.
The voice became low with menace "Be this on your head, it is your foolishness which brought us to this. You, our heart, changed your allegiance. It is only through necessity that we keep the boy."
Jareth closed his eyes. The Labyrinth had wanted Toby, the child that had escaped. Jareth had gone along with the plan for his own reasons, but things had begun to spiral out of control.
The Labyrinth stood, silent and implacable. "There was only ever one way for things to return to the way they were. Kill the girl. We will send the boy back. This is our final offer."
Suddenly, it was there no longer.
Jareth cursed and swung his fist against the wall; the blood welled up from his broken skin and dropped to the floor in subtle taps. He let it bleed.
He walked away from the window, flexing his wounded hand. He could already feel it healing. It was time to do some fighting of his own.
The snow was beginning to thin; the trees too were becoming sparser. Thom stopped, and loosened his pack with a grunt. It fell to the ground in a soft billow of snow. He still felt weak, he hadn't been in the presence of such magic for a long time, and it had exhausted him. The closer he got to the Labyrinth, the more it drained him. Resting his hands on his knees, he leant down and panted.
He opened a flap on the pack and got out his flask. He drank, and the burning sensation revived him somewhat. The pause allowed his worries to crowd into his mind. He was worried about Sarah. He looked up, narrowing his eyes in the direction of the Labyrinth. She reminded him of another headstrong young woman, of a long ago memory of sunlit golden hair and red roses. He thought of her. He thought of their son.
He carried on walking.
Jareth paused at the doorway. The room of stairs. Somewhere within it lay the keystone. He hadn't been here since she had proudly stood on it before him, defying him. Narrowing his eyes, he dismissed all thoughts of anything but his mission. He stepped out.
The keystone was the centre of the Labyrinth, although it may stalk the Underground in some semblance of human form – the keystone was where it resided. Apt really, that it had a heart of stone. He stepped down the first set of steps slowly, resting a hand on the slow beat of his own heart.
But he wasn't here for no reason. The keystone was where the Labyrinth resided, and therefore was where the memories of the Labyrinth were. He needed to find answers.
The Labyrinth was busy searching the Labyrinth for Sarah. However, Jareth wasn't worried, he had been reasonably informed that for once Hoggle had done something remotely intelligent and hidden her from detection. It wouldn't last long though.
He moved easily through the myriad staircase, searching with keen eyes for the stone. It would be disguised. Through doorways, down and up stairs he passed. Finally it caught his eye. The only stone that pulsed to the same beat of his heart. He moved towards it, slowing down. He watched it thoughtfully. It looked like a simple block of stone, but he knew it was the one. God knows how Sarah had been guided to the place where her stinging words would gain power. She had killer instincts.
He stopped in front of it, and frowning slightly, began to pull on the fingers of the glove on his left hand. It came off, and he held it in his right hand.
Bracing himself, he placed his bare hand on the stone.
Immediately he was pulled under in a sensation akin to being suddenly doused in hot water. It burned. Every nerve in his body was almost numb with pain. He gritted his teeth and bit back a scream at the fierce agony. The Labyrinth snapped to attention, rushing to block him from entering. He fought with every ounce of his will, fighting through the pain.
Suddenly he was where he wanted to be.
Thom gasped, and tried to walk a few steps forward. His legs felt like lead. Suddenly, the weight and pressure on him lifted. He stood up straight. The Labyrinth was distracted. Knowing he had little time, he began to run.
"It is unnatural." The cold voice spoke with a quiet anger.
Two men stood in the shadow of a grey stone doorway. They both were watching a young couple seated in the garden. They sat within a square of lawn, surrounded by the kitchen herbs. The wind stirred the plants, and their fragrant scents infused the air of courtyard.
The woman had golden hair twined with roses tied back in a braid. She nursed a child with a smile. Her green dress spread out over the grass. A man was seated by her, gazing at them both. It was a rare sunny day, and the family were clearly making the most of it. It was a pretty scene. The men, however, were unappreciative.
"A demon and his whore." The older man said disgustedly. His iron grey hair was cropped short, and he was dressed well. A knight. He leant heavily on a stick, the only concession to a battle wound received years ago. He had a calculating air about him, of a cruel patience.
The other man was younger, and far less composed than his companion. "The Laird is foolish. He should have turned them out. Their bastard is to be heir." He spoke angrily. His eyes revealed his turbulent emotions as he stared at the couple. Hatred, jealously and thwarted desire. He watched as the young man placed a relaxed arm around the waist of his wife. He clenched his fists.
The older man placed a restraining hand on the shoulder of his son. "Sadly, the other knights follow the order of the Laird. They accept Tam Lin and his son as their future leaders. They accept him as a mortal and a Christian." He murmured bitterly.
The younger man placed a hand on his scabbard "His succession may be secure, but iron will soon change the story." He spat.
The older man dealt his son a swift blow across the face. "Do not be foolish Angus, cool your hot blood! Do you mean us to fall with them?" he hissed.
Angus eyed his father mutinously, touching his cheek lightly, but said nothing. They stood in silence for a few moments. "I mean to have her, father." Angus said finally. "I would murder the babe in a church for her."
The older man gave his son a quick look of disgust. "You would still have her?"
Angus nodded once, slowly.
His father looked back at the family "They say she took him back from the Fair Folk." He said distantly "That must have taken courage."
Angus' shoulders were hunched "He bewitched her." He said in a voice tight with rage.
"What will we do?" he asked finally, looking up. His father still watched the couple. The dark haired man dandled the child on his lap, while the woman held the boy's tiny hand and delightedly spoke nonsense to him. The old man's brow lifted. "Pathetic." He said without emotion.
They turned away from the scene into the dark of the castle's interior. The ante-room was small, and a wooden door granted entry to the more sumptuous rooms within. It was shut, the two men started and stopped. A woman stood there.
She was tall, and strikingly beautiful, unnaturally so. Her dress was a deep red, intricately patterned and woven of material too fine to have been made by mortal hands. A heavy fur lined cloak rested on her shoulders. A deep green girdle encircled her narrow waist. Her dark hair was unbound, and tumbled about her shoulders in luxuriant curls. Her face was delicate and pale, under dark eyebrows her green eyes glowed with an otherworldly light. She smiled delightedly.
Angus stepped forward unbidden, his expression enraptured. She walked forwards in a rustle of cloth, close to him; she smiled from underneath her lashes. Her pink lips curved into a captivating smile. "Such passion." She whispered. Angus whispered "My lady…"
The older man was wary. "Who are you? How did you get in?" He demanded. His eyes slid to the heavy wooden door he had not heard open.
The woman looked at him, her dark eyes measuring him. A slim hand came to rest on Angus's shoulder.
"Sir Sholto the bastard." She said lightly. He flinched at her words. "You call her whore when your mother spread her legs so easily." She laughed scornfully.
On his walking stick, the old man's knuckles turned white, and his mouth tightened. "How dare you insult me so." He whispered coldly.
Her attention returned back to Angus. "Do you want her?" she murmured. A bitter smile curved her lips. "Hm."
The young man's darkened gaze never moved from her face.
"Who are you?" demanded the old man once again, he moved forward, as if to rescue his son.
The woman ignored him, tracing the brow of Angus lightly. "He was the fairest of my knights. I am bound not to harm them. Their son, however…"
Her subtle eyes chilled the old man. "I cannot interfere. But I can tell you the words. Say the right words, and you shall have your wish…"
Darkness closed in, and from nowhere battlements rushed to fill the void.
The night was stormy. It was dangerous to be up on the battlements. The shrieking wind buffeted the four figures standing on it. Lightning cracked through sky, followed by the deafening rumble of thunder. It was bitterly cold, and rain lanced down in heavy droplets.
"Angus!" screamed Janet, clutching the wall with one hand and holding out the other in supplication. "Angus please!" She was weeping. "Please!" Her golden hair was plastered to her face and body.
The young man held a squalling baby in a reckless grip, the light of desperation in his eyes. "Janet, this is for your own good!" he cried.
His father stood behind Janet, the sword in his hand held against the throat of a grey-eyed young man. Tam breathed in short pants, his eyes on the sword. "Janet..." He whispered hoarsely.
He took a breath, and in a swift movement punched the old knight in the stomach. The old man cried out breathlessly and fell back against the wall, scrabbling for a grip. Tam sprinted forward towards his wife and child.
Angus stepped backward, swaying in the wind. On seeing Tam running towards him, he held up the crying child. "I wish the goblins would take you away, right now!" he yelled.
The lightning flashed, and the child was gone. Tam skidded to a halt, his eyes wide in horror and denial. Angus watched Janet drop to her knees "Jareth…" she whispered desperately.
The shock catapulted him back to himself. He dropped to his knees in disbelief. The glove fell to the floor with a pathetic slap. The blood drained from his face.
The Labyrinth was there, waiting.
"The boy…" said Jareth breathlessly. Too many thoughts clustered in his mind. "This is no simple revenge. He is…He is my replacement…I was a wished away child too."
"Foolish child. We loved you. You always were our favourite. It is your choices which brought us here."
"I had…Parents…I was a mortal."
There was silence. "We did not do this. Your parents had a powerful foe; we were merely a tool of Her revenge. We are not her friend."
"She looked like…"
Is anybody still reading this?
If you really don't get what is going on...Join the club! Haha no seriously might help to read the ballad of Tam Lin. If everybody is VERY confused I can post some clarification at the start of next chapter.