Hello, my wonderfully loyal readers. Yes, I know I promised this sooner but it was difficult. I hate writing about Hoggle. He is so...annoying. Anyway, I am pleased with this chapter. It is quite good, if I do say so myself, even if I don't have time to send it to a beta. I am going on vacation tomorrow and I wanted to get this up before I leave. So, here it is in all its glory. I have the next chapter mapped out in my head already and I really like it. :-)

Love Deamon

Chapter Six: Setting the Stage

Marshall sat peevishly on the edge of a large armchair, staring into the flickering light of a large fire. His white fingers held a crystal goblet of a deep red wine but he did not sip from it. Across from him was the most powerful man in the whole Underground: Lawrence, the High King. And next to him was the whore of all whores: Lawrence's niece and lover Teresa. Although Lawrence had tried to make their affair as discreet as possible Marshall's spies had wheedled the information out of the tight net of lies, giving Marshall considerable leverage over the king. Licking his slightly-pointed teeth with his tongue, Marshall thought of the woman that gave up her very body to get what she wanted. She was to be respected, envied, even, for her cunning. Two years ago Lawrence would never have thought of such a successful way to dethrone Jareth but this little wench had thought of one and convinced her uncle to carry the plan out. It was brilliant.

The sound of Lawrence clearing his throat brought Marshall out of his thoughts. Looking up at the king, he raised an eyebrow. "I would like to thank you for coming this evening," Lawrence said gruffly, sipping wine from his own goblet. "I know that it is late but I do believe that this is an urgent matter. You may be curious as to why I have brought you here?"

Marshall let his eyes go back to the fire. "You want my help in disposing of Lady Sarah so that Jareth is wide open for your Council's threats of dethroning him." It was not a question and Lawrence knew it. His eyes widened as he leaned back in his seat.

"Yes, Marshall, you are correct," he said into his goblet. His piercing eyes were on the man as he tried to think who could have spilled the news. "When I thought of who might help me in my mission only your name came to the front as prominently as it did. You have a grudge against your brother and there is no doubt about it. Are you willing to help me?"

"It depends entirely on what I get in return," Marshall drawled.

Lawrence shrugged. "What is it that you want?"

Marshall smiled deviously as he took a small sip of the wine. "I only want a few simple things, Lawrence. First I want my brother's throne with. But mostly I want that girl. And I want Jareth to see what I do to her. Give her to me so that I may do with her what I will and you have my services."

Surprised, Lawrence nodded. "That will not be a problem, Marshall. Your services are definitely invaluable."

"One more thing," Marshall said, interrupting the king. "I want to know exactly what you are doing at all times. I will not be a pawn."

Lawrence frowned. He had not expected this. Finally he nodded slowly. "Yes. That is agreeable. I think it would be useful having you help me plan. In fact," he looked over at his niece, "I think that it would be most helpful if you could help us tonight. Are you up to it?"

Marshall nodded. "I have a few questions."

"Go ahead."

"First, how are you going to keep Jareth from impregnating that girl before the year is up?"

Lawrence chuckled into his goblet. "Simple. We get her pregnant with somebody else's child first."

Marshall looked up finally from the fire, curious. "And how, may I ask, are you planning to do that?"

"Marshall," Lawrence smiled slowly, flexing his left hand. "I am skilled in magic. Do you not think that I can disguise a man to look like another? If acted upon quickly it will be simple to get a man in bed with her while Jareth is preoccupied."

Marshall glared at the king imperiously. "I will be the one to do it."

Lawrence's mouth fell open slightly as Teresa made a small noise beside him. "What? You want to risk it? I was going to have my own men do it. If Jareth finds the man who made her pregnant he has every right to kill him if they are lovers. You could so easily be caught."

"And that would give me a perfect reason for killing my brother on the spot. I want to be the one to do it."

"But, my Lords," Teresa's silky voice cut through the conversation, stopping both men from uttering another word. "Do you really think that Sarah will think that the man she is in bed with is Jareth? Each man has his own ways, if you know what I mean, and it is easy to discern." She smiled suggestively. "Take it from somebody who knows."

Lawrence and Marshall stared at Teresa in astonishment. Then Marshall let a sly smile cross his lips. "But if we are careful she will not know until she is already seeded, so to speak."

Teresa nodded in acknowledgement. "You would have to be very careful. And once she realized it we would have to make sure that Jareth is preoccupied at the time or he shall hear her screaming in his mind. If you have not noticed: they are connected. He can easily hear her if she needs him to."

"How do you know this, dear lady?" Marshall asked curiously.

Teresa shrugged evasively. "I have my ways, milord. And let me tell you this: if you do not have that man in climax at the exact moment that Sarah realizes who you are then you will be dead within moments. It does not matter how powerful you are. That man has a level of wrath that would kill an army if provoked in the right way." Her smile widened. "I suggest that you let me handle that side of it."

Lawrence choked on his wine and Marshall smiled. "Yes. You have had a history with my brother. If I understand correctly you wanted to be his lover a time back, did you not?"

Teresa nodded ruefully. "Yes but I was unable to catch his attentions. That is what made me the way I am today. Too much pent-up lust can move mountains." She chortled softly. "It will be an honor to make that man suffer."

Marshall nodded and sipped his wine. Suddenly an idea dawned on him. He smiled craftily at the woman and lowered his goblet. "Would you like to be Queen of the Labyrinth?"

Lawrence made a loud noise of protest but Marshall and Teresa didn't hear him. Teresa was smiling malevolently as she folded her hands in her lap. "What is your idea?"

Marshall leaned forward further in his chair. "The night that we seduce Jareth and Sarah we will give both you women a concoction to make it possible to get you pregnant. Then Sarah will hold my heir in her womb and you will hold Jareth's. You will be the one that must marry him and I…" he looked over at Lawrence who was staring in disbelief. "I will be the father of the only human to ever defeat the Labyrinth. When my brother is disposed of I will be the rightful king of the Labyrinth. The courtship of a King and a Defeater will create a fearsome child, indeed. You – the niece of the High King – will be my chosen bride and Sarah will be my mistress. We will be a most powerful threesome."

Teresa nodded in gratification as she grinned. Pulling the goblet from her uncle's fingers, she raised it in the air. "To power."

Marshall nodded and raised his goblet as well. "To a long and wonderful partnership." The crystal made a clear sound as they clicked together and Marshal and Teresa lowered the goblet's to their lips, sucking them dry. Lawrence just stared in bewilderment at the two, trying to decide if he had just been replaced.

Sarah woke up groggy and confused. Opening an eyes she found herself in her new room in Jareth's castle. Everything was familiar but there was something that wasn't right… Turning over, she pushed the silky fabric off of her and laid two feet on the carpeted floor. She was wearing her father's old Hard Rock Café T-shirt (she'd requested it be brought to her) and her hair was messy. Looking around as she rubbed her eyes, Sarah realized what was different. There was a fourth door leading out of the room right next to the door that led to the garden. She stood and walked across the room to the door and turned the knob carefully. Peeping her head inside she saw a room a lot like her own but the colors were lighter. The bed was a light periwinkle and the carpet was a slightly darker shade of violet. Closing the door in confusion, Sarah turned to the door that led to her closet. She opened it and looked inside. It didn't hold dresses anymore. Instead it contained an assortment of men's clothing. In deeper confusion than before, Sarah turned to the bathroom door. Her eyes rested on the desk where a single folded piece of paper rested in the center with her name written on it in delicate penmanship.

Gently, Sara lifted the paper off of the desk and unfolded it. It was from Jareth.

'Dear Sarah.

'I am sorry that I could not be there when you awoke but some urgent business has called for my attention. If you have not already checked, the fourth door leads to your rooms. I decided that for now it would be best if you could have your own space and that way grow more comfortable with your new home. The rooms in which you were staying are mine and you can stay as long as you wish. If you desire to meet with me this morning I shall be in the throne room for the duration of the day. If you wish to speak to Nadia hold your crystal and call to her. She will be there within minutes. If you require anything else just hold your crystal and call for my sister, Malaya. She will assist you.

'Love, Jareth.'

Sarah sighed and set the paper back down on the desk. Toying slowly with a corner of the heavy paper, she tried to collect her thoughts. She remembered last night. She remembered Marshall and his groping fingers. And she remembered Jareth bringing her back to her – well, his – room and holding her as she tried not to cry. She'd gotten up once after a short sleeping spell and changed her clothes, brushed her teeth, and took care of the other necessities. She'd come back to him relaxing quietly, holding his arms out for her. He kissed her tenderly until she fell into a peaceful slumber. If she thought about it, it was quite romantic.

Sarah heaved herself up from the chair and folded the paper before exiting Jareth's rooms for her own. Her own quarters were warmer where the Goblin King's had had a cold draft. The bed had more pillows and the carpet was softer. Smiling softly, Sarah went about getting ready for the day, mentally ticking off what she wanted to do.

Malaya was the illegitimate daughter to the Goblin King before Jareth. And as such she had full access to any part of the castle that she wished along with her own estate. But instead she had decided to stay in the castle and keep an eye on her older brothers. (Brother if you counted the fact that Marshall rarely visited and when he did it was a stressful occasion for everyone in the castle and the Labyrinth herself.) Her life was a fairly monotonous thing, filled with appointing new maids and firing ones that did not fit the set requirements. But when Jareth called her the day before with a request that she appoint a maid to a singular woman – a human woman – she sensed a change coming at the whole kingdom. Malaya wasn't sure whether or not to embrace this change as something for the better yet or not. But one thing for certain was that her brother was dedicated to this woman fully if anything that Nadia had said counted for anything. (And knowing her brother it meant everything.)

Malaya stared at her smooth hands and tried to concentrate on the designs swirled on her nails but she kept thinking about what one of her most trusted maids had told her as soon as she woke up. High King Lawrence and her brother Marshall had met late last night. The meeting lasted for hours, only letting out with Teresa clinging to Marshall's arm at the crack of dawn. She'd sent out her mental senses out to detect any sign of treachery but there was a disturbing lack of it. Even more disturbing was the unrest between Fala and Selwin, Jareth's most trusted friends. They suspected something and Malaya wanted to know what.

Groaning as she heaved herself off of the chair, Malaya scanned the dull room. She was mentally planning the actions she would use to convince Fala cough it up. First she wanted to find out about this girl that Jareth was already so dedicated to. One of the younger girls had told her about the ball the night before – Malaya was inclined to skip such excursions, preferring the silence of her chambers to numerous lecherous men – and how Jareth's girl had slipped off with Marshall. Only a brief time later Jareth stormed out onto the balcony and returned with the girl, leaving Marshall to discreetly limp out a few minutes later. Malaya didn't know the whole story but it was obvious that her brothers were already in a disagreement, other than their usual, of course.

Malaya wanted to know everything about this girl. And she knew the only two women who could get her the information. Grinning, she pulled out her crystal and prepared to bypass Marshall's fortifications throughout his courtesan's communications.

Jareth glared pensively at the group of creatures in front of him. He was standing in the Garden Maze, an area off-limits to all creatures that did not live there or was not helping restore it to its previous glory. (The Gardeners, it seemed, had all decided to get sick at the exact same time and thereby leaving the tall bushes to wilt and whither in the high sun of summer.) It was also a popular place for devilish creatures to enter and cause havoc – most often bored goblins that had not yet had a taste of Jareth's wrath over creatures intruding on his favorite area of the Labyrinth. This time the breech was an assemblage of more than goblins, containing dwarfs and pixies, too. Pulling out his riding crop, Jareth prodded at the furthest away: a small, wrinkly blue pixie.

"Who are you?" he demanded of the creature who promptly began to whimper and wring his hands.

"I-I was j-j-just walk-walking around and I g-g-g-got lost," the creature stuttered fearfully.

"I didn't ask you that, pixie," Jareth growled in annoyance. He was already thinking of a million things he could do with the intruders but wanted to figure out exactly what had happened before he'd received the tip.

"M-my name is N-N-Newton," the pixie said as he shuffled his feet and looked around him in an attempt to call for help. His companions looked away.

"What are you doing here, Newton?" Jareth demanded again.

"I w-w-was merely g-going on a pleasant w-w-w-walk. And I m-m-made a wrong t-turn." The pixie was tugging on his ear with such an intensity that it seemed that he would rip it right off the side of his head.

Jareth rolled his eyes. "Yes, but you know that it is forbidden to even enter the Labyrinth let alone make your way to the Garden Maze. It would take a seriously wrong turn to get you through the very large, creaky doors to the Labyrinth, get through one of the exits out of the Everlasting Hall, make your way through the whole Stone Maze while bypassing all of the oubliettes and other traps, and then get to the very center of the Garden Maze. So either you have a very BAD sense of direction or you had help in getting here. And if it is the latter one then that would also indicate that you are lying to me. So which is it, Newton?" Jareth crouched down so he could look the now-sniveling pixie in the eye.

"N-No, sir," the pixie mumbled as he tugged even harder on his ear. "I-I is having a v-very t-terrible sense of-of d-direction. P-P-Please let me g-go. I isn't d-d-doing n-no harm to the G-Garden M-Maze. P-Please, g-good King: have m-m-m-mercy."

Jareth glowered down at the thing and stood erect. Turning his attention to the cluster of dwarfs standing noticeably segregated from the goblins, he scanned the group. His eyes widened as he noticed one goblin in particular that was standing in the middle of the group, trying to sneak away from the prying eyes of the Goblin King. Feeling a surge of anger, Jareth used his riding crop to shove away a few of the goblins, sending them sprawling to the ground. He reached down and, with a black-gloved hand, he grabbed the timorous dwarf by the ear and dragged his nose to inches away from his own and growled angrily.

"What the hell are you doing here, Hoggle?" he snarled irately. The dwarf glared up at the Goblin King and bared his teeth.

"I was merely on a walk and I made a wrong turn," Hoggle said defiantly, thrusting his warty chin forward. Jareth gritted his teeth and whirled to one of his guards.

"You, take these things and drop them into the bog of Eternal Stench. And I want you to keep them there until I send for them." Then, without letting go of Hoggle, he shifted himself to his throne room. When he was standing in the large, empty room, he pushed Hoggle so he sprawled on the floor. Glaring down at the dwarf, Jareth fought down the surge of anger flowing through him and tried to speak at a reasonably normal tone.

"What in the name of the Underworld are you doing here, Hoggle?" Jareth asked in a smooth voice that had a very heavy undertone of menace in it. He leaned against the wall, clenching his fists tightly. "I let your betrayal go with the little stunt that you pulled with helping Sarah through the Labyrinth and I even let you go back to your little hovel on the edge of the Dark Forest. Why are you suddenly turning around and barraging through the Garden Maze while it is recovering? You know as well as I do what will happen if it dies. Maybe I shouldn't have been so forgiving."

Having pulled himself up onto his stubby legs, Hoggle put his fists on his waist and glared up defiantly at the King. "Don't you dare speak to me about Sarah! I knows that you did something with here and I demand that you tell me where she is and why you hurt her!"

Jareth stared incredulously at the ugly being standing in front of him. "What are you talking about?"

"You knows very well what I is talking about and don't you try and lie to me!" Hoggle thrust his ruddy little chin up as far as it would go and glowered at Jareth with his beady black eyes. Jareth could only gape at the audacious dwarf before what he was saying finally processed.

"You went back to her house, didn't you?"

Hoggle nodded stiffly. "And I found the house empty. You did something to her and I just knows it!"

Jareth threw his head back and roared with laughter. Hoggle stared dubiously at him as if he had been slapped in the face and his pudgy hands lowered from his waist. "Why is you crying, Jareth?" he asked ruefully. Jareth only shook his head and picked up his riding crop.

"Tell you what, you little scab. If you tell me what that group of miscreants were doing in my Garden Maze then I will tell you what I did with your precious Sarah. Deal?" he smirked at the dwarf and hit him in the shin, forcing a grunt of pain to escape Hoggle's lips.

Hoggle nodded impenitently and glared at the King, his little mind trying to find another alternative. Not being able to find one, he sighed heavily and his head drooped. "The pixies wanted to goes to the party tonight and the dwarfs wanted some ale. They paid the goblins a fee to get them through the Labyrinth. They didn't mean no harm."

Jareth shook his head, slightly disappointed. "Is that all, Hoggle?"

The dwarf nodded. "Yeah, and I ain't lying to ya so you best be keeping up your end of the bargain. I wants to know what happened to Sarah."

Jareth inclined his head and conjured a crystal ball. Looking into it he mentally called for Sarah's crystal.

Sarah was reclining in a steaming bath filled to the brim with bubbles when she felt her necklace vibrating. Yelping, Sarah clutched the thing in her hand and looked into it. "What in the world…"

"Sarah!" Jareth's voice filled the room and Sarah's eyes widened in surprise. Looking closer she saw him smiling at her.

"What are you doing, Jareth?" Sarah asked broodingly. "I was just in the middle of a perfectly nice bath."

"Yes, well, you have a friend here that doesn't seem to think that I have been treating you properly. Would you like to say hi?"

Sarah nodded quizzically. "Sure, who is it?"

"Someone you know. And, dear, before you take this you might want to cover up. It's a nice view but I doubt you want him seeing."

Sarah glared menacingly as she grabbed a towel and dragged it so that it covered her body. Then she saw Hoggle looking through the other end suspiciously.

"Is that you, Sarah?" he asked cautiously. Sarah couldn't help a grin from covering her face as she nodded.

"Hoggle! What are you doing?"

Hoggle looked surprised that she was speaking and looked over – presumably at Jareth – in shock. "I was just worried abouts you, is all. Your house was empty so I got worried…"

Sarah instantly sobered as she nodded sullenly. "Yeah, it's a long story. But I'm okay."

"Where are you?" Hoggle still seemed a bit wary but she could see his eyes brighten a bit.

"I'm up in my rooms in the castle." She smiled at his stunned expression. "Do you want me to come down?"

Hoggle shook his head hesitantly. "Nah, I best be going, little lady. I just was worried, is all."

Sarah nodded. "I'm okay, Hoggle. Really. You should stop by and see me when you can."

"I'll try."

"OK. Thanks for worrying, Hoggle. I'll see you soon."

"Yeah, okay. See ya, Sarah."

Then the crystal became transparent again and Sarah sighed, slipping back into the bathtub.

Hoggle flinched as Jareth took the crystal back. "Please don't put me in the Bog, Your Majesty," he begged, knowing full well the severity of the insinuations he had made.

Jareth cocked his head in thought. Finally, he seemed to come to a decision. "I won't. But you will be in charge of the pixies for a month. I will think about whether you deserve more punishment later. For now, I have to get my guards back here."

"Thank you, Your Majesty." Hoggle turned on his heel and walked swiftly out of the throne room, a foreign feeling racing through his blood stream. He would definitely have to find out what Sarah was doing in Jareth's home. Even if he didn't like what he found out.

At that moment, Teresa emerged from a small lean-to just outside the walls of the Labyrinth. All around here was a barren waste land covered with grey-colored dust. She smiled covertly at Marshall and handed him a small brown packet. He shook it and smiled back at her when he heard the sound of the powder moving inside. "It is almost time," he whispered as he cupped her chin in his hand and looked down at her face. "Soon, well will attack. Be ready for my signal." Then, he was gone, leaving Teresa to make her way back to the Goblin City before she was missed.
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