Muck

or Jareth & Sarah's Smelly Little Problem

A Collaboration Between

Marti Owlsten

&

Danika Lareyna

Chapter One

Watch Where You Step

Sarah cuddled into her bed, snuggling the blanket under her chin and burying her face in the soft, deep pillow. She had donned her favorite nightdress, the satiny one with little embroidered flowers around the neck and cuffs. A cozy zephyr tugged at the curtains, carrying the scent of trees and coming rain. She felt as if she could sleep for three days straight.

She supposed that she had earned it, after her adventure that night. Battling one's way through the nightmarish Labyrinth was exhausting. Then there was the celebration party with her new friends. It almost seemed surreal to be home and surrounded by the familiar trappings of the real world.

Downstairs, though, she could hear her father and stepmother moving about. They were likely sharing their customary post-date pot of tea. Their movements were quiet and calming. Everything about both of them seemed to be very orderly and precise. Sarah sometimes wondered how her father had ever gotten together with her mother, the pinnacle of flamboyance, in the first place.

A soft sigh escaped her lips as the darkness began to swirl around her, pulling her down into unconsciousness. Every part of her body felt heavy while her mind seemed ready to float away on the gentle breeze. Her dreams called to her and she was happy to relax into them.

Sarah's last thought before sleep claimed her was that something in her room really stunk.

xXx

Jareth, King of the Goblins, lounged on his throne, glaring at a small spot on the floor nearby. His throne room was quiet, disturbingly so. The room was resoundingly empty of goblins and life in general, other than their ruler. In fact, the entire castle had been deserted. One would have thought that the respite would be pleasant, but Jareth found himself unable to enjoy it.

It was only through sheer force of will that the Goblin King himself remained in his castle.

Snorting with disgust, and immediately regretting it, Jareth leapt gracefully from his seat and strode over to the great window. He breathed deeply as he stared out over his kingdom, trying very hard not to look as if he was gasping in the relatively fresh air. He was not entirely sure who he was keeping up appearances for, only the random bit of litter stood mute watch over his actions; but he was a king, after all. He gazed down on the Goblin City, eyeing the filthy creatures scurrying about like a raptor watching prey. Pathetic idiots, he thought to himself.

Even more disgusted with his subjects than usual, he spun back to the throne room and immediately choked back a gag. He sauntered over to a spot on the floor, near the winding stairway that led into the main hall. There, corroded into the stone by an unspeakably foul liquid, was a small shoeprint. His expression darkened even more as he stared at it, his mind tallying the multitude of similar prints throughout his castle. How had she managed to cover so much ground in such a short period of time? The Escher Room, in particular, was covered in them. He could not approach that area within two hallways, steely will or no.

He could fix this, but it would take time and be a terrible hassle, not to mention more than a little dangerous, even for a master of magic and ruler of the Underground such as himself. He frowned, unfortunately he had come to the disturbing conclusion that it was either undertake the quest or build himself a new castle. Jareth growled at the footprint, "Well, I won't be going alone. You caused this bloody mess, you will help clean it up."

His midnight cloak swirled around him as he turned and marched resolutely back towards the window. Before he had gone three steps, he disappeared in a flash of sparkling light. A feather fluttered to the floor among the lingering glitter as white wings bore him out, over his Labyrinth. He had someone to pay a call on, and it was not going to be a pleasant visit. He was off to see the ineffably foolish girl who had had the gall to track swamp muck from the Bog of Eternal Stench all over his Castle Beyond the Goblin City.

xXx

Sarah held her nose as she tossed the shoes into the giant dumpster behind the grocery store. They had remained in the trash can behind their house for two days before her stepmother had insisted she move them. Garbage pickup was not for another three days and the neighbors were starting to talk. That, and all of the plants within a twenty foot radius of the trashcan had immediately wilted.

Slamming down the lid, she turned to put as much distance between herself and the foul footwear as possible. In her haste, she very nearly collided with someone's chest. Someone, she noted with a sinking feeling, who favored silky, ruffled shirts. All hope that she had merely come upon a Renaissance Faire reject were dashed by the gleam of a familiar pendant resting against his pale skin. Her gaze reluctantly traveled up to meet the mismatched eyes of the Goblin King. Fury danced within them.

Sarah quickly looked around her, but the normally bustling area was suddenly empty. She supposed that it was silly to be surprised by this, but she still felt a bit disappointed. It would have been nice to have someone within screaming distance... just in case. Those cold blue eyes made her feel awfully lonely.

Somewhat at a loss, Sarah finally said, "Erm, hey Jareth. What's up?"

He blinked once, his angrily downswept brows lifting in confusion for just a moment and his eyes darting skyward. His distraction was brief, though, as he decided to disregard her confusing query and return to the matter at hand. "You," Jareth said, getting right to the point, "Are coming with me."

Now it was Sarah's turn to frown, "Why would I do that?" Before Jareth could respond, her eyes widened, "Oh my gosh, did someone wish me away? It was my stepmother, wasn't it? Dang it, I always knew she hated me! Why I'm going to-"

Jareth, initially amused by her tirade but quickly growing bored by it, cut her off. "No one has wished you away." He turned his head, raising his nose delicately and eyeing her sideways. "I doubt I would oblige them if they did."

Sarah, disappointed at being interrupted in what was shaping up to be a first-class rant, unclenched her fists and straightened. Not for the first time, she wished she were just a bit taller and did not have to crane her neck so to meet Jareth's eyes. It was hard to be intimidating when you barely reached the object of your ire's shoulder. "Well then why are you here? Why do you want me to come with you?"

He wrinkled his nose, casting a glance at the dumpster behind her back. "Smell anything... interesting lately?"

Completely taken aback by his question, Sarah's eyes darted to her feet. Her toes wiggled, snug in a brand new pair of converse sneakers; black with little blue stars, no less. She had had no end of trouble trying to explain why she needed new shoes to her father. She did not even bring up the carpet; instead she cut up the section upon which her shoes had rested overnight and placed a large stuffed animal over it, hoping no one would notice. Quickly looking away, she muttered, "So I got a little Bog on my shoes. So what?"

Jareth was a master at the art of looming menacingly, he used that skill to his full advantage now. "A little Bog on your shoes? Oh yes, you got a little Bog on your shoes and then you dragged your filthy feet all through my castle! Do you have any idea why I take such great measures to make sure that whoever I drop into the Bog of Eternal Stench stays there?!"

Sarah winced and then, catching herself, straightened her spine defiantly. "Well it's not my fault! You dropped me into the Bog in the first place! You created the Bog in the first place! You only have yourself to blame if..." She trailed off and looked up at him for a long moment.

Then she burst into fits of laughter.

His glower deepened as he watched her clutch at her sides, bending nearly double with the force of her hilarity. She, of course, paid him no heed. At last, he growled, "What, exactly, is so humorous?"

She wiped at the tears forming in her eyes. "You're in a snit," she gasped, between

bouts of giggles, "Because I made your castle... stinky!" This set her off again, practically screaming with laughter.

"Stinky," he said, in a low, menacing voice which immediately killed her mirth, "Does not begin to describe it. You have made my home, and the home of a good number of my subjects, utterly unlivable."

Sarah felt the tiniest twinge of guilt, but sternly squashed it. "Well what do you want me to do about it? It's your Bog. Can't you just..." She wiggled her fingers in a clumsy imitation of his sphere maneuvering. "'Abra Cadabra, Bog be gone' or something?"

"Abra Cadab-?" he spluttered, drawing himself up regally. "I do not 'Abra Cadabra' anything. And, no, I cannot use my powers to remove the stench. Unfortunately I took the precaution of making it magic-resistant. I occasionally find the need to punish the overzealous sorcerer, witch or the like. Only one thing can remove the stench of the Bog of Eternal Stench."

Sarah closed her eyes and rubbed her temples. She had a distinct feeling that she had a massive headache coming on. "I am almost afraid to ask, but what removes the stench?"

Dramatically, Jareth replied, "The Soap of Infinite Cleansing."

If he was expecting a big reaction, he was drastically disappointed. Sarah snorted and said, "Please, tell me you are kidding."

"I most certainly am not kidding. The Soap of Infinite Cleansing is one of the sacred treasures of the Temple of the Enchanted Unguents, in the heart of a land filled with such perils as would make my Labyrinth seem a walk in the park. It will be no easy task to retrieve enough to purify the Castle Beyond the Goblin City. You will, of course, be accompanying me on my quest to obtain it."

Sarah planted her hands on her hips, "And why, pray tell, will I be doing that?"

Jareth's eyes were icy as he clamped his hand around her forearm. "Because," he hissed, "I am not giving you a choice."

And then, they were gone.

xXx

Author's Note-

Welcome, my friends, to the... frankly rather disturbing story of Sarah, Jareth and the Soap of Infinite Cleansing. Who knows where this will end up? Certainly not me. But with writers like Marti and Danika, at least you know it will be... um... well... at least you know it will be really weird.

Let me give you a little background... See Marti and I, we talk a lot. Many is the night that we've drained our cell phones dry chatting and sharing ideas as we wrote. I doubt there is a chapter posted by either of us in the last few months that hasn't been discussed at least in passing and more often written in full while we're on the phone together. I'm not sure who it was that suggested it first, but it soon became overwhelmingly obvious that we had to do a collaboration. So here you have it. We will be alternating chapters, but considering how much of this chapter came straight from Marti's head, you can consider this as close to a true collaboration as you can get considering we're 2500 miles apart.

So let us know what you think, and bear with us... it may be a bumpy ride.

-Danika