Disclaimer: The labyrinth characters do not belong to me, this piece of fiction is written purely for fun, not profit.

This story is only intended for mature readers. It contains adult language, violence, use of alcohol, and somewhat graphic descriptions of sexual scenarios. You've been warned!

Most Prized Possession

By: Jester

Chapter 25: A Secret Rendez-Vous or Jareth to the Rescue?

Sarah's eyes widened in disbelief as she cried incredulously, "What!?! She's here? You've got to be joking!" Jareth shook his head to assure her that he was serious and she exclaimed, "But...I thought you said you didn't invite her!?"

Jareth shrugged and coolly replied, "I didn't. She came of her own volition. I assure you, I had nothing to do with this."

Sarah huffed with dismay, "Ughhh...What is she doing here?"

Jareth regarded her with an air of amusement and remarked, "It appears that you must have made quite an impression on the young lady, since she specifically asked for you."

Sarah let out an exasperated sigh and muttered, "Shit...I was afraid this might happen."

Cautiously he replied, "Ah, so you anticipated seeing her again. Does that mean I can count on your cooperation?"

She shot him a disdainful look as she suggested, "Can't you just tell her to go away or something?"

He smirked at her attempt to get out of the situation and replied, "It's not that simple Sarah. It's you she wants to see. What if she has something important to say? Wouldn't it be wise to at least hear the girl out? Find out why she is here?"

Sarah closed her eyes as she impatiently scoffed, "Oh...I have a pretty good idea why she's here." She then growled in frustration, "Ughh...do I really have to go through with this?"

His eyes wandered over her face as he replied with authority, "Stop acting like a such a child. It will take but a moment, what are you so afraid of?"

She boldly placed one hand on her hip as she hissed in a mocking tone, "Oh, I dunno...that she might try and...tear my clothes off! Come on Jareth, you know what happened last time!"

Jareth stepped closer, objecting, "Don't be ridiculous! This time I'll be watching. If things get out of hand, I will simply intervene."

Sarah gave him a shrewd look and demanded, "And, just how do you propose to do that?"

He pursed his lips as he thought for a moment. A smug smirk grew on his pallid face as he offered, "The pantry and kitchens connect this room to my throne room. I will fetch your attire and bring it to you in the kitchens. You can change there and hear the girls suit in throne room without being disturbed by any of the guests. Meanwhile, I will be watching from the pantry. If my memory serves correct, I believe the door is cracked so I might watch while remaining out of sight. If the need arises, I will merely burst in and interrupt. Once the girl has left, you can change back into your formal attire and we will return to the ball."

Sarah considered his lengthy proposal and hesitantly began, "Okay, but getting changed quickly is not going to be easy..." She indicated her elaborate gown and finished, "I won't be able to get in and out of this corset on my own...and the goblins...I mean, do you really want them involved? They could make a racquet."

Jareth smiled knowingly and smoothly replied, "Nonsense. The solution is simple. I will assist you." She shot him a wary look and he added smugly, "I am the ruler of an entire kingdom of goblins and overseer of the labyrinth, I THINK I can manage a corset." His smart statement did nothing to remove the perturbed look from her face and he finished arrogantly, "It is in the best interests of my kingdom to find out why she is here, like it or not, you'll have to comply."

Sarah crossed her arms, quiet for a moment before she sighed, muttering, "Figures. Fine. Let's just get this over with."

Soon Sarah found herself waiting for Jareth in the deserted dim pantry of the goblin castle. She carefully removed her gilded mask as she peered through the crack in the heavy wooden door. Jareth was right. She could see Desdemonna impatiently pacing the length of the throne room.

Jareth materialized directly behind Sarah. She was bent over, peering curiously through the crack in the door. He leaned close and whispered, "See anything interesting?"

Sarah jumped at his undetected intrusion and hissed, "You scared me!"

The goblin king smirked and replied in a hushed voiced, "Come, she's been waiting long enough already. You'd better get dressed." With a smug grin he lead her deeper into the kitchens where he set the pile of her "page-boy" attire atop a small butcher block table.

Sarah began to rifle through the clothing muttering, "The things you talk me into..."

She hastily kicked off her delicate slippers and shook out her purple breeches. She stepped into the trousers, thankful that she was wearing normal undergarments and wouldn't have to remove anything so ridiculous as bloomers or pantaloons in front of him. She had just started to tug the breeches under her skirts when she paused and scoffed in an irritated tone, "Would you mind turning around?"

Jareth tilted his head to the side, regarding her with quizzical amusement before he slowly turned around. Sarah quickly pulled the trousers up over her hips. She glanced down noticing that the corset-like bodice would have to come off before the rest of the gown. This was where she would need help, as she could barely reach the laces in the back.

She turned so that she faced away from him as she stammered, "I...ah...need some help..." Jareth turned, stalking closer as she weakly finished, "...with the...laces."

He strode towards her purposefully, wearing the confident grin of a skilled predator. He sensed her apprehension, and noted the way she held her breath. He lowered his gaze to the criss-cross pattern of laces that tightly held the bodice together at her back. There at the bottom the ends of the laces were tied together in a simple knot. He grasped one end of the lace between his leather encased thumb and forefinger and began to pull very slowly. As the knot was released, he noticed Sarah's sharp intake of breath.

Sarah tried to calm her nerves as Jareth began to untie the corset. Dancing with him was one thing, but having him standing so close, helping her undress was something else entirely. Her head was already swimming at the notion that he had already admitted wanting her in his bed. The voice of reason in her head persistently kept chanting, "This can't be happening, this can't be happening..."

With a smug smirk he leaned a little closer, pursing his lips in a sultry grin before he used his leather covered forefinger to unceremoniously pry the first criss-cross of the laces free. He pulled the string rapidly, causing the ends of the laces to make a snapping sound as they were freed from their respective holes. His effort loosened the corset but a little. The laces still ran tight up the entire length of her back. He realized with a feral smile that he would have to loosen the thing all the way up if Sarah was to be able to remove it.

In a methodical and deliberate manner he started to pry free the criss-crossed laces. He freed them forcefully, each time producing the satisfying snap as they were pulled from yet another set of holes. His movements were emphatic and deliberate, nearly throwing Sarah off balance as he stripped the laces from the corset. Sarah had to close her eyes and steady herself more than once as he did this. With each snap, she prayed it was the last, as it was becoming harder and harder to not think about the fact that the goblin king was forcefully freeing her from her bodice.

As he neared the top, the bodice became considerably looser, and Sarah held it to her bosom to keep it from dropping. Once Jareth had successfully unlaced the entire length he stepped back before he once again turned around.

Sarah glanced over her shoulder in relief just as Jareth had turned back around. With an air of satisfaction he assured her, "You may...continue." Sarah drew a shaky breath and quickly discarded the corset on the table before she started to wriggle out of her gown. She draped the gown carefully over a chair and stripped off her chemise, adding it to the pile. Clad in nothing but tight purple breeches, she glanced nervously over her shoulder to make sure that Jareth was still facing away from her. Satisfied that he couldn't see her, she picked up the white poets shirt and started to slip it on.

Jareth suddenly interrupted, teasing huskily, "Aren't you forgetting something?" Sarah glanced up with a start to see that he was holding out the linen cloth that she had used to bind her breasts the last time. She swallowed in trepidation and she used one arm to shield her breasts as she ventured closer to take it from him.

She grabbed the cloth just as Jareth released it, the gauzy fabric sliding gently over his leather clad fingertips. Sarah turned away hastily and started to wrap the fabric about her chest. She attempted to wrap it tightly, but the fabric kept slipping, and a barely audible sigh of frustration escaped her lips.

Turning his head but halfway, Jareth cajoled in a silky whisper, "Care for some assistance?" Utterly defeated, Sarah exhaled, frustrated at the fact that she would have to accept his help again. Still, her apprehension was outweighed by her desire to get dressed as quickly as possible. Finally she took a deep breath and softly admitted, "Ahhhh...Yes."

With a smile gracing his fair face, the goblin king turned to behold Sarah positioning one end of the linen strip of fabric against her otherwise naked back. His eyes drank in the sight of her so exposed, wearing only those deliciously form fitting breeches. The creamy skin of her back appeared so smooth in the soft firelight of the abandoned kitchens. As his eyes wandered appreciatively over her body he silently reminded himself that the wait was nearly over. He would have her soon.

He strode forward with purpose as she breathlessly instructed, "Just hold this end here...I can do the rest." He wordlessly placed his hand where she had indicated, his gloved fingertips surprisingly cool against her skin.

Even so subtle a touch caused her breath to catch in her throat as she silently prayed he wouldn't notice the sudden pounding of her heart or the rush of blood to her face that made her ears and cheeks burn.

Jareth noted the way her breath suddenly halted at his touch. It seemed an eternity before she had wrapped the fabric successfully about herself, and breathlessly bid him to let go. She swiftly slipped the shirt over her shoulders as he withdrew, fastening the buttons with shaky fingers.

Upon reaching the last of the buttons she turned around to face him. He helped her into the doublet and then she stepped into her shiny black boots. She reluctantly released her chestnut hair from its golden clasp before she hastily gathered her long dark locks, securing all of her hair into a haphazard sort of twist to keep it off her neck.

She pulled the massive velvet hat over her head with an expression of obvious distaste, and immediately batted the bobbing oversized feathers out of her face.

Jareth looked her over with a satisfied smirk as he slid a rectangular piece of slate across the table. She knitted her brow and asserted, "What's that for?" With a dramatic gesture he pulled a stub of chalk out of thin air, offering it to her as he explained, "So that you may communicate. You're mute remember?"

Sarah rolled her eyes at the recollection and protested, "This is so ridiculous! Why can't I just tell her the truth? We can end this whole façade right now!"

Jareth sternly admonished, "No, Sarah. We cannot. She could go to her father and that would complicate relations with the North. I'm afraid you have to go through with this."

With an agitated sigh she snatched the slate from the table and breathed, "Fine, give me the chalk. The sooner this charade is all over, the better."

She glanced down at herself and quipped sarcastically, "Well, how do I look?" Jareth smirked as he handed her a damp cloth and remarked, "You'd better wipe all that color from your face." Remembering her make-up, she took the cloth from him and scrubbed her face clean.

As she finished with the cloth she exclaimed, "Oh...I almost forgot..." She hastily brushed past him, and reached into a nearby potato barrel. A mocking smirk graced her face as she withdrew a good sized spud and tossed it into the air, weighing it in her hand before she remarked, "Can't go out there without this..."

Without ceremony, she shoved the potato down the front of her breeches and positioned it into the appropriate orientation. Jareth cocked a fine eyebrow at her brazen display and merely shook his head. At least she retained a certain sense of humor about this whole thing. He couldn't wait to witness Sarah's performance. If the meeting proceeded at all like he anticipated, it would be immensely entertaining at the very least.

He followed Sarah to the wooden pantry door and hissed, "Now go. Listen to what she has to say. Use the slate if you have to. I'll be watching."

Sarah responded with a sharp nod and a deep sobering breath before she discreetly slipped through the door.

Desdemonna looked up suddenly as Sarah made her entrance into the throne room. Upon seeing the presumed pageboy, the young Fae let out a relieved cry, "Sargonne!!!", Before she rushed across the room to embrace the page.

Sarah was slightly taken aback as the young woman crushed her in a frenzied embrace. Desdemonna's voice held an edge of desperation as she cried, "Oh Sargonne, thank the powers! I was so afraid that I wouldn't be able to see you!"

Sarah stared down into the young woman's face with a sympathetic smile as she tried to pry the woman's arms from her waist.

Finally the Fae girl managed to collect herself, as she stepped back and began, " I hope I haven't jeopardized your rapport with the king. I told the goblin guard at the gate to fetch you and not his majesty, but I'm not so sure he understood."

Sarah shrugged dismissively as the girl continued, "I know I shouldn't be here. It's just...there's much I need to tell you and the thought of not seeing you again...well, I had to come. When I overheard where father was going tonight, I hid in the cargo box of the carriage. Jareth opened a path directly though the labyrinth to let the guests in. I waited with the carriage until everyone had gone inside, before I went to the gate."

Sarah flushed as she waited for the girl to explain. The young Fae caught her breath and went on, "Father would kill me for coming here, but I heard about the Alicorn and I wanted to warn you."

Sarah's eyes widened as the girl explained, "That alicorn wasn't the only one found. There have been others, and while my father and many others maintain that it was a blood-wraith that killed them...I have my doubts. There are rumors of something else, something far more dreadful than any blood-wraith."

Sarah nodded, silently urging the girl to continue. Desdemonna added, "Some believe that the Shadow Horde has returned, and though it seems impossible, I fear they might be right. You see, there is a forest near my home. It is dark and uninhabited. It is said to be cursed, haunted, so most folk do not even dare enter its shadowy depths. However, I have never been frightened by such silly, baseless superstitions. Sometimes I ride there to be alone with my thoughts, as it's quiet and secluded. Yesterday I was surprised to find the remnants of a great bonfire and the ground all trodden. It seemed as though a great meeting had taken place there, and I wondered why anyone would meet in such a place. When I saw that the ground was also soiled with alicorn blood, the answer became obvious...secrecy. It looks as though a new Shadow Horde has risen from its old ashes and is meeting in secret once again. If that's true, then it's only a matter of time before terrible things start to happen."

Sarah silently watched as the girl's voice broke, "They...they...used to enslave humans! In the ancient days they relentlessly sought out and captured human females, and the males...well those that were not kept for horrid bestial labor, were killed for sport. If the horde really has returned, you are in grave danger Sargonne. I am so afraid for you."

Sarah took a deep breath as her head swam with questions. With trembling fingers she used the chalk to scribble on the slate, "Why females?"

Desdemonna read the question and quickly explained, "Human females are said to be much more fertile than Fae women. Fae maidens, though long-lived and very powerful, are often barren, or at least very inefficient when it comes to bearing children. More than not, Fae women die due to complications. If a Fae woman produces one healthy child in her entire lifetime it is considered quite an accomplishment. When a Fae male chooses a human female to mate with, the offspring will certainly possess more Fae blood than human, and are virtually born pure Fae. In contrast, when a Fae female produces a child with a human male the child retains a certain amount of Fae power, but such children often exhibit more human characteristics. Human women are sought by the shadow horde because in addition to being weak and easy to control, they also guarantee strong Fae progeny in greater numbers, much more than Fae women could provide."

Sarah nodded. What she was learning was fascinating, but frightening all the same.

Desdemonna went on, "The horde consisted of a sect of Fae males that desired power and status above all else. Their aspirations were dangerously high, as they sought dominion over the entire underground and aboveground alike. They planned to achieve such power by out-breeding all those who would stop them, be it Fae or human. Luckily they encountered several hindrances. Though they found a way to ensnare human females with alicorn blood, they were mired by the fact that human females are hard to come by in the Underground. More importantly, they had yet to determine a way to gain entry to the Aboveground. To this day, I believe Jareth and his goblins are the only beings to ever succeed. They had to acquire their females by luring them here using their powers of suggestion in dreams and such. Fortunately, those who resisted the horde eventually combined forces and enlisted a massive army. After many decades of war, the horde was crippled, its few surviving members were dispersed and faded out of existence. However, I'm afraid its ideals and notions of limitless power still exist."

Sarah listened to all this very carefully and scribbled, "What about the blood?"

Desdemonna nodded and explained, "The blood of an Alicorn is very powerful. When combined with the right combination of other ingredients it acts as a potent aphrodesiac and renders the victim placid and vulnerable to suggestion. The human females were so affected by the potion that it was said that they would do anything, even willingly die for their new masters. So now you see why human men would be but a useless obstacle to them, as they are very protective when it comes to their females. I'm so worried for you Sargonne. If they captured you...I don't know what I would do..."

Sarah offered her a sympathetic smile and wrote on the slate, "You don't think I'm safe here, in the center of the labyrinth with Jareth?"

Desdemonna wiped her eyes and nodded, "Yes, perhaps this is the safest place for you to be. Jareth is well respected and his powers are legendary. If anyone can protect you, he can. As for the labyrinth, it is another obstacle in your favor, I doubt even the cleverest of my kind could navigate through it without much effort, however, as difficult as it is, it is not entirely impossible. For I heard that a solitary girl, not more than a handful of years ago, made it through unscathed. I think she was favored by the king. Yes, favored...or very lucky. If you cannot return aboveground, I would venture that the next safest place for you to remain is within these castle walls, close to the Goblin King."

Sarah nodded as the girl sniffed miserably, "At least I have done all I can and warned you. Stay close to Jareth and tell him of the perceived danger, he will know what to do, and he will keep you safe."

Sarah nodded and carefully wiped a tear from the distraught girl's cheek. Desdemonna turned into Sarah's gentle caress and breathed, "I am so relieved I was able to reach you in time...and I'm very grateful that you would see me again."

Feeling more than a small tinge of guilt, Sarah did the only noble thing and embraced the girl, if only to give some comfort and stop her tears. Desdemonna rested her head quietly on Sarah's shoulder for a moment before she breathed, "You haunt me Sargonne. Since that night we became acquainted, I've been unable to think of anything but you."

Now Sarah felt really awful. Apparently the girl harbored genuine affection towards her. She had previously shrugged off the guilt of being dishonest because she assumed the girl felt nothing but lust, but now it looked as though she had been mistaken.

Sarah frowned, wishing she could tell the girl the truth, thereby ending this ridiculous façade. It had never been her intention to play with the poor girl's heart. For a moment she contemplated coming clean, but she reconsidered. The consequences would be dire. Not only would she jeopardize relations between the Goblin Kingdom and the Northern Territories, she would also have a very angry Goblin King to contend with. The thought of that alone was enough to make her change her mind.

Desdemonna suddenly stirred and drew back, softly brushing her lips over Sarah's jaw in a gentle manner. Her liquid blue eyes seemed to be pleading as she whispered in a trembling voice, "There's one thing I must know...Do you feel anything for me Sargonne, anything at all?"

Sarah froze. Just as she had been thinking the situation couldn't possibly get any more precarious, she found herself in even deeper. Hoping to get around lying any further, she carefully considered the question. Did she feel anything for Desdemonna? Yes, that was easy. She felt sympathy. She had no desire to cause the girl any more suffering. That was a major disadvantage of being human, caring came so naturally.

She couldn't blow her cover, yet she didn't want to hurt Desdemonna's feelings, there was only one humane thing to do. Sarah licked her lips, nodding slowly as she carefully wrote with chalk on the slate, "Yes. I care for you, but I can't be with you. I'm sorry."

Desdemonna read the message, and her eyes glazed with fresh tears as she sobbed, "I know. You belong to Jareth. And I...I must marry whomever my father chooses...and I hate it. But that is the way of things. Even if I were to defy my father, what good could come of it? I am Fae, and you...you belong aboveground. It wouldn't help matters any if I were to be cast out of my house, and you could end up banished as well. It would be so dangerous for you out in the wilderness. I couldn't allow that. I suppose I should stop pretending. No matter how appealing the idea seems...we can never be together."

Desdemonna looked imploringly into Sarah's eyes and pleaded, "I will depart and face my grief...but before I leave, would you do me one kindness?"

Sarah nodded, desperate to do anything that might stop the guilt that assaulted her. Never in all her life had she brought an innocent person to such tears. It was thoroughly unsettling.

Desdemonna turned her mouth upward as she begged in a breathless whisper, "Kiss me Sargonne. Just once. So that I might never forget."

Sarah swallowed as her own mouth had suddenly gone dry. A kiss? She could handle that...right? The girl had already kissed her before, so what was the big deal? Of course she would have to initiate the kiss...but so what? Sarah inhaled sharply, assuring herself that she could do this, even if it only made the poor girl want her more, and even if Jareth was watching. She could make this one small sacrifice to give the poor girl piece of mind.

Sarah tentatively cupped the girl's face in her hands and moved in to kiss her. She pressed her lips to the Fae's mouth in a chaste kiss that was as tender and light as a summer breeze. It seemed that for a good moment neither of them moved and then Sarah began to pull back.

Desdemonna glanced up at Sarah, her shocking blue eyes bathing her beloved pageboy in admiration. Sarah barely heard the girl's sigh of contentment before she suddenly returned the kiss. At first her lips were gentle with tantalizing persuasion, her lips warm and sweet upon Sarah's.

Jareth was barely breathing as he watched from the pantry. He was astounded by Sarah's silent charisma and the young girl's seeming infatuation with her. As he watched Sarah take the girl's face in her hands and kiss her so reverently, so lovingly, a jolt of fury seared through his veins. But then Sarah began to pull back and he reasoned that she was probably harboring a fair amount of guilt. She was just humoring the girl out of pity.

He was surprised by the young Fae's boldness as she suddenly reclaimed Sarah's mouth. His gloved hand tightened on the door handle as his entire body tensed. He would be able to burst through that door at a moments notice.

Sarah didn't fight it. There was no reason to. She merely parted her lips and let it happen. Desdemonna deepened the kiss, her firm moist mouth gently coaxing a response. Sarah's calm was shattered by the hunger of the young Fae's kiss, causing a stab of guilt to throb in her breast.

The girl was undoubtedly sweet, and her lips were more persuasive then she cared to admit. She could only do the girl right by giving her what she wanted...right? And Jareth was there in case things got out of hand.

Sarah hesitated for a moment. The girl wanted a kiss to remember. Well she would give it to her, and then she would call it a night. Gathering up her nerve, she moved her mouth over Desdemonna's, devouring its softness. Her kiss was slow and thoughtful. Desdemonna seemed to melt against her as the kiss played out with a dreamy intimacy. The young Fae responded, lingering, and savoring every moment of the heady sensation.

It was an oddly uncomfortable feeling for the Goblin King. On the one hand his blood was simmering over the idea that his most valued possession was being so enjoyed by another. He fumed like a child having his favorite toy snatched and handled inappropriately before his very eyes. On the other hand, there was something compelling about what he was witnessing and it began to stir him. Even in his jealousy, the kiss shared by these fair creatures managed to arouse him considerably, and it was a wholly disturbing mix of passions. He was tempted to remain and watch, but the idea of the situation escalating filled him with anxiousness. His fingers curled around the door handle, tightening, as adrenaline coursed like fire through his veins.

Sarah's fogged mind was just starting to wonder why Jareth hadn't made his entrance, when a low whisper of a voice, like an echo from an empty tomb sounded from the darkest recesses of the throne room, "Desdemonna?"

Sarah jumped back at the sound. She had half expected to see Jareth, even though the voice didn't have the authority and arrogance of his. Her jade eyes widened in surprise as Nyx stepped out of the shadows. His smoky gray eyes were wide with disbelief and his raven's mask dangled carelessly from his fingertips. His bewildered stare turned to shocked disappointment as his somber eyes drifted from his sister to the young page.

Desdemonna gasped in surprise as she looked up to see her step-brother's shattered expression. He spoke with hushed urgency, and his voice, though quiet, possessed an ominous quality, "What devilry is this? You are supposed to be at home."

Desdemonna opened her mouth to answer, obviously flustered by her brother's unexpected appearance as she stammered, "I...I...can explain..."

His eyes flashed like silvery lightening as he stormed towards Sarah, sternly answering, "Well, you'd better...and quickly. Who is this knave that has so shamelessly dishonored you?"

Desdemonna stopped her brother by bracing a firm hand against his chest, inserting herself between him and the supposed pageboy. Her voice wavered with desperation as she pleaded, "No Nyx...Don't. This is Sargonne, Jareth's page-boy."

His fierce silvery eyes clouded with anger as he accused vehemently, "Sister, has this boy stolen your virtue?"

The young Fae shook her head fiercely and stammered, "What?! No!"

Nyx narrowed his eyes at the lad and exclaimed, "But you were kissing! Fire and brimstone, Des! This boy is HUMAN, and Jareth's servant! Do you have any idea what would happen if anyone found out about this?!?"

Desdemonna held up her hand to silence him as she entreated, "I know, I know...but I assure you, there is no harm done here. I was only saying goodbye. I won't see him again, I give you my word. Please, please...don't tell father about this."

Nyx gave his sister a disapproving look as he frowned and chastised in a soft self-righteous manner, "Do you have any idea how inappropriate this is? Sneaking around with a human servant! This is not the sort of behavior I would have expected from a noble such as yourself! Do you realize how foolish it was for you to come here? What if the Goblin King had intruded instead of me? Imagine that dear sister! Being caught red-handed by the King you were offered to only days ago. The very King our dear father is trying so hard to establish relations with! Have you no thought for anyone other than yourself! You very well could have ruined relations between the North and the Goblin City Des!"

The girl withered into a sobbing mess and apologetically beseeched, "I know. I'm sorry. Please...I'll go home...Just please...promise you won't tell father."

Nyx took a sobering breath and softly replied, "I won't tell father, for it would kill him to know his beloved daughter could be so deceptive...but I require your word that you'll never see this boy again."

Desdemonna nodded frantically and promised, "You have my word. Just don't tell father..."

Nyx narrowed his eyes at Sarah and sneered, "Some nerve you've got there human, dishonoring a noblewoman...why I've got a good mind to flog you and bring you face to face with your King, for I venture he might be even more unforgiving than I."

Nyx took a threatening step towards Sarah, when Desdemonna threw herself in front of her and protested, "No!! Don't hurt him! It was I who instigated it! Sargonne has done nothing wrong. He's made me see that we can never be together. Please...don't involve the Goblin King. I am the one to blame."

Nyx somberly considered her plea before he gave a grave nod and finished, "As much as it sickens me...I will keep your secret. Bringing this to light before Father and Jareth, or anyone for that matter, will only cause further complication. Now go on home...get out of my sight."

Desdemonna backed away, tears obscuring her vision as she mouthed the words, "I'm sorry" to Sarah before she turned and ran from the room.

Sarah stood horrified as Nyx now rounded on her. He leered at her with that piercing silvery gaze and began, "That was very foolish human. To dally with the daughter of a high ambassador is just begging for trouble. Apparently, you have yet to learn your place. I'd have a good mind to inform Jareth of your treachery...but then I have no wish to complicate relations between our kingdoms nor do I have any desire to tarnish my sister's good reputation."

His eyes narrowed as he studied the page's youthful face and remarked with suspicion, "You look rather familiar boy, do I know you?" Sarah shook her head frantically in protest as she was overcome by panic.

With a cool shrug he sneered, "No matter. My sister might have been affected by your wide-eyed innocence, but you won't find me so sympathetic. Jareth might have a soft spot for your kind, but let me enlighten you...he is a rare breed. Perhaps I will give you a small lesson in the hierarchy of our realm...you see humans are at the bottom."

With disarming speed Nyx lunged at her, shoving her hard. Sarah failed to anticipate the attack and she lost her balance, landing hard on her bottom on the hard stone floor. Without warning Nyx closed the gap between them. Dazed, Sarah's eyes flew upward just as Nyx drew back his hand to strike her. Sarah turned her head, steeling herself for the blow.

But it never came.

Jareth hurled a crystal at Nyx just as he raised his hand to Sarah. The crystal hit him squarely on the back and he froze, his arm halted in midair.

Nyx grunted in surprise as he forced his head to the side to see the Goblin King storming closer out of the corner of his eye.

Sarah's eyes had been screwed shut but when she heard Nyx's cry of surprise and the echoing even sound of Jareth's boots on the flagstone floor she opened them. Jareth circled the paralyzed noble in a deliberate calculating manner.

Then he kept walking, stopping in front of Sarah. His face was set in a cold expression, his mouth tight and grim as he extended his gloved hand down to her. She could sense his barely contained anger as he coolly inquired, "Are you hurt Sargonne?"

Sarah slowly shook her head as she grasped his hand, the leather feeling cool and smooth against her palm. Jareth hastily pulled her to her feet and turned to face the man who had dared to undermine his authority. Out of line or not, Sarah was his charge, and she answered to him and him alone.

Jareth stepped forward, halting Sarah behind him as his eyes narrowed suspiciously at the frozen aristocrat. His tone was haughty but cool as he admonished, "Nyx, I don't know what sort of manners you Northerners are used to, but here in the Goblin City, I alone dole out discipline to my subjects."

Sarah knew well that such a tone meant that Jareth was not amused. Nyx grimaced as he was still frozen in place. With a wave of his hand Jareth released him and sneered, "Just what is it you were trying to accomplish with my page-boy?"

Nyx lowered his arm rolling his shoulders as he calmly stated, "Your page needs a lesson in manners."

Jareth tilted his head to the side and answered in a mocking curious tone, "Oh? How so?"

Nyx glared coldly at the pageboy cowering behind the King and sneered, "I caught the knave taking advantage of one of your lady guests, my Lord."

Jareth smirked slightly and replied with a believable amount of intrigue, "Is that so?"

Nyx nodded and added, "The young lady was quite upset, so I suggested she return home. I felt there was no need to disturb you, as you have a ball to host. I decided to rectify the matter and punish the lad myself."

Jareth replied in a voice so calm that it unnerved Sarah, "I see. Well, I appreciate your concern in the matter, but you should not have interfered. I will deal with the matter personally. I am the ruler of this Kingdom and as such it is my task to punish my subjects...when they are in need of correction. The night is growing late. I suggest you return to the ball and enjoy yourself. I will rejoin the party shortly..."

Nyx had already started to back away when Jareth finished smoothly, "And Nyx...See to it that in the future you keep your hands off my subjects. Sargonne here is harmless enough, but the Goblins, well, some of them have a rather nasty bite."

Nyx bent in a mock bow before he strode out of the room. Jareth did not turn to Sarah until the door had slammed closed. Sarah too had watched the man retreat with much distaste.

As soon as they were alone, Jareth's eyes settled on her just as she acidly remarked, "What an asshole!"

Chapter 26: First Contact

Jareth slowly looked her over as if trying to make sense of her outburst before he chided, "Oh, you don't like him? You seemed rather taken with him back in the ballroom."

Sarah brushed the dust from her breeches as she sarcastically bit out, "Yeah well...I didn't know he was such a prick, did I?"

Jareth wryly replied with a puzzled expression, "A prick?"

She shook her head, coloring slightly as she supplied, "A dick, er jerk...it doesn't matter."

Jareth smugly supplied, "Well, if it's any consolation to you, I detested him from the moment he opened his mouth...abhorrent little serpent"

Sarah tilted her head to the side and replied, "Yeah, and you made that pretty obvious from the start."

Jareth's expression suddenly softened with concern as he ventured more seriously, "Are you sure you're alright? He didn't hurt you did he?"

Sarah shook her head, "No, he just startled me that's all. I'm glad you came in here when you did though, he was more than ready to slap me around."

He remarked evenly, "Do you really think I'd let someone strike you?"

Sarah pulled the velvet hat from her head, and shook out her hair as she shrugged, "Well, you certainly took your time getting in here."

His eyes met hers as he drawled, "Only because I was distracted by your performance. That was quite a show you put on. Very dramatic. For someone who can't speak, Sargonne uses his mouth quite well."

Sarah grew agitated and flustered at the comment and stammered, "Oh please! What was I supposed to do? You told me to hear her out."

Jareth crossed his arms over his chest in a patronizing manner as he retorted, "Yes. I told you to listen to what she had to say, I don't however, recall telling you to woo her."

Sarah defiantly retorted, "I wasn't wooing her! SHE was the one spouting her feelings for ME!"

Jareth was quick to chastise, "Well, she must have made quite a case then, judging by the way you were kissing her..."

Sarah hissed incredulously, "She ASKED me to kiss her! The poor girl was pouring her heart out...what was I supposed to do? Laugh in her face? Maybe that's what you would have done, but I'm not THAT cruel! YOU started this...YOU made ME dress like a boy and play your little servant. It's not my fault she preferred my company to yours!"

There was a flash of warning in his eyes as they settled on her face, his mouth was drawn into a thin tight line. She had flung the stinging insult before reason could warn her of the peril. She had impulsively antagonized him yet again.

"Way to go Sarah", her subconscious hissed.

For a moment he merely considered her words in unnerving silence. Then his expression darkened, becoming something much more threatening as he shrewdly sneered, "Yes, well...things might have gone differently if you weren't bound to keep you mouth shut. I doubt the lady would have tolerated that sharp tongue of yours. Yes, I'd go so far as to say she favors you as the silent type...after all that tongue of yours could be put to far better uses than talking..."

She was overwhelmed by the urge to slap him, but tightening her hand into a fist, she thought better of it. Abruptly she turned on her heel to get away from him, her face coloring from embarrassment as she hissed, "That's enough...I don't have to put up with this. I did what you wanted. I'm going to change." With that she strode purposefully from the throne room, bent on getting as far away from him as possible.

Jareth however, would not be dismissed so easily and she heard the heavy echo of his boots on the stone floor as he pursued her.

As he followed her through the pantry the ominous sound of his voice struck her, "Hit a nerve did I? Or perhaps you're afraid to finish what you start...since you are in such a hurry to run away."

The accusation made her halt in her tracks, and she whirled to face him. Her fists balled tightly at her sides in response to her rage as she spat incredulously, "Running away? I'm NOT running away! And for the record YOU started this!"

He smirked in that self satisfied smug manner of his before he haughtily replied, "Did I? As I recall, it was you who was dallying with and couldn't keep your lips off our unexpected visitor...and you who attracted the attention of that hypocritical buzzard of a brother."

She clenched her fist tighter at her side inundated by the urge to slap that goddamn sanctimonious smirk clear off his face. She couldn't think of anything that would be more satisfying than for him to return to the company of his guests with a lovely red hand shaped imprint on his fair face. The only thing that kept her hand in check was the fact that she would never get away with it. Her outrage made her voice waver as she finally spat, "Dallying?! I was doing what you asked! I LISTENED to her...something you apparently did not do! Didn't you even hear a word that she said?!"

He straightened, "In fact I heard a great deal."

Sarah stared at him in disbelief and cried, "Then what the hell are we arguing about this for?! When there are obviously much worse things to worry about..." She halted abruptly, scrutinizing his sudden, rigid, and seemingly stoic expression. At that moment something occured to her.

He was jealous.

The first time he hadn't witnessed her interaction with Desdemonna, and back then she wasn't even sure if he had any interest in her at all. Now she knew for certain that Jareth wanted her at the very least, so for him to react badly to what had transpired between herself and the young fae wasn't so unheard of. Jareth was possessive and a sore loser...this she knew, and he was certainly proud as well, so it was unlikely that he would ever take kindly to talking openly about his feelings, especially if they could make him appear vulnerable and went any deeper than casual attraction.

She swallowed uneasily as he stiffened, she could practically feel his ego bristling in response to her inevitable assault. He was readying himself to engage her in battle, and there was no doubt he would be merciless. Caution would be pertinent.

She quickly shoved her foot in her mouth, before she voiced her observation and began more carefully, "I mean...she seems to believe that the Shadow Horde has been resurrected...it's new members now active..."

Some of the tension left his frame as he wearily interjected, "Sarah, we've been through this. I told you before. The likeliness of the Horde's return is next to impossible."

Sarah was persistent, "We'll that may be...but you heard what she said right?"

Jareth shook his head dismissively, "I heard what she said, but that's not the only explanation. There are other possibilities that make for far better scenarios."

Sarah replied with honest curiosity, "Oh? Like what?"

He leveled a confident gaze at her and remarked, "Well, bloodwraiths for one."

Sarah paled slightly, "Bloodwraiths? She mentioned that. That doesn't sound good. What are they?"

Jareth sternly offered, "Ghastly, depraved creatures that feed upon blood. For them, alicorn blood would be a delicacy."

He noticed the stricken look on her face and added, "And no, they are not...good, they are deranged by their ravenous thirst for blood, killing all creatures indiscriminately. However they are not invulnerable, and not very cunning. They are simply animalistic pests, easily subdued by magic such as mine."

Sarah was slightly relieved by his response, but not entirely convinced that there was no danger. After a moment of silent contemplation she questioned, "But what about what she saw? The meeting place? The bonfire? Trodden ground, and the spilled blood?"

Jareth shrugged, "Bloodwraiths are simple creatures yes, but certainly capable of building a fire. The Northern lands grow cold this time of year, and as for the trodden ground and the blood...It is no secret that bloodwraiths prefer to hunt in packs whenever possible. So there is your explanation."

Still not persuaded, she protested, "But Desdemonna doesn't believe that. And what of the rumors?"

Jareth replied with an air of bored certainty, "Sheer paranoia."

She was quiet a moment before she frowned and interjected, "But..."

Jareth sighed and cut her off, "Sarah, I grow weary of this conversation. Logic points to bloodwraith infestation, and until I see something to make me believe otherwise..."

Hastily she interrupted, determined to press the issue, "But why would she feel the need to warn me if she didn't truly believe..."

Jareth tilted his head to the side and proposed gently, "Sarah, it's no secret that the girl is fond of you. It's not entirely unreasonable that she may have concocted the warning to get your attention and place herself in your favor."

Sarah pondered the possibility and was quick to disagree, "I don't think she would do something like that...I mean she was crying for god sakes."

Jareth scoffed, "How do you know she wouldn't? You barely even know her?"

He did have a point there. It was true that Sarah barely knew a thing about her, but something in her gut told her that the young lady wasn't lying.

Jareth grinned smugly and added, "The lady is Fae Sarah. I assure you they are a manipulative lot, capable of much more than tears to attain their ends."

Her eyes quickly darted to his face as she suddenly pointed out, "So are you. Does that mean I shouldn't trust you?"

His smug smile turned predatory as he replied silkily, "Now there's a subject to be breached. Let's just establish something here...do you trust me?"

Sarah swallowed, taking a step back, "I...I don't know."

His smile distracted her from the fact that he had advanced another step. It was a sinister yet intensely alluring smile that made her blood run cold, causing her to shiver. He suddenly seemed too close and Sarah tried to retreat without success. She backed herself up against the heavy butcher block table.

His eyes fell to her lips before he drawled, "Now you've got me curious. Tell me...Do you?"

Sarah's gaze remained locked with his as she admitted, "Yes. Sometimes...and other times I feel as though I shouldn't."

His voice was rich yet soft, "Oh? And why is that?"

Her heart was pounding again and she was aware that her voice sounded breathless as she replied, "I don't know...I just feel as though I should be cautious when it comes to you." She inched to the side and retreated, feeling much better with the table between them.

He gaze remained fixed on her as she hastily added, "I...I should get changed so that we can return to the ball."

His eyes raked over her as he stated, "Yes...by all means..." , before he turned his back to her and added softly, "Just tell me when you are ready for the corset and I will assist you."

Sarah turned away, shrugging off her doublet before she hurriedly began unfastening the buttons on her billowy poet's shirt. A fleeting backwards glance confirmed that Jareth was indeed still facing the other direction. Free from his piercing gaze, she pulled off the linen wrapping that bound her breasts.

She hastily stripped off her breeches and stepped into her dress. Pulling the garment up, and holding it to her chest she softly instructed, "I'm ready for the corset."

Jareth retrieved the bodice from the table beside him and turned around. Sarah was facing away from him, clutching the garment to her chest with both hands.

For the second time that evening his eyes fell on her exposed flesh. It looked untouched, pure as snow, and softer than the finest silk. The expanse of flesh that composed her back was a work of art, turning in at her waist and then outward, revealing the sculpted curve of her hip.

In that posture, with only her hands holding the shimmering gold fabric to her partially exposed body, she looked breathtaking and virginal, shaming even the most beautiful and enchanting marble likeness of the female form, more striking than any goddess.

Tentatively she turned her head to glance over her shoulder. Her face was lowered in humility and she looked up at him out of shy apprehensive eyes that were a bewitching mixture of jade and hazel bordered by captivating dark lashes.

Her intense demure gaze seemed to pierce his flesh stabbing him to his core. He found her innocence, her purity enticing, a seduction in itself, which when combined with her fiery spirit and natural beauty, made for a temptation far too exquisite to resist.

His own heart seemed to pound in his ears as he approached the object of his desire. His soul seemed to whisper in warning, that it could wait no more. He freed the laces from the corset, placing one end of the string in his mouth, as he would need the use of both his hands.

As if in slow motion he stretched out the corset, raising it over her head and lowering it in front of her. She took the front of the bodice, guiding it to her breast as he brought the two ends together at her bare back, carefully arranging the fabric of the gown beneath it. With one elegantly gloved hand he held the corset together at the back as he took the lace from between his teeth.

It proved an arduous task to feed the end of the string through the first set of tiny holes, his leather gloves hampering him further. Impatiently he imparted, "Hold it tightly in place for a moment."

Barely able to breath, never mind respond, Sarah did as he requested.

With one hand securing the back of the bodice, he brought his other gloved hand to his mouth, catching the fingertips between his teeth before he pulled his hand out of its leather casing. He freed his other hand in the same manner and cast his gloves aside on the cutting table.

Now free of his gloves, his hands were less clumsy and more adept for the task of lacing the bodice. He skillfully tackled the first few passes of the lacing when he noticed that the rhythmic rise and fall of Sarah's shoulders had been interrupted by a shallow hitching breath.

Out of curiosity his gaze lifted to the side of her face just as she closed her eyes. His eyes were then drawn to the pale skin of her shoulder blades and he halted in his task. The forgotten laces fell from his grasp.

Tentatively, he raised his slender elegant fingers to hover above the flesh of her contoured shoulder blade. He hesitated but a moment before he let his fingertips just barely graze over the skin there. In the instant of the contact, a jolt of excitement tore through him so strongly that he barely caught Sarah's soft gasp of surprise.

It had been so long now that he had desired to touch her like this, free of his gloves, to feel the warmth and texture of her skin under his curious fingertips. Her skin was so soft, smooth, and full of warmth. His breath caught in his throat as he brushed his fingertips along the contours of her shoulder blade. His movements were agonizingly slow as he waited for her to protest, but no objection came.

Sarah froze. Her eyes closed, as her chest heaved with shallow breaths.

She felt as though she were dying when he approached with the corset, but just as she thought her longing for his attention couldn't get any worse, she was introduced to a new, much crueler form of torture. His touch.

From the moment his fingertips made first contact with her skin she felt as though her heart would overflow. So much of what she felt for him, had so long been repressed and denied. But now as his fingers skimmed lightly over her skin she could no longer suppress the barrage of feelings.

His touch was as gentle as a feather, the tips of his fingers cool against her bare back, but they brought with them a sensation that she could only liken to electricity that seemed to spark through her entire body, igniting her flesh and waking the dreaming demons that dwelt in her heart and soul.

She closed her eyes against the sensation. It was both heaven and hell. Rapture and torture twisted together and made indistinguishable. It was like a whisper, a sweet promise and a dark threat of all the things yet to come. She couldn't help imagining such a touch all over the rest of her body. She desperately feared it and craved it at the same time.

In that moment she knew that his touch would haunt her forever, even if this was the only taste of it she ever got. She was no expert in matters of the heart, but she knew enough to decipher that this probably meant that she was in love with him.

God...why was he doing this to her? In her mixture of elation and misery she realized she was doomed, for how could she stop a feeling, especially when it was so divine?

It seemed she was incapable of breath or rational thought as his fingertips continued to skim over her shoulder blades and trace a path down the valley of her spine only to resume their journey upwards grazing over her silky back.

Jareth was astonished by the softness of her skin and he became consumed with the desire to explore the rest of her young body. He felt as though he would perish if he didn't have her soon. Made bold by his need, he flattened his palm firmly against the flesh between her shoulder blades and with considerable pressure he slid his hand up, squeezing her shoulder before his fingers trailed across the nape of her neck.

Her sharp intake of breath was audible and only further prompted his exploration. Stepping closer, he brushed her thick dark hair aside. Time and space seemed to hang suspended between them as he bowed his head and lowered his lips to her shoulder. His breath came hot on her bare flesh as he raggedly breathed in consternation, "You're trusting me now..."

Her eyes closed, and her breath was stolen away as he tasted the skin of her shoulder. His kiss was painfully slow, and artfully deliberate. His lips slowly advanced to where her shoulder met the side of her neck as goose-bumps rose all along her flesh. Both his hands closed roughly on her shoulders as he lavished searing open-mouthed kisses against her neck. Sarah's heart leapt into her throat as desire surged like liquid fire through her veins. She was melting in response to the increasing roughness of his touch and kisses. Such seduction was beyond cruel...it was villainy. It had to be...for the things it made her want to do to him were positively wicked.

Feeling as though he could never get enough of her, Jareth slowly ran his tongue over her skin, savoring her salty taste. Her mouth parted in surprise at the sheer pleasure of it.

She thought she might die from the sensation, never in her life had anything stirred her so. Rattled by the sudden dizzying and disorienting desire she felt for him, she tensed. Shameless villain or not, she didn't care. She wanted him...quite desperately. The peril of falling washed over her like sudden vertigo, as she teetered on the edge of a terrifying precipice.

Ironically, his hands slid down her arms, steadying her as they tightened about her waist. His voice was husky and breathless as he whispered against her skin, "I know you're torn. Deep down you do trust me, yet out of caution you hesistate. You're afraid of me aren't you?"

Sarah struggled to catch her breath as she weakly stammered, "A...Afriad of you?"

His response was laced with tension as he hissed, "Yessss. I think you are afraid of what I might make you feel...that it might be something powerful...something you've never felt before."

He was so goddamn right that it unnerved her. She wouldn't give him the satisfaction of letting him know how very right he was. She shook her head as she swallowed, trying to gain a small shred of composure.

Jareth was faster, and he wasn't going to make this easy on her. His hands traveled up her sides as he relentlessly kissed the side of her throat, finally scraping his teeth against her skin in a rough sort of love bite, just hard enough to startle her.

She cried out at the blessed mixture of pleasure and pain. His hands steadily traveled upwards as his mouth found her ear. He nipped seductively at her earlobe just before his harsh sultry voice promised, "I know you far better than you pretend. If you would stop fighting...give me half a chance...you might be pleased with how agreeable I CAN be."

It was too much. His words, his touch, his kisses. She was exhausted from fighting. All she wanted was to feel his mouth on hers.

His lips seared a path of scorching kisses up the side of her neck, his tongue sending shivers of desire racing through her as his hands slid over the front of her bodice, coming to rest over her heaving breasts. Rapt by all that was happening, all that he was making her feel, she helplessly turned her head towards him breathlessly murmuring his name in a rasp of surrender, "Jareth..."

Hearing her plea, he looked at her. He drank in the sight of her tortured expression and his eyes darkened with desire.

It was now or never.

With all the purpose in the world, he claimed her mouth with savage intensity.

The kiss was like the soldering heat that joins metals and she welcomed the cruel ravishment of his mouth. The brutal contact seemed to sate her soul, and she returned his fierce kiss with reckless abandon.

For one startled moment Jareth was weakened by the power of her kiss. Never had he imagined that she might respond with such fervor. Something gripped him then, something that was beyond his control and comprehension, and for the first time ever he was shaken. He desired this mortal human girl so much that it terrified him. As his tongue explored the recesses of her mouth his hands flattened against her breasts, wanting desperately to feel the warmth of her skin underneath the heavy bodice.

To his surprise, Sarah's warm velvety tongue eagerly started to explore his mouth just as her trembling hands slid forcefully over his own. Her fingertips were icy, but her palms were hot as she smoothed her hands roughly over his, encouraging him to touch her more vigorously. Feeling drugged by the heady sensations she aroused in him, he savored the potent pleasure of her kiss, her touch.

With her hands still atop his, he slid them downward, caressing her ribcage before they resumed their journey upward, smoothing over the bodice and continuing up to where the corset hung loose at the tops of her breasts. His hands moved magically over her smooth breasts and she whimpered piteously against his mouth as her hands left his to fitfully grasp the material covering her thighs. In frustration she twisted the fabric in her clenched fists as if to keep them from disobeying her. His palms flattened over her breasts smoothing over the bodice, grazing her painfully hardened nipples. She inadvertently let out a tormented groan as her hands released the gown.

The sound of her incoherent plea stirred him further, making him painfully conscious of his intense state of arousal. Suddenly he was aware that her hands, which had just been at her sides were now restlessly clutching at the sides of his thighs. Driven blindly by his passion, his hand left her breast to travel southward. While his assault on her mouth continued, he reached down, catching the hem of her skirt in his hand.

He moved his body closer to hers and she flattened her back against him, basking in the warmth and feel of him. He hitched up her heavy skirts, his hand disappearing underneath. Suddenly Sarah felt the warmth of his bare hand coming to rest on her thigh, just above her knee.

Long slender fingers gently stroked her silken flesh. Sarah gasped at the intimate feeling of his bare hand on her naked thigh. Slowly and deliberately he ran his hand up, caressing her inner thigh.

Sarah's breath caught in her throat as the degree of her arousal was frighteningly intensified. Kissing him back feverishly, she wondered if he was aware of the yearning he was causing between her legs.

As his fingertips drifted higher, her world seemed to skid to a halt. Oh god if he touched her there...she would surely die.

His hand crept unhurriedly up her inner thigh. His caresses were exploratory and lingering, as he savored the feel of her warm silken skin under his hand.

When he ran his hand up slowly towards the juncture of her thighs Sarah's mouth broke away from his as she released a shuddering breath. The intensity of her yearning was plainly written in her expression and Jareth couldn't resist the chance to give her pleasure.

His fingertips grazed her right where the throbbing ache was the most acute. Her eyes were screwed shut in anguish as she failed to stifle a soft moan.

The sound affected him profoundly. His eyes drifted closed as he rested his forehead against her temple and raggedly breathed into her hair with a definite edge to his voice, "By the Fates...I want to touch you." He sounded as though he was in just as much agony as she.

It shattered her to pieces to hear him beg her like that, especially when she too could think of nothing else but the pleasures of accommodating him.

His hot mouth descended upon her neck as he begged breathlessly, "I want to please you. Please let me touch you..."

It had been so long since she felt release, and this was Jareth. Jareth kissing her, Jareth touching her, Jareth begging to please her.

God, it was more than she could stand. She was only human. How much temptation could she possibly endure? She had already suffered more than what she would have thought possible. He was so enticing...and the things he did felt so good. Every fiber of her being screamed that she wanted him, needed him to make her feel things that she never thought possible. But such a thing was so dangerous, wasn't it?

Something told her that if she gave in she would never come out of it alive, but then again, at that moment, it nearly seemed a fair price. At present, she wanted him so badly that swore she could deal with the consequences, no matter what they were.

Incapable of coherent speech, she swallowed her pride, throwing caution to the wind as she nodded, affirming that he had her permission.

Neither of them seemed to breathe as he touched her. She gasped at the raw pleasure of it. He was struck to his core by the feel of her; blessedly soft, shaming even the most silken of rose petals.

Confronted with his undoing, he groaned in a mixture of agony and awe. After feeling her, how could he ever be satisfied? He had to have her. Tonight. Or his wanting would drive him to insanity.

He ruthlessly toyed with her, focusing his attention on the one spot that would surely bring her the most intense gratification. Her breathing became erratic as he pleasured her, and her soft pleading moans became more and more insistent.

As he watched her brow knit in rapture, he felt his restraint beginning to falter. Much more of this, and his self-control would snap. Soon he would have to take her, though he reasoned, based on the way she was responding, it wouldn't have to be by force.

She grasped tightly at the fabric of his waistcoat as she breathlessly panted in little gasps, "Oh." breath "Jareth..."

His suspicions were confirmed. No, it would never be by force. Gods, she certainly liked this. He found this side of Sarah Williams rather fascinating, and quite pleasantly surprising.

Without warning she reached back blindly, finding the evidence of his arousal. She forcefully ran her palm over his breeches, rubbing him through his pants.

Jareth gasped, nearly coming out of his skin at her bold caress. She relentlessly repeated the motion, and he hissed from behind clenched teeth, "Ssssarahhhh...what...are you doing?"

Breathless from the pleasure and torment he was inflicting upon her she panted breathlessly, "I want to touch you too..."

Pushed well beyond his limits, Jareth suddenly withdrew his hand from under her skirts and promptly lifted her in his arms as though she weighed nothing. Ignoring her surprised cry of protest, he carried her purposefully to the butcher block table where he set her down on her back.

Frantically, he shrugged off his waistcoat bending over her, roughly claiming her mouth. His kiss was urgent and punishing and Sarah seemed to melt into it. Just as savagely, he tore his mouth from hers, and began branding her neck and shoulders with searing kisses.

He kissed a fiery trail down her neck, his tongue tasting the pulsing hollow at the base of her throat. His ministrations ventured lower as his mouth teased the tops of her breasts making her moan and gasp with pleasure. His hands seemed to be everywhere at once, cupping her breasts, caressing her thighs, venturing underneath her skirts. It was a dizzying torrent of sensations.

His mouth was upon hers again, his kiss now fierce and wholly consuming. It was so disorienting, that she was only vaguely aware of the hands that were now roaming under her skirt. She felt his fingers brush over her silken belly to caress the swell of her hip. Their counterparts suddenly joined in, and before Sarah knew what was happening, she felt her underpants being yanked unceremoniously off of her.

She tore her mouth from his as his urgent kisses strayed to be lavished on her throat and shoulders.

The hasty removal of her panties was cause enough for alarm, as was the fact that she was on her back, on a chopping block in the castle kitchens in the midst of a ball with an incensed Goblin King practically on top of her.

Finally gathering enough of her wits about her to see the big picture she panted, "Wha...what are you doing?"

Nudging her knees apart and positioning himself between them, Jareth captured her mouth again just as she felt his fingers exploring her relentlessly in answer.

She reeled at the pulse of pleasure as he broke the kiss and breathed in a ragged husky voice, "I can't bear any more Sarah. We finish this now."

She felt his hand leave her and she forced her head off the table to see that he had begun to hastily unfasten his breeches. In one panicked moment of foresight she realized that her darkest most secret fantasy was about to come true, but instead of making love to her in an opulent chamber of a fairy tale castle, Jareth was about to screw her senseless atop a butcher block table within the dingy kitchens of the Goblin Castle.

The reality hit her hard. There had been no admission of love. The endless days of tension and frustration had lead to this, the point where their desire could no longer be contained. Lust is a powerful emotion, and it threatened to overwhelm them like a speeding freight train. The momentum that was building would surely hasten the act, turning what could be something beautiful into a big hurried mistake.

This wasn't going to be an act of love. How could it be? In such a fevered state, it would be over nearly as soon as it began. With disappointed horror she realized this was not going to be something sacred she would cherish. It would be sex, frantic, hurried sex.

She had sworn to herself that she was better than this the last time she had given into the temptation of a frivolous romp while back at school. What burned her the most, was that she knew that what she already felt for Jareth deserved better than this. Of course she didn't really know what he felt, maybe he only did want sex from her...but somehow deep down she didn't believe that, and if he did feel anything for her that was beyond sexual attraction he would probably regret what they were about to do too.

She couldn't just lay back and let this happen no matter how badly her body demanded it, not until she knew truly what lie between them. Shrilly she cried, "Wait!"

Jareth paused, his hands still on the bindings of his trousers as he looked up at her.

Frantically she struggled to sit up, trying to keep her bodice from slipping as she protested breathlessly, "Jareth...wait! We...we shouldn't do this, not here. Not like this."

With a flick of his wrist he was holding a crystal, his gaze was intense as he supplied, "My chamber then?"

Sarah shook her head and weakly began, "No. I...I think if we do this now, we'll be making a big mistake."

He raised his brow in confusion and she quickly added, "I mean...it would be rushed. I think if we do this, I mean do this right now...we might regret it."

He hesitated, "Rushed?" Understanding finally dawned on him and he added, "Ah. Because of the ongoing ball you mean?"

Sarah nodded and he quickly ground out, "I suppose you're right. Perhaps it would be wiser to continue after the ball..." He added with a sinister grin, "I would rather take my time with you Sarah."

Blushing furiously, she began, "Um...yeah about that..."

His expression became unreadable, his gaze intense and Sarah reasoned that she'd better tread carefully. Deciding that diplomacy was the best approach, she quickly reassured, "Um...It's not that I don't want to...because I do..."

His smile returned as he wondered just what she was getting at. She went on, "I just want to be sure that I'm ready..."

He gave her a questioning look and she stammered, "I know, I know. It's not like I haven't done this before, but I promised myself..."

He regarded her with a quizzical look and remarked, "Promised yourself?"

She inched closer to him. He looked so damned charming, when he grinned like that, that she couldn't help herself. She found herself getting lost in those extraordinary mismatched eyes of his, so she looked away as she finished, "I er...promised that I wouldn't do it again unless it...meant something."

His smirk was wicked as he teased, "Meant something?" He was obviously enjoying this.

She nodded, "Yeah...you know...more than just the act itself."

As if finally taking in their surroundings for the first time, he started to understand what Sarah was getting at. Here he was a powerful King with an entire kingdom at his disposal and an equally powerful prowess to match and he had been ready to ravage the girl like a desperate impatient youth on a crude wooden table in the dingy kitchens. Hardly an ideal setting or manner for the intimate encounter he had been waiting for. He had been made to wait years for this, and here he could barely stand to endure a few more minutes. As impatient as he was, he was intrigued by her reasoning, as it suggested that she wanted there to be more than just a physical relationship between them. That being of course, what he had been planning all along. She just didn't know it yet.

With an air of reserved coolness he smirked and gestured between them, "So you would find this to be...just physical?"

She was certain that he was just questioning her in this manner because he enjoyed making her squirm. Deliberately and cautiously she replied, "What I meant, is that I wouldn't have sex just for the sake of sex...I promised myself I'd wait for it to be with someone special."

He considered this carefully and seriously responded, "Special? You mean someone that you love?"

She took a deep breath and replied, "Ideally, yes. I've had enough of meaningless relationships...I just think I ought to wait for someone I have real feelings for, someone who would hopefully return those feelings."

He smiled wistfully, "What a romantic notion."

She looked away and snapped, "I know, you think it's silly...but please keep your derisive comments to yourself. I don't think I can handle it tonight."

He crossed his arms over his chest looking away as he distantly replied, "I have nothing derisive to say. I wouldn't expect anything less than romantic notions from you Sarah."

Puzzled by his answer and his pensive tone, she got to her feet approaching him carefully as she supplied, "Look, Jareth, we are both aware that an attraction exists between us, but I want you to know, I didn't mean to lead you on. I just got caught up in it..."

He smiled slightly and answered, "As did I. But before we return to the ball there is something I must know..."

Sarah swallowed, wondering what he could possibly ask, "What's that?"

He stalked closer, his face very near hers as he drawled, "What are the chances that I could become someone special to you?" For once his feral grin was entirely playful and not at all threatening.

With a slow secret smile she remarked, "I'd say...you have a better than average shot."

His grin broadened in approval as he pressed, "Oh? How far above average?"

She shot him a wry grin as she warned, "Don't press your luck. Above average...we'll leave it at that."

His mused in response, "In that case, shall we return to the ball so I might raise the odds in my favor."

She chuckled warmly as she slid off the table and agreed, "Sure."

She smoothed out the front of her gown with trembling hands, still shaken by what they'd been about to do. Her face and ears reddened as she dared to offer him a shaky smile, brushing by him shyly, before she scanned the floor and mused in a flustered tone, "Guess I'd better put my underwear back on, and actually do up the bodice before we go back out there."

Jareth teased, "The bodice yes, or that Nyx will be salivating like a mongrel, but tell you what love? If you neglect to re-donne your undergarments, I promise not to tell...besides, it will give me something to ponder while I dance with you."

Sarah failed to stifle a laugh as she continued to search the floor, "I don't think so. Where the heck are they?"

With a smug smile he withdrew a hand from behind his back, the panties in question dangling from his index finger. With a snicker she snatched them from him, just as he taunted, "Rather scandalous, aren't they?"

Sarah shook her head biting her lip, "Apparently you haven't been consorting with humans very long. These are probably the most utilitarian pair I own."

He shook his head and replied with an air of amusement, "Ah Sarah, you never fail to amuse me. Shall we tackle that bodice of yours?"

Her eyes met his as she replied, "Alright. But this time...try and keep your hands to yourself."

Chapter 27: Arise Fair Sun, and Kill the Envious Moon.

The darkened gala continued to pulse with the carousal of its masked revelers, despite the temporary absence of its notorious host. Many dazzling pairs of masked guests spun and whirled in unison to the haunting music as two celestial bodies appeared on the horizon of the whimsical masquerade. They appeared side by side, one wearing the golden face of the blazing sun, the other bearing the quiet silvery visage of the moon.

They were both breathtaking in their own right. The pale moon, ethereal in his silver beauty, made only more attractive by his somber demeanor and cool arrogance. He emitted confidence and authority rather than soft illumination. His lithe relaxed body and haphazard smile graced him with an air of casual aloofness. At his side shone his own bright sun, charming and radiant in her warm golden tones. Where he was nonchalant and reserved in his cool appearance, she was warm and impassioned, brimming with vitality.

Sarah took a deep sobering breath as Jareth's gloved hand closed around hers. Despite the fact that she was fully clothed in her formal attire with her gilded mask securely in place, she felt incredibly exposed and vulnerable after all that had taken place between herself and the Goblin King.

Her thoughts were a tempestuous storm as her mind reeled over what had and what had almost taken place. Jareth had kissed her. He had touched her, and he had nearly seduced her. If she had allowed his actions to persist even a moment longer she would have surrendered and made love to him right there.

More than a good part of her mourned the fact that she had halted him in his seduction, for she had to admit that seduction was one art that he had apparently mastered. There was no doubt in her mind that unlike her previous sexual escapades, this particular one would have left her quite satisfied.

Just the thought of how close they had come, was staggering. What was worse was the fact that her body was still punishing her for stopping him. The ache that persisted cared nothing for declarations of love, nor mutual understanding, it merely hungered for gratification, which his body would have no doubt effectively provided. Though she knew she had done the right thing, she still suffered because she was a slave to her desire, especially when it came to Jareth.

Jareth watched from a distance as Sarah found a spot alone at the feasting table. She glanced left and right to make sure no one was paying her much mind before she slid her mask up to rest upon her forehead. She was positively starving and the spread of delicacies was just begging to be sampled.

She took a handful of sugar-coated grapes and selected a goblet of sweet wine. Jareth watched with amusement as she popped a plump grape into her mouth. Sarah suddenly felt a pair of eyes on her as she sipped her wine. She looked over the rim of her glass to see that Jareth was staring at her with a faint smile. Her face flushed automatically in response to his scrutiny as she looked away quickly, turning her attention to a large display of sweet meats and cheeses. Jareth was lost in his appraisal of her, when a smooth youthful voice shook him from his reverie.

"She's quite striking isn't she?"

Jareth didn't have to glance over his shoulder to know it was Nyx. He would have recognized that voice anywhere, like a viper with a saintly whisper. The sound washed over Jareth like a fog rolling in and it chilled his very blood. His face immediately became set into its usual mask of indifference as he turned to regard the stormy eyed young man who had sidled up to him.

Nyx was no longer wearing his raven's mask, and looked thoughtful as he gazed intently at Sarah, adding in that same satin whisper, "Strange...She bears a startling resemblance to your page boy."

Jareth had been anticipating the comment and coolly countered, "No, it isn't strange at all, considering that Sargonne is her twin brother." Nyx's eyes widened as he turned to Jareth and quipped, "The brother she wished away to the Goblins and won back?"

Jareth shook his head and corrected, "No. You speak of her youngest brother, Tobias."

The young man replied, "Ah. I didn't realize that she had more than one brother." Jareth found his sudden interest unnerving and remarked, "Yes well, I suspect there is much you don't know about Sarah or Sargonne."

Nyx ignored the jeer and pressed, "Tell me Jareth, how did you come by them...This time around?"

Jareth didn't care for Nyx's line of questioning and wondered at his motives. With thoughtful consideration he replied, "Sargonne has lead a troubled life, and he wished himself into my care."

Nyx's face was grave as his eyes drifted back to Sarah and he mused, "And what of Sarah?" Jareth noticed that as Nyx watched her, the corners of his mouth curved upward in an appreciative, but humorless smile.

Jareth leveled a cool gaze at him, realizing that the smile reminded him of the ravenous expression of a starving wolf or other such unpleasant predator. Gruffly Jareth replied, "She too is here by choice..." and with an icy grin he finished, "...and that is all you need know about her."

Nyx took a quick draught of his wine and apologetically assured, "I didn't mean to pry your majesty. It's just that everyone is curious about her." Jareth raised a finely arched eyebrow and replied, "Ah. I see, and I suppose you too are wondering if there is any truth to the rumors that have no doubt begun to circulate?"

Nyx shrugged innocently and countered, "I can't help but be curious about your intentions. Everyone knows that the Goblin Kingdom has been without a Queen since long before your reign, and well, it makes for tempting speculation when the girl on your arm happens to be the same human girl who was the only one able to solve your labyrinth." Jareth grinned menacingly and coolly replied, "Yes well, I don't want to ruin the suspense." With that he offered Nyx a feral parting grin and stealthily made his way to Sarah's side.

Sarah was just finishing her wine when she felt an iron grip on her wrist. She tensed with surprise at Jareth's husky whisper, velvety smooth, as it was commanding, "You owe me a dance."

She was too startled by his sudden intrusion to offer any objection as he started to drag her through the oppressive crowd. In a matter of moments he found a suitable spot, hardly long enough for her to generate something coherent to say. He wound one arm possessively about her waist, pulling her close as his hand caught hers in it's leather grasp.

She was forced to look at him as he swiftly lead her right into the dance. She couldn't prevent her eyes from traveling up his long lean form before they settled on his stubborn arrogant face. Her eyes drifted over his lips, thin in a twisted cynical smirk, before terminating at his enthralling gaze.

His eyes were compelling, magnetic. One a cool Nordic blue, the other a warm tawny hazel. They were fathomless, ageless, and entirely captivating, so much so that she feared she might become lost forever, every time she gazed into their bewitching depths.

His features were so perfect, that any more ethereal delicacy would have made him too beautiful to be a man. Quickly she reminded herself that in fact, he was no mere man. He was Fae, a powerful, immortal King, who also happened to be very easy on the eyes.

Once again she suddenly felt very small and insignificant, for what would a creature like him want with someone so plain and ordinary as herself. She masked her inner turmoil with deceptive calmness as she demanded in a cool whisper, "What's with the urgency?"

His voice was deep and sensual, sending a ripple of awareness through her, "Forgive my haste...I simply desired the pleasure of your company."

She raised an eyebrow, shooting him a wry look as he leaned forward and lowered his voice, "Well that and I thought I'd spare you from any more of that reprehensible boy's lecherous looks..."

His eyes slid sideways and Sarah followed his gaze spying Nyx lurking against the wall, his steely eyes still fixed on the two of them.

Sarah gaped in disbelief as she quickly turned back to Jareth. His eyes flicked towards the young man again as he finished, "...While you were drinking, he caught a glimpse of your face, I must say he appeared to be rather taken with you..."

Sudden fear made Sarah's breath catch in her throat causing her voice to break as she hissed, "Oh no, He saw me!? Do you think he'll tell Taibarr? What did he say?"

Jareth smiled smugly before he began in a satisfied whisper, "He did notice that you bear a certain resemblance to my page...but never fear, I quickly gave him a believable explanation."

Her brow shot up in surprise and she lowered her voice, "You did? What did you tell him?"

The corner of his mouth tugged into a confident smirk before he replied, "I told him that Sargonne is your twin brother."

She was quick to retort, "And he believed you?"

His tone was matter-of-fact, "He has no reason not to."

Sarah sighed at his confidence, but she wasn't totally relieved. He sensed her lingering anxiety and for a moment his expression softened as he urged, "Don't think on it. There's no cause for alarm."

He offered her a mischievous smile as he went on, "Come, the night is still young for reveling, you might as well at least pretend that you are enjoying my company."

A sly smile found it's way through her mask of uncertainty as he finished, "Come now...at the very least you have to admit that I'm an exceptional dance partner."

Her gentle laugh rippled through the air as she admitted, "Well, you're much better than Kayla...and I haven't fallen on my face yet, so that must count for something."

His tone was skeptical as he twirled her around and murmured "Count for something..." She was brought back face to face with that disarming smile of his as he huskily added, "Well that simply won't do..."

The arm about her waist tightened, drawing her closer to him as he leaned in and whispered in that throaty sultry voice, "I suppose I will have to show you then...Just how good I can be."

The suggestiveness of his insinuation was not lost on her, and it brought the heat back to her cheeks as she swallowed at his suggestion. In a hitching breath she stammered, "That's really not necessary...I...I wasn't implying...that...I mean...I don't really dance...so I really can't compare..."

Her protest fell on deaf ears as he merely flashed her a dangerous smirk and interjected, "Perhaps the music is a bit too reserved...maybe you'd prefer something more stimulating?" He leaned in and whispered into her hair, "Perchance something more akin to your aboveground tastes?"

She was suddenly acutely aware of the fact that he had pulled her so close that she could feel his thighs moving against hers, and his warm breath drifting over her ear. His arm was tightly holding her waist, and his other hand opened, only to close again and clasp her hand more securely, interlacing his fingers with her own.

She closed her eyes in attempt to suppress the barrage of erotic sensations, to find that it only heightened each and every one. His dark velvety voice interrupted her thoughts as he whispered, "Think of a song...any piece of music that pleases you...something that stirs you..."

She frantically struggled to keep her mind blank, afraid of what he might try to demonstrate. But like any situation where you try to refrain from thinking of something, undoubtedly your brain rebels and offers some thought, which always seems to be the very thought that fills you with dread.

To her dismay, for a split second she faltered, and she imagined the type of song one might hear in a modern Aboveground dance club. A lilting but pulsing kind of music that often results in the slow but deliberate kind of dancing that prompts even complete strangers to go home with one another.

As soon as the thought came, she banished it, but it was too late. To her horror, a very real version of the music she envisioned suddenly filled the room and it was even more compelling than she imagined it.

Her eyes flew open in shock. He was staring intently at her, with a thoughtful expression as he discerned the strange new music. The crowd around them took to the new music immediately, emphatically dancing in a self absorbed hedonistic manner that wasn't much different than what Sarah herself had witnessed countless times in aboveground bars and clubs.

Jareth's attention was drawn to a nearby couple, who seemed entirely oblivious to his watchful eyes. They moved rhythmically against one another, hands and mouths liberally exploring, as they became consumed with their own brazen display of lust.

A Jareth witnessed this, his lips curved into a self-assured smirk. Her choice could not have been more perfect. This was almost going to be too easy.

For Sarah it was an effort to keep from gaping with an open mouth. Having seen enough of the type of behavior the music elicited, Jareth turned back to Sarah, and he seemed full of purpose. She was in serious trouble.

His eyes met hers and the heat in his gaze was unequivocal. Not a trace of a smile graced his face. His expression was intense, his sights set resolutely on her.

Her heart felt as though it were slamming against her ribcage as her breath caught in her throat in anticipation. She knew that look. She was so dead.

His eyes never left her face as arms encircled her waist, drawing her nearer, in the most natural and deliberate manner. Dizzy euphoria washed over her as she tentatively wrapped her arms about his shoulders.

Very slowly he started to move with her, the trancelike music mimicking her dazed state, as his lithe body moved gracefully against hers, warm and solid. The combination of the evocative music, and his close proximity was overwhelming.

His scent was reminiscent of sweet exotic spices mixed something that reminded her of winter and magic. She breathed deeply, committing the scent to eternal memory, as it was sweeter than anything she had ever known.

His eyes darted to her lips, once, twice, before capturing her warm gaze again. She was amazed at how serene and inviting he could be when he wanted to be. A faint smile of satisfied contentment touched his lips as she moved in unison with him.

The tempo of the music increased and she relaxed her body against him. Her heart fluttered wildly in her chest as his hands splayed out, moving gently and persuasively up the length of her back. Her eyes raked hungrily over his face, and she found him so beautiful that it was heart wrenching.

Their dance continued and her pulse hammered away. His appeal was devastating. Longing assaulted her in a way she had never known, as her subconscious warned that such a feeling could never last. A sinking dread filled her as she reminded herself that his role in her life was not permanent.

In less than a year's time she would have fulfilled her end of their bargain and she would go home. A new anguish touched her heart as she realized that once this was all over she would probably never see him again. Reason told her that she should be relieved to rid herself of the Goblin King once and for all, but that was not at all how she felt. Instead she felt uncomfortable misery at the thought.

How had things become so confused? If he was her adversary, than why was she so drawn to him, and why did the thought of going home suddenly fill her with so much dread? The idea that she had feelings for him was nothing new, but it was time she fully examined the depth of those feelings instead of shoving them aside. Impatiently she pulled her drifting thoughts together and the terrifying realization washed over her with fearful clarity. In the past she had known it had been a risk. A distant possibility...but now she felt it with absolute certainty. She was in love with him.

The thought froze in her brain. It was preposterous. It was insane. It was suicide. But the admission was dredged from a place beyond logic and reason. She could deny it all she wanted, but it wouldn't change anything. She was desperately, and hopelessly in love with the Goblin King.

His silky whisper came hot against her ear and it startled her out of her thoughts, "How's this? An improvement, don't you think?"

Not trusting herself to speak, she merely nodded. Her knees felt week and she clung to him for fear of losing her balance. He found her response encouraging, and his hands made their way up her body to cradle her face. Her eyes met his for a brief moment, like sparkling pools of jade liquid, and for the first time they were soft rather that fierce. To his astonishment they held no defiance or malice, but rather a sort of pleading sadness. Moved by the emotion in them, he lowered his lips to hers and kissed her tenderly, in a light and teasing manner.

For Sarah, it was maddening to feel his mouth on hers like that, with so much pent up longing and promise that it shattered her resolve. She wanted to just give in so much. It would have been such a relief to throw caution to the wind and let him drag her to his bed, even if it meant leaving right now in the midst of the ball.

It wasn't decency or pride that was stopping her, not this time. The only thing she clung to was the notion that no matter how wonderful the moment would be, sooner or later they would have to come up for air. Morning would come, and there would be consequences.

The one that weighed the heaviest on her was, What if he didn't love her? What if, for him, this was just a temporary infatuation? What if he tired of her after she gave him what he wanted? He was, at times, so much like a spoiled child that she knew this could be a very real possibility. Or even worse, what if this was all some sick game of his, to settle the score and have his revenge? Was she willing to place her heart in his hands? This was Jareth, afterall.

If she went through with this, and allowed their actions to be taken to completion, things would be different. Would she be able to handle making love to him, knowing full well that things could so easily fall apart? What if she failed to hide her true feelings in the heat of the moment?

Would she be able to accept one night of passion, enjoy it, and then walk away with her heart in one piece? She didn't even have to give it a second thought. She already knew the answer. No, she wouldn't. She was already in too deep. If she took that final step she knew she would not come out unscathed. Whether he knew it or not, it seemed that in the end, the Goblin King did have a great deal of power over her because she already loved him.

Jareth moved to deepen the kiss and for a moment Sarah melted into him. Torn between ecstasy and agony she barely managed to stifle a sob as her hands suddenly slid down over his chest to push him off.

She fought hard to keep her tears at bay and clenched her jaw to kill the sob in her throat as she finally managed to tear her mouth from his. Her hands were still braced against his chest to keep him away as she struggled to take in some air.

She finally caught her breath enough to speak, and to her dismay her voice shook as badly as her insides, and her words came out in a choked whisper, "Please...stop."

For a moment he seemed taken aback, then his eyes clouded with some dark emotion making his expression grim as he implored her, "Sarah..."

She quickly turned her back on him, afraid she would lose her composure. She took a few deep breaths before she began in a shaky, desperate voice, "I'm asking you nicely...please...if there's a shred of decency within you...please...don't do that again."

He spoke from behind her and to her amazement he didn't sound angry. His voice was soft, almost coaxing as he replied, "Do what...you mean kiss you?"

She nodded her head sharply in affirmation as the aboveground music died away and something softer and more formal began. He stepped close behind her, his breath was warm on her cheek and his voice soothing as he offered, "Very well, I won't kiss you again."

He gently turned her around to face him, quickly guiding into a more proper slow dance. She finally chanced a look at him. His mouth curved into a playful smirk as he finished silkily, "...Unless you ask me to of course."

That managed to elicit a small smile from her as she shook her head. She had to admire his persistence, even though it drove her insane.

She shyly avoided his eyes and he noticed that her face was still deeply flushed. He ventured with a hint of amusement, "Shall we change the subject?"

She smiled sarcastically and emphatically replied, "Please do." He hesitated a moment before he began, "Alright, tell me truly...What is your impression of the masquerade?"

Thankful for safe conversation she quickly answered without even thinking, "Well, it's kind of sinister, and a little dark, but overall I think it's better than..." She caught herself as the knowing expression formed on his face. She stole at glance at him, hesitated a moment before she smiled wistfully and cautiously ventured, "I always wondered about that...when Hoggle gave me that peach, that masquerade...was it real?"

His smile was teasing, "What do you think?"

She thoughtfully replied, "Honestly, I don't know. I mean, it seemed real. But at first everything was so fuzzy, and after it was over I couldn't remember how I ended up in the junk-yard. Was it real?"

He regarded her with calm curiosity, "Do you really want to know?"

She nodded, "Yes."

Tilting his head to the side, he answered, "Very well then. It was a dream, but not merely an illusion..."

Her brow furrowed in bewilderment as she ventured, "I saw you. We danced. Was that just some trick or were you really there?"

He smirked and replied, "Yes, I was there...in a manner of speaking."

She gave him a blank look, "I don't understand."

He tried to explain, "Nor should you. Magic often doesn't work in ways that we can understand. It was a dream, but a dream we both experienced."

She shook her head slowly, "You're losing me."

He tried a different approach, "It was a dream, one of your dreams, one of your desires, and I granted it. At any given time, a person has many dreams, all their hopes and desires. At that particular time I chose one of your dreams to fulfill. You longed to be part of the fairy tale. A princess, who only longed to dance with her prince at the ball. It was your dream, I simply made it a reality, if only for a little while."

She smirked shrewdly and remarked, "Long enough to slow me down. A diversion...I get it."

He simply replied, "Well, that was the idea."

She looked thoughtful for a moment before she inquired, "Ok, but why that one? I mean of all the dreams I must have had at that particular time, why did you choose that one as the distraction?"

He smiled noncommittally and replied, "It seemed a befitting way to distract you, and there was the added bonus of the spell...that when you wanted out, your memory would be compromised."

Sarcastically she jeered, "Oh how thoughtful of you..."

He was quick to remark, "I never told you it would be easy, in fact I tried to dissuade you from the very beginning."

She supplied, "By offering my dreams..."

There was a touch of harshness in his tone as he affirmed, "Yes I did...several times. But you refused."

She nodded, "Yes, I did."

He regarded her with a curious expression and countered, "That's one thing that made me curious about you Sarah. Why did you refuse? You see of all the others that ever tried, they may have refused initially, but in the end they always opt for their dreams. Some out of weakness, others out of greed...but not you...Why?"

She quickly retorted, "Are you kidding? You say that as if I even had a choice."

He harshly answered, "I did give you a choice."

She stared at him as though she were just only seeing him now for the first time, "Oh my God. You didn't get it did you? You still don't get it. Jareth, for me that wasn't a choice. I could never have chosen to abandon Toby. He might have been an inconvenience at times, and even a pain in the butt, but he's my brother and I love him. I'd die before I'd let anything happen to him. I would go through hell to save him, just as I would Kayla."

For the first time ever Jareth looked completely lost and he protested forcefully, "But I could have made your dreams come true. How could you just give up on your dreams?"

Something in the way he said it struck her and she replied gently, "I didn't give up on my dreams. I just rejected the offer of them being handed to me at the cost of Toby and Kayla's lives."

He looked as though the notion was beyond him, "But, Why? Why would you do that?"

She sighed, "Because I love them. That's what you do when you love someone, Jareth, you make sacrifices for them."

The bewildered expression on his face made it clear that the notion was completely foreign to him, and from what she knew of him, it wasn't all that surprising. From what she could tell, he seemed to lead a pretty solitary existence, and his title basically put him in a position to do just about anything he wanted.

When she truly thought about it, such an existence seemed both a blessing and curse. True, his power and station put the world literally at his fingertips, but at the same time, it seemed a terribly lonely way to exist, with nothing but Goblins and visiting dignitaries for company. Looking at it in such a way suddenly put things a bit more in perspective for her.

No wonder he often acted like a spoiled child, for how could he ever learn to be anything other than that, with no one else around for company but goblins, who were in essence, beastly creatures that thought and acted much like children. And Jareth, being the head brat of the playground, was never forced to share, or make sacrifices, or was never denied anything for that matter. It all seemed to click in her head. No wonder he was such a sore loser. At that moment she actually felt a little sorry for him.

A little gentler she elaborated, "Look Jareth, I never truly gave up on my dreams. I just realized that I didn't need you, or anyone else to make them a reality. If there's one thing I learned, it's that dreams are not static things. They are constantly evolving. My dreams may have grown and changed over the years, but they are still my dreams. I know that with hard work and persistence, I can work towards the things I want, and I won't have to rely on anyone but myself, and I won't have to worry about giving up on those I love just to achieve my dreams by magic." Sincerely she added, "Not that I didn't appreciate the offer...I just couldn't accept it."

He regarded her silently for a long while, as if he was grappling to understand all that she said. Finally in a very tired voice he admitted, "You know, you have to be the most stubborn person, I have ever come across."

She smirked coyly and replied, "I wouldn't have it any other way. I could use some more wine...whaddya say?"

Shortly thereafter, Jareth and Sarah had settled on a cozy dark cushion at the far end of the room, sipping wine in companionable silence. Jareth watched with interest as Sarah took a long draught of her wine, noting the way she seemed to savor its sweetness by running the tip of her tongue over her lips. "I wonder..." He lulled in a smooth tone, "What are your dreams...right at this very moment?"

She swallowed another sip of wine and replied, "You're asking me? I thought you were the authority on my dreams?"

He noticed that a slight smile punctuated her jest and he drawled, "Well, of course, all I have to do is look at them for myself..." His mouth curved into a sinister smirk as he produced a perfect crystal in his hand. He held it up for her to see as he finished, "...however I thought I might give you the option of telling me in your own words, since you have proven to be rather pleasant company this evening."

She didn't miss the innuendo, but she decided that she'd rather tell him, than have him poking around in her private stash of hopes and desires, especially since there had to be several mortifying jewels involving himself that he might find in there.

She shrugged, taking another sip of her wine before she offered, "Ok then. Presently, I am working towards my college degree, and after that I will probably go for a graduate degree." She slowed down realizing she was going heavy on the aboveground lingo and tried again, "I ah...want to finish my schooling, so that I will be more successful at my um...occupational duties."

He smirked, "Occupational duties?"

She expanded, "Yeah, you know work, my job, so that I can earn a living."

He raised an eyebrow, "Ah I see...and what does this occupation involve? Acting out dramas perhaps?"

She smiled, knowing that it was her childhood dream of being a famous actress, like her mother, that he was referring to. She honestly answered, "Perhaps, but that's not my main drive. I've been studying literature and I think I should try my hand at writing."

He seemed very interested and replied, "What manner of literature?"

She shrugged, "Classic literature and Mythology mostly. Shakespeare is my all-time favorite author."

His face lit up with recognition, "Shakespeare?"

She nodded, "Yes, are you familiar with him?"

His smirk was devastating as he set down his wine and caught her hand in his. Deliberately, he brought her hand to his mouth and earnestly began, "If I profane with my unworthiest hand this holy shrine, the gentle fine is this: My lips, two blushing pilgrims, ready stand to smooth that rough touch with a tender kiss." With that, he gently kissed the back of her hand, leaving her gaping in surprise.

When she found her voice she stammered, "Tha...that's from Romeo and Juliet! You do know Shakespeare!" He nodded, smiling that smug smile of his. She was rather impressed with his knowledge of the playwright, but at the same time she wondered if he had ever solicited other women in such a manner.

His next question shook her from her thoughts, "Do you intend to write plays then?"

She nodded, "I'd like to, but recently I've been studying sonnets."

He raised a finely arched eyebrow, "Shakespeare's sonnets?"

She nodded emphatically and replied, "Yeah, I just had to study a bunch of them in my last class. I've memorized lots of them."

He took another sip of his wine, pausing to smile over the rim of the glass. When he had taken his fill he drawled, "Tell me then, do you have a favorite?"

She nodded without a second thought, and he promptly demanded, "Well...let's hear it."

She thought for a moment and remembered the first line, "Oh, from what pow'r hast thou this pow'rful might, With insufficiency my heart to sway?"

Effortlessly from there on the lines continued to flow in her even lilting voice, with the correct emphasis in all the right places, "To make me give the lie to my true sight, And swear that brightness doth not grace the day? Whence hast thou this becoming of things ill, that in the very refuse of thy deeds There is such strength and warranties of skill That in my mind thy worst all best exceeds?"

As she went on it suddenly occurred to her why this particular sonnet appealed to her. The author's suit perfectly mimicked her wonder at her feelings for Jareth. Her voice wavered with emotion and apprehension as she finished the last few lines, "Who taught thee how to make me love thee more, The more I hear and see just cause of hate? Oh though I love what others do abhor, With others thou shouldst not abhor my state: If thy unworthiness raised love in me, More worthy I to be beloved of thee."

The smile slowly faded from Jareth's face as he took in each line. By the end of the sonnet he was staring at her in that intense manner again. He knew the sonnet well and knew it's meaning. But what his mind was raging to know was; Did she mean the words as she spoke them to him.

If it was her favorite, it had to mean something to her personally, and whom could this particular sonnet remind her of, if not him? Of course he couldn't be absolutely certain, but his instincts were telling him that she was speaking the words to him and the emotion that bled through her voice suggested that she was meaning every single word.

His eyes bore into hers and he noticed that despite her struggle to keep her cool exterior, she was shaken. He was tempted to be frank and extract the truth about her exact feelings for him, but he was aware that he had already pushed her significantly. He didn't want to ruin his progress by being too impulsive. Perhaps some illuminating honesty on his end might alleviate some of her apprehension to confide in him. Yes, a hinted confession of his own could only cajole her closer to the honest admission of her feelings. And he knew just how to do it.

Desperate to break the heavy silence she suddenly insisted, "What about you? Do you have a favorite?"

He offered her a coaxing smile and nodded, "Care to hear it?"

She nodded emphatically as he smiled, knowing full well that his delivery would be every bit as compelling as hers, because he would be able to recite the entire sonnet and mean every last word, as if they had only ever been intended for her.

His intense gaze locked with hers as he began, "So are you to my thoughts as food to life, Or as sweet seasoned showers are to the ground." He noted that at the very first line, her breath seemed to catch in her throat as heat crept back into her cheeks.

With renewed purpose he relentlessly continued, "And for the peace of you I hold such strife As 'twixt a miser and his wealth is found: Now proud as an enjoyer, and anon Doubting the filching age will steal his treasure; Now counting best to be with you alone, Then bettered that the world may see my pleasure;"

She seemed to be holding her breath now and her eyes remained fixed with his, her expression betraying the fact that she was becoming more rapt with each word. He pressed on, determined to make a powerful end, "Sometime all full with feasting on your sight, And by and by clean starved for a look, Possessing or pursuing no delight, save what is had or must from you be took. Thus do I pine and surfeit day by day, Or gluttoning on all, or all away."

She was still as stone as he finished, not breathing, and unable to break the profound, heavy eye-contact that lingered between them. Her stomach fluttered wildly as he leaned closer in obvious invitation.

Her head swam at the implication of his recited sonnet. Perhaps his feelings ran deeper than she originally assumed. Her heart surged with the desire to know the raw truth. Her eyes drifted over his enchanting face to settle on his lips. His kisses had warned her of the depth of his longing, perhaps just one more...

Involuntarily she licked her dry lips and met his eyes, which were blazing as his steady gaze bore into her in silent expectation. Her body betrayed her commitment to remain in place, and she made the slightest movement towards him. It was the subtlest gesture but he noticed. Her resolve was slipping. He knew the next time they kissed, there would be no stopping. He could see it plainly in her eyes.

His eyes raked over her face, seemingly urging her to continue, imploring her not to stop. He heard her exhale raggedly right before a nearby voice interrupted.

"Your Majesty, the hour grows late. I just wanted to extend my thanks for the invitation and offer my farewell."

Both Sarah and Jareth looked up, startled to see Lord Taibarr smiling down at them. Jareth quickly rose, barely managing to stifle the string of Goblin obscenities that were welling up inside him. With a very forced gracious smile he quickly supplied, "My pleasure Lord Taibarr, so glad you could make it."

Taibarr turned to Sarah as she rushed to stand up. Her face was a precious scarlet, as he addressed them, "The pleasure has been all mine your majesty. It has been an honor to make your aquaintence, my lady." Sarah smiled, bowing humbly as he posed his last statement to Jareth, "I hope to meet again soon, Sire...at your request of course." Jareth smiled nodding, "Certainly. I will send word. Have a safe journey home." Taibarr bowed as he backed away, making his exit.

To Jareth's dismay, the ambassador's exit prompted a rush of leaving guests that all wished to bid the Goblin King farewell. To his great disappointment he realized that the moment had been lost. Whatever had been about to happen with Sarah had been suspended. He would just have to wait. Things were progressing nicely, Sarah would come around.

Unfortunately for him, the fact remained that he had been too eager, and his need would have to remain unfulfilled. His impatience would cause him much suffering to be sure. He hated waiting. It was going to be a long agonizing night. He needed something to take the edge off. Thankfully, the sweet wine was in never-ending supply and Jareth sipped it continuously as he socialized with his departing guests.

As the multitude of guests continued to pour out of the Goblin Castle, Sarah felt as though she were wound tighter than a spring. There had been many startling developments and she was about at the end of her rope. She had come very close to giving into her feelings several times tonight. She wasn't sure if she had the strength to endure one more close call. To make matters worse, a seeming endless stream of guests continued to file on by, wishing her and Jareth well. The only thing that made the awkward situation bearable was the mind-numbing wine that never seemed to run out.

It was well past midnight when the last guest filed out the great hall, finally leaving Sarah and Jareth alone. Sarah placed her empty goblet down, surprised to see six other empty goblets that she and Jareth had managed to polish off during the course of the evening. Lying close by were their long forgotten silver and gold celestial masks. Not entirely sure how much wine she had actually had, Sarah did notice that at the moment she was feeling rather relaxed, especially considering that she suddenly found herself alone with Jareth.

Jareth's posture was also rather casual as he turned to her and drawled, "Thank the powers...I thought they'd never all leave."

She smirked, realizing that he too had been uncomfortable. The room seemed much bigger now that it was empty and her eyes skimmed over the remnants of the grand party. Distantly she remarked, "Wow. Look at this place...this is going to take a long time to clean up, you know."

He waved his hand dismissively, "We shall deal with it later..." He strode up to her and finished dryly, "...as I think it's about time we called it a night."

Sarah nodded, "Yeah, I should probably turn in."

He stepped closer, offering his arm as he supplied, "Shall we retire then?" Not entirely sure what he meant, she hesitated and he added, "Come, I'll escort you to your room."

She nodded and cautiously took his arm. They walked together in comfortable silence until they rounded the corner into the hall where their separate chambers were located.

Sarah chanced a glance at Jareth, who simply smirked in a pleasantly playful manner. Probably the wine, she thought, as she slowly ventured, "I...just wanted to say...that I um...had a nice time tonight."

He grinned in amusement, "Are you actually admitting that you enjoyed my company?"

She rolled her eyes and replied, "Yeah I am...though it's probably a mistake to over-inflate that huge ego of yours any further. Your head might explode, or float away."

He laughed freely and the sound was rich and genuine. When he caught his breath they had reached her door. He stopped, holding her hand, as he faced her, "You truly amuse me Sarah. I enjoyed your company as well. I appreciate your compliance in this whole affair, and I thank you for not being obstinate."

Was she actually hearing this? Was he actually thanking her? That wine must have gone to his head. She prayed that he would hurry up and leave her alone, before his good-looks and newfound earnest charm made her do something rash, like grabbing him by his shirt and shoving him into her bed.

She smiled in spite of herself, as the idea sent shivers down her spine. Noticing that he had yet to let go of her hand, she rested her back against her door casually as she affably replied, "No problem...Umm...Goodnight."

Jareth released her hand, enjoying one last long appreciative glance before he suddenly stepped forward and dropped a quick kiss, not quite centered, on her mouth. He retreated quickly, and before she could raise a word of protest he flashed her a teasing, wholly disarming grin finishing in a devastatingly sultry tone, "Goodnight, love"

With that, he backed away, quickly disappearing into the recesses of his chamber. Sarah dashed into her own room, falling back against her door as fast as she closed it. His tender goodnight had literally left her weak in the knees. It was just like him to leave her all hot and bothered like that. Figures, she thought ruefully, as she realized that sleep was not going to come easy.

Chapter 28: The Naked Truth

Jareth tore off his gloves and stormed across his bedchamber, his collared tunic suddenly feeling warm and oppressive. He walked purposefully towards the crystal snifter of amber liquid that sat on his mantle as he discarded his magnificent cape on the floor.

He poured himself a generous portion of the liquor as he impatiently shrugged out of his silver doublet. He wasn't one to frequently use alcohol as a distraction, but tonight was an exception. If he didn't do something to try and take his mind off the girl in the next room, his frustration would surely drive him mad. As it was, it took all his willpower to keep him from storming over there right now.

He swilled half the glass's contents, taking comfort in the burning sensation that seared his throat. Feeling uncomfortably warm, he set down his glass and quickly tackled the fastenings on his billowy white tunic, wanting to be free of the garment. Once the shirt hung open at the front, he quickly slid it off his shoulders and it fell, forgotten with his cape and doublet in a heap on the floor.

He drained the remaining contents of his glass and quickly proceeded to pour himself another. Clad in only his black breeches and leather boots he crossed the room in long strides, catching his reflection in the large floor-length gilded mirror. The alabaster flesh of his lithe pale torso contrasted sharply with his dark breeches. Only the crescent shaped gold pendant interrupted the fair marble-like skin of his upper body.

As he neared his magnificent bed he set down his drink and met the reflection of his stormy mismatched eyes in the enormous mirror. It mystified him how one mortal girl continued to cause him so much turmoil. Even now he yearned for her, his body still under her spell. It wore heavily on him that even when she wasn't present she still exerted such power over him. Well that would be rectified soon enough. His impatience prodded him, 'Why not right now?'

It was an excellent question. She had been only moments from surrendering when they were alone in the castle kitchens mere hours ago. He could push just a little farther. His eyes drifted to the wooden door to her chamber as he considered it. He snatched up his glass again as he paced the length of his room, back and forth before the door, as if contemplating what lay beyond it.

There was nothing stopping him from bursting into her room right now.

How he would savor that surprised look on her face. And after that...well, his mind imagined an endless barrage of delicious possibilities, all of them involved her begging before the end.

He paused, lost in deliberation as he took a long draught, which sent liquid fire racing through his veins. Intensely aware of his aroused state, he wondered, 'How was it that this one affected him so?' It had been hours since their little tryst in the kitchens and yet his body still throbbed for her. By the underground, he couldn't remember ever feeling this agitated.

He continued to nurse his drink, hoping it would dull the aching sensation that plagued his body and mind. Now that he was free of his heavy cape and oppressive doublet, he was cool and comfortable, however his pent up desire made him feel rigid with tension. The mind numbing drink dulled his racing thoughts, but did nothing to relieve his tense body. The only way to take the edge off that type of tension was to indulge in a hot bath. If he were lounging in his bath, at least he'd be less likely to recklessly barge into her chamber.

The ostentatious bath was a small pool cut right into the floor and was continuously supplied by a font of piping hot water. He hastily removed his boots and stripped off his breeches. He topped off his drink and eased himself into the steaming water. It was a reasonable way to keep him-self from going to her, but if she was foolish enough to disturb him, then God help her.

Meanwhile in the adjacent room...

Sarah slumped with her back pressed against the wood of her chamber door as she tried to quiet her shallow hitching breaths. Her pulse pounded. She was shaken, but exhilarated at the same time.

After finally catching her breath, she pushed off the door, starting on weakened legs towards her bed. She reached back, barely managing to reach the laces of her corset. After a few moments of struggling she managed to free herself of the garment and flopped backwards on her bed in exhaustion.

For a few moments she did nothing but stare at the high rafters of the ceiling as her mind continued to race. Jareth's poetic words turned over and over in her head. In an attempt to get her mind off the heavy meaning of those words, she reluctantly got up and undressed. Her gown had grown heavy and it left her feeling very warm and constricted. With a sigh of relief, she slipped on her thin linen nightdress.

After freshening up, she opted to go to sleep. Unfortunately, wanting to sleep and actually sleeping were two very different things. As she lay in the darkness, snuggled into her cozy little bed, her mind buzzed with a frenzy of thoughts, all of which were variations on the same theme...The Goblin King.

She was assaulted by the memory of his hands on her body, his smooth alluring voice, and his heart-stopping kisses. When she managed to clear her head of these things, the words of the sonnet echoed through her thoughts, plaguing her. Faster and faster the barrage of thoughts circulated, as her mind clawed desperately for an answer to what it all meant, making sleep utterly impossible.

Her entire being thrummed with the need to know. How did he really feel? She wouldn't have a moment's peace until she knew the answer. She needed to find out. She had to know.

It might have been a foolish thing to want, but the damage was already done. Whether she kept her feelings buried deep inside, or came clean, it no longer mattered. Either Jareth would break her heart or he wouldn't. What did it matter anyway if she gave into her feelings? She was already suffering. She might as well confront him and get it over with. At the very least she would find out the truth of his intentions, and if they weren't so honorable, she would face the pain, deal with her grief, and get on with her life.

She wrung her hands fretfully, all this uncertainty was killing her. She tossed and turned restlessly, nearly out of her mind with longing for him, her body now ruthlessly awakened. A thought surfaced, a delicious possibility, both terrifying and exciting her.

She could go to him and get her answers by being brutally honest with him. She could just ask him, point blank, what he felt for her. He had been very up front and honest with her this evening, and she felt that she had a fair chance of learning the truth if she went about it diplomatically. At the very least he might be merciful (or cruel) enough to force himself on her and put her out of her misery. The idea muddled her mind as she recalled the sweetness of the kisses that still lingered on her lips.

With a huff of frustration she finally flung her covers aside with the utmost impatience, and muttered "Awwww...Damn it!". Dressed in nothing but her short sleeved linen chemise, she padded across the cold stone floor in her bare feet, only stopping when she stood face to face with the heavy oak door that lead to the Goblin King's bedchamber.

Nervously biting her lower lip in a moment of hesitation, she tentatively brought her fist up to knock. And just as before, the door slowly swung open of it's own accord; a silent, and ominous invitation to enter.

Having already made up her mind, she swallowed her pride, ducking her head as she purposefully charged inside. Knowing full well that her courage was hanging by a thread, she decided that firm directness was the only way to proceed. The room was fairly darkened, a few wall sconces still burned casting the room in subtle firelight, but the dimness didn't deter her, she knew where she was going and what she had to say.

Prefacing her announcement with a deep breath, she gushed in an urgent tone, "Jareth, we have to talk...I..."

As her eyes left the floor a soft gasp escaped from between her petal soft lips and her carefully chosen words died in her throat.

She had been so preoccupied during her hasty advance that she had failed to notice that Jareth wasn't simply standing in his room, awaiting her intrusion, and that he was, in fact, lounging in his bath.

His posture was that of casual relaxation interrupted by a sudden piqued interest at her bold entrance. He had been leaning back against the edge of the tub relaxation, but at the sound of her entry he stirred and straightened. His arms rested comfortably along the edge of the stone. In one hand he held a glass of amber liquor.

For one startled instant Sarah was helpless to do nothing but stare, her traitorous eyes quickly appraising his glistening pale chest and his lithe willowy arms. He was lean, but not without definition. In fact, he seemed a work of art, his pale body reminding her of a marble statue like that of David or Adonis.

She had been in Jareth's chamber before, so that was not what rendered her speechless. She had on several mornings even been present as the Goblin King bathed, however, she had come to know his morning routine, and she always managed to carefully busy herself and keep her eyes elsewhere while he was bathing.

This was a very different scenario. She hadn't been prepared. She had burst headlong into the room, looked up, and quite a sight awaited her. She was eternally grateful that the water at least came up to his torso, hiding the rest in its darkened depths.

The enormous basin, that was his bath, was cut directly into the floor near the foot of his bed, and he was at the far end, facing the door she had just come through. Steam was rising from the surface of the water, and the foreboding effect was only heightened by the orange light cast by the fire raging in the yawning mouth of the black marble hearth. In the midst of all the dark ambiance was Jareth, quietly waiting like a seasoned predator.

For a split second a satisfied smirk tugged at the corner of his mouth. He had hoped she would be foolish enough to bother him here and now, but in truth he hadn't expected her to. Talk about the epitome of pleasant surprises.

It appeared fate was on his side tonight after all.

It seemed she stopped breathing as she took him in. His wild platinum hair was made gold in the firelight, the very ends of it damp and clinging to his skin. She noticed the amulet that hung over his chest, just barely out of the water. He exuded a sort of lazy, confident power, coolly regal even in his state of undress.

Still agape in shock, she finally raised her eyes to find that he was watching her. His eyes locked with hers, drinking in the startled surprise on her face, making her look like such an innocent. She could do nothing but gawk at him as her mind completely shut down, his intense heated gaze causing a sort of sensory overload. The only thought that seemed to weakly trickle through the blockage in her muddled brain was, "Jareth...naked...and...very wet."

His gaze was smoldering, as his alluring mouth curved into a lazy and satisfied smirk. His words were thick and seductive, velvety, and tangible as they hung in the air, "Sarah, do come in. By all means, why don't you join me."

It was as if his words shocked her body back into action. Red-faced and flustered she frantically averted her eyes, stammering, "Oh...sorry. I...Uh...It can wait...I...I'll just go..."

She turned around to find that the door had already closed behind her and to her horror the handle had mysteriously vanished. He sounded amused, his voice teasing as it assaulted her back, "Don't be ridiculous. It must be rather important for you to come storming in here like that."

Realizing she wasn't getting out the way she came in, she turned slowly, carefully averting her eyes as she protested, "No really, I...It can wait...I shouldn't have disturbed you."

It occurred to her that she was totally losing her nerve, but she hadn't anticipated walking in him while he was naked and bathing. In truth, his state of undress alone had totally shattered her delicate concentration to pieces.

He swirled the contents of his glass, taking a generous sip of the potent liquor, his eyes raking hungrily over her form as if savoring her appearance along with the taste of his drink. His tone was commanding, "Nonsense. You haven't disturbed me. Join me...in a drink."

She made the mistake of looking at him, as she breathlessly repeated, "A drink?" Once she met his smoldering gaze, she couldn't tear her eyes away. He was so good at making her feel unsure of herself.

His eyes held hers, his expression was deliciously sinister as he roguishly taunted, a little drunkenly, "Yes. Have a drink...and join me." He rested his arms on the edge of the tub in an open gesture of invitation that was startlingly casual.

Her eyes betrayed her command to not move, and they dropped to peruse his wet torso. Sweet Jesus, he was the very personification of temptation and she swore there were flames dancing in his eyes. He had to be the devil, or a demon far worse. Even as she was protesting, she felt the pull of her desire to give in, "I...I...don't think that's such a good idea..."

His gaze settled on hers as he absently swirled his drink and taunted, "Sarah...what is that you wanted? Obviously something prompted you to come rushing into my chamber."

His cool, self-assured mocking tone suddenly made her feel fifteen again, as if he had just come to inform her that he had taken her brother and that she would have to run the labyrinth. He was every inch that same King who had terrified and thrilled her way back then, only now something had changed.

Of course there was the obvious difference that he was leisurely bathing in a state of undress, but there was more to it than that. His tone wasn't threatening as it had been back then. No, it was playful, almost recklessly casual, and his smile was every bit as teasing as it was smug.

Her eyes darted to the nearly empty glass in his hand and suddenly she understood. He had been drinking; quite heavily, by the looks of it. Her brow shot up in surprise as she stammered, "You...you're drunk...I mean, you've been drinking."

He arched one fine eyebrow, "How very astute of you. I have been drinking, but no, I'm not drunk. Mildly intoxicated maybe..." His eyes gave her body a cursory glance as he smiled wickedly and purred, "...but I assure you I am still in full possession of my faculties."

She was scarcely able to deal with him when he was fully dressed and entirely sober, and now he was bathing nude and acting drunkenly forward, she was, to put it lightly, quite in over her head. It hadn't escaped her attention that he was looking at her as though she were his next meal.

Suddenly feeling intensely vulnerable, she crossed her arms defensively over her chest sharply replying, "That's all well and good and all, but really, it's late. I ah guess I'll just be going..."

With that, she made for the other side of the room, heading towards the other door that lead out to the hall, when his commanding voice halted her, "Wait. You didn't answer my question."

She turned suddenly upon seeing that once again there was no door handle. Whirling to face him she snapped, "I said it could wait. Now, if you'd please let me out..."

Abruptly, he pushed himself off the side, making his way to the other side of the bath. Crossing his arms on the edge of the tub, he rested his chin on top, smiling flirtatiously as he continued to stare at her with his penetrating gaze.

Playfully he remarked, "Tell you what. I'll let you out on one condition..."

Her eyes didn't leave his as she probed, "What condition?"

He flashed her a teasing smile and replied a little drunkenly, "On the condition that you tell me what you really came in here to tell me..."

She had already begun to nod when he added, "...and that you join me in a drink..."

Realizing that there was no sense in arguing, she sighed and replied in defeat, "Alright...fine." She couldn't help looking down at him and her heart felt as though it were melting as he cracked a wide grin.

Wordlessly, he pointed to the snifter on the mantle as an extra glass materialized beside it. Sarah reluctantly went to the mantle and poured herself a glass of brandy. With shaky fingers she brought the glass to her lips and took a sip of the burning liquid as she heard him drawl from behind, "Now get in the bath."

She choked as she turned to face him. She coughed a few times, the fiery draught burning her throat as she forced her reply, "Excuse me!?"

His eyes settled resolutely on hers as he countered, "You heard what I said. If you want to leave, you answer my question, over a drink." Silkily he finished, "...in my bath."

She slowly clarified in a shocked voice that was little more than a whisper, "You want me to get in the bath with you?"

His eyes never left hers.


Her body was practically jumping at the chance, but her mind however, remained terrified. This was not at all how this was supposed to go, but then, she hadn't counted on him being in his bath.

He continued to watch her expectantly, and her insides lurched at the idea that he was waiting for her to undress. He may have been comfortable with his nudity, but she had always been self-conscious of her body, and her inexperience certainly didn't help. Not to misunderstand. She had had a few limited sexual encounters, but as far as she was concerned, not even a million lovers could have prepared her for this.

There was no way she was going strip down in front of him, she had to draw the line somewhere. Tentatively she stammered, "I'm not taking off my clothes, if that's what you're thinking."

A slight smile graced his fair face as he backed away, reaching the far end of the bath to give her some space, as he casually replied, "Suit yourself."

Suddenly feeling the need to take the edge off the nagging anxiety, she tilted her head back and drained the brandy from her glass. Jareth regarded her silently as she refilled her glass and approached the edge of the bath.

Steam was rising from the surface of the water, making the room feel even more stifling than the blood-warming liquor that she had just consumed. As she stepped into the bath, onto the first stone step beneath the surface of water she thought, "I can't believe I'm actually doing this..."

Though one part of her was intensely apprehensive, she couldn't help but be slightly proud of herself for not running away. She would get her answers, one way or another, and if that meant bathing with Jareth, then so be it.

Her eyes flickered up to regard him as she descended down into the bath. The steaming water enveloped her calves. It's warmth a blessing on her tense muscles, for she felt as though she were strung tighter than a bowstring.

The water crept up her thighs, and she ventured deeper into the pool. The water was now lapping at her backside as she moved. Higher and higher it climbed, sending a shiver of pleasure through her as it crept like liquid fire between her legs. The warmth of it engulfed her as she sank up to her chest, leaning against the edge of the bathing pool opposite Jareth.

The wet fabric of her chemise, made translucent by the water, clung to her moist skin and she sunk lower in the water, as she was quite sure that her breasts must have been quite visible through the wet material.

What had she been thinking wading into his bath with nothing on but a white linen nightgown? Who was she kidding...what was she thinking coming here in the first place?

He was in complete control of the situation, and the realization made her very nervous.

Jareth watched with quiet interest as she anxiously sipped her drink, his eyes momentarily dropping to skim over her wet chest, before they darted back to her face. Pensively, he drained his glass, as if contemplating its contents, then setting it aside, he pursed his lips and smoothly began, "Now...what was it you wanted to say?"

Sarah swallowed in trepidation, trying to suppress her nervousness, hoping that her voice didn't sound as frightened as she felt, "I...errr...Well...there's something I think we ought to discuss..."

He regarded her expectantly and she continued without stopping for a breath, "Obviously there is an...attraction that lies between us, and...well, to be honest, it...concerns me."

His expression was one of intrigue as he replied silkily, "Oh? Why should it concern you? As I believe, it is plainly...mutual."

"Um, well, yeah, it is...but for one, our past concerns me." She gushed.

There was a hint of mocking amusement in his tone as he retorted, "Why, because once upon a time we were adversaries?"

She found his penetrating gaze unnerving, so she looked away as she replied, "Partly."

She could practically feel the weight of his gaze as he demanded, "And what's the other part?"

She risked a glance at him as she stammered, "Well, I'm not really sure of your intentions, I mean...I'm not sure why you even want me here."

He was silent for a moment, and then he thoughtfully replied, matter-of-factly, "Sarah, have I ever lied to you?"

"I..." she began weakly, the words dying in her throat before she finally admitted, "I suppose not."

His eyes locked with hers as he supplied, "And I see no reason to start now. So if there is something you wish to know, all you need do is ask."

She took a deep breath and exhaled in a rush of tumbling words "How do you feel about me?"

He seemed to consider the question carefully. Finally he pursed his lips and drawled, "I might be inclined to ask the same of you."

Shyly she protested, "I asked you first."

There was a hint of amusement in his voice as he retorted, "Ah yes. Your precious fairness, I might have known." He carefully considered her question and he came to a simple conclusion. She was ready. Her longing had prompted her to come to him. She wanted answers, and he would give them. There was no reason to hold back, for at that moment he was certain that brutal honesty in the admission of his feelings would be the certain route to swift victory. She had been moments from surrender earlier, but they had been interrupted and she had slipped through his fingers. Now they were alone, there was no escape, he would be relentless and she would succumb. She would be his.

With a confident grin he drawled, "Very well then, I propose an agreement. I'll answer your question truthfully in exchange for the same courtesy from you."

Her eyes boldly met his as she nodded, "Fair enough."

He pushed off from the side, slowly coming towards her as he thickly replied, "Are you certain you're ready for my answer?" His intense gaze held her still as he approached, a slight nod being all she could manage.

Victory was imminent. He felt it. The feeling was so tangible that it tingled and surged like magical energy, crackling through his veins.

He stalked closer, like a very graceful and wet work of art, his mouth twisting into a devastatingly seductive smirk, as he droned, "When you first invoked my goblins, I thought you a petulant brat..."

His eyes strayed to her lips as he added, "...Yet something about you captured my interest."

He leaned in as he went on, "When you started off through the labyrinth, I was sure you would soon give up, but you were persistent. Then you landed in the oubliette, and I was certain that you would quit when the dwarf informed you that you'd have to start all over again, but no. No, you were still far too determined to give up that easily."

His eyes perused the surface of the water, just over her breasts as he viciously slurred, "It is beyond me how you managed to persuade that dwarf to disobey my direct orders by helping you, for he is, without a doubt, the most cowardly wretch in my entire kingdom..." His gaze rose and locked with hers. The ferocity in his eyes was startling.

Sarah swallowed the fear that started to well up within her. She had no idea where this was going, and she was more than a little scared. He was so unpredictable. Was he really angry, or was he just toying with her? Her mind suddenly felt very fuzzy, and her face felt as though it were on fire.

She couldn't be sure if it was the overabundance of alcohol, or the fact that Jareth had her trapped in his tub. Her ears burned at the realization, as her subconscious reminded her that he was most assuredly naked under that dark water.

More than a little rattled, she slid off the underwater stone perch that she had settled on. She fought the dizziness as she stood, and retreated to the side of the pool trying to escape his advance.

It was to no avail.

He moved closer still, trapping her between himself and the edge of the bath. She flattened her back against the edge of the tub as he stalked closer, desperately trying to widen the distance between them. She tried to quiet the frantic mantra in her head that kept repeating, he's naked and he's coming closer.

His tone was chastising, yet unspeakably enticing, as it interrupted her thoughts, "You managed to overcome every obstacle in your path, and it tested my patience, so much so that I decided to personally intervene." Harshly he finished, "I made your dream a reality, but that still wasn't good enough for you..."

Suddenly his voice took on a dangerous tone, and she shuddered involuntarily, as he leaned forward closing the distance between them, and breathed close to her skin, "I underestimated you Sarah. Only when our time was up did I realize how strong-willed you were."

She savored the heady scent of brandy as his warm breath drifted over her cheek.

He leaned a little closer and whispered in a voice laced with regret, "Barely more than a child, and yet you still boldly defied me."

His hushed voice was an intimate accusation, meant only for her, "Cruelly you denied all I offered, and refused to see me as anything but a villain."

Suddenly he drew back, and as his darkened eyes met hers. They seemed bitter, wounded somehow, and the sight made her heart ache, just as it made her body tremble.

Softly he continued, "...When all I had done was exactly what you asked me to do. I took the child because you asked. When that was no longer what you wanted, I engaged you in the game. Our time ran out and I finally realized how worthy an opponent I was facing."

He looked away for a second, his tone suddenly wistful and disbelieving as he breathed, "So much power at my fingertips, and it was entirely useless, because the realization had come too late."

His eyes returned to meet hers and his tone was resolute as he went on, "Finally I knew what I wanted, but there wasn't time to stake my claim. You were incapable of hearing me, as you had already made up your mind. You distrusted me. It was too late to make you understand. You said the words, and so it ended."

Again his voice seemed to hold a tinge of regret, "You won back your brother, and vanished from this world. The fairy tale was over for you, life went on...but the story didn't end for me...not there."

Harshly, he sneered, "Oh no. Since that moment, I have lived in exile. Banished from your world, finally graced with the knowledge of what it was I wanted, but cursed, in that it was the one thing that was completely beyond my reach."

He leaned in, his mouth hovering close to her cheek as he assured her in a sultry whisper, "But you see, I too am determined when it comes to getting what I want, and so I waited...biding my time, until the solution presented itself." He paused for a moment before he breathed, close to her ear so that she could barely hear him, "How ironic that the object that lead to my downfall, would also be my salvation."

The tip of his nose brushed teasingly against her cheek as he whispered, "The very story that supplied you with all you needed to succeed against the labyrinth, also prompted your precious Kayla to make that foolish wish, thrusting you back into my world."

Breathing deeply of her scent, he decided it was time to go in for the kill.

He moved to just barely brush his lips over hers in the most provoking manner, before he warmly chuckled, "Funny how instrumental that little red book has been...and how very predictive too."

Sarah's body had gone rigid at his intrusion and the implications of his words. She felt as though it had been an eternity since she had last drawn breath. Still, she steeled herself for what would come next, remaining frozen in place as he confessed throatily, "You see there is some truth to that little story you treasure so much. I HAVE fallen in love with the girl."

It seemed her heart had stopped there, and it took a great deal of effort for her to hear what he murmured into her hair.

His voice was thick with emotion as he admitted, "An entire kingdom at my disposal, centuries of wisdom...inexplicable power, yet the one thing I desired above all else continued to allude me."

Her eyes closed in slow agony as his lips found her ear and he breathed raggedly, "Well, no more. What I have been longing for, is finally within my grasp. You Sarah...you my worthy opponent, my most prized possession, you, for whom I would turn the world upside down, my one true rival, my one true love."

A torrent of emotion rose within her, and she screwed her eyes shut tighter, causing one hot tear to leak down her cheek. Rigidly, she clamped her mouth shut, barely stifling a tortured sob of relief behind her trembling lips. His mouth moved over her cheek, tasting her sweet exultant tears. His lips dropped to graze her jaw as finished silkily, "There is nothing I've wanted more, and I'll be damned before I let you go, this time around."

His hands were suddenly cradling her face, and she was unable to hold back any longer. She turned, parting her lips as she forcefully slid her mouth under his. There was nothing gentle or innocent about the way she kissed him. It was a kiss of utter desperation; long, fervent, and achingly deep, the act of one pushed well beyond her breaking point.

Her passion was startling, taking Jareth completely by surprise. He scarcely had time to react, when he felt her hands upon him. Her palms felt wondrously hot as they slid up, slowly over his wet chest. He sighed against her mouth at the blessed agony that was her delicate touch, and her passionate kiss. Her arms finally came to rest on his shoulders, and nothing in the world could have felt more right.

Incensed by her zealous response to his admission, he deepened the kiss, stirring his need further, his tongue stroking provocatively against hers. The kiss reached a frightening intensity, as his fingers buried themselves in her dark lustrous hair. It was the texture of the richest silk.

The power of that kiss was undeniable, and it shook both of them. Jareth's need for her was insatiable, the ache so acute, that it startled and disoriented him. He pulled back suddenly, as though she'd burned him, sudden tormented uncertainty apparent in his extraordinary eyes.

Raggedly he breathed in a stern warning, "This is not the time to tease, Sarah..."

The frightening intensity of his expression and the urgency with which he entreated her, made it clear that he was deadly serious as he breathlessly added, "If you aren't prepared to see these actions brought to completion...you'd better leave. Right now."

She stared at him in open astonishment as she witnessed his struggle to maintain his restraint. The revelation that he was in such turmoil over his desire for her, moved her like nothing ever had. To turn away from him at that moment would have been impossible. Her own heart overflowed with her yearning for him, as the realization sang through her entire being.

He loved her.

Suddenly, he no longer seemed the callous, all-powerful monarch she had once known. At that moment she saw something new in the Goblin King; an intense sort of desperation. For a moment she got a glimpse of what was lurking behind his mocking, self-assured exterior, and it startled her. She saw someone who had been tormented, someone who was suffering...Someone who was at the end of his rope.

He looked exhausted as he stared back at her, a tortured look in his eyes, like one who is starving, or dying of thirst. It became perfectly clear at that moment. This was no villain she was dealing with, for how could someone who looked at her with such intense longing ever be her enemy.

He had suffered every bit as much as she. He had been made prisoner by his own pride, his own scorn doing far more damage than she would have ever wished upon him. In truth, she was tired of fighting. And now there was no reason to.

Chapter 29: Surrender

She had waited long enough. It was time to put an end to all this misery.

Deliberately, she leaned in, brushing her lips over the corner of his mouth as she murmured thickly, "I'm not leaving..."

Glancing up at him, she savored the look of bewildered astonishment on his ethereal face.

For Jareth, it suddenly seemed as if everything were moving in slow motion. Sarah lightly kissed his mouth and breathed, "I'm not going anywhere tonight..." Her lips gently brushed against his a second time as she added in a low, enticing, whisper "...Except your bed."

Her darkened eyes rose to meet his, and they glittered with desire as she breathlessly admitted, "I am so tired of being afraid...of hiding my feelings out of fear...and pretending that you aren't everything I've ever dreamed of."

She was unable to finish, as he pulled her roughly, almost violently to him. His mouth came crashing down upon hers, her words smothered by his fiercely possessive kiss. The excitement that tore through every fiber of her body was so overwhelming, that it was beyond frightening; It was crippling. His kiss was deep and galvanizing, turning hungry as he devoured her soft mouth.

Thankfully, his arms tightened around her, effectively locking her in place against his body. It was the only thing that prevented her from swooning. Her filmy nightgown was the only barrier between them, and in its saturated state, it was flimsy at best. The feel of his warm naked body against her caused a delicious shockwave that shook her to her core.

His tongue boldly invaded her mouth, stroking provocatively against hers, causing a thrilling flutter within her stomach. Her mind was no longer capable of forming rational thoughts, and it was her body that prompted the appropriate reaction. She returned the kiss with a growing passion, as her arms tightened about his neck.

As her hot mouth melded with his, his touch became greedy. His hands roamed impatiently over her back, his fingers kneading the soft flesh of her hips in encouragement. She deepened the kiss, sliding her tongue boldly against his.

Jareth felt as though he would come undone. He groaned inwardly as his arms tightened and he lifted her, crushing her against him.

She gasped against his mouth, reeling at the feel of his hard arousal pressed intimately against her. It was incredibly hot and wonderfully hard against her wet skin. She swallowed as the pulsing ache between her legs became more insistent.

His hands slid down, smoothing over her hips, before his fingers bit into her flesh as he roughly grasped her backside, driving her body more firmly against his.

His full erection was now mercilessly digging into the soft flesh of her inner thigh, causing a flood of fiery wetness between her legs. Her startled cry of surprise was muffled, as their mouths were still locked together in a smoldering kiss.

Slowly, he lowered her against his body, as his hand traveled up her side, caressing her rib cage over the wet gauzy fabric of her soaked bedclothes. His hand halted, momentarily hesitating just as it reached the swell of her breast.

Sarah inhaled sharply, drowning in the desire for his touch. She needed to feel his hands on her body. She needed to know that this was re, that he was real.

Without pausing to break their kiss, Sarah slid her hand up. Artfully, she caught his hand in hers and moved it to cover her breast.

Unhurriedly, he started to stroke her, cupping and weighing her breast in his hand gently, as though it was something delicate, something precious. Her kisses grew persistent and impatient as he toyed with her. It seemed a slow eternity before his thumb finally brushed across the taut peak.

Sarah whimpered against his mouth, her hand once again covering his, pressing his hand more firmly to her. Her nipples were so hard that they ached as he slid both his palms over her breasts, further tormenting them through the thin linen chemise.

She was barely able to stand any more of his cruel teasing. She moaned against his mouth, kissing him with sudden unbridled passion as she arched her back, further thrusting herself into his hands.

Spurred by her enthusiasm, he fondled her roughly with both hands. It seemed he had waited an eternity for this moment, and now that it was upon him, he meant to make the very most of it. Her fervor was astonishing, and he was moved by the fact that she seemed every bit as impatient as he felt.

Sarah was caught up in the feeling. His fingers and hands felt so good on her body that she swore she could have endured their sweet torture for an eternity. Past memories of her previous sexual escapades flitted through her mind, all of them seeming foolish and insignificant, paling in comparison with what she was presently experiencing. Several times men had pawed at her in the very same manner...but never had it been like this.

The reason was simple. They hadn't been him..

His touch started to grow impatient as he continued to fondle her. Her nipples hardened even further against his palms as he rubbed them through the wet linen fabric of her chemise. Instinct drove him to force his hips closer to hers. The feel of her soft flesh against his was maddening and her sweet feminine scent stirred him even further. She intoxicated his senses, and excitement the likes of which he had never known, coursed through his veins.

Sarah gasped, breaking the kiss, as he rasped hotly against her ear, "Even now, as you surrender, you still manage to drive me mad..." Lowering his mouth to her neck he breathlessly quipped, "Is it intentional?"

Closing her eyes tightly, she forcefully shook her head as he proceeded to kiss her neck in the most expert and deliberate manner. Her fingers tangled in his fine platinum hair as she gave into the exquisite sensation of his mouth upon her throat.

She was so lost in his affections, that she scarcely heard him murmur against her skin, "No matter, love...soon enough we'll be even."

She couldn't help running her fingers through his wild hair, relishing its soft texture, as she brushed it away from the side of his face. Captivated by his exotic otherworldly beauty she took the initiative to do a little exploring of her own.

Her delicate hands slid down over his chest, her slender fingers tracing over his small nipples, as her mouth sought his neck.

Jareth was forced to endure a new maddening form of torture as she began branding his throat with her hot mouth, searing a trail of fiery kisses down his neck, thoroughly distracting him from his present course of action.

His head fell back as she tasted his skin. She ran the tip of her tongue up his neck, wringing a low groan of approval from him.

Provoked and empowered by his heady vocalization, she couldn't resist breathing hotly into his ear, "Once you asked me to fear you and love you...I was too young to understand then...but now I do..."

She nipped seductively at his ear before she breathlessly added, "I've always feared you. You frightened me in ways I didn't understand, but now I do. I fear you because I am in love with you."

She savored his sharp intake of breath and murmured in a voice thick with desire, "You told me that if I let you rule me, I could have anything I want...and there's only one thing I want..."

She tasted the skin at the hollow of his throat, raggedly finishing, "You. Tonight I want to be ruled by you...I'll do anything you ask."

He released a shuddering breath, as though a heavy burden had been lifted from his shoulders. He could hardly believe what he was hearing. He never would have guessed that Sarah, the champion of his Labyrinth, would ever consciously submit to him willingly. But she just did. And now she stood before him, admitting her weakness, submissive as a slave before her master.

He buried one hand in her thick hair and forced her head back so she had to look up at him. She met his piercing gaze as a heavy and tangible desire sparked between them. He captured her mouth in a searing kiss as the need rushed over him, possessing his body and mind with a single drive...to make her his.

She was vaguely aware of the fact that his hands were now grasping the front of her nightgown. With a groan, he broke the kiss, and she glanced down, panting in an effort to catch her breath, just in time to watch with dumb wonderment as he forcefully tore open the front of her nightdress. She was enthralled by his forcefulness, watching helplessly as her linen bedclothes were ripped apart, clear to her midsection, sending tiny white buttons flying in all directions.

With shaky hands, made hasty by his need, he nudged the filmy wet material aside to reveal her supple breasts. He was aware that his self-control was slipping, as his actions were becoming more urgent and rushed, but there was nothing to be done for it now. His need of her was overriding everything, and properly unfastening all those buttons was something he knew he didn't have the patience for, and judging by the way Sarah panted and gasped, neither did she.

His falcon-like eyes drank in the sight of her full breasts, and what gorgeous works of art they were, their rosy peaks already marble hard in anticipation of his touch. Gently he cupped them with his bare hands as her mouth hungrily sought his.

His touch was bold as he savored the softness of her full breasts, his thumb teasing one taut peak as he weighed them in his hands. His mouth moved purposefully to her throat as he continued to touch her.

Sarah closed her eyes in anticipation as his kisses moved steadily down her throat. His lips lightly brushed over her breasts in a painfully teasing manner, making her cry out, as a tortured moan slipped through her lips.

Jareth smiled against her skin. The sound was music to his ears, and this was only the beginning. Before he was through with her, she'd be screaming his name. His lips closed over her nipple with tantalizing possessiveness, and then his tongue flicked persistently over the hardened rosy peak.

Sarah gasped at the raw sensation, her mind reeling. She couldn't take much more of this. She needed to do something before he drove her to absolute madness.

Overcome with the urge to touch him, and her inhibitions blinded by her desire, she brazenly slid her hand down between them, her fingers brushing lightly over his abdomen. Her hand ventured down into the dark water and she found what she was looking for.

Jareth inhaled sharply, pulling his mouth away from her breast as her hand suddenly wrapped around him. She was looking intently at him, her eyes nearly black with desire.

She was frighteningly beautiful looking down at him like that, with her cheeks aflame, her full pink lips, already swollen from his punishing kisses, slightly parted in startled amazement.

Boldly she slid her hand up, exploring him with her touch rather than her eyes. His eyes narrowed and he let out a shuddering breath as she started to move her hand rhythmically back and forth.

She noticed that his breathing quickly became erratic as his head fell back. She was rewarded when her daring touch wrought a low groan from him. The sound she had elicited made her feel strangely empowered, the euphoric feeling quickly becoming addictive. Enthralled by the idea of exerting such power over him, she boldly carried on with the repetitive gesture, her movements becoming more forceful and deliberate.

It was not long before his eyes slid closed and he hissed in agony, "Sarah..."

Hr swiftly caught her hand, stilling her movements as he panted, "Enough...or this passion play of ours will be over before it even starts..." With a shaky breath he finished, "...besides it's my turn."

Before she could even open her mouth to protest, his hands roughly caught her by the backs of her thighs and he lifted her against him. Effortlessly he raised her out of the water, sending water sloshing over the edge, as he set her down on the hard flagstone floor. His face was now level with her breasts as her lower legs dangled into the choppy water. The dripping hem of her wet nightgown, now raised mid-thigh, clung to her wet skin.

His eyes raked over her body, taking in its charms through her transparent and very wet nightgown. Smiling wickedly, he leaned in, his hands coming to rest atop her thighs as he began to kiss her breasts.

Sarah let her head fall back, her hands flat against the stone floor, supporting her upper body from behind as she leaned back. He teased her ruthlessly as his hands restlessly slid up her thighs.

Sarah tried to concentrate on what his mouth was doing, but it was difficult as his hands started to impatiently roam all along the tops of her thighs and in between. His touch strayed higher and higher each time, seemingly venturing everywhere but where she most wanted it to.

Just the thought of what his fingertips had felt like as he had intimately touched her earlier that evening, made her body pulse with wanting. God, if something didn't give soon, she would surely die from the mounting ache.

Unconsciously she whimpered, shifting her hips restlessly as he continued to stroke her thighs. What on God's green earth was he waiting for? Did he want her to beg? Well, if that's what he wanted...It wasn't beyond her at this point.

She forced her head up, looking down at him with hooded eyes as she breathlessly begged, "Jareth, please..."

Pulling back, his smoldering gaze locked on her face as he purred, "Please what, love?"

There was an edge to her voice as she thickly whispered, "Please...touch me."

A sinister smirk played across his lips as his hand brushed up between her thighs, disappearing under the wet hem of her nightshirt, his fingertips deliberately skimming over the outside of her soaked cotton panties and he hissed in a low whisper, "Where...here?"

Her head fell back as she twisted her hips and raggedly exhaled, "Oh God, yessss...please..."

Captivated by the sight of her in such agony, he nudged the cotton covering aside, his fingertips just grazing her. She gasped at the raw pleasure.

Fascinated by her reaction, his fingertips delved within, causing her to cry out suddenly. Again his composure was shattered to pieces as he touched her in her most intimate of places.

Jareth inhaled sharply, moved by her cries, his eyes growing glassy with desire. He was overcome by his craving to give her pleasure, the likes of which she never experienced.

His fingers exerted more pressure and she ground her lower body shamelessly against his hand. The sight drove him to a frenzied state of arousal, prompting him to act out his rash desire.

In one fluid movement he was out of the water and before he knew what he was doing, he had lifted her into his arms, and was storming across his chamber towards his bed, caring nothing about the water that ran down his body in clear rivulets, leaving little puddles across his chamber floor.

Sarah was startled out of her fog of desire as she felt herself being lifted. She opened her eyes, glancing about wildly as he dropped her unceremoniously atop his massive bed.

Aware that she was utterly soaked, dripping all over and saturating his bed, she quickly struggled to a kneeling position, hiking her drenched nightgown up her thighs as she protested, "Jareth, I'm soaked...what are you..."

Her words died in her throat, her sopping state quickly forgotten, as her wide eyes took in the sight of the Goblin King's naked form. He knelt on the bed and began stalking purposefully toward her on all fours like the predator that he was.

Her gaze moved slowly over his body, her brain going into meltdown as it was faced with his nudity. In a word he was...beautiful.

Well, she had just lost her little wager with Kayla, "...but" her subconscious taunted, "It'll certainly be the best ten bucks you'll ever spend..." She couldn't help staring a moment longer as the dreamy voice in her head finished, "Mmmmm, oh yeah...worth every penny."

Her thoughts were so muddled by the sight of him that the only verbal response she could manage as he stalked closer was a dumbfounded, "...Oh."

As he neared her, he rose up onto his knees, one hand firmly grabbing her upper arm as his other hand pressed against the small of her back forcing her closer. Her head fell back as he branded her throat with scorching kisses. His hands fell to the hem of her nightshirt, stroking her wet skin, before they turned upward, raising her nightgown higher up her thighs.

Sarah tangled a hand in his silvery hair as the other slid steadily down towards his narrow hips.

His voice came as a throaty murmur against her skin, "Now where were we?"

His hands grabbed the hem of her nightgown as he absently added with a warm chuckle, "Ah yes, now I remember...I was ridding you of this troublesome garment." Without further hesitation he raised the nightgown, slipping it over her head before he tossed it aside.

Slowly and seductively his gaze slid downward, drinking in the sight of her clothed only in her pink undergarments. He leaned forward, a slight smirk touching his lips as he purred, "Much better..."

His hands closed on her arms as he kissed her slowly, forcing her back on the bed. He hovered over her for a moment, searching her eyes with his before he shifted, and his weight came down upon her.

Her mouth met his, as the excitement of having his body atop hers tore through her. The kiss quickly became consuming as she started to writhe restlessly under him. The feel of him pressed intimately against her was terribly maddening and she couldn't help squirming against him in anticipation.

Jareth closed his eyes against the onslaught of desire he felt with her body, so eagerly squirming against his, pinned beneath him. His restraint hung by a thread. If was going to pleasure her before he took her, he would have to do it now...for he wasn't sure how much longer he would last.

Deliberately he slid his mouth from hers, pausing to kiss her jaw before he moved to her neck. His mouth tasted her throat, his lips closing over each breast in turn before his mouth continued its journey downward.

His hot mouth seared a path down her ribs, skimming over her stomach as his hands slid down her sides to the swell of her hips. He continued to place fiery kisses over her flat stomach as his fingers curled under the waistband of her undergarments.

Sarah shifted restlessly as his kisses halted. She opened her eyes as his fingers hooked on the sides of her panties. He glanced up at her, his eyes blazing with need, and she offered him her silent permission by raising her hips off the bed. He drew her panties down over her hips and down her legs before they too, were discarded on the floor.

His eyes moved steadily up her long legs as he took in her naked form. Her eyes flashed up to meet his, and they were filled with uncertainty, as her entire body seemed to flush a deep shade of pink.

He found her modesty sweetly enticing, his blood hammering away for her, as lowered himself back to the bed and murmured his approval, "...lovely."

Gently he stroked the inside of her thigh, and feeling her tense, he reassured her with a husky whisper, "It's alright love, trust me..."

She raised her head from the pillows and breathed sincerely, "I trust you Jareth..."

His fingers gently explored her.She cried out, senselessly panting in desperation, "Ohhhh...please..."

He rewarded her by teasing the focal point of her yearning. With a gasp of pleasure her head fell back onto the pillows as her hips squirmed against him.

Watching her intently he ventured, "Do you like this, love?" She nodded furiously, her eyes screwed shut, as she fought to catch her breath. Captivated he pressed, "Has anyone ever touched you like this before?"

She shook her head as she panted, "...not like this." His mouth twisted into a wicked grin as he mused, "I wonder..."

His fingers ceased their magic and she nearly cried out in despair at the loss when he suddenly breathed hotly against her thigh, "...and has anyone ever kissed you like this...right here?"

Her heart almost stopped as she realized what he was talking about and what he meant to do. Her futile protest, however, came too late, "Jareth...I don't think...Ohhhh..."

She felt as though she would scream. Or laugh. Or cry.

All rational thoughts flew from her mind as she felt his mouth upon her. She cried out in surprise at the blessed agony of it, hoping with every fiber of her being that this was no dream, for it was far too incredible to be real.

But it was real...Oh so real. And it was Jareth who was responsible.

Her scent and taste was intoxicating, and Jareth felt his lust rising to dangerous levels. His hands firmly grasped her thighs as his tongue worked it's fiendish magic upon her.

Sarah was lost. She tossed her head fitfully from side to side as her body was racked with gratuitous pleasure.

Never had she experienced rapture such as this. What he was doing to her made her feel so wicked and wanton, but it felt so good, she didn't care. Consequences be damned...she wanted more.

"Oh God..." She moaned, twisting the crimson satin sheets in her clenched fist.

Mercilessly, Jareth continued.

Tangling her fingers in his soft hair, she tipped her hips up, inviting him nearer, deeper. He willingly obliged, ruthlessly pleasuring her, hell-bent on making her see stars.

Soul shattering pleasure started to overwhelm her and with each passing wave, she swore she wouldn't be able to take any more. Jareth felt her body begin to tense, and he avidly continued to please her, desperately trying to ignore his own throbbing need.

Sarah writhed frantically, her voice thick with ecstasy as she begged, "Oh yessss, Jareth...please...don't stop..."

Jareth's hands tightened on her thighs, forcing her closer. The pleasure surged as she was overtaken by the fever of her release. Forcing her head off the bed, she watched him with eyes glazed over by desire as the feeling spiraled higher and higher. The pleasure kept right on mounting and she was sure she would die if she had to endure another moment of it. Jareth felt her body tense and knew victory was his.

White-hot passion blinded Sarah, her world seemed to collapse upon itself until all it consisted of was the one person whose name she screamed in repeated abandon...


The Goblin King drank in her cries, and a sweet victory they were.

The world was his. Sarah was his.

Slowly, Sarah returned to earth, a blissful tingling sensation radiating out to the very tips of her fingers and toes. She wondered if this was what dying felt like, for what she had just experienced was like nothing she had ever known. It was terrifying...undoubtedly some sinister spell, for it felt like heaven, and that couldn't be normal...could it?

She was vaguely aware that her surroundings had shifted and she opened her eyes, meeting a very engaging pair of mismatched ones. Lazily her eyes drifted over his face as he moved to hover over her. His soft platinum hair tickling her shoulders as her eyes fell to his roguish smirk. He was clearly amused, or very pleased, she wasn't sure which.

Jareth let his eyes devour her. His prize. She had willingly submitted; wholly surrendered both her heart and body. Now he would stake his claim, and take what was his. His blood pounded insistently, for he couldn't bear to wait a second longer.

Chapter 30: Possession

Elsewhere in the Vast Underground...

The moon hung low in the sky, large and full, and its silvery light filtered through the black skeletal branches of the darkened forest. The woods were dense even without the cover of leaves.

It wasn't the season that kept these hulking trees bare. They were ancient structures, long since dead, merely petrified structural remains. The subtle moonlight that penetrated the canopy of dead branches cast eerie shadows on the mossy forest floor.

There was a damp chill in the night air and the smell of death permeated the woods. A piercing sound interrupted the silent stillness.

It was the sharp cry of a raven.

The large black bird descended and made a flawless landing on the barren branch of a large dead elm. The bird cocked it head to the side as it watched a stream of cloaked figures fill the clearing below. Taking flight, it flew over the heads of the hooded figures, who were all similarly clad in black robes, before it disappeared in a dense thicket tangled with thorns.

Moments later, another hooded figure emerged from the very same thicket. There were close to twenty of them already lurking in the clearing. It was a macabre gathering. They all seemed to be silently waiting for something or someone.

As the newcomer cleared the obscuring dense underbrush of the thicket all heads turned in his direction.

They were all dressed in the same manner of black robes, all their faces obscured in shadow by the generous black hoods they wore. There was nothing to distinguish one from another, save in the case of the one who had joined them from the dense thicket.

Around his neck, hanging over his midnight black robes was a gleaming silver medallion. Its design was unmistakable even in the gloomy darkness of the dead forest.

It was a sliver skull, holding one bony finger to its lipless mouth in a gesture of morbid secrecy. In the empty eye sockets were two glittering red stones, the color of freshly spilt blood. In the background behind the skull was the figure of a human mortal female, and a rearing alicorn. Both likenesses were engulfed in silvery flames.

It was a frightening visage, and one that couldn't easily be confused with any other. It was the mark of the Shadow Horde.

The crowd of black bodies pressed forward, gathering around the one who wore the medallion, as he had been chosen as their leader. Expectantly they fell to their knees around him, all waiting with baited breath to hear what he had to say.

A soft persuasive voice emanated from within the anonymous dark cowl, "My brothers, our time has come. The Horde will rise from the ashes to dominate all Faekind, for the gateway to the human world is about to be opened."

The announcement was followed by the hiss of frenzied whispering.

The leader straightened to his full height as he prompted, "Be still, one at a time..."

The figures fell silent as one crawled forward on his knees. He bowed forward in a sign of respect in front of the leader before he hissed, "How is it possible that the gateway will be opened? For over three millennia we have waited and searched to no such avail. If you really have discovered something, do share with us...for we will no longer be pacified by false hopes and empty promises."

The leader bowed to the one who posed the question and remarked, "An excellent case you make, but this time I assure you...I have learned a way that will grant us access to the world aboveground."

An audible gasp emanated from the crowd as a second figure fell forward and ventured, "What way my Lord? Please share with us."

Under the dark cowl the leader grinned, "The answer lies in the Goblin Kingdom."

The silence was deafening.

The leader further ventured, "The answer to our riddle is...Goblins. Goblins can cross over into the human world."

A bold soul leaned forward and ventured, "That's true my Lord, but they can't just come and go as they please, I mean...I was under the impression that they could only cross over when they are summoned by a mortal?"

The leader nodded responding, "That is true. But why is that? I'll tell you why, it is because they are governed by formidable Fae magic. The Goblin King is not foolish enough to let them run rampant in the human world. No, his power keeps them on a very tight leash."

The leader glanced about at his still followers. He could see he had their undivided attention. "Suppose, the Goblin King failed to control them...Why, they'd be vulnerable to the suggestion of anyone willing to bribe or frighten them into submission. They aren't very intelligent...Goblins, and I can't think of even one that wouldn't do just about anything for a barrel of ale. Why, with the proper motivation we could have the entire Goblin army at our disposal. Human females would no longer be in short supply in the Underground, and better still, with the aid of the Goblins, we too could swarm upon the aboveground world and seed it with our progeny, by simply stealing into their homes and bedding the females."

The gathering broke out into excited whispers before one spoke up, "But why would the Goblin King relinquish his duty? He has never supported our cause, is there any reason to think he might now?"

The figure to the left hissed, "Not a chance. Just this very evening the Goblin King had the audacity to display a human girl on his arm at his own masquerade. He scarcely left her side. You should have seen the way he was draped over her the entire evening. It was a disgrace. He was practically flaunting the fact that she was his chosen escort. Indecent and abhorrent to indulge in such company at such a gathering, if you ask me. That renegade King couldn't fathom, never mind appreciate, the values of the Horde."

A third voice demanded, "Then why would he relinquish control over the Goblins if he isn't sympathetic to our cause?"

The leader's voice was icy in its ominous certainty as he interrupted their squabbling, "He wouldn't. Which is why it is imperative that we get rid of him."

There was a moment of stunned silence before someone hissed, "Get rid of Jareth?! How exactly do you propose we do that?"

The leader's voice was deathly calm as he supplied, "Simple. We kill him."

There was a collective audible gasp from the crowd before another outraged voice cried, "One does not simply waltz into the Goblin Kingdom! What about the labyrinth? The Goblin Castle is not the type of place you just storm into! And let's not forget who we are dealing with. Jareth's power is formidable, and he is treacherous! He'd surely put up a terrible fight."

The leader turned to the one who spoke and protested, "Ah, but that is where you are wrong."

His voice took on an ominous quality as he spat venomously, "I can think of someone, who single handedly stormed the Goblin castle...someone, might I remind you, who was a mere human girl...little more than a child when she succeeded."

The leader took a deep breath, seemingly composing himself before he went on, "Now, I'm not suggesting that we storm the Goblin castle. In fact, we further remove ourselves from seeming involvement if we never even set foot into the Goblin kingdom. There is a far better way. You are correct in being wary of Jareth's power. For his magic would rival that of any Fae who stood against him alone. But you are forgetting one thing. We are many. Together we would easily overpower the Goblin King. We simply lure the Goblin King from his domain, and ambush him. If our plan is flawless he won't suspect a thing. The element of surprise will give us a powerful advantage."

They were all silent, as if riveted by the idea. The leader looked to them, as if awaiting another skeptical comment.

The one who protested earlier fell forward and groveled, "How foolish I was for questioning you...for it is a splendid plan. Will you share the details with us now?"

The leader gestured for him to stop prostrating himself as he soothed, "No my brothers. The hour grows late. We will refine the details together at another time. In the meantime think on this; I ask you to kill, not for me, but for the good of the Horde...this is the only way we will grow strong. Jareth already knows of the alicorn. I do not doubt that he already suspects the Horde, even if only in the furthest reaches of his heart."

Many of the skulking figures nodded in agreement, while others remained unmoving. Perhaps they were still skeptical of their new leader's motives. The leader seemed to sense their uncertainty, and was determined to convince them.

With intense conviction he went on, "Jareth is the antithesis of everything that we stand for. Why even now, he is sharing his castle with two humans. You have seen for yourself, the human girl was his chosen escort, and it has come to my attention that she is the same mortal that bested the Labyrinth. Jareth's magic may be powereful, but he is a fool. It is one thing to use a human female to act out your basest urges with in order to ensure the survival of our race, but there is a world of difference between bedding a human and sharing your home with one as though it were an equal."

Venom invaded his speech as he spat, "Jareth had his pick of any woman in the Fae court, but instead he profaned the event by giving the honor to one who by all rights should be his slave. I saw them with my own eyes...the way he danced with her, and conversed with her. He kissed her like a smitten lover...not like a master should. I would stake my life on the fact that he is probably sharing his royal bed with her at this very moment. I was in attendance at the ball and I had to listen to the rumored speculation, and as abhorrent as it was...there may be some truth to it. Many say that Jareth is courting the girl. Though I normally would heed such a rumor as nonsense, I was there, and I saw the Goblin King and his human with my own eyes. Jareth may well be in love with the girl, and worse still, if that is the case it could be only be a matter of time before we live to see a human Goblin Queen."

He paused a moment letting his potent words sink in. After a moment he went on, "To make matters worse he has taken in a second human, a male, the female's twin to be exact. I saw him for myself, and this boy is no slave. Jareth has made him his page, and by the underground, the knave's clothes were fit for Fae nobility!"

He spat the words with distaste and before long he was yelling, "It is unnatural...to dote upon a human servant like one would a son. The lad cannot even speak! The Goblin King has profaned all that we hold sacred. It is an outrage!"

The leader took a deep shuddering breath. In a much softer, but deathly serious tone he went on, "Tell me, is there not one among you who would be willing to risk death to bring this Goblin King, this...heretic to justice? Is there none among you who would be willing to make this one small sacrifice to once again bring glory to the Shadow Horde?"

His question was rhetorical and he didn't give them time to answer before he announced with conviction, "I for one refuse to stand idly by and watch the Goblin King corrupt our precious Underground with his human filth. We have sat in the shadows too long...it is time to take what is ours and take it by force!"

An unintelligible and deafening roar erupted from them as he finished, "My brothers, alone we are powerless, but together we will swarm upon the humans and use them as they were meant to be used, to provide us with healthy Fae offspring. Now I ask you...Are we in agreement?" In unison they cried their shouts of affirmation, incensed by the things that had been brought to light.

Meanwhile in the Goblin Kingdom...

In the gaping marble fireplace, formed in the likeness of yawning goblin mouth, a roaring fire blazed. The heat of that fire paled in comparison to the to the blazing passion of the lovers on the massive bed draped in black and crimson silks.

Jareth was immersed in the girl who lay panting beneath him. The skin of her face and breasts was flushed pink and a fine sheen of perspiration made her face shimmer in the firelight. She looked up at him with wide glassy eyes made dark by the unnatural dilated state of her pupils. Her wine colored lips parted as she fought to take in the rapid shallow breaths, her lips seeming more full than usual due to his rough kisses.

Sarah looked up, getting lost in the engaging blue and green pools that returned her gaze.

The Goblin King loomed over her with purpose, his intense expression proof enough that his long battle with self-denial and restraint was drawing to its close.

Her breathless whisper was laced with amazement as she murmured her erratic praise, "God that was...What are you doing to me?"

His long slender fingers smoothed back the wisps of dark hair that clung to her damp cheek as he assured her in a sultry whisper, "Not nearly enough. I'm far from through with you yet, love."

His throaty admission caused a thrilling flutter in the pit of her stomach. She was intensely aware of his knee brushing against her inner thigh, as he settled between her legs.

His eyes were set on hers, his intent evident as he positioned himself over her.

It was with startled clarity that Sarah realized what was certainly about to happen. She drank in the sight of him with wide eyes, in awe of the repressed passion she saw in his strained face.

Looking at him now, it was painfully clear. His restraint was failing. The inevitable had happened and now they were past the point of no return. Sarah realized with a mixture of trepidation and relief that nothing, not even the combined powers of the realms of above and belowground, could stop this.

No matter how preposterous and irrational sleeping with the Goblin King might have sounded. It felt right. Undeniably and wonderfully right.

To be one with him. That was what she wanted, what she needed...most desperately...to feel him, very real, and very much alive, within her.

She knew such a physical union with him would be more profound than anything she had ever known.

She watched with fascination as he lowered his mouth to hers, a nearly pained expression marring his ethereal face. His lips brushed against hers, just as she felt that nudging, shocking pressure against her threshold.

Instinctively her hands snaked up his arms, coming to rest on his back as he froze, his body rigid with tension.

For one brief moment his lips brushed over hers, gently imploring her to accept what would come next.

Raggedly he whispered against her parted lips in a voice laced with strain and a sense of urgency, "Sarah...by the Fates. I can't bear anymore. I've wanted you...wanted this for so long..."

Her decision had already been made, and it was crystal clear. He was going to make love to her, and by the gods, she was going to let him. There would be no going back now.

He had already captured her heart and now she was dying for him to show her what it meant to have his body take possession of hers.

The overwhelming sweet ache overtook her again and she breathed thickly against his parted lips, "I can't wait anymore either. I want you inside me..."

His eyes slid closed as he pushed forward. It wasn't until that moment that Jareth actually realized he didn't fully know what to expect. Throughout his long lifetime he had been afforded the luxury of sexual experimentation with a multitude of Fae noblewomen, but never once had he ever been with a human.

He had been so focused on attaining his goal that he hadn't put much thought into what might happen when he actually got there. It seemed that only now a plethora of questions buzzed through his mind. The most pressing matter of course being, how they would fit together.

He proceeded as slowly as he could endure. Her body mercifully accommodated him and the sensation was so maddening that it forced all other thoughts from his mind.

They were both overcome by the exquisite agony. Sarah's cry of startled delight rang out just as a tortured moan slipped past his lips.

Jareth was assaulted by overwhelming sensations. The power of the sweet ache was astonishing. Never in a thousand lifetimes could he have dreamt of a more delectable sensation. Blinding ferocious lust began to surge within him, and he was overcome with his covetous need of her.

The intensity of the craving was frightening. He prided himself on being composed and in control, and it was startling for him to realize that his desire for this girl rendered him powerless. Afraid that his last shred of control would be relinquished, He froze.

He closed his eyes in desperation, silently beseeching the powers to give him the strength to last.

Sarah watched Jareth's every movement, captivated by the rapt expression that washed over his face just before his body tensed and his eyes slid closed. To see him be so moved by the feel of her, heightened her own need.

Out of her mind with wanting, she raised her hips against his, and breathed in a whisper far to husky to be recognizable as her own, "You don't have to stop..."

His breath caught in his throat at her stimulating movement, as he answered in a strained voice, "Am I hurting you?"

She pressed her lips to his, her hips squirming in the most maddening manner, as she murmured, "No. You don't have to hold back...I don't want you to hold back anything."

She gasped as he withdrew himself and pushed forward again. The feeling took her very breath away, and she hissed in approval, "Yessss...Oh good god, that feels nice..."

Jareth's eyes locked with hers as they began to move in unison. The incredible sensation was overwhelming and his self control was hanging by a thread, but perhaps if he concentrated on her, he would be able to last long enough to bring her pleasure.

Their rhythm was unhurried at first, as they savored the feel of each other. Sarah was astonished by Jareth's maintained discipline and prowess. Each movement he made was artful and deliberate, and she could tell by the tension in his body and his intense expression that his control was not coming easily. It seemed he was fighting to delay his own release, until she had been thoroughly satisfied.

There was still so much pent-up passion lurking just behind his eyes. She wondered how long he'd be able to contain it. In truth she hoped it wouldn't be long. She wanted to feel the brunt of that passion. She pined for him to share it with her, for anything that would bring her closer to understanding him and prove that this was indeed real.

Her hands smoothed lovingly over his lower back as her movements grew bolder. Sarah felt empowered by her seeming effect on him, and she was overcome with the desire to bring him the same intensity of pleasure he seemed so determined to bring her.

Tilting back his head, Jareth groaned. The girl would surely drive him mad. His eyes closed as he felt her hot mouth on his neck. Her hands roamed impatiently over his back as she insistently ran her tongue over the sensitive skin of his throat. By the Underground...how much more would she make him endure?

Their rhythm had increased its tempo; their movements were becoming increasingly more frenzied. Raggedly she breathed her heated confession into his ear, her voice laced with a desperate need, "I love you...Jareth."

With those simple words Jareth came undone, the passion within him overwhelmed his composure, and it flowed from him like rushing water burst forth from a dam. His hands found her face, cradling it as he kissed her roughly, his thrusts becoming more forceful.

Jareth's hunger for her was insatiable. She loved him, and now he had her in his grasp, writhing under him in the heat of passion. Her delicious moans and cries were becoming more insistent, and he could tell by her frantic movements that her release was imminent. She had offered up her body and heart to him in sacrifice and it was time to take all she offered. His fevered kisses claimed her mouth, as he crushed her body to his, rocking into her without mercy. His passion broke upon her like raging waves upon the shore.

Her name was a ragged cry on his lips, "Sarahhh..." He forcefully grasped her thighs, guiding her to wrap them around his waist before his hands found her arms and raised them over her head, his hands sliding forcefully up the length of them before his palms slid over hers, their fingers interlocking in one erotic moment, as their eyes met with savage intensity.

His voice was hoarse, and his eyes blazed with emotion as he rasped, "Say it again..."

Her eyes never left his as she moaned in abandon, "I love you Jareth."

There was such strain in his voice as he breathed, "I love you Sarah...I always have." His jaw clenched as his hands grasped her wrists, pinning them to the bed. His eyes burned into hers as he thickly beseeched her, "Say you'll be mine forever."

She arched against him, as his body continued to slam into hers, the physical pleasure becoming more than she could stand, making her cry out her answer, "Yess...Oh god...I'm yours...forever."

He kissed her fiercely, letting go of her wrists, and drawing her closer to him. Her hands grasped his shoulder, her fingertips biting into his flesh as she began to climax.

Finally he gave himself over to the pleasure of her young body, losing himself in the feel, taste and smell of her.

He moaned against her mouth, her kiss muffling his cry, "Oh...Sarah."

The intolerable pleasure wracked her body. For one moment they were lost in the possession of each other, their cries mingling with one another, before the pleasure overwhelmed them, becoming something too powerful for either of them to contain.

Sarah clutched Jareth tightly as she climaxed harder than she ever had in her entire life. Her body tensed as she cried out in a shaky voice, "JAR...ETH!...Oh God!"

Jareth relinquished his control at the same time. He moaned, savoring the long denied pleasure, before a hoarse cry heralded his release. He shuddered at the intensity of the feeling, as he spilled his seed deep within her.

Jareth's body relaxed, feeling heavy as he collapsed on top of Sarah. A newfound sense of relief washed over him. For the first time in years he felt at peace and it was no wonder why. At long last...Sarah was in his bed. His Sarah. His prize. She had confessed her love, and now she would be his...forever. It was as if his soul were finally sighing in relief, that after all these long years, after losing the battle, he had finally won the war.

Sarah felt as though her world had been turned upside down. The overwhelming storm of passion and emotion left her exhausted, as she clung to the center of her universe.


As she lay there, trying to catch her own breath, she was intensely aware of everything about him. She listened deeply to the sound of his breathing, for he too was breathing heavily as he attempted to catch his breath. She felt each warm rush on her neck, as he had collapsed on top of her.

His skin felt hot and moist against hers, and she could feel his heart pounding in that same frantic rhythm with hers. She buried her face in the crook of his neck, his soft hair tickling her eyelids as she breathed deeply, letting herself drown in his magical scent.

For several moments neither of them moved or spoke as they were content just to bask in their closeness after all that had transpired between them. Gradually their breathing returned to normal, and their contented closeness gave way to tender caresses and kisses.

Eventually, Jareth settled alongside Sarah, pulling her into his embrace. It was there, later in the wee hours of the morning, in the royal chamber of the Goblin castle that Sarah fell asleep in the arms of the Goblin King.

Chapter 31: Illumination

Slowly the pink sunlight of dawn crept over the labyrinth. When the light at last reached the massive fortress at the center, many of the inhabitants of the surrounding Goblin City were stirring and milling about, going on with their usual morning routines.

A single stream of sunlight penetrated into the tower that was the Goblin King's chamber. The heavy crimson drapes, though almost tightly drawn, managed to let in one sliver of daylight that steadily crept across the flagstone floor, onto the massive bed, as if trying to entice the mortal girl from her slumber.

The narrow beam of light slowly inched over the girl's cheek, intruding with a seeming gentle caress of the radiant sun. Clinging to the blissful haze of slumber, she shifted in her sleep, evading the persistent strip of sunshine.

Even in sleep, she instinctively shifted closer to the warm solid body that was molded against her back. The arm that was thrown so haphazardly over her hip, tightened about her waist in response, drawing her even further into its warm embrace.

Somewhere between dreaming and consciousness she remembered whose bed she was sharing. A slow smile of sleepy contentment spread on her face as she inhaled sharply, letting the sweet magic scent of the pillow and bed linens lure her back into the pleasant dream she had been having.

Suddenly the pounding of a heavy insistent knock reverberated throughout the chamber startling Sarah awake. She felt Jareth stir beside her as a frantic Goblin voice called from behind the thick oak door, "Your Majesty!"

Even in his groggy state, the panicked tone in the Goblin's voice registered in Jareth's mind and he sat bolt upright, flicking a wrist in the direction of the door as he barked, "Enter!"

The door swung open, nearly causing the stout goblin on the other side to lose his balance. He stammered in a frantic hiss, "Ssssss...sorry to disturb you your majesty..."

Jareth, half expecting a plethora of ill news, wearily prodded, "Yes, what is it?"

The Goblin swallowed in blatant nervousness, his eyes wide with fear as he gushed, "It...It's the girl your majesty!"

Jareth leveled a haughty gaze at the goblin and coolly replied, "What of her?"

It was precisely at that moment that Sarah sat up, clutching the wine colored sheet to her chest, covering herself from the awkward intrusion.

The goblin had already started to answer when he caught sight of Sarah and his voice faltered with uncertainty, "Shhhh...She's..."

Understanding suddenly dawned on him and his panic turned to relief, which quickly gave way to embarrassment as he lamely finished, "She's...Uhhhh...right here with you."

Jareth noticed that Sarah's face was quickly turning as scarlet as the sheets as the Goblin stammered uneasily, "Uhhhhh, yeah...I...I'll be on my way then." He started to close the door behind him when he suddenly halted and added, "Oh...I almost forgot your majesty...the captain of the guard has come to give you his report."

Jareth inclined his head in approval as he ordered, "Have him await me in the throne room." The goblin nodded sharply, "Yes, your majesty." and with that he ducked out and closed the door.

Jareth leaned back against the ornate headboard, his eyes sliding over, appraising the girl who was now sitting up next to him.

Sarah's dark hair was out of place, looking slightly wild in it's unruly state, and he noticed her skin was flushed a deep pink in embarrassment. She still clutched the sheet to her chest as she turned her sparkling hazel green eyes to meet his.

She bit her lower lip in her uncertainty. The childish gesture, and her youthful features made her look so young and innocent, so vulnerable...

Jareth inwardly smiled to himself as a voice in his head reminded him that looks are often deceiving. After all, it was the same, seemingly innocent girl that shared his bed mere hours ago, making his body burn, evoking and returning a passion the likes of which he had never known.

For a moment he thought of the way she had writhed under him in the heat of passion, how she had cried out so forcefully. They had made love for a good part of the night, and he recalled with delight that more than once had she screamed his name, begging him for more. His gaze lingered on her for a moment as amusement curled his thin lips into a smug grin.

His eyes strayed over her form as he silkily mused, "It seems my subjects have a gift for always disturbing me at the most inopportune times."

Sarah looked away shyly as she thoughtfully admitted, "Yeah, I've noticed."

With a disarming smile Jareth threw back the covers and slid out of bed, noticing that Sarah's cheeks flushed a deeper crimson as she quickly averted her eyes.

She heard him pour himself a glass of water and she nodded when he offered her some. He stalked closer to the bed, water goblet in hand, and it was a struggle for Sarah not to let her eyes follow his naked form. Though they had already been intimate, Sarah was modest by nature, and couldn't bring herself to unabashedly oogle him, even though he was without a doubt the most beautiful male she had ever seen.

As he reached the foot of the bed he handed her the goblet, which she took with a quiet "thanks" before he flopped onto the bed, letting his upper body rest atop the mattress. He folded his arms on the covers, resting his chin atop them as his engaging gaze settled resolutely on her.

Sarah risked a glance in his direction, and his mouth curved into the most seductive and mischievous smile she had ever seen. Her insides seemed to melt and she was struck by the realization that even if she made love to the Goblin King a thousand times he would still fill her with this overwhelming nervous excitement. His lazy confidence, and commanding presence simply kept her in awe. The fact that she was hopelessly smitten with him didn't help matters either.

As Sarah took a tentative sip of her water Jareth mused, "They may have the most atrocious timing, but at least there is one good thing about the disruption..."

Sarah swallowed a mouthful of water and asked, "What's that?"

Jareth tilted his head slightly to the side, admiring her as he admitted, "You're blushing again..."

Sarah felt her face grow even hotter as she shook her head in protest. He assured her in a velvety tone, "It's nothing to be ashamed of...you really are quite lovely when you blush."

Sarah turned her head from his penetrating gaze and informed him, "I'm blushing because it's embarrassing. I can't believe that just happened. Caught red handed in your bed...that couldn't have been more obvious."

Without warning Jareth was atop the bed, advancing on all fours towards her. He hovered over her, like a predator about to strike, an amused smirk plastered on his face as he playfully drawled, "That's where you are wrong. I can think of plenty of things that would have been much more obvious." His breath came warm on her throat before he nuzzled her ear, "Would you care for me to demonstrate?"

She looked up at him demurely, not sure if she should encourage him or not, when she noticed that the crimson sheet that covered her was inching lower and lower. Jareth tugged the sheet so it was uncovering her little by little, and just as it started to slip off her breasts she snatched it back up, her fierce green eyes engaging his.

She fought the smile that was tugging at the corner of her mouth and teased coyly, "Jareth! Don't you have somewhere to be? Isn't the guard waiting to give you his report?"

He shrugged in that casually arrogant way of his and purred, "Most assuredly. However at the moment, the prospect of remaining in bed all day is so much more appealing. Add a certain mortal, tucked so nicely into my bed...and there's no contest really."

Sarah tried to ignore the fact that her breath had caught in her throat as she pressed, "So...you're just going to make him wait?"

Jareth tilted his head to the side as he admired her and drawled, "I might. Though it would, more than likely, only add to the speculation."

Sarah's brows rose, drawing together as she quipped, "Speculation?"

Jareth smugly replied, "The rumors. Word travels fast in the Underground. No doubt, news of our torrid love affair has already reached the Goblin City. Any further delay would no doubt only compound the rumors."

He smirked wickedly and added, "By lunchtime they'll have us married with no less than five hundred children. Stories tend to get blown out of proportion, especially when they are being carried by Goblin tongues, as they do have a propensity for being slightly over dramatic."

Sarah's raised her inquisitive eyes to meet his, her full lips tugging into a teasing smile as she sarcastically taunted, "Wonder where they get it from..."

His eyes drifted down slowly, over the curve where she clutched the sheet to her breast, before they flicked back up to her face. His smile faded, and a raw intense expression replaced his amusement. His eyes held hers as he imperiously whispered, "Are you baiting me?"

Sarah felt the familiar flutter in her stomach as her breath caught in her throat. Why was it, that any discourse with Jareth, be it arguing or flirting, always made her feel exhilarated, like she were playing with a dangerous animal? She never really knew what he would say or do next and it suddenly occurred to her that that was one of the things she loved about him. She returned his feral gaze and barely managed her husky reply, "Maybe."

A slow sinister grin spread across his face, his mischievous expression reminiscent of some maniacal jester as his smile widened, showing the fine points of his teeth. He pursed his lips pensively before he drawled with a crooked grin, "Have it your way then..."

Sarah didn't even have time to react as he quickly grabbed a fistful of the bed linens that covered her and yanked hard, flinging them aside. In the next instant his hands had caught her wrists in their iron grip and he forced her hands over her head, easily pinning her to the mattress as he climbed atop her.

Sarah balled her hands into fists as she struggled against him, but it was to no avail as he only tightened his grip, forcing her wrists down harder against the bed. It occurred to her then that he was much stronger than she was, even without using his magical abilities, he easily overpowered her. His lean build was quite deceiving, for he was much stronger than he looked.

He lowered his face, bringing his mouth close to her ear as he warmly tsked, "Willful girl, now you force me to teach you a lesson...and keep the guard waiting." His throaty voice washed over her like thick honey, making every inch of her body scream for the fulfillment of his wicked promise.

She gasped, squeezing her eyes shut as she felt the erotic sensation of him running his tongue up the side of her throat. Cruel cool air chilled her skin as he drew back, and she was suspended in limbo, devoid of his touch, until, mercifully, she felt his hot breath on her breast.

Her senses were shocked to life as his tongue made eager teasing circles on her skin. He still held her wrists firmly, and she writhed against him, breathlessly gasping in an urgent husky whisper, "He can wait. I believe I am in need of your...correction"

His lips lightly brushed against hers teasingly, and she strained against him, trying to capture his mouth, but he turned his face out of her reach and whispered into her hair, "That you are...dire need."

Meanwhile, further North of the Goblin City...

A warm breeze drifted through the verdant courtyard, gently rustling oceans of flowers and lazily carrying white feathery seedpods, giving the very air a magical look. The central gardens of the Northern Imperial Palace were always a breathtaking sight during the Underground's sunny season, so it was not surprising at all to see diplomats strolling through the gardens after their audiences with the Emperor.

Desdemonna sighed deeply, lost in her small book of poetry, as she fingered the potent smelling blossom she had plucked from a nearby sapling. The words of the love poem loitered in her mind like Sargonne's sweet taste had lingered on her lips.

She sighed again as she thought of the youth. She had told herself, countless times, that it was fruitless to dwell on Jareth's servant, as longing for him would only bring her more heartache, but it was so hard not to think of him when the warm perfumed breeze teased her senses with a scent so reminiscent of him.

Her mind was muddled with the recollection of the dizzying sensations he had stirred within her. She closed her poetry book as she sighed a third time, muttering hopelessly to no one in particular, "I shouldn't have kissed him..."

She rose from her comfortable spot on the grass, deciding it was time to seek out her father and return home with him. At least then she could get out of this blasted spring air and manage to keep herself distracted with her lessons and embroidery.

As ambassador, her father routinely visited the palace but his business was usually completed by early afternoon. He would almost certainly be finished with his duties this late in the day. She brushed herself off and headed in the direction of the main hall. The sooner she got home the better. The saccharine sweetness of the garden was getting to her, and she had to stop thinking about the Goblin King's page before she drove herself mad.

She strode quickly along the garden path, in such a hurry that she nearly collided with two figures as she rounded the bend. She looked up, startled to see the two gentlefae, dressed in black finery before her.

The shorter of the two smiled politely as he softly greeted her, "Ah. There is my sister. Father said you would be about the gardens."

Desdemonna met her brother's engaging silvery eyes and replied evenly, "Nyx? What are you doing here?" His tone was slightly mocking as he teased, "Why...walking of course. I had an audience with some of the other diplomats today, and I ran into father as well."

He glanced at the Fae to his left, a tall thin noble with fair hair that was neatly gathered into a ponytail and striking violet eyes. Nyx cleared his throat politely, "Bastienne, I present to you, my sister, Desdemonna."

The lithe Fae bowed his head in a gesture of respect as he replied, "It is a pleasure my lady."

Desdemonna gave a curt bow in response and hastily replied, "Charmed to make your aquaitance." Before she turned her steady gaze to her brother. The tension between them was apparent in the following moment of silence, before she stiffly retorted, "You said you saw father, tell me...where is he?"

Nyx supplied, "I just saw him. He is in the foyer." Desdemonna nodded to them in a quick dismissal as she turned, abruptly heading towards the palace. Nyx watched her rush off and called after her, "Are you in such a hurry that you can't even bid us good day?"

She turned to look over her shoulder, gathering her skirts in her hand as she called back to them, "Excuse my haste, but I've tarried here too long already...good day to both of you."

Nyx looked away, letting his gaze linger on the ground, as Bastienne watched her go. When the girl was out of earshot the fair-haired Fae ventured, "Your sister is quite spirited...not to mention striking."

Nyx raised his head, his smoky eyes scanning the horizon as he conceded matter-of-factly, "Yes, that she is."

Bastienne again looked in the direction the girl had fled, but she was no where in sight as he muttered, "I'm sorry Goblin King didn't see it..." But then he suddenly smirked as he reconsidered, admitting, "On second thought...I'm not. Thanks to Jareth, your sister remains available."

Nyx narrowed his eyes at the mention of the Goblin King's name but otherwise remained silent as Bastienne went on, "She'd be more suitably matched to one among us...even if it does throw a wrench into your plans."

He approached Nyx who was still looking out at the setting sun and ventured, "But perhaps your plans don't involve her at all. I couldn't say...as you've been so secretive."

He crossed his arms over his chest as he sighed and wearily finished, "Once upon a time you used to share everything with us. We were like brothers, you, Mordred, and I."

Nyx slid his molten silver gaze over the tall youth who stood waiting beside him and answered in a sincere and somewhat wounded tone, "It will be like that soon again, Bas. For the moment we just have to be careful. I will tell you and Mordred what you need to know, when you need to know it. My silence has been for good reason, and the wait is nearly over, in fact there is already something I might share with you both."

Bastienne smiled, "Good. Where is Mordred anyway? I haven't seen him since the masquarade."

Nyx softly answered, "That is what I've been meaning to tell you..."

Bastienne froze and sharply replied, "I'm listening."

Nyx lowered his voice and hissed, "Not here, the very trees and flowers could be listening...Come, follow me."

Meanwhile back in the Goblin Kingdom...

A tall lanky goblin swallowed nervously and wiped the drool from his mouth as he felt the air around him shift. As a goblin, he wasn't the brightest of creatures but he was smart enough to know that his ruler did not tolerate drooling.

He straightened, squaring his shoulders in an attempt to snap to attention as the King materialized in a shower of glitter before him. At first Jareth paid the guard no mind as he carelessly draped himself over his throne in a dramatic display of utter boredom.

His icy gaze slid over the goblin captain, who started forward in a clumsy bow that was as noisy as it was graceless. His dingy battered goblin armor was ridiculously oversized and clanked horribly as he moved. Jareth winced visibly as his subject addressed him in a shrill voice with a noticeable lisp, "Your Maggesssssty, I've come with the morning report..."

Jareth sighed impatiently and interrupted, "Yes. I know, you come every morning. Now, skip the formalities and get straight to the point." He narrowed his eyes at the goblin and sneered, "I have other engagements to tend to."

The goblin's slitted yellow eyes widened and he gawked like a fish out of water for a moment before he stammered, "Ssssskkkkkip the formalities?"

Jareth reached out, grabbing the goblin by his armor, pulling him so that they were nearly nose to nose. The King's voice was low as he ground out, "Yes. Just the important bits of last night's watch."

The Goblin nodded emphatically and repeated, "Yessss, jussst the important ppppieeecssses."

Jareth released him with a slight shove and settled back into his throne. It didn't escape the Goblin's attention that he formed a crystal in his hand an impatiently began tossing it back and forth. In fact, the Goblin's eyes never left the transparent orb as he nervously began recounting the events of the previous evening's watch.

He uneasily started to tell the king of a squabble that broke out over the last peanut in the forest tavern, but thought better of it when Jareth looked up suddenly, and the crystal stilled in his hands.

Frantic to not irritate the king further, he jumped ahead to the next item in his report, "During our march through the tunnelsssss...we ssssaw that ssssomeone had vandalizsssed the falsssse alarmssss."

Jareth slowly pressed, "Vandalized?"

The Goblin winced and squeaked, "Ssssssspray painted 'em...your majesssssty...gave'm musssssstachessss...never ssssseen 'em sssso livid."

Jareth rested his hand on his forehead and slowly sneered, "You'd best have something better than that..."

The Goblin stuttered frantically, as he struggled to come up with something, without pausing to breathe he gushed in a frightful lisp, "Ssssssomeone'sssss been pee'in on the li'l fairiesssssss by the gate again...I..." He promptly clamped his mouth shut as he noticed that the King was now pinching the bridge of his nose as though he were trying to ward off a terrible headache, or an imminent explosion of rage.

The King's voice was low and ominous as he warned, "Gathok..."

The Goblin tapped his fist against his forehead as he forced his puny brain into overdrive. The miniscule lightbulb must have finally gone on, as the goblin guard suddenly blurted, "Oh! We sssssaw sssssomething retreating into the fiery foresssst...a ssssskulking ssssort of thing...gleaming bluisssssh ssskin, it wassss glowing as it passsssed through the moonlight...and it had glittering red eyesssss."

Jareth looked up suddenly listening intently.

The goblin quickly added, "We bid it to halt...but it fled deeper into the foressssssst, so we chassssed it."

Jareth spoke slowly so that the Goblin would understand, "Did you apprehend it?"

The Goblin buzzed excitedly, "No, we kept lossssing ssssssight of it. We tried to track it for hoursssss...but it left no ssssscent."

Jareth was already on his feet stalking purposefully to the window, his clothing taking on a whitish sheen as he started to transfigure.

"Where was it last seen!?!"

Chapter 32: A Close Encounter

The cool morning breeze wafted through the barn as Sarah quietly lead Jareth's alicorn from the stable aisle to the grassy paddock just outside. Five armored Goblin soldiers with long spears watched silently from their bizarre wide-eyed bipedal mounts as she passed by. Tempest snorted impatiently as Sarah led him past the strange creatures. As she threw the reins over the alicorn's thick crested neck, the laughing equine voice sounded clearly in her mind, "I was wondering how long you'd stay away lass."

Sarah lowered the stirrups and as she mounted the black stallion, she mentally answered the voice in her head, "I've been meaning to visit, but Jareth wouldn't allow it...at least not until today."

The gentle voice replied, "Naturally...and even still, I see he has sent you with a small goblin army for an escort." Before Sarah could respond the voice finished, "I wouldn't expect any less from Jareth, especially with all this nasty business of the murdered alicorn."

Sarah halted in her attempt to properly gather the reins in her hands and gaped, "You...you know about that?"

The stallion moved into a brisk walk at her signal as he solemnly remarked, "Of course I know. Just because I live in the stable doesn't mean I don't hear the gossip of the kingdom. The goblins who tend the stable talk as much as any of 'em."

He was quiet for a moment before he went on, and there was a touch of sadness in his words, "I didn't know the mare, not really, just knew of her. She would have been foaled long after I came to his majesty. If I'm not mistaken, she was part of the northern herd. Winter, they called her. One of the sharper mares in the herd. 'Tis a shame she met her end like that. Too few of us left these days. Any loss, 'specially a mare is not to be taken lightly."

Sarah was moved by the regret and sadness in the stallion's voice. Suddenly she felt foolish for avoiding him. He had known all along. Sheepishly she admitted, "I'm sorry Tempest. I'm sorry that this happened. I should have come sooner. Jareth didn't want you to be upset, and I was afraid if I came, you would sense something was wrong. I should not have stayed away as long as I did."

The gentle voice reassured her, "Never you mind that lassie. No harm done. Sides, Jareth wouldn't have wanted you here alone, not safe for you to be wandering around by yourself. No, I'd wager he still doesn't like the idea, since he sent those armed fools to tag along."

Sarah sighed, "You might be right about that. Tell me Tempest...do you know what happened to Winter? Who's responsible?"

Tempest tossed his head and supplied, "No more than you do. I've heard talk of two possibilities, but I've heard nothing that proves either one. Some say it was a bloodwraith, others think it might be the Shadow Horde."

"What do you believe it was?"

Tempest nickered softly as though troubled, "I don't know."

He felt her frame sag with disappointment. Picking up the pace to a brisk jog, he reassured her, "Now don't you worry your pretty head, nothing to be done for it now, except find those responsible, and I'm sure Jareth is looking into it. I 'spect he's already got things well in hand. He's very clever you know."

She exhaled wearily, "I know. I just...wish he'd be more up front. You know how he is."

A whinnying laugh erupted in her head as the alicorn mused, "That I do, lassie." Sarah remained quiet as her thoughts turned to Jareth and all that had happened between them.

Tempest gently urged, "There's more than the alicorn that troubles you lass, I can sense your feelings. So much dread and worry...like a dark storm cloud in your mind."

She sighed heavily, no longer wanting to conceal the emotions that were surging within her. There was no reason to hide anything from Tempest. He was a friend who would never reveal her secrets.

Sarah let her guard down. She drew a shaky breath and confessed, "I know. It's Jareth."

Tempest slowed to a walk as he sensed the depth of the girl's feelings for the Goblin King. He remarked simply, "You love him." It was a statement more than a question.

Sarah swallowed as if finally accepting the magnitude of her feelings and all that it meant, "Deeply..." With solemn finality she added, "...Terribly."

The equine voice calmly ventured, "Is he aware of your feelings?"

Sarah quietly affirmed, "He is now."

Tempest coaxed, "This makes you uneasy? Surely, he didn't reject your affection?"

Sarah hesitated, "No, he didn't. Quite the opposite actually."

The equine voice was clearly perplexed, "He returns your feelings then?"

"So it would seem."

Tempest pranced forward and pressed, "You're confusing me lass...what happened then?"

Sarah took a deep breath and explained, "He told me he loved me...so I..." She had trouble finding the right words and finally finished, "...spent the night with him."

They were trotting along the wooded side of the paddock near the edge of the dense fir trees when the stallion incredulously ventured, "He confessed his love? And this troubles you because...?"

Sarah swept a dark strand of hair away from her face and supplied, "It's complicated." She halted suddenly as she noticed that one of the mounted Goblin guards was pointing in her direction and shouting something. The others immediately started forward, and that's when she heard the sound.

It was the earsplitting combination of splintering branches and an inhuman guttural shriek. Sarah's eyes widened in horror as a creature, the likes of which she had never seen, dropped down in front of them from the pine branches above. It landed in a crouching position but quickly straightened to its full height. In the instant it stood up, Sarah took in its size. It was easily eight feet tall.

Startled by the sudden attack, Tempest reared up in defense, striking out at the monster with his sharp front hooves. Sarah hadn't been anticipating the attack, nor the alicorn's reaction.

Caught off guard she slipped down the saddle. There was no way to avoid falling off, but that was the least of her worries. More pressing was the instinct to get far away from the hideous thing that was advancing on her and Tempest.

Sarah landed with a hard thud on the ground. The impact hurt enough to steal her breath away, but the pain was trivial to the mortal terror that rose like cold dark water within her.

The creature backpedaled, just missing being struck by the stallion's hooves. From her position on the ground Sarah was better able to see their attacker.

The creature was unnaturally tall and walked upright on two extremely long bony legs. Its elongated sinewy arms hung down well past its knees. The color drained from her face as she noticed its monstrous hands; they were disproportionately large, with three long slender fingers on each hand adorned with black razor sharp claws. Its skin was a sickly bluish gray, stretched taut over it's gangly frame. It was disturbingly thin, giving it a ghastly, emaciated appearance.

Sarah looked down the field, but the goblins guards were still a long way off. It was unlikely that they'd be able to get to her in time to help.

Tempest snorted loudly, pawing the ground furiously before he lowered his head and bolted forward, charging at the creature that threatened them. Sarah watched in amazement as Tempest attempted to run the creature through with his glinting silver horn.

The monstrosity moved with terrifying purpose. It was incredibly fast and agile, easily out maneuvering the bulky alicorn. Tempest slid to a halt and bolted to the left upon realizing that the creature had evaded him. Due to his momentum, the stallion had far overshot the distance, and had quite a bit of ground to cover before he made it back to where Sarah had fallen.

To her horror the creature had now turned on her, its slitted red eyes assuring her that not one bit of reason was driving it, for it had soulless eyes, like one suffering from the worst sort of madness, as if consumed by fever or rage. Its lipless mouth contorted, the skin pulling back from the teeth as it snarled. It opened its mouth and hissed at her.

The sight and sound made her blanch with fear as every hair on her body stood to attention. It had enormous curved fangs that jutted from its mouth at the most disturbing angle, as if the fangs themselves were straining to reach her. If the sight of those fangs wasn't horrible enough, clear liquid poured from the beast's mouth upon seeing her, making its intention dreadfully clear. It was salivating.

It meant to devour her.

Ignoring the pain that screamed through her body as she leaned back on her arms, she scrambled backwards, her only intention to get the hell away from it.

In her haste to retreat, Sarah had neglected to notice that she was backing up deeper into the dense pine forest. She had only become aware of her surroundings once she was about fifteen feet within the cover of the trees. By then she had felt the soft fallen pine needles sticking to her sweaty palms as she scurried backwards.

The creature advanced cautiously, stalking her slowly, as it followed her deeper into the woods.

By this time, Tempest had turned around and proceeded to charge the creature again, but by the time he had neared them, the creature had already slipped into the trees. The forest was so densely populated that the gaps between the massive fir trees were too narrow for the giant alicorn to maneuver through. The Goblin guards were also approaching, but they were not yet near enough to protect Sarah from the imminent danger.

Though Tempest could not penetrate through the dense branches, he stayed close by, prancing back and forth, trumpeting wildly, as loudly as he could.

Sarah backed up uselessly against the fallen tree trunk that blocked her path, for even if she were to try and run she was sure the creature would be faster and would eventually pounce on her back. At least this way she could keep her eyes on her attacker and see what was coming.

Massive clawed hands reached out towards her as the deranged looking creature advanced on spindly legs. Its vicious jaws opened, unnaturally wide, saliva pouring from it's gaping mouth as it hissed its deadly intent in an inhuman voice, "Sweet young lady...prepare yourself...for you are about to be sucked dry."

Even without the chilling warning, the ghastly voice was the most terrifying sound she had ever heard, making her blood run cold, colder than death. She felt as though she were being drowned in icy black water.

She was so overcome by her panic that she barely saw the streak of white that dove down from the branches above. There was a frantic beating of wings as the white bird darted between her and the monster. The creature, startled and confused by the flurry of white feathers and fabric, stumbled backwards.

In a heartbeat the owl was gone and an incensed Goblin King stood in its place, glaring fiercely at the creature. He stood imperiously, his feet braced shoulders width apart, and one gloved hand reached back, gesturing for Sarah to remain behind him. His sharp accented voice rang out with sinister authority, "Not bloody likely..."

The creature blinked in confusion before it bellowed in a shriek of rage. It lurched forward, moving with lightening speed to strike the Goblin King, but Jareth was ready for it. He was holding a crystal sphere in his right hand and hurled it with deadly accuracy. The crystal struck the creature between the eyes, shattering upon impact causing the monster to disappear in a burst of glitter.

Jareth turned, his worried eyes assessing Sarah for any sign of injury. Extending his gloved hand down to her he softly asked, "Are you alright?"

Sarah quickly grasped his hand and he pulled her up. She wasted no time in throwing her arms about him. Normally, she wouldn't have acted so emotionally impulsive, but in truth she had been terrified beyond reason and never had she been so glad to see anyone in her entire life.

Jareth pulled her close, exhaling heavily into her hair and Sarah felt some of the tension leave his frame as he held her.

The mounted goblin guards were just breaking through the trees and their leader halted them upon seeing that the girl was already safe within the King's arms.

Sarah clung to him for a moment, not quite ready to trust her own two trembling feet. After a while she breathed, "What was that thing?"

His voice was grim as he answered, "A bloodwraith." He noticed that her face was still pale with fright. Struck by the desire to assuage her fears he soothed, "It's alright, it's gone now..."

Sarah pulled back noticing the nearing guards. Looking up at him she asked, "Where'd it go?"

Jareth solemnly replied, "I sent it into an oubliette."

The worried look in her eyes gave away her doubt and he was quick to reassure her, "It's in a very secure oubliette, close to the castle where I can keep an eye on it until it is...disposed of."

She was briefly distracted as one of the Goblin guards finally caught the agitated alicorn by his reins. Upon seeing his distress Sarah called to him, "It's Ok boy, it's gone now." She immediately heard the equine voice respond in her head, "Are you ok lass?"

At precisely the same moment Jareth too asked, "Are you sure you're alright?"

She brushed off the back of her thighs and answered loud enough for both of them to hear, "I'm fine."

Now that she was out danger she realized that her butt was sore, but it was nothing more than a few bruises, nothing compared to being 'sucked dry'.

Suddenly she looked up at Jareth and quipped, "How'd you know? About the bloodwraith I mean?"

He glanced at her and began, "When I questioned the captain of the guard this morning I learned that the watch spotted something that sounded like a wraith in the forest. I went in search of the creature, but the underground forest is a vast place."

She met his eyes and responded, "How'd you know it would come after me?"

Jareth's voice sounded distant as he looked away and admitted, "I didn't. Bloodwraiths don't care much for sunlight, but they will venture out in it if the need arises. I started searching the darkest parts of the forest and found nothing. Then I remembered..." His tone was grave as he finished, "That some of the densest fir trees border the stable, I recalled that you intended to ride today and I came as fast as I could."

Leveling his intense gaze on her, he added, "Fortunately, I heard Tempest from a ways off, and knew right away something was wrong. He alerted me to your location, and when I saw that he was riderless, I dove into the trees and that's when I found you."

Jareth was uncharacteristically quiet as he escorted Sarah back to the castle. They had lingered at the stables only long enough to return Tempest to his stall with his supper and some reassuring words. Unfortunately the Goblin guards who had been assigned the task of protecting Sarah were not so lucky.

Sarah recalled Jareth's harsh words vividly. Though she had attempted to recoil from the tirade he unleashed on his subjects, she had managed to overhear a good part of it. His voice seethed with fury as he had informed them that they never ceased to amaze him with their gross incompetence, and perhaps their senses would be better attuned to danger if they spent a little time in the bog of stench.

Despite Sarah's feeble protests, Jareth sent all five of them sailing into the bog of eternal stench with a mere wave of his hand.

With the guards gone, he stormed off in the direction of the castle and barked, "Come, Sarah." She stood staring with a gaping mouth before she stumbled after him stammering, "But..but...you didn't have to do that. They did try to get to me Jareth!" He didn't even turn around as he snapped with authority, "They shouldn't have left your side to begin with." His tone was grave as he finished, "You could have been killed Sarah."

She could think of no response as she hurried after him. Some time later his pace had still not slowed and she practically had to run to keep up with him. He had not said another word to her and she wondered why he bothered to walk at all. If he was in such a damn hurry he could have transported them.

She hurried to walk beside him, and as she glanced at him she noticed his somber expression. His mouth was set in a pensive frown and his brows were drawn together as though something deeply troubled him. It was then she realized. He was still angry, or he was greatly worried, she wasn't sure which. Perhaps storming back to the castle in utter silence was just his way of blowing off stream.

Sarah followed in silence as Jareth barged into the castle. The few goblins that lingered in the throne room scurried off as soon as they saw their leader's grim frown. Jareth didn't halt until he had reached his throne, and there he stopped suddenly as if he had just realized that Sarah was trailing behind him. Without even turning to face her he warned, "Sarah, this is not the place for you at the moment. There is much to do..."

Her eyes widened as she stared in bewilderment. Her mouth fell open as she gawked at his back. After all that had happened, he was simply brushing her off? She felt the slow burn of embers of anger, which after lying dormant, had finally sparked back to life.

After everything they had admitted, even after they had been intimate, nothing had changed! As white-hot anger surged through her system she wondered, would anything ever change between them? She had been hopeful that their night together would at least start to forge some understanding between them, but as he coldly stood there with his back to her and his voice crisp with icy authority, she realized she was not one step closer to understanding him. In fact as she stood there, at a loss for words, she found herself more hopelessly confused then she had ever been.

Impartially he went on, "It would be best for you to spend the remainder of the day in the castle library. There you'll find some documents that need to be copied."

Was he actually suggesting that she fulfill her scribe's duties for the rest of the day?! The words replayed in her head and she was amazed to discover that he had, in fact, suggested exactly that. His unjust audacity dealt her quite a blow and she barely managed to refrain from slinging a slew of colorful four-letter words at him. Though she managed to bite back the curse words, she couldn't help angrily cry out in protest, "Jareth!"

Unlucky for her, he had already managed to anticipate her inevitable argument and he cut her protest short by insisting rather forcefully, "I won't have you gallivanting outside the castle walls. You will go to the library Sarah. It is not up for discussion." He sighed wearily and added in a slightly softer tone, "There is much to be sorted out."

His softer statement affected her, reminding her of so many other things he'd said. Some of those things he'd spoken just last night. Things she didn't dare think of now.

Her emotional voice was wrought with urgency as she implored him, "Jareth, please..."

His back was still to her, so she didn't see him close his eyes. She didn't see that his expression softened for a moment as many powerful emotions began to bleed through his usual mask of indifference. When he opened his eyes again his expression became somber and tired. His reply held no arrogance, nor malice. It simply insisted on her compliance, as though he were tired of arguing, "Just do as I say, Sarah."

Almost gently he finished, "I will come for you when I can. I'll have some food brought to you in the library. Under no circumstances are you to leave that room. Is that perfectly understood?"

The manner in which he said it informed her that he was gravely serious. She could tell that any further arguments would not be tolerated. In fact the degree of his seriousness rather alarmed her. She wondered if other dangers might be lurking in the kingdom. The terrible visage of the bloodwraith invaded her thoughts and a horrible possibility occurred to her. There could be more of them. Was Jareth's sudden icy demeanor a side effect of his concern?

Yes, he was being cautious, she was almost certain of it.

She licked her lips slowly, casting him a sidelong glance as she conceded, "Fine. I'll go to the library." He turned to face her as she began to back out of the room. She turned around and strode from the room. Just before she tuned the corner out of sight, she glanced back at him. Her eyes met his briefly as she challenged, "Don't make me wait too long."

Chapter 33: Loose Lips Sink Ships

The orange sun blazed as it sank lower in the sky, bathing the labyrinth in surreal fiery light. The lame dwarf hobbled purposefully among the hedges, the light reminding him of another time, when Sarah had made her first appearance in his world. She had been much younger then, and the circumstances surrounding her visit had been vastly different.

He sighed wearily as he sprayed the nearest hedge with his fairy atomizer. Sarah was here again, this time for a full year instead of a meager thirteen hours. He watched the winged pests fall to the dusty ground, not really hearing their pitiful cries of distress as he pondered the dilemma in which his mortal friend now found herself.

Sarah was under Jareth's control for the entire year.

Uneasiness crept over him as he thought of his friend in such a position. He tried to remain optimistic. When he had last spoken with her she didn't seem too unhappy...confused certainly, but she hadn't been miserable. In fact, that was precisely what made him so concerned.

He simply couldn't figure out why Jareth hadn't punished her or enacted some sort of revenge upon her, if he was indeed as sore about losing as everyone believed him to be.

Sure, he hadn't made her stay in the goblin kingdom a paradise vacation, but knowing what Jareth was capable of, it seemed Sarah was getting off unspeakably easy. He couldn't help but wonder what the Goblin King had up his sleeve. He couldn't begin to guess, and that was quite bothersome.

A sharp cry startled him from his troubled thoughts. He turned his head in the direction of the offending sound and saw a small black bird perched on the twisted rosebushes that cascaded down over the lush hedges. The bird cocked its head as it regarded the dwarf and gave another sharp cry. Hoggle had seen many of these small black birds in the labyrinth.

Scavenger birds, that's what they were. Probably would pick up the expired fairies after he left. He paid the creature little mind as he turned back to the flittering fairies that infested the hedges. Someone always had to clean up the mess.

As he sprayed the nearest troublesome swarm of miniscule fairies, he heard the approaching clamor of armor and a growing din of goblin voices. A group of goblin guards were coming up upon the adjacent part of the hedge maze.

Hoggle froze as he heard a goblin voice snigger, "Right foul mood he's in today. Cor, I thought we'd be stuck in there forever. Could barely breathe, it stunk so bad!"

It was then Hoggle caught a whiff of an unforgettable smell.

The Bog of Eternal Stench.

Quietly gasping for air and repressing the urge to gag, he reached a hand up and squeezed his nose as he continued to eavesdrop on the conversation taking place just on the other side of the hedge.

A condescending voice growled in reply, "Ain't no wonder! Lotta good we did, trying to stop that wraith. Nearly got the girl!"

Another goblin sniffed miserably, "Well did you see the size of it?! Nearly three Goblins tall! And fast! Oh so fast! And that huge mouth, full of nasty sharp teeth. Coulda ate us all you know."

The other corrected him, "Well, it was fixin' to eat the girl first. That's why his majesty's so sore at us. We were supposed to be protectin' her. Lotta bloody good we did!"

"Protect her from THAT?! King's off his rocker to 'spect us to do battle with a bloodwraith three times our size. Few pixies are one thing, but BLOODWRAITHS?"

He seemed to contemplate the matter a bit further before he finished, "I tell you, he's a nutter if he thinks I'm gonna trade me hide for some girl."

The other voice piped up as though he'd missed something, "Hang On! What's he care 'bout that girl anyhow? I thought she was the one that beat..."


Hoggle heard a clank as one guard beaned the other on the top of his armored helmet and hissed, "Quiet you nit wit! Do you want him to hear you? Were not that far from the castle, He may be watchin' or listenin',"

In a hushed voice, (that was still loud enough for Hoggle to hear through the hedge) the goblin explained, "She is the one. That girl is the Sarah that solved the Labyrinth."

The other goblin's voice was shrill with disbelief as he cried, "Then what in blazes does the King want us protecting her for?"

"You really are thick. You must be living under a log to not have heard all the rumors."

"What rumors?"

With an exasperated sigh the other guard replied, "The rumors that the King is sweet on her."

"Sweet on who?"

"The girl!"

"What girl?"

"The girl we were just talking about you imbecile...SARAH!"

"Ooooohhhh. So that's why he wants her protected. Hang on! How do you know he's sweet on her? Tell you 'imself did he?"

"Arghhh! No you bone-head. That's what everyone is saying...That King Jareth fancies her."

A third goblin voice butted in, "Well, makes sense. She is rather like him...tall enough anyway...and not bad, is she? I mean, sort of pretty...for a human" As an afterthought he admitted defensicely, "I mean...if you're into that sort of thing."

The other goblin still wasn't convinced, "Well, how do they know? I mean I was there in the hall the day she arrived, and he didn't seem all soft on her...sounds like rubbish to me."

The other huffed, "You really are a pig-headed dolt. There are rumors because of things that others have seen. Just today I heard that the guard who went to fetch the king this morning saw something that darn well proves he's taken with her."

"What did he see? See the King give her a bit o' string or somethin'? I liked a girl once...gave her me best bit o' string, I did..."

"NO! He didn't give her string. By the Bog! You are such a dunce!"

The goblin sounded a little wounded, "Well, if he didn't give her string, what then?"

"When he went to get the King from his chamber this morning he was not alone. The girl, Sarah, was with him."

The other was clearly unimpressed, "So. Maybe she's an early riser, or had a message for him...she could have been there for any number of reasons..."

"No you moron. She was in his BED!"

"Oh." It seemed the other two goblins were at a loss for words.

Triumphantly, the enlightened one went on, "So you see...He is protecting her. He can't be too careful with bloodwraiths about. I say the girl is very lucky that he does fancy her and that he arrived when he did."

Hoggle didn't stick around to hear anything else they had to say, for he had already dropped his atomizer and took off in the direction of the castle as fast as his lame little legs could carry him.

Sarah was in the castle library, hunched over the oversized mahogany desk, scratching on a stack of parchment with her quill and ink, as she heard hurried footsteps shuffling down the hallway. It was obvious by the short footfalls that it wasn't Jareth. That was inarguably the sound of either a goblin or a dwarf running down the halls. Sarah lay down her quill as she heard a muffled voice speaking to the goblin guard posted on the other side of the door. She got up from the desk as the dwarf burst into the room, panting as he glanced about wildly.

There was a tone of relief in his breathless gruff voice as he exclaimed, "Ah, there you are. I've been all over this castle looking for ya." She wasted no time in asking, "Hoggle? What is it?"

He fought to catch his breath, "Is it true? Were you attacked...by a bloodwraith?"

Not wanting to unnecessarily alarm him further, she answered cautiously, "Well, yeah, almost. But I'm fine."

The dwarf eyed her warily as he stepped forward, "Well, I s'pose you are. Wouldn't be standin' here alive if the thing had gotten hold of ya."

Again she assured him, "Yes, I'm alright. Thanks to Jareth."

His eyes widened in considerable surprise, "It's true then? He rescued you?"

Not sure where the dwarf was going with all this, Sarah nodded slowly. He looked up at her, and immediately noticed her uncertainty. It was as if he could sense the unending barrage of questions that made her eyes seem troubled. There was a world of things that he didn't understand about his friend, but he knew enough to see the confusion that plagued her. Concern wrinkled his bushy brows as he prodded, "You're sure you're alright then?"

Her gentle reply was meant to be reassuring, "Hoggle, I'm fine."

But he knew better. She was definitely not fine. Something was eating at her and he wondered if it might have something to do with the other bit gossip he'd just overheard. It was a fair assumption. His eyes were suddenly scanning everything but her face as he tentatively began, "Uh...Sarah?"


He stammered as if having difficulty finding the right place to begin, "I uh...heard something else out in the labyrinth today."

He had her curious now, and innocently she replied, "Oh? What? What was it that you heard?"

His discomfort was evident in the way he stammered, "Ugh...ah...nothin' important really. Just a bit a gossip..."

Her eyes widened expectantly and he suddenly found the ground very interesting as he mumbled, "Errr...somethin' bout you and...Jareth."

Heat crept into her cheeks as they flushed a deep shade of red. His reluctance to just come out with it confirmed the nature of the rumor, but still, she had to know exactly what he'd heard before she explained herself. Taking a deep breath she firmly urged him, "What about me and Jareth?"

His eyes rolled about, avoiding contact with hers as he went on in a flustered, blundering sort of manner, "Uhhh I heard that Jareth may be...rather taken with you...errr...that you and he...ahhhh...spent the night...together."

Sarah was, in all honesty, at a loss for words. She had known it was a possibility that her friends might eventually find out what was going on between herself and the Goblin King, but it made being confronted about it no less awkward. How were they to understand about the complex feelings that were developing between herself and her long time adversary, especially when she hardly understood them herself? Weakly she swallowed and managed the only thing she could think to say.


Hoggle was taken aback. Why hadn't she forcefully denied what he'd just implied? He was bewildered that she hadn't demanded to know what in the underground he was talking about. After all, goblin gossip was hardly a reliable source. But she hadn't done either. In truth, her quiet resignation alarmed him. Could it actually be true? Had those bickering pests actually gotten something right? Aghast he murmured, "Sarah...is it true...?"

But now it was her turn to cast her eyes upon the floor as she bit her lip in uneasy deliberation. It took her only a moment to make up her mind on how best to proceed with a true friend like Hoggle. There was only one way. Honestly. He deserved that much, no matter how uncomfortable the subject matter. Softly she admitted, "Well...Yeah. Sort of."

The dwarf seemed to have great difficulty getting the words out, "Are you saying that...you and Jareth are...? I mean...you don't actually like him...do you?

In a voice that bordered on sounding guilty and wretched she ventured, "Hoggle, There's something I ought to tell you."

Finally his large grey eyes met hers, his thick brows drawing together in concern as he gave her his undivided attention.

How would he ever understand? Whether he would or not, she had to tell him. She couldn't keep her feelings buried beneath the surface any longer. She took a deep breath and prayed that what she was about to tell him wouldn't be too damaging to their friendship. Quietly she admitted in one breath, "What you heard is true. Last night...I...was...with Jareth, I...I spent the night with him."

His voice wavered in disbelief, "Wha...you...you did?" His tone struck a chord in her and she looked away. She ducked her head shamefully and nodded.

It seemed to took a moment for the idea to sink in, and then straightening, he demanded, "Wha...what'd you go and do a thing like that for?"

It was a fair question. She pressed her lips together as she turned away from her friend, her long dark hair swinging like a silk curtain. Softly she cursed at herself, "Shit. I..." She took a deep breath and explained, "Hoggle, there's more. I should have told you sooner."

He could see this was difficult for her and he tried to be supportive by letting her finish.

She released an exasperated sigh and wearily admitted, "Hoggle, I...I do like him." She swallowed and softly confessed, "In fact you might say I...I'm in love with him."

Her words hit him hard. He froze, astonishment crept into his voice as he ventured, "You...You Are?"

She nodded, her gaze drifting to the floor again as she softly affirmed, "I am."

His sigh of dismay was loud enough for her to hear as he let his head fall heavily into his hands.

He remained like that for a long moment, as though he was quietly trying to let the news sink in. Though he didn't immediately shout or interrogate her, it was obvious he was trying to collect himself before he eventually did comment. Sarah allowed him a moment to come to terms with what he'd heard, and silently awaited his response, whether good or bad.

Finally he did look up at her and she wondered whether it was disappointment or concern that made his large liquid grey eyes look so forlorn. His voice was gruff but not harsh as he ventured, "How long have ya felt this way 'bout him?"

Uneasily she shrugged one shoulder and quickly supplied, "I'm not exactly sure. I didn't tell him how I felt until last night, but...I've felt something for him for a long time...longer than I care to admit."

Hoggle digested her words very carefully and replied, "Are ya saying that you liked him all along...even way back when ya were solving the labyrinth?"

She appeared thoughtful for a moment before she answered truthfully, "I don't know, exactly. I was only fifteen when I solved the labyrinth." She thought hard and went on, "I don't think I even knew what love was back then, and I certainly had bigger things to worry about than the exact nature of my feelings for the guy who took my baby brother...but..." She threw him a tentative glance as she went on, "...I'd be lying to you if I said there wasn't some sort of attraction there, even way back then."

The dwarf's head fell into his hands as he grunted under his breath in tone of dismay, "Oh no. I thought somethin' like this might happen."

Sarah tilted her head to the side pensively and ventured, "What do you mean?"

Hoggle simply shook his large head dismissively, "Well, Jareth does have a way with people, bein' his flashy overblown self..." He sighed and added, "No matter. Was bound to happen sooner or later...But..." He halted glancing around suddenly, his thick brows raising in suspicion, "Uh Sarah, Where is Jareth anyway?"

She shrugged, "I don't know. He told me to wait here."

Hoggle nodded slowly as if a thought had struck him. After a moment he remarked, "Could be anywhere then...could drop in any minute."

Sarah replied, "Yeah, you may be right. Maybe we should finish this conversation later..."

Hoggle nodded in agreement but he had to at least warn her, "Sarah, I'm yer friend and I don't want to tell ya what to do...but you know how I feel 'bout Jareth. He scares me. Maybe not all the time, but you and I know how he is when it comes to gettin' his own way. He can be a rat. A big rat. And he's tricky Sarah. I...just want you to be careful."

Sarah was already nodding, knowing full well what he meant. The dwarf had more to say however, "Beware Sarah. Don't go blindly trustin' that knave. Promise me you'll be careful..."

She had to appreciate his concern, even though she was sure he was being overprotective. She nodded solemnly and gave her gentle answer, "I promise Hoggle. I'll be careful."

The dwarf sighed and added, "And if you need me, all you have to do is call."

She bent down and embraced her friend as she conceded, "I know." She pulled back, offering him a sweet smile, as she finished, "I don't want you to worry over me. I'll be fine, but do come and visit me as often as you want, if it makes you feel better."

He nodded, smiling as though he was already feeling better about the whole thing, "I will. I'll come and see ya again tomorrow."

She smiled, "I'd like that." He noticed the stack of parchment on the desk and gruffly remarked, "Well, I'd better be off. I don't want to disturb ya from..." He looked from the desk, where her parchment and quill lay forgotten before he looked back at her and asked, "What are ya doing in here anyway?"

She leaned back against the desk and casually explained, "Oh. Jareth had some documents he wanted me to draft, some decrees and things..." Hoggle knitted his brow and asked, "Decrees? You? Don't he have a scribe to worry 'bout that?" Sarah smirked and sarcastically remarked, "He does. You are looking at it."

There was a sudden flourish of activity, just outside the library window. Both Sarah and Hoggle glanced outside just as a small black bird took off in flight from the dead branch it had been perched on.

Upon seeing it was a harmless bird, Hoggle shrugged in disapproval, "His stable groom, his scribe, and his pageboy? What next?"

Sarah smiled warmly, "Don't ask that. I have to take enough orders from him...I don't need anymore."

Hoggle beamed at her and ventured, "Right then...your royal scribe. I'd better be off, before Jareth catches me in here." He hobbled to the door and glanced back at her, "Right. I'll come to see you tomorrow...we can talk s'more then." He gave her a knowing wink and she smiled, somewhat sad to see him go.

It was rather lonely in the library. She settled at the desk, took up her quill, and began to write. As she paused to read each line, she let the soft end of the feather brush across her lips. She hoped Jareth wouldn't keep her waiting too much longer.

It was dusk as the snowy owl soared high above the labyrinth. It was no more than a white dot against the brilliant purple backdrop of the sky, which melded into a dazzling pink horizon. The sun had already sank below the treetops and the soft peach illumination heralded twilight as one shining white star after another pierced the darkening sky.

The light was fading fast, but the goblin king, at home in his owl form, did not need the light to guide him. One of the benefits of his secondary form was that he could see perfectly in almost total darkness. At the moment it was precisely this advantage he intended to make full use of.

He would ensure that there weren't any other bloodwraiths prowling about kingdom. He would search every inch of his labyrinth, even if it took all night. Of course as sovereign, it was his duty to protect his subjects, but his sense of uneasiness went way beyond the normal sense of duty. Even more unsettling than the idea that more of the horrid creatures could be lurking out there, was the reason why he was so disturbed by their supposed presence.

There were more than goblin lives at stake.

Jareth didn't often worry about the safety of his minions, because even though they weren't the brightest of creatures, Goblins were sturdy, and quite difficult to kill, and when provoked, they were capable of fighting with a savage ferocity not often seen in creatures so small. But now...for the first time in his life there were more than goblins to consider.

There was Sarah.

For so long now he had played the part he had been condemned to. The cold-hearted, invulnerable ruler. The cool and menacing Goblin King.

And now...it seemed all that could change. He had to tread carefully now. His future teetered on the edge of a knife. One slip, and there would be no going back.

He had already come so far. The bits and pieces of his plan had been falling perfectly into place, but now, after tasting the beginnings of victory, he was in a quandary.

He had successfully acquired her.

He had managed to trick her into coming back. He had frightened her, dominated over her with commanding authority for many weeks. Despite her willfulness, he had managed to obtain her obedience, charming her when necessary. As her willingness to cooperate increased, he had granted her privileges, and engaged her in conversation, until he had earned her trust. Last night he had let his guard down, warming to her, to see just how far that trust went.

It went deeper than he would have ever anticipated.

He had successfully lured her into his bedchamber in the middle of the night and gave her what she had been so desperately seeking.

A confession.

She wanted the truth, and he had been mercilessly honest. He loved her. It shouldn't have been a surprise, really. He had loved her since she took her first steps through his vast labyrinth.

In truth he had been captivated the moment he heard her lilting young voice...hooked the moment he set eyes on her petulant face...sweet pouting lips, green eyes flashing with such savage anger and hurt. He should have known then, what a world of trouble she was capable of causing.

He had been too confident, underestimated her. He was so sure he would win her over by the end, but she was even more headstrong than even he had dreamed. Her youth had been another attribute in her favor.

He knew she was young, but it was so hard to keep in mind that she was little more than a child, when she already had the physical attributes of a woman. In some regards she was wise beyond her years, while in other respects she remained innocent and naive.

When he had her under his spell, trapped in her own masquerade dream, he had been so sure that she had been watching him with a wild curiosity, that there was something in her eyes that affirmed that she wanted him, even if she didn't fully understand all the how's and why's.

In the end her immaturity had prevented her from seeing the big picture. She was not ready to understand what his last minute offer had meant.

Her victory had dealt him a serious blow, but he had had an abundance of time to come to terms with why it happened and what it all meant.

She hadn't been ready.

And he had spent these long years biding his time until the day she would be. Now she was, and he had taken such pleasure in making her understand.

She had submitted, and willingly gave herself to him. She had offered her body and her heart, and he had indulged, and it was far sweeter than he could have ever imagined.

As sweet as it was, it was far from over.

He had half expected that once she had submitted, once he had bedded her, and spent himself in her arms, that there would be some relief to the longing that incessantly plagued him.

He had thought that her cries of love and her passionate pledge would be enough to sate him, that he would awaken stronger, without that debilitating craving for her touch and her love.

It seemed he had been gravely mistaken.

He didn't feel as though he'd gotten "his fill" of her at all. If anything he only felt more vulnerable, the longing had only intensified, and now he felt as though he could never get enough of her.

And then there was the bloodwraith. It had nearly attacked her. If he had arrived only one moment later...

He dared not even think of consequences, for the thought alone filled him with the worst sort of dread and despair.

The last time she'd left his world, he swore that he would teach her a lesson she would never forget.

Her defeat had left him in anguish. He wanted her to know that sort of agony. He wanted to torment her...hurt her like no one ever had. It was only just for her to learn what that felt like. To be utterly defeated, and cast aside.

What comes around goes around.

He would have loved nothing more than to torture her forever. Vengeance suited him. It had been driving him for so long now that he knew little else.

Except love.

And that was precisely his problem. It made him weak and confused. It was much simpler to have a vendetta against someone. To simply loathe them.

That was not the case with Sarah, it was infinitely more complex than that. He had it out for her, yes, but he also loved her at the same time. Just that very morning he had begun to see the complications this would cause.

Last night, he had been content lying in her arms, and he never wanted that feeling to end. The euphoria of her passionate words, her intoxicating kiss, and her gentle touch, almost made him forget the past. In those moments, revenge couldn't have been further from his mind.

Her affections were getting to him. It was nearly enough to make him not care anymore. It was moments like those that were so dangerous, as he had nearly thrown caution to the wind. With her lying there in his arms, he had dared to dream, dared to imagine a future with her. He had asked himself the forbidden question.

What if he were to forego his plan...what if he freed her? Told her the truth...and somehow she chose to remain at his side, like an equal? What if by some small chance she would willingly consent...to be his and only his for all eternity?

And that had been his grievous error, to let his feelings prompt him to even think such a thing. To want that was to invite defeat again. A defeat so terrible, that it could well be his downfall. He could not let that happen. He couldn't give her that chance.

And then Sarah had nearly been killed, and it seemed everything he knew and believed in had been shaken. The thought of her being taken away, of her life being extinguished with no hope of return, was simply...unfathomable. He could not let that happen.

Things were indeed more complicated than he had anticipated.

Chapter 34: A Bird Sings

Meanwhile, as the white barn owl was on one mission, a much smaller, rather ordinary black bird was making a journey of its own.

The small bird flitted chaotically over the treetops, a clear sign that it was in great haste. It circled widely, just barely spying the ancient crumbling ruins through the boughs of the dense trees of the forest.

It darted down through the giant trees to land on the weather worn flat stones that made up the circular floor of the ruins. The bird hopped a few times causing a flurry of black feathers and fabric, before a tall figure stood where the bird had just been.

The figure was not a human, but a full-grown Fae male. He was taller than most of his kind, and was of a strong athletic build seldom seen in his race. His chest and shoulders were broad making him a much more brawny specimen than the average Fae.

His shaggy reddish blonde hair was mussed, slightly dampened with sweat as he tried to catch his breath. He slowly turned about, narrowing his feral green eyes. They were almost cat-like in their intensity as they darted about. He was clearly scanning his surroundings for movement.

Though he was not unpleasant to look at, his features gave his appearance a type of no nonsense look. The large Fae made for an intimidating sight, especially considering the jagged scar that tore up his right cheek.

His clothes were simple and nondescript, yet the fit was impeccable. Black breeches, with worn brown boots of soft leather. He was dressed in a simple green tunic covered by a leather jerkin.

He surveyed the ruins with a cautious lingering gaze. Once this place had been a circular open structure, with a high stone ceiling supported by six thick stone columns. It had been a sacred place, unsurpassed in its ability to channel magic, a place where the powerful once came to cast their enchantments and charms.

But now it lay in ruin. Crumbling and wholly forgotten.

What was once the great stone ceiling was now empty air, the only covering now was the limbs of the encroaching trees. Large pieces of stone, once part of the roof, littered the flagstone floor. The great columns were now nothing more than worn stone obelisks, some less than half their original height in their state of decay. Any ornate carvings they once possessed, had been lost over the passage of time.

Much of the floor was covered in moss. Weeds poked up through the cracks and dense black vines engulfed what was left of the colonnades. The place had a secretive quality, as it was heavily shaded by the dense canopy of branches overhead, which effectively filtered out the sunlight.

The light of the sunset still managed to penetrate the ruins, falling in diagonal rays, seeming surreal in its whiteness. The streams of light made visible all the dust motes and the feathery seedpods that floated so gracefully in the air, purified by the bright light. All these qualities gave the ruins an eerie ambiance of quietude.

The perfect setting for privacy.

Though his eyes did not detect any movement in the shade of the ruins, he knew he was being watched.

A silky voice came from behind, a wholly soothing, pious manner of whisper, "Mordred. I have been eagerly awaiting your return. Why have you kept me waiting so long?"

The brawny Fae breathed easier upon recognizing the voice. He turned swiftly, his businesslike eyes now settling on the hooded figure that leaned casually against the stone pillar, draped in shadow.

"Nyx. I'm relieved to see you."

The figure straightened and ventured closer. As he came forward into the light, Mordred could make out his pale face and silvery eyes adorned with dark brows and lashes even with the cover of the hood. His pale lips formed a solemn smile. It was a melancholy grin, but beautiful at the same time. Even the vertical scar that marred his upper lip couldn't eradicate the sad beauty of the expression.

The saintly voice that answered was little more than a whisper, "As am I brother. Soon enough you will be through with your errand, and then you can return home. Now...what news from the Goblin City?"

Mordred swiftly replied, "Things are progressing even better than we expected. There is much to tell..."

Nyx's smile was mild and gentle, "By all means, tell all...do not keep me in suspense."

With a tone of satisfaction Mordred replied, "The bloodwraith has been found. It attacked Jareth's alicorn, and there were many witnesses, the Goblin King himself among them."

Nyx hissed his approval with the grace of a serpent, "Excellent..."

Mordred continued, "It gets better. The Goblin King's pretty little mortal happened to be riding the Alicorn at the time."

His silver eyes widened under the cowl, but Mordred quickly supplied, "It didn't kill her of course, Jareth reached her in time and dealt with the creature, but there is no question now..."

Nyx excitedly interjected, "Jareth suspects..."

Mordred nodded, finishing the thought, "Aye, he suspects that a bloodwraith took down the other alicorn. Now he has no reason to suspect the Horde."

A slow deliberate grin formed on Nyx's face, contorting his usual serene grin into a truly sinister expression as he nodded his approval, "Excellent Mordred, What else have you found out?"

Mordred was quick to go on, "So many have thought the Goblin King infallible, but you were quite right, he does have a weakness...one that we might easily exploit. It seems he has a soft spot for this girl, Sarah, the human. He saved her from the bloodwraith, and was quite furious at his minions for not protecting her. His wrath was quite severe, it seems the bloodwraith will be executed."

Nyx narrowed his eyes thoughtfully and gestured for him to elaborate.

"I overheard some of the King's subjects. It seems your prediction was correct. Jareth has bedded the girl, and his minions suspect that he is quite taken with her. I found a perch high in the castle and I saw the girl for myself. She was speaking to a dwarf, the very one who helped her solve the labyrinth. I overheard much of their conversation, and a real gem of information reached my ears."

Nyx inclined his head, obviously very interested in what his confidante had to say, "Go on..."

With an air of complacent finality he supplied, "She is in love with Jareth. It seems they've come to some understanding. If Jareth cares for her as much as she and his subjects believes he does, it seems we have a real opportunity here."

Nyx nodded, "Yes, we could exploit this weakness..."

Mordred seemed full of glee as he suggested, "Perhaps we could lure the girl from the castle my Lord...if we captured her, Jareth would surely come..."

Nyx held up his hands and gently calmed him, "That is a possibility, however there might be a simpler alternative...if all you say is true."

Mordred nodded, "I have told you all as I have heard it, though there is one other scrap of information I overheard."

"And what is that?"

"Sarah is acting as the Goblin King's scribe."

Nyx was quiet for a moment, before his brilliant silver eyes flashed with mirth. "You have uncovered much my brother. Your knack for gathering intelligence is a great asset to the Horde. Your service has proven invaluable. I assure you, you will be well rewarded when the Horde rises to power once again."

Mordred bowed his head reverently and replied, "It is my honor to serve a leader so great as you my brother...but please there must be more I can contribute. What other service might I give to the Horde, my brethren?"

Nyx gestured for him to rise as he finished, "The time may soon come when we may have to fight to defend the ways of the shadow, and when that time comes we will draw swords together and take what is ours...but for now, there is no other task more suited for you than that which I have already appointed you."

Pensively, he continued, "Yes, you may best serve your brothers by returning to the Goblin City and being our eyes and ears. The knowledge you have brought is useful, however my mind tells me there is more to be uncovered. Go now, and if any more news regarding the Goblin King or his precious human touches your ears inform me at once."

Mordred bowed, his garments already taking on a black feathery sheen as he began to transform, "As you wish my brother."

Nyx bowed in return before black fabric and feathers filled his sight. In a matter of moments the small black bird that was Mordred, his most faithful servant, took off in the direction of the Goblin Kingdom.

Later that night in the Goblin Castle...

Sarah woke with a start as the heavy oak door groaned on its hinges. She blinked her eyes and groggily looked up to see a small goblin tip-toeing in. How long had she been sleeping in here?

She looked over at the large open window to see that the sky had grown black and the large full moon was rising, like a giant luminous white orb in the inky black sky. Rubbing the sleep from her eyes she turned back to the goblin. It wore an oversized stained apron and huge gloves that went as high as its scrawny elbows. A dollop of suds was slowly fading atop its sopping wet, stringy hair.

The small goblin narrowed its yellow eyes at her in disdain, placing one hand on it's hip as it opened it's beaklike mouth, "I thought you'd still be in here." Its gaze then left her and settled on the small pile of dishes on the edge of the desk.

Sarah inhaled sharply trying to shake off the haze of sleep. Straightening in the chair she closed the book she had fallen asleep on as things suddenly became clear. She must have been dozing for hours, and this was one of the goblins on scullery duty, come to take away her dinner tray.

The goblin motioned crudely to the dirty dishes and squawked, "You finished with those girly?"

Sarah nodded. The goblin grabbed the bowl on top, eyeing it suspiciously as he added, "Don't want to lick it clean then?"

Sarah tried not to look too disgusted as she replied, "Uh...no...you...you go ahead." The goblin muttered, "Don't mind if I do..." before he stuck out his obscenely long green tongue and licked the remains from her soup bowl.

She tried not to outwardly appear repulsed by the action, but she'd never grown used to some of the goblins more abhorrent habits, this one in particular. Quickly she added, "Um...yeah, you can just take those...I'm done with them thanks."

The Goblin promptly collected the stack and started for the door grumbling as he went. Just as he reached the door Sarah piped up, "Um...excuse me, but do you know if the King has returned?"

The Goblin tuned around peering over her teacup as he answered, "Yup, he jus' got back. In his throne room, he is..."

Sarah nodded quickly, "Thanks...Oh wait! Please leave the door open..." The goblin tottered off down the hallway calling over his shoulder, "Whatever you say girly." Sarah rushed from the room, careful to avoid tripping over the guard who sat napping on the floor.

Jareth sat alone in the semi-darkened room. Slouched upon his throne, his long legs stretched out before him, his upper body tilted to one side, his slender fingertips resting delicately against his temple.

After briefly visiting her chambers to freshen up after her nap, Sarah had crept quietly down the stone staircase to quietly gaze upon the sight that awaited her. Either he was unaware of her presence or he was simply ignoring it.

She kept her back to the wall as she was now inside the room. It took a few moments for her eyes to adjust, but soon they had grown accustomed to the dim lighting. Her eyes wandered over the immense hall.

Jareth was alone. Not a single goblin was to be found.

The only sound was the nearly undetectable hiss of fire, which burned and flickered on the wall sconces. The only other source of light was the pale patch of moonlight on the flagstone floor before the throne created by the diagonal streams of moonlight that fell from the high narrow window.

Again she gazed upon the Goblin King. His eyes were closed and his expression suggested that he was either deep in thought or was warding off a terrible headache. She wondered what heavy thoughts currently plagued his mind. Troubled or not, he was still pleasing to look at.

The soft light illuminated his face, making his fine hair look soft and white, and his fair skin seemed flawless and luminous. Her eyes dropped to peruse the rest of him. He wore the gothic style leather breastplate over a midnight blue tunic. The heavy metal amulet hung in its rightful place over his breastplate. Royal goblin armor. His breeches were black, and his high black boots and black leather gauntlets completed the outfit.

Dressed in such sinister formalwear, yet his manner was so carelessly aloof. Still, for all his darkness there was something beautiful and light about him. For a moment she treasured the sight of him, secretly drinking in his beauty and letting it stir her.

Jareth. Her very own wicked angel.

Tentatively she approached him, allowing the heels of her boots to sound on the flagstone floor, so as not to startle him.

He shifted in his throne, so he was leaning back rather than slouching to the side, and his eyes opened and slid over to where she stood waiting.

She tilted her head to one side, as if considering his melancholy expression before she spoke in that kind lilting voice of hers, "Is everything alright Jareth?"

For a moment he simply stared at her, as if suddenly just noticing her presence. His eyes swept over her, carefully taking in each detail. She had changed her clothing. She had on a white peasant blouse, which dipped low in the front and fell so enticingly off her shoulders. Her hair was down, her dark locks spilled freely about her shoulders, in sharp contrast against her fair skin. Instead of her riding breeches, she wore one of the long red skirts he had provided her with. Her waist was made smaller by the leather waist cincher, beautifully enhancing the curve of her hips. It seemed the high heeled black boots, laced up to her knee perfectly accented the brazenness of her fierce green eyes.

She seemed strangely powerful standing there like that, with one hand resting impatiently on her hip. She was not unlike some legendary figure, with the moonlight streaming over her shoulder and her feet braced shoulders width apart. She was only missing a sword at her side and a fancy hat, and she might have been a striking pirate, or some dashing heroic swordswoman. Suddenly he remembered she was more than that, she was the champion of his labyrinth...and the only woman who had managed to steal his heart.

His voice finally cut through the dark and it was startlingly confident, "I assure you, everything's fine."

His reply was full of cold satisfaction, and for a moment his expression was haughty and smug. In fact, the statement was nearly sinister...and sounded somewhat final. She was alarmed by the realization. Something was wrong here.

Her eyes grew huge as she carefully ventured, "Jareth...What have you done?"

He seemed to ponder his hands as he adjusted his leather glove and replied, "Nothing...except now you needn't worry your pretty head over a certain bloodwraith anymore." His eyes locked with hers as he added in a murmur, "Or any other bloodwraiths for that matter."

"Why? What did you do?"

"I've spent the last several hours searching my kingdom, and there are no signs that any other bloodwraiths have been about, and as for the one trapped in the oubliette...well, you need not worry about running into that creature ever again."

Her eyes widened as she gasped, "Is...Is it dead?"


She took a deep breath and ventured, "...but how?"

His eyes met hers as he coldly replied, "I killed it."

She swallowed and disbelievingly demanded, "...But...I thought it was to be...tried and sentenced first?"

Jareth shrugged, "It would have been, for it's crime against the unicorn, but the moment it moved to strike my mount..." His eyes swept over her, "...my property...and you, it's fate was sealed."

Her mouth hung open as his words sunk in, but no words came.

Once again his eyes held hers and he finished, "No one, and nothing tries to take what is rightfully mine."

Not knowing what to say, Sarah stared hard at the floor. When she finally looked up at him, she found that his expression was grave.

There was no remorse in his tone as he went on, "I put an end to it..." He snapped his fingers and ominously added, "...Just like that. That thing would have killed you Sarah, and if it ever were to escape it would try again. It kills indiscriminately. I saw it up close. I spoke with it. It was thoroughly crazed, and bloodthirsty. Having a thing like that locked up and starving...it's a recipe for disaster."

She looked away and he found her expression unreadable. He couldn't tell if she disappointed or relieved.

Gently he went on, "Sarah..."

His voice was softer now and she closed her eyes against the sound.

"...I had to do it. It would have been sentenced to a swift execution anyway. I cannot describe to you the extent of its misery...I do not doubt that it suffered greatly."

He stared at the floor for a moment before he added, "That's why they kill you know, they cannot stand the thirst...they spend their pitiful existence craving the blood, twisted and wracked with pain as they thirst for it."

He sighed, sounding rather tired, "...And when they do get it, there is only little relief. The feeling is short lived and when it wears off they suffer even more. It is a vicious cycle for them...and they are incapable of ending it."

He paused for a moment before his eyes once again locked with hers, "I put it out of its misery...I had to. It was quick and painless."

There was no malice in his tone, and she didn't doubt that he was telling her the truth. Though her encounter with the creature had been brief, there was no doubt in her mind that the thing would have killed her if Jareth hadn't intervened.

What he said made sense. The wraith had seemed crazed, as though it were starving. She couldn't help but feel slightly guilty, though she knew it wasn't her fault that the thing had attacked. Perhaps he was right, maybe the creature was better off dead. Either way there was no denying that she was more than a little relieved that it was gone.

She hadn't been able to shake the thought that if she had been able to escape an oubliette, perhaps the bloodwraith may have also found a way out. Thanks to Jareth, she wouldn't have to lose any sleep over that thought.

Her eyes met his and she nodded as she softly admitted, "I understand."

She wanted to ask him how he had done it. Did he use magic? But at the same time, she didn't really want to know. In fact she didn't want to talk about monsters at all.

She tilted her head thoughtfully as her eyes settled on him, they were wide and full of concern, "Are...Are you alright?"

For a moment he simply looked at her, he was obviously taken aback by her sudden concern.

Sarah glanced down before her eyes flicked up to meet his. Gently she explained, "I thought you might be upset...you seemed troubled when I first came in here."

He arched one fine brow and remarked, "My, my Sarah, is that concern I detect?"

She crossed her arms impatiently and replied, "Perhaps...does that surprise you?"

"As a matter of fact it does."


He regarded her for a moment before he answered, "Until last night you haven't been very agreeable, in fact I'd go so far as to say until recently you harbored a fair amount of contempt towards me. So you can imagine why your concern would seem surprising when all this time you've been at odds with me."

Sarah nodded suddenly finding her shoes interesting, "Fair enough..." She glanced up at him, "...but things have changed."

"Really?" He was obviously intrigued.

She sauntered closer, a slow mysterious smile began playing over her lips. Her voice was husky and seductive, barely above a whisper, "Oh yes, I think now you'll find me much more agreeable."

The sound of her voice sent chills down his spine.

She approached his throne and knelt down on one knee before him, all the while keeping her eyes fixed on him. Her smoky voice was a seduction in itself as she went on, "In fact, your majesty, I intend to show you just how amenable I can be."

Slowly she lowered herself, the palms of her hands flat on the flagstone floor. She glanced up at him for a split second, from the top of her eyes, before she closed them and lowered her face, pressing her lips against his booted foot.

He watched in silent awe as she reverently kissed his boot, bowing more humbly than any subject of his ever had. He was reminded of the first time she did this, just after she had taken the place of her beloved friend. There was a world of difference between then and now. Then he hadn't given her much choice, he'd practically made her do it, but not this time. Now she was kissing his boots of her own volition...willingly prostrating herself before him.

Her hands slid over the dusty stone floor to grasp his other ankle. Her liquid green eyes darted up to meet his, glassy with emotion as she breathed, "You saved my life..."

The sight of her, and the sound of her throaty voice took his breath away. She pressed her lips now to the top of his other boot, her eyes tightly closed as she firmly kissed the leather.

The scent of leather filled her nose smelling much like his black leather gloves, a scent she uniquely associated with him, a smell that excited her.

All day while she was alone, her thoughts kept drifting back to the intoxicating kisses and the intimate moments they had shared the night before, making the hours feel like an eternity. In the quiet of the library his admission of love had replayed over and over in her head. All day she longed to see him, and feel his mouth on hers. Now, here in the throne room, in the quiet of the evening she had found him alone. She was not about to let such an opportunity slip by.

Deliberately she ran her hands up his legs and over his knees, finally sliding up his thighs. The soft fabric of his breeches was a fine contrast to the hard muscle of his thigh beneath. Her heart began to race in anticipation of what she was about to do. She felt and heard his sharp intake of air just as her smoldering gaze met his.

Already moved by her display of submission and devotion, he hadn't anticipated her swift and passionate seduction. He hadn't been prepared, and she had taken him by surprise. His desire for her was already surging within him at dangerous levels, and his failure to quell his need left him playing right into her hands. As her slender hands slid possessively over his thighs it became clear. He didn't give a damn. If Sarah wanted to take advantage of him...then he'd let her.

Chapter 35: Upon the Seat of Power

He stared down at her, his face set in a serious expression. With a mere thought, all the doors to the throne room closed with an ominous slam. Now no one could get in and neither of them would be leaving.

Sarah slinked closer to the Goblin King, as her hands ran purposefully up his thighs. Her fingers traced curiously over the fabric of his breeches, kneading the solid flesh below with eager enthusiasm. When she raised her eyes, she found him staring intently at her. His expression was serious and unreadable, save for the blazing intensity of his eyes. They alone gave away that he was struggling with his barely restrained desire.

Jareth stared down at the girl, nearly driven out of his mind by the sight of her so willingly touching him.

Her dark hair fell in careless tendrils over her face, giving her a wild, coy appearance. Her catlike jade eyes rose to meet his with ferocity. The urgency reflected in them was startling. The fierce desire that lurked in their depths and their savage intensity told him that she would not be denied.

She possessed her own sort of magic, of that, he was certain. Hers was a primal nature of witchcraft that stole his very breath away. Sarah Williams may have been mortal, but it occurred to him then and there that she was every bit as enchanting as any of his race, for she held a power over him that none before her had ever managed.

Her lips parted slightly and his gaze was instantly drawn to them. So full and soft, and so deliciously inviting that he couldn't resist. His gloved hand slid over her jaw, his fingers burying themselves in her hair as he leaned forward and captured her mouth with his. His kiss was careful and slow, but agonizingly deep, quickly stoking the blazing fire that burned within her.

Slowly, she returned his kiss, her mouth carefully exploring his, as though the precious sensation would suddenly vanish if she were too brash. He groaned inwardly at the gentleness of it and cradled her head with both hands as he deepened the kiss.

She sighed against his mouth, her head reeling from the euphoria.

Jareth kissing her.

Her whole life she had never known a sensation so divine, as the sweet ache born from his kiss. It wasn't a mere hunger filling her mind or heart, it was a deep longing ache that seemed to fill her soul as it stirred her entire body.

Maddened by the feel of his tongue finally stroking against hers, she wondered where he had learned to kiss like this. The delicious ache flooded her mind, making rational thought nearly impossible. As her eyes fluttered closed a helpless voice in her head softly groaned, "God, what is he doing to me?"

Whatever it was he was doing, he was very good it. It felt exquisite and she wanted more.

Slowly she slipped her tongue past his lips, boldly caressing his velvety tongue with her own. He gently bit at her lower lip in response, wringing a lusty gasp from her.

His mouth ventured from hers to the pulse point at her throat as his hands brushed over the sides of her breasts. Even through his gloves and her thin peasant blouse she could feel the warmth of his hands beneath. His touch was a welcome torture, but she was in no way ready to relinquish control of the situation just yet.

She smoothed one hand up his thigh with purpose and deliberately ran her fingertips over the growing bulge in his lap.

She felt the rush of his warm breath on the skin of her neck as he hissed his approval through his teeth.

Sarah flattened her palm against him. Her thoughts strayed to the night before when she had truly seen all of him for the first time. To say that he was beautiful would be an understatement, since every part of him seemed a flawless work of art. The corner of her mouth curved into a dreamy lopsided grin at the thought...there was one piece in particular that she was simply dying to see again.

Slowly and deliberately she rubbed her palm back and forth against his arousal. His hips restlessly shifted ever so slightly in response to her bold caress, as he entreated her with a ragged sigh, "Sarahhh..."

His unfinished plea roused something within her and her own heightened state of arousal prompted her to go on with her bold seduction. Her hand strayed higher as she playfully fingered the waistband of his breeches.

Jareth glanced down with hooded eyes, locking with hers as he noticed her wicked grin. She was flaunting the fact that she was ruthlessly teasing him. The sight of her so brazenly dallying with him nearly sent him over the edge. Lust, thick and hot, like molten metal, pumped through his entire body like his very blood. Like a potent drug, its heavy effect was impossible to fight. It sharpened his senses as effectively as it dulled his mind.

For a moment he pondered the delicious idea of forcing her onto her back, tearing off every last stitch of her provocative clothing, and mercilessly ravaging her succulent little body right there on the unforgiving cold stone floor of his throne room. A smug smirk touched his lips as he thought to himself ruefully, "...She'd be getting what she so badly deserves."

Nearly convinced to follow through with such a winning idea, he shot forward grasping her tightly by her upper arms and kissing her roughly on the mouth. Her surprised murmur of protest died quickly against his lips, and her body, which had automatically stiffened, promptly softened as though she were melting against him, once she had tasted the urgent passion in his kiss.

Her lips parted and she surrendered, returning the kiss with fervor. Her own white flag signal to Jareth that seemed to say...you may continue.

The gesture nearly made him laugh. As if he could stop now...even if he wanted to. Her brazen temptation had been far too accomplished. It seemed his little Sarah was far too talented for her own good. He wondered, now that he had admitted his feelings for her and saved her life, if she expected him to be chivalrous and noble. Did she actually expect him to stop the proceedings before they went to far and politely beg for her affections, and remain content and patient if she said no? Another laughable thought as he mentally answered, "...sorry love, not a chance."

He deepened the kiss and it soon became possessive and fierce, not simply on his end either. Sarah was kissing him back with a forceful urgency that was staggering. The kiss was hot and deep, as if their souls were being melded together. Raw uncontained desire was shared, given and taken freely, with no boundaries of restraint.

Suddenly, his hands tightened on her shoulders. He forced her back, breaking the kiss as he groaned raggedly, "I can't bear anymore...I have to see you..."

Curiously, she watched, as he tugged the peasant blouse down over her shoulders. His hungry gaze drifted over her exposed chest

He leaned forward and Sarah's eyes fluttered closed as she felt his hands straying under her skirt. A tortured sigh escaped her lips as he hurriedly tore off his gloves. Murmuring some unintelligible plea, he ran his hand up between her legs, as he rested his head against her chest.

Overcome by the warmth and his closeness, she ran her fingertips through his fine silky hair, made silver in the moonlight. He turned his head slightly and she felt his hot tongue tracing against her skin.

As if in answer to her prayers his hot palm finally came up to cup her insistently between her legs, as he murmured thickly against her breast, "I must have you...I want you…" Teasingly he nipped at the rosy peak just as he slipped a hand down into her panties. His hot breath assaulted her bare breast as he huskily growled, "...I need you...right now."

His fingertips began to stroke the smoldering apex of her desire. She cried out in startled pleasure, reeling from the sublimely wicked sensation, before she panted, crying out in desperation, "Oh...God...I need you too." Abruptly his hand stilled and her body railed against the cruel deprivation the stimulation.

She opened her eyes, surprised to see that he was staring intently at her. His expression was grave and his stern voice was laced with disbelief as he urgently demanded, "Do you?"

Her eyes locked with his and she saw it plainly for the first time.

Uncertainty. Apprehension.

It was a stunning discovery. The almighty Goblin King, Mr. Confidence himself, was unsure. The realization floored her. Was he really in need of reassurance of her feelings for him? It seemed unthinkable, but the look in his eyes was unmistakable. It was proof enough, that deep down, underneath all the cool arrogance and indifference, that Jareth was not so very different from herself.

She was careful not to give away her sudden perception, knowing full well, that one wrong move would injure his pride. She had to handle this newfound knowledge delicately. She wasn't about to botch the whole moment by acting or speaking impulsively, though she was so moved by the discovery that she had to blink a few times to keep her eyes from filling with tears. At that moment everything seemed to come to a grinding halt for her as everything suddenly clicked into place. The proverbial lightbulb had finally come on with startling clarity.

He was so serious, so cautious, and so guarded because he had been wounded before.

She had wounded him before.

It was no wonder he played the cold unaffected villain around her, always wearing that damn mask of indifference. He was afraid to leave himself vulnerable. Even now, after they had been intimate, after she had admitted her feelings, he was still being defensive.

Her thoughts strayed to their final confrontation just after she had solved the labyrinth. His words, his expression...all came back to her in vivid detail and it was brilliantly clear, as transparent as one of his crystal orbs. He had been imploring her, rather desperately, and she had refused. Not out of cruelty or lack of interest, but out of sheer ignorance. She had simply thought it had all been a trick. The idea of negotiating for more time, or asking for clarification had never even entered her mind at the time.

He had wanted her way back then, and unfortunately though she may have looked like a young woman, she had really been barely more than a spoiled child. The truth burned through her mind and it stung. If he had been the villain...it was because she had made him into one. Her iron resolve answered with conviction. It was high time to rectify the situation.

She tilted her head to the side slightly, her wide eyes studying his, as her hand drifted slowly up his body to softly caress his jaw-line. She leaned forward then, barely brushing her lips over his mouth as she softly breathed, "Yes. I need you Jareth..."

Her lips brushed against his again as she thickly added "...more than anything." She started to kiss him again, but he stopped her. His expression had softened as he drew back, his fine brow knitting in confusion. Clearly perplexed, he replied with faint disbelief, "But...why?"

The thrumming need for him was killing her, and the fact that he had stopped touching her did nothing but worsen the aching desire. She was aware that this was really not the best time for her to be having such a deep and meaningful conversation with him, especially since her raging hormones were prompting her to just shut him up long enough to jump his bones...but she had to try.

She inhaled sharply, trying to regain a shred of control. She managed to reign in her desire long enough to raggedly whisper, "Because...I just do..."

But even that was an effort, and as soon as the words left her mouth, she shot forward kissing him insistently.

Caught off guard by the urgency of her kiss, he yielded for a moment, softly groaning against her velvety sweet mouth. For a second it seemed her hands were everywhere, frantically caressing him all over.

And then, suddenly, She was trying to pull his breeches down over his hips. So, It seemed she was growing impatient too...

Automatically he shifted, allowing her to successfully pull down his breeches, as they continued kissing in a hurried broken manner.

Pulling back, she panted between kisses, "God...Jareth..."

"...I want to..."

"...touch you."

He hurriedly nodded in compliance as their intermittent kissing continued. She savored his sharp intake of breath as she wrapped her fingers around him, kissing him passionately as she began to move her hand expertly back and forth.

Fully aware that he was in danger of losing himself he groaned against her mouth, "Sarah, what are you...?"

Before he could finish, Sarah broke the kiss, and he felt both her hands now gripping him. His eyes slid closed and a ragged sigh slipped through his lips. Never had anything felt so wicked and so good at the same time, but to his surprise it suddenly got much, much better...

He nearly came out of his skin, as the incredible sensation of her soft hot mouth on him knocked the very air from his lungs.

It was almost more than he could bear and he moaned at the sheer sweetness of the feeling.

As her enthusiasm grew, her ministrations became more potent. She was relentless.

His fingers buried themselves in her thick dark hair and his throaty voice was laced with a mixture of ecstasy and agony as he senselessly begged her.

She was acutely aware that her own state of arousal was reaching its limits. The feel of him in her mouth was maddening.

Suddenly she pulled back and released him, obviously winded. Her face was intensely flushed and her ripened lips were parted in wonder. Her eyes never left his as she drew back, and he was mesmerized by the sight of them. Her pupils were large and black, rimmed only by a thin ring of jade green, as they were unnaturally dilated by the heightened state of her desire. Slowly she rose to her feet with purpose, her gaze fixed on him as her hands slid her skirt higher, disappearing under the crimson fabric.

She slid her panties off over her hips, her eyes never leaving his as she slid them down over her legs. His concentration was broken as his eyes followed her movements and her panties were finally discarded on the floor. He looked back up at her just in time to see her brazen advance.

Her movements were deliberate and graceful, like a great cat or some other starved predator. She came closer, bending down and arching her back as she slid one knee up onto the seat of the throne, her blazing eyes fixed on him all the while. Before he knew what was happening she was straddling his lap and artfully gathering up the hem of the skirt to keep it from getting in the way.

It was now Jareth's turn to stare dumbly in startled wonder. As if possessed by a will of their own, his hands grasped her hips, straining to pull her down against his lap. Sarah, however, held her position.

Instead she slowly brought her mouth down to his. Her hair fell down over her face in wild tendrils, gently brushing against his skin like a silky whisper. Her kiss was erotic and deep and his fingers tightened possessively, digging into the soft flesh of her hips. She slid her mouth down over the side of his jaw, teasingly kissing the pulse of his throat.

Thickly he rasped into her hair, "You didn't fully answer my question..." Nipping at her ear he growled seductively, "...and now I'm losing my patience."

She chuckled warmly against the side of his neck and huskily murmured, "Mmmmm, I do love it when you lose patience...but maybe I'll play nice..." She playfully bit him before she ran the tip of her tongue up the hollow of his throat, stopping to breathe seductively into his ear, "...and answer your question."

He swallowed, closing his eyes as she sent chills over his entire body. Her arms were now around his shoulders as she continued in that smoky voice, "I need you because..." She paused, lowering herself onto his lap, so that he could feel her.

She exhaled heavily at the sensation and continued to confess in a soft throaty whisper, "...I've fallen hopelessly..." She paused again, shifting her hips slightly, teasing him. He inhaled sharply, gritting his teeth as his hands strayed over her hips and backside, encouraging her to go further, she however, held herself perfectly still. Panting in desperate agony she finished, "...and completely in love with you."

She rested her forehead against his and that's when he noticed how glassy her eyes looked. His mouth blindly sought hers and he kissed her with fevered longing. His hands strained again to pull her hips downward, and this time she didn't resist.

She came down hard upon him. He entered her fast and hard, and she broke the kiss, crying out sharply with a gasp. He too was lost in raw overwhelming sensation, and moaned aloud. Exquisite torture, that's what it was.

He barely had time to adjust to the feel of her when she started to writhe atop him. He was disoriented for a second, letting his head fall back as she moved back and forth. He groaned, the acute pleasure taking him by surprise.

Sitting astride his lap in the dominant position made her feel more in control. Her movements became bolder, rising up so that he was almost totally withdrawn from her before she forcefully came back down against him. With each descent she shut her eyes, a low guttural groan escaping her lips.

It was a divine mixture of pure agony and excruciating pleasure. The pleasure began to outweigh the cruel ache and she moaned aloud at the startling sweetness of it. The sound finally jarred Jareth to his senses. He raised his head to watch her as he began to move in unison with her. His movements increased the stimulation for her and she cried out.

Their eyes locked for a heated moment and he was moved by the overwhelmed look on her face as she was caught between misery and rapture. She was breathtaking, a powerful enchantress indeed, passionately human, and more beautiful than any goddess.

Though he was reeling from the stimulation, he pressed on, struggling to keep his movements controlled to bring her the most pleasure. She squeezed her eyes shut tight, and it didn't escape his attention that a tear streaked down her cheek as she barely bit back a sharp cry of pleasure.

Her fingers bit into his shoulders as she desperately sobbed, "Oh...God...Jareth I need you..."

He closed his eyes knowing he was not going to last much longer. Through clenched teeth he growled, "By the Fates, Sarah...I need you..."

The pleasure built steadily to the point where she could no longer stand it. She cried out in abandon, nearly sobbing with pleasure, "Oh...God Jareth! I love you so much...Oh God...I think I'm going to..."

His hands tightened about her waist and he closed his eyes as he struggled to press on. He would only have to delay his release for but a moment, but it seemed next to impossible, as the white-hot pleasure ripped through him. Squeezing his eyes shut tighter, he inhaled sharply, trying to subdue the urge to let go and take her, all of her.

By the Underground, he wanted her, every part of her as he had wanted nothing else in his long life. He could no longer fight it...the need to possess...the need to lose himself in her, it had become to great for him to contain.

He opened his eyes and they were full of her. She was looking back at him, into his very soul. Savage intensity sparked between them and he groaned in a voice stripped raw by fierce need, "I want you Sarah...I'll never let you go..."

The pleasure was killing her, overwhelming her in ways she couldn't even fathom. Her nails were now painfully biting into his shoulders.

He was slammed with wave after wave of disorienting ecstacy. His brow knitted as the pleasure thrashed him. Through clenched teeth his growl sounded like a curse and confession made one as he climaxed within her, "Fire and rain! I love you Sarah!"

Wracked by the fever of her own release she cried out in a shaky breath, "Oh Jareth...I love you too..."

Spent by the forcefulness of their lovemaking, she collapsed against him. He gathered her up as tenderly as a guardian angel, carefully wrapping his arms around her as he held her close. Enfolded by his protective embrace she sighed deeply, lost in the rhythm of his beating heart. Her own heart pounded fiercely, her pulse unnaturally loud in her own ears.

It seemed an eternity that they remained like that. Slowly the world returned little by little and awareness of her surroundings crept back in.

In the castle beyond the Goblin City. Upon a sinister throne, astride the lap of her long time adversary, and her only love, the Goblin King.

She breathed deeply memorizing his unique scent. In his embrace she felt deeply contented, and despite the fact that all reason maintained that she should fear him, she had never felt more safe and protected then she did now in his arms. The realization came then with crystal clarity. This is real. This is right.

Chapter 36: Lost Paradise or Paradise Lost?

Sarah sighed deeply, her head resting on the Goblin King's chest. The ornate leather doublet was cool against her cheek, a small blessing, considering how hot and exhausted she felt. To move was the last thing she wanted to do, but her overheated state demanded it.

Carefully she shifted, as kneeling on the hard seat of the throne had become uncomfortable. Her knees were smarting, but she smiled in spite of the pain...it was well worth it. Leaning back slightly, she regarded him.

His eyes were still closed and his chest rose and fell rapidly, as he attempted to catch his breath. A fine sheen of perspiration had broken out on his cheeks and brow, giving his face a shimmering, ethereal look. Despite the signs that he too was overheated, his face remained pale instead of flushed.

He sighed deeply, his head resting against the curved crescent shaped seat back of the throne. Through heavy lidded eyes he watched her, finding the scarlet flush of her chest and face rather charming. Slowly she moved, beginning to withdraw from his lap.

Without warning he pitched forward, his arms suddenly tightening about her waist. He brought his mouth swiftly to her ear, purring huskily, "Just where do you think you are going...you wicked girl?" She couldn't help but smile at his playful admonition as she gently pushed him back.

Her emerald eyes sparkled with mirth as she coyly protested, "I am not wicked."

His chuckle was full of heat as he insisted, "Oh yes you are."

Her voice was low as she ventured, "Oh really? Would you mind telling why?"

He leaned forward, his smug smirk telling her that she could count on it. His grin broadened before his lips grazed her jaw, and his breath came hot against her ear as he breathed silkily, "You seduced me...on my very throne of all places."

She drew back, her engaging jade eyes locking with his. One dark brow rose as she snickered in a wholly flirtatious manner, "Oh...sorry. Would you have preferred the floor?"

He smiled, showing the fine points of his teeth, "No, but I admit, the idea had crossed my mind."

She shrugged and smoothly replied, "Maybe next time." Pursing her lips in contemplation, she admitted, "Alright...maybe I did seduce you..." Licking her lips she added, "But...It's only fair. After all, it was you who seduced me in your bath last night."

He retorted smugly, "Indeed, and I would do so again in a heartbeat."

Her eyes widened at the notion and she quipped, "Are you offering?"

He pressed his lips together in thought before he drawled, "Tempting as the idea may be, I actually had something else in mind." She regarded him with genuine curiosity and demanded, "Like what?"

"There's something I'd like to show you." His mouth twisted into a teasing smirk and he added, "That is...if you are up for a bit of walking."

Artfully, she slipped off his lap, the hem of her full skirt falling to her ankles as she pulled the peasant blouse back up to cover her breasts. She promptly adjusted the neckline over her shoulders and tossed her hair away from her face. Her sparkling eyes locking with his, as her mouth curved into a sultry smile, "I'm up for anything."

He arched an eyebrow at her comment before he completely vanished from the throne. Sarah looked about, startled by his sudden disappearance. Suddenly he rematerialized directly behind her. She felt the air shift and she spun to find him standing directly before her, fully dressed, down to his signature black leather gloves. He grinned wickedly at her squeak of surprise as he pulled her roughly to him. His voice caressed her ears and it was smoother than silk, "Off we go then."

She was overwhelmed by the strange sensation of being pulled in many directions at once as they vanished. In the blink of an eye they were standing in a tunnel that somehow seemed eerily familiar.

Jareth let go of her waist as she glanced about their new surroundings. The dark brick walls formed an arched tunnel that seemed to stretch endlessly before them. The worn flagstones of the tunnel floor were littered with sand and dirt. There were torches along the walls throwing some light, but it was dim at best. Her eyes scanned the curved ceiling of the tunnel, lingering on the remnants of cobwebs that wafted with the slightest movement of air.

Her voice sounded hollow as she pressed, "Where are we?" Jareth glanced down the tunnel and replied evenly, "In the labyrinth. Beneath it actually."

Sarah hesitantly remarked, "This place looks familiar."

He nodded in the direction they were to go as he replied matter-of-factly, "It should. Do you remember when Hogwart led you out of the oubliette and the two of you ran into me?"

Absently she answered, "You mean Hoggle...Yes, I remember, that was right before you sent the cleaners after us."

Undeterred by her correction he went on, "Yes well, this is the same tunnel, well part of it anyway. There is an entire network of them running beneath the labyrinth." She furrowed her brow and mused, "It all looks the same, how do you avoid getting lost?"

He smirked, "Simple. I know my way around."

He turned and started walking and she hurried to keep up with his brisk pace, "So, where are we going?"

He cast a sidelong glance at her, "There is a place I want to show you, just beyond the labyrinth."

"We're going all the way out of the labyrinth? Won't that take hours?"

He chuckled, clearly amused, "Of course not, that's why we are going this way. You might call it a short cut."

Her brow furrowed as she asked, "But wouldn't it be faster to just like zap us there or something?"

Smugly he answered, "Certainly, but then you would never learn the way." Suddenly he turned, making a quick right down another identical looking tunnel. She rolled her eyes and snickered, "Well, I've got news for you Jareth, I'm not learning it now, these tunnels all look the same."

He pursed his lips in mock concentration, "That's not entirely true. Look closer. Notice anything particular about this tunnel and the one we came from that is different from say...that one?" He pointed to yet another tunnel branching out to their left.

Her eyes darted over the tunnel, "No. Nothing...wait." She glanced back at the tunnel they'd just come from, "The torches!"

He beamed at her, "Precisely." Pointing ahead he explained, "All you need do to find your way to our destination is to simply take the tunnels with the torches hanging on only the right side."

"Oh, I see. But...how do you get into the tunnels from the castle? I mean if you were to walk?"

"Easy, just within the gates to the goblin city there is a fountain. I believe you've seen it. At the top there are stone figures of dwarves seemingly emptying pitchers into the base."

She nodded, "Yes, I've seen it." He went on, "Well, if you brush aside the straw that litters the ground at its base, there is a secret door that leads down to where we just started from."

Less than an hour had passed when the tunnel abruptly ended at worn looking wooden door. Jareth opened the door, leading her up a very narrow winding staircase, seemingly cut from the very earth. At the top of the stairs they emerged from a giant hollowed out tree.

Jareth took a few steps and pulled back the dense branches of the giant willow that obscured the path before them. "This is what I wanted to show you."

Sarah looked out at the landscape before her and gasped.

In a word, it was awe-inspiring.

Below them were gently rolling hills, covered in lush green grass that seemed impossibly soft. The hills were dotted with every imaginable type of wildflower, some even beyond imagination.

At the bottom of the hill was the jagged edge of a rocky cliff that had to be at least thirty feet high. From the top of the cliff, a pristine cascade of water tumbled over incredible jagged rock formations, landing in a perfect rock basin before flowing out in clear winding stream that cut through the lush hills.

As if all this beauty wasn't enough, the full moon served as a backdrop for the setting. Unnaturally huge in luminous blue and silver tones, it's magical glow bathing everything in surreal silvery light. And in the black sky a million stars glittered like a King's ransom in precious jewels. As they stood there looking out over the hill, a fresh spring wind smelling sweetly of flowers gently rustled the fine grass in a silent invitation for them to explore the valley.

At the same time a small black bird who happened to be nesting in the very willow they had emerged from woke to the sound of voices below him. His small glittering black eyes followed the couple as they made their way to the valley.

Sarah and Jareth spent the rest of the night there, splashing about in the basin, lounging in the soft grass admiring the stars, and intermittently making love. It was as if their past had entirely melted away for these few hours. They passed the time like two lovers content to simply be in each other's company. They talked and joked, laughing freely as if they had never been adversaries at all.

Sarah was almost sad to see the sun rise over the green hills, as it meant their wonderful night was over. Reluctantly Jareth informed her that they had to return to the castle, for he had to attend his duties and hear the morning reports by the guard. Sarah accompanied him and decided she could use some sleep while he was busy, she had stayed up with him the entire night afterall.

Later in the castle...

It was quickly approaching midday and the rain beat down mercilessly, the large drops spattering on the stone ledge of the small window in Sarah's chamber. The dark haired girl was lying listlessly atop her quilted bed. She was dressed comfortably in her own clothing, which consisted of a pair of worn blue jeans and a charcoal colored turtleneck.

She sighed deeply, her hazel green eyes drifting along the rafters of the high ceiling as she laid her open book face down on her stomach. The morning had started out overcast, but the lazy drizzle had eventually turned into a persistent downpour. Since she had finally roused herself from bed after her nap, time seemed to crawl by slowly, and the dour weather only managed to aggravate her restlessness.

Where was he?

Her mind buzzed with a whirlwind of turbulent thoughts, a veritable storm that rivaled the tempestuous weather outside the castle. Her impetuous actions over the past few days had landed her smack in the middle of very foreign territory. She had fallen in love.

Once again the Underground had taught her the valuable lesson that nothing should be taken for granted, and things are indeed often not what they first seem. In the last two days the Goblin King had gone from a rather infuriating adversary, straight to lover.

In a short period of time he had managed to break through her defenses, shaking her very beliefs, to the point where she could no longer trust her instincts. Until recently, his presence had produced a healthy amount of fear in her, which usually led her to regard anything he said or did with a fair amount of suspicion. Now when he was near only one thing seemed brilliantly clear...that she had fallen hard for him, in spite of all his infuriating flaws.

It was as though she had ignored all the warnings and leapt with both feet from a dizzying cliff, and now she was afraid to look down for fear of what she might see. Would there be something to break her fall at the bottom or would she simply smash into a billion pieces? Regardless of the answer only one thing was certain. There was no going back. God, he had just left her only a few hours before, and already she missed him.

She had fallen hard for Jareth, king of the Goblins and ruler over a land that she once thought only existed in her imagination. What's more...he's not even human, she thought to herself and mused, What will happen now?

She pressed a shaky hand to her forehead as the details of the night before came back to her in a warm rush. She had been intimate with him, many times over. How had she let things get so out of hand? When did things get so complicated?

In love with the Goblin King.

How could the world ever go back to normal?

Deep down she knew the answer. It couldn't. So many questions burned within her though she dreaded to know all the answers. What would happen when the year was up? Could she bring herself to actually go home? Would he let her? And if he did, could he remain in her life, could she see him again...was that even possible? What kind of relationship could they possibly have...if they could even have one at all? Would he only see her in private...like a secret lover, or did he want more? Sooner or later she'd have to confront Jareth with these questions, no matter how much anxiety they caused her.

Sarah was suddenly shaken from her thoughts by an insistent knock on her door. Knowing full well that Jareth would never knock before entering her room, she had to assume it was some goblin with a message for her. Tossing her book aside she called, "It's open."

The door opened slowly and sure enough a goblin peeked inside, "Visitor to see you Sarah." Relieved by the distraction she leapt off the bed and threw the door open wide to see a very wet Hoggle standing in the hall.

Politely she informed the goblin, "Thank you, you may go." Before she welcomed her friend, "Hi Hoggle, come on in."

The dwarf's eyes brightened as he limped into her room brushing the excess water from his leather cap, "Hiya Sarah."

Sarah dragged a wooden backed chair over before she settled on the edge of the bed, "How's everything Hoggle? How are Didymus and Ludo?"

Hoggle clamored up onto the chair, his short legs not quite reaching the floor as he gruffly replied, "Same as always I s'pose. Didymus still patrols the bog, still swears he don't smell nuthin' and Ludo, well he's happy livin' in his rock gorge."

She nodded at the news and further probed, "And you?"

Hoggle brushed the comment aside, "Aww I'm all right..." His voice dropped considerably as he added, "It's you I worry about missy."

Sarah smiled wistfully, "Don't worry...I'm not a kid anymore, I can take care of myself."

Hoggle scoffed incredulously, "Like you took care of yourself when that wraith nearly ripped you to pieces? "

Frowning she countered, "I told you already, nothing happened. Jareth was there in time."

Hoggle rolled his eyes and added under his breath, "Barely..." Suddenly he glanced about suspiciously and remarked in a hushed voice, "Speaking of his Highness, Prince Charming...where is he?"

Sarah shrugged, "I don't know. I haven't seen him since we..." Pausing, she added, "Errr...since early this morning."


The Goblin King was presently perched atop the stone ledge of the highest window of the tower of the goblin castle. From such a high vantage point he could survey his vast kingdom. The immense labyrinth spread out before him, disappearing into the gray horizon, where lightening flashed from forbidding dark thunderclouds.

Neither the ominous skies nor the persistent rain drove him indoors. He merely watched as the thunder rolled closer and the rain began to furiously pound the stone ledge of the window. The wind whipped, touseling his already wild mane of platinum hair, but he ignored it. He came here to think, and think he would, more deeply perhaps than he ever had, and not even the elements would stop him.

His black poets shirt, open nearly to his waist, flapped in the chilly wind, seemingly reflecting the somber mood of the dark skies above. His legs were propped up upon the ledge, his elbow resting lightly on his knee as he contemplated the sinister landscape before him. In one elegantly black-gloved hand he absently twirled two perfect crystal orbs in a dazzling display of deftness, but his thoughts were undoubtedly elsewhere.

He sighed heavily, but despite his pensive expression and the dour weather, he was not unhappy. And that was precisely what troubled him.

Throughout his long life he had become accustomed to many emotions and feelings; pride, envy, desire, boredom, despair, hatred, and even passionate love, but contentment...

Happiness was a state of bliss that until presently had remained totally alien to him. The feeling was so strange and confusing that he was at an impass as to how to deal with it. The only thing that was clear to him regarding this new sensation was that Sarah was somehow responsible.

He had wanted her for so long now, and his scheming had been flawless. The execution of his plans could not have been any more precise. He had at long last attained her, and she had returned his love. There was only thing he hadn't counted on, and that was how her love would affect him.

He had just assumed that his infatuation with her and the passion he felt for her would be satisfied once he had attained her. Now he realized it had been naïve to assume that making love to her would quell his need of her, that his weakness would abandon him, like the lifting of a fog, once he possessed her. It now seemed evident that his assumption had been a grievous error. His passion for her had only intensified, making him love her even more. It was alarming to him that even just being with her initiated such a sense of euphoria that it rivaled even the strongest Fae magic.

How had it come to this? That in addition to being afflicted with a startling passion for his greatest adversary, and by trying to settle the score between them, he had inadvertently come to truly care for her. Once upon a time he found her to be an irritating brat...even an attractive and engaging brat...but an irksome brat all the same.

But now...

The tempest of emotions he felt for her were so complex he could not even tease them out to make even a bit of sense. How could he, the Goblin King, feel this way about the only one who had bested him. She, the one who had smashed his pride and thrown his world into disarray. By the fates she had practically immasculated him, him a powerful Fae King and she, a mere girl. How was it possible that he harbored tender feelings for the very creature that by all rights he should loathe above all others. She deserved his revenge and now that she could so easily be at his mercy...

He was supposed to inflict his wrath, not offer his love freely. But that was exactly what he wanted to do.

All along it had been his intention to earn her trust, win her love, and then he would settle the score. She was supposed to suffer as he had. That had been his plan, but now it was all so confusing. Now getting his revenge didn't seem so important. In fact the idea of causing her any sort of grief or pain no longer excited him, the idea of hurting her now seemed repugnant. The more he thought about it, the more he realized retribution was unlikely to solve anything. Now he was doubtful that revenge was ever what he'd really wanted. Now the only thing he truly wanted was Sarah's love. He wanted her to remain at his side.

Abruptly he stopped twirling the transparent crystal spheres. He got to his feet, his face set in a determined expression as the crystals fell forgotten from his hand and shattered like delicate glass upon the stone floor. He had made up his mind, though he could scarcely believe what he was about to do. Sarah had said earlier that she would retire to her room for some rest. He hoped she was still there.


"Sarah?" the dwarf seemed to study the girl carefully with his bright blue eyes, "You look sorta down. Somethin' on yer mind?"

Expelling a deep breath she admitted in a rush, "Well...yeah. A few things."

Hoggle studied his shoes and tried to sound reassuring as he replied, "Do...do you wanna talk about it? I...I am yer friend afterall."

She smiled wistfully at the dwarf before she answered delicately, "I would...but I'm not so sure you'd want to hear what's on my mind."

His bushy brows drew together as he replied curiously, "Oh? Why not?"

Their eyes met for a moment before she slowly looked away and admitted, "Well, because it has to do with Jareth."

Hoggle frowned as his brow creased and he replied with alarm, "Jareth! Wha...what about him?"

She ducked her head and sighed under her breath, "What isn't about him?"

Hoggle seemed to collect himself, squinting his eyes as though he were struggling to work things out. Finally he gruffly remarked, "This wouldn't be 'bout you two bein' together would it?"

Sarah buried her face in her hands and moaned, "Oh Hoggle...I'm in way over my head."

In a flash he was out of the chair and hurrying towards her. He patted her knee sympathetically and soothed, "There, There missy. Somehow it'll be alright." Suddenly he straightened and softly added, "I thought things 'tween you would be okay now...now that you are sweet on each other."

Sarah sighed heavily before she began, "Well, things between us are okay...for now. You see that's what worries me. Right now things are fine...but I don't see how it can stay that way." Letting her hands fall into her lap she cried in frustration, "Arghhhh, it's so complicated. This is Jareth we are talking about...Jareth and me. How can everything really work out? Things can never just be easy ...I wish it would just somehow work out, but I don't see how it could." She looked thoroughly miserable, "I...I love him...but this is Jareth, and this is not a fairy tale...how can there be a happily ever after? What am I supposed to do?"

The dwarf quickly tried to compose himself from her outburst. He was quick to close his gaping mouth and cover his surprise. It would do Sarah absolutely no good for him to stand there gawking at her like a big mouth fish out of water. He didn't have an answer for her, though he wished with all his heart that he did. It bothered him to see his friend so rattled. Well, he'd simply have to just do his best, and take things one step at a time.

Wringing his gnarled hands he began, "I don't really know. It ain't no surprise that I ain't very good at this stuff...but you're my friend, so I'll try." He plunked onto the bed beside her wracking his brain for any advice that might be of some help.

Jareth hurried down the castle hall towards Sarah's chamber, when he heard voices. Recognizing the male voice of the dwarf, the Goblin King stopped by the door, which was open but a crack, and overheard part of their conversation.

Slowly the dwarf prompted, "I'm not sure I really get it Sarah, now slowly, one thing at a time...what's really bothering you? Start at the beginning."

Sarah cast him a sidelong glance and sighed, "Well, what'll happen when my time here is up, for one?"

"You mean when the year is over?"

"Right. When Jareth releases me...IF Jareth releases me, how can my life ever go back to normal?"

Hoggle thought for a moment before he shrugged and carefully ventured, "Maybe you could you know...stay here."

Sarah quickly turned to him and asked in surprise, "What, you mean like forever?"

Noting the high-pitched edge of panic in her voice he gently elaborated, "Well...maybe now that you and Jareth are getting on better, maybe you could convince him to let you stay in the underground after he releases you. Maybe he'd let you live freely here if you agreed to stay here permanently."

"Are you crazy?! I...I can't stay here."

"Why not? You and Jareth could be together..."

"No...even if I thought everything else would work out between us, I can't just stay here. I have to go home. I still want to go home...even if..."

"No...I have a life back there, people I care about. There are still so many things I have to do. Not going home isn't an option. If he doesn't send me back...I...I don't know what I'll do."

"But you said Jareth admitted he loved you..."

"That doesn't matter..."

Silently Jareth backed away from the door, his expression icier than usual as his mouth set into a grim frown. He had heard enough. Her blunt admission was like having frigid water poured over his head. She still wants to go home.

His love didn't matter to her.

How foolish he had been to think things would be different this time around. He had made the same mistake yet again. He had let her get to him. To think, what he had been about to do...

The hurt and rage boiled up within him searing his very blood. To his horror he found the hurt to be much worse than the first time, when she had solved the labyrinth and defeated him. In a fury he spun away, his clothing silently changing to feathers. The only sound was the beating of his wings as he flew down the hall and out the nearest narrow window. Through the storm of fury and anguish that muddled his mind only one simple thought rose above the din and it was loud and clear. Sarah would pay.

Meanwhile, oblivious to the eavesdropper's swift intrusion and departure, Sarah continued, "I mean it doesn't change anything, I'd still have to return home. I have to finish school, and my family and friends...I can't just leave them, especially without even saying goodbye, that would be horrible. I'm not saying I'm against coming back here, but I can't just vanish from my own life. At the very least I'd have to tie up all the loose ends."

"So you're not against the idea of returning?"

"Of course not. I just don't know if it's possible...I mean could Jareth do that? Bring me back?"

Hoggle shrugged, "Dunno for sure, but I'd wager he could. He is King, afterall, and his power is nothing to trifle with."

Sarah seemed somewhat heartened by this and added, "What about Aboveground? Do you think Jareth would be able to venture there?"

Hoggle nodded, "He already does...you know that. He came to you the night he took your brother."

"Yeah I know, but can he only go when summoned or do you think he can visit whenever he chooses."

"I don't really know about that, but my guess is that Jareth can do pretty much whatever he wants."

Sarah seemed lost in her thoughts for a moment as she imagined how difficult it would be trying to explain a sudden intrusion by his highness to her friends, or even worse, her Dad.

"Sarah..." Hoggle thoughtfully began, "Maybe you should just ask Jareth. Couldn't hurt to ask right?

Sarah shrugged and nodded, "I suppose you're right. I should just stop being such a baby about this and just talk to him. Obsessing over a hypothetical answer won't do me any good. I'll talk to him about all of this today...no point in delaying the inevitable right?"

Hoggle smiled and nodded, "Right."

Chapter 37: Eruption

Sarah had already searched the dining hall, the library, the throne room, and the castle gardens, when a lanky goblin guard approached her in the great hall. His armor clanked noisily as he shuffled towards her. Only his snout protruded from the oversized helmet, which had fallen down over his eyes.

He stopped in front of her, puffing out his chest as he straightened himself. "Sarah..." he huffed, obviously winded from his jaunt through the castle. "His highness wants a word with you. He waits in his chamber." Sarah nodded hastily, as she was more than eager to meet with Jareth. Figures he'd be in his room now. After she had waited and waited for him. She politely thanked the Goblin and hurried off in the direction of the grand staircase.

After a very brief detour to her own chamber to freshen up, she stood before the door that separated her room from Jareth's. Just as she raised her fist to knock, the heavy door swung open, groaning on its ancient hinges. Lowering her fist, she stepped inside

his bedchamber.

The room was rather dark. Only sparse light spilled in from the balcony and it was somber at best, as the sky was overcast. The grey light seemed to fade as the sun sunk lower behind the thunderheads on the horizon. Suddenly the heavy wooden door slammed with a loud clank. She jumped at the sound, silently vowing that she'd never get used to the creepiness of doors that opened and closed by themselves. Undeterred, she ventured further into the opulent room. Her jade eyes darkened, taking in more light as her gaze swept the seemingly vacant room.

Jareth was nowhere to be found.

She was about to turn and leave when something stopped her. There was something different about the air in the room, a subtle stirring, making her skin tingle. Not unlike an electric charge, it made the hair on the back of her neck stand on end. She couldn't pinpoint the source, but the very air around her seemed to crackle with some unleashed energy.


No sooner had the thought occurred, when a sudden flash of lightening illuminated the room from the open balcony. She half expected to see a white owl fly in, but instead only the jarring crash of thunder met her ears, startling her. The crash was close, far too close. Hastily she backed away from the balcony, nearly tripping over her feet as all the candles and sconces in the room suddenly sputtered and blazed to life. Holding a frightened hand over her chest she turned just in time to see the King of the Goblins emerge from the shadows.

Somehow he appeared crueler than she had ever remembered him. His sharp striking features and cold expression were only intensified by the paleness of his alabaster skin. His mouth, which so often held a touch of arrogant amusement, was devoid of any mirth, and was instead set into the severest of frowns.

His icy gaze raked over her as he stalked closer, his lips tightening into a thin grim line. The picture sent a chill through her body, despite the fact that the room was rather warm. Unable to meet his gaze, she lowered her eyes, noticing how the black fabric of his opened poet's shirt looked shocking against the marble white skin of his chest. Dropping her eyes lower she saw that his hands and lower body were also encased in black leather. The part of her brain that would have normally greeted such a sight with a feral purr, was too busy being frightened, for even in her startled stupor, she knew the unpleasant truth immediately. Something's wrong.

Only after a startled gasp escaped her lips, did she realize that she had been backing away from his imposing presence. She stiffened suddenly, making a conscious effort to stand her ground. Catching her breath she admonished, "Jareth...You scared me."

His tone was chillingly indifferent, "Did I?"

"Yes. Where have you been? I've been looking for you all afternoon."

"Is that so? Why is that?"

Caught slightly off guard by the question she stammered, "I uh...well, I guess I was just a bit lonely." Her reply was met with silence. Ignoring the gut feeling that something was terribly off, she told herself that he might be in a sour mood due to any number of mundane reasons. Maybe the cause was whatever monotonous task had kept him away all day. Perhaps if she could just lighten the mood a bit...It was worth a shot.

She bit her lip shyly, offering a playful grin as she admitted, "I missed you Jareth...where have you been?"

His reply was firm, "That's none of your business." Leveling a cold glare at her, he went on, "Now...the reason I summoned you..."

She cut him off, disbelief infiltrating her voice, "Summoned me?"

"Yes, our little trek last night did a number on my boots. I want them polished. See to it that they are gleaming by the time I return."

Gaping at him, she dumbly mumbled, "Polish your boots? By the time you return...You're leaving?!?"

"That is precisely what I said. Are you hard of hearing?" He strode away from her not bothering to look back as he emphasized, "Remember...gleaming."

Quickly she darted ahead of him, slamming her body against the door to block his exit. Her eyes were wide with disbelief as she demanded, "Why are you treating me like this?"

He sighed impatiently, "Like what Sarah? Like someone bound to do as I say? You may remember that is why you are here...to do whatever I tell you to do."

Aghast, she spat, "What?! You can't be serious!"

Narrowing his eyes he evenly replied, "I can and I am. Dead serious."

Frustration and anger were evident in her voice as she sputtered, "But...what about last night...and the last few days...everything you said...everything I said."

Jareth shrugged indifferently, his reply cold as it was cruel, "What about it?"

Feeling as if a barrel of ice water had just been dumped over her head, Sarah could do nothing but stare wide-eyed in shock.

But despite the fact that she couldn't believe what she was hearing, the Goblin king kept right on talking, "The fact that we were intimate doesn't change the fact that your life, for the remainder of the year, belongs to me." As an afterthought he added, "Nor does it change the fact that I have a kingdom to run."

The blood had now drained completely from Sarah's face as her worst fears were being realized. This couldn't be happening...It had to be a dream.

But Jareth's firm grip on her arm as he shoved her aside was all too real. Something had happened. The way he was behaving was proof of it. His cold exterior was merely a front for some other emotion, something much more dark and sinister.

She reached for him in desperation, and his gloved hand caught her wrist. His grip tightened as he warned in an icy whisper, "Do not touch me."

Stunned by the graveness of his tone she babbled, "But...last night..."

He leaned in, his leering face only inches from her own, the iron grip of his fingers bruising her delicate wrist. His tone was scornful and derisive, "While I have enjoyed your affections, they are no longer required..."

Her liquid green eyes darted over his face as though searching for answers. Pulling her hand free she demanded, "Jareth what's wrong? Why are you so angry?"

With a sinister arch of his eyebrow he drawled, "What makes you think I'm angry?"

"You must be. Why else would you treat me like this?"

"Like what exactly?"

"Like your...whore." She chanced a glance at his face and immediately regretted it.

His tone was arrogant and triumphant, "Because Sarah that is precisely what you are."

And there it was.

His words cut deep, snuffing out any ember of hope that remained in her. She had begun to trust him, and just when she had convinced herself that he wasn't the villain she had made him out to be, he had proven her wrong in one sentence. Those few cruel words had sent the tower of possibility that she had constructed in her mind crashing to the floor. She had let herself be deceived. Behind the shimmering image of all she hoped he truly could be, hid the true monster, and she had just gotten an unpleasant glimpse. Cold, cruel and hateful was all he seemed now.

She had thought that she had misunderstood him, that his cool indifferent exterior had merely been the result of lifetimes of isolation and the power that his title afforded him. She had been sure that a decent person existed just under the hard exterior, and that given enough time, she could change him.

It looked as though she had been gravely mistaken.

Jareth had only sought to use her. The realization washed over her, bringing with it deep regret and terrible anger. The potent mixture of such unsettling emotions overwhelmed her. She closed her eyes against the wave of repulsion and nausea. For an instant she feared she would throw up. After taking a deep breath the urge to wretch subsided, but the anger lingered and swelled to a rage so hot that she was overcome by the desire to hurt him.

Her jaw clenched painfully driving her teeth together as her hands balled into tight fists at her side. She was consumed by the urge to lash out and hit him, clenching her fists tighter, she fought to restrain herself.

He would expect hysterics and a dramatic reaction. No doubt he was expecting her to hit him. She was determined not to give him the satisfaction at seeing her lose control.

As her blazing emerald eyes rose to meet his cool blue and hazel ones her suspicions were confirmed. His frame had tensed as if anticipating her attack. His expression was one of smug patience as he awaited her unavoidable outburst. She seethed at his presumptiousness, no doubt he had some devastating remark ready to sling at her. She afforded herself another deep calming breath, cooling her blazing fury to an icy resolve. No, she wouldn't resort to cruelty. She was better than that...better than him.

She inhaled sharply, her eyes bright with defiance as she raised her head high. With all the grace she could manage she evenly replied, "Well, I'm glad I know now where we stand. If that's truly how you feel, than we have nothing more to say to one another."

With that she turned on her heel and strode silently from his room. She didn't even slam his door on the way out. She simply left. No screaming, no hysterics, no violence.

Jareth stared in stunned silence as she simply walked away. This was not the hot tempered impulsive display he had expected. He was so unsettled by her uncharacteristic exit that he failed to notice the small black bird that took flight from his balcony.

Sarah stormed down the long stone corridors of the goblin Castle, her arms limply hugging her body as her vision began to blur. Her hands clutched tightly at the fabric of her skirt. She would not cry. Not here at least. She knew his sight was not restricted to what was right in front of him, and she was not going to give him the luxury of knowing that he had broken her heart quite effectively into pieces.

She had to get out of the castle. She burst through the large entrance doors to the castle, startling a flock of birds that were scavenging the nearby grounds. Darkness had already settled over the Underground and thunder rumbled in the distance as heavy raindrops pounded on the ground and stone entrance. Sarah was grateful for the rain, which felt blessedly cool on her burning cheeks as it mingled with the hot tears that she could no longer contain.

Wrapping her arms about herself for warmth she stumbled blindly through the pouring rain, heading in the general direction of the Goblin City. For a good part of the night she wandered aimlessly, oblivious to the few goblins that scurried across her path dashing for cover from the torrential downpour. Sarah had no desire to escape the rain, she let it wash over her as the endless stream of tears poured down her face.

The pain of Jareth's cold cruel words reverberated painfully in her mind. The depair and sadness seeped in and surrounded her like a dark fathomless ocean, with seemingly no way out. She wandered on aimlessly into the night, not caring where she would end up. For the time being it was better to remain in the downpour where at least the rain would mask her tears.

It seemed an eternity that she walked and cried.

Finally, through the wind and the rain came the unmistakable sound of goblin voices. There were a great many of them and above the rising din came shouts of merriment and mischievous laughter. The sudden racket jolted Sarah away from her thoughts and she halted, peering through the driving rain to seek the source of the noise.

There was a modest bulging hut up on her right. Smoke billowed from the tiny metal chimney atop the simple thatched roof and warm yellow light spilled through the numerous crisscrosses of the small square windows. Moving closer to the hut she squinted to see inside.

Many goblins were assembled inside the place, lounging about on long wooden tables and benches, some were singing, rather badly, with arms thrown carelessly about one another. Most of them were brandishing casks and flagons overflowing with ale.

Sarah looked over and spotted the door to the establishment. An unimpressive wooden sign swung back and forth in the wind just over the entrance. It read, "The Barrel Burrow." The crude carving on the sign depicted a goblin drinking from a barrel of ale.

Realization dawned on her. This was an Underground pub, a beer hall for goblins.

Under normal circumstances Sarah would have simply kept right on walking, but the circumstances were worlds away from normal. The pain of Jareth's cold cruel words pierced her to the core. The despair and sadness she felt surrounded her like a dark fathomless ocean, and she was drowning.

Nothing in the world could take the pain away, but some hard core liquor would be a start. If it would at least take the edge off, than so be it. Sarah was no fool. She knew that drinking would not solve any of her problems. But she was not looking for a solution. She was looking for temporary numbness. Unconsciousness would even be blessed compared to the agony she was now enduring.

Certainly the tavern would have something potent. Sarah stepped up to the door, blinking the tears and rain out of her eyes. With a sigh she slicked her dripping hair back and out of her face. As she pushed the door open, she was engulfed by the wild chatter and blasted by the heat from the fire that blazed in the hearth.

She gave the place a cursory glance. The walls were crude plaster supported by a multitude of heavy wooden beams. The straw on the floor made it feel more like a barn than a bar, but this was no time to be choosy. Scores of goblins of all shapes and sizes, were scattered over the crude benches and tables made from split logs. Raucous laughter and frivolous drinking songs spilled from their beaks and mouths as ale sloshed over the tops of their primitive mugs.

It took a moment for the goblins to notice the sopping wet human in the doorway, but little by little they fell silent until eventually all eyes settled on her. Sarah approached the bar, which by the look of it, had once been a heavy wooden door. Hastily she wiped the tears and rain from her face. The chill in her icy fingers penetrated deep, into the bone, a sharp contrast to her burning cheeks. Her face felt as though it were on fire as she took in the goblin crowd that was now staring expectantly at her.

She knew she must look a frightful mess, and she blushed furiously, realizing that her misery must have been horrendously plain to them. It didn't make her feel at all better knowing that it wouldn't take much for even their simple goblin minds to discern the cause of her misery.

The wiry little barkeep's rag halted its haphazard wiping as the girl stepped up to the bar. Craning his neck up, the small goblin eyed her questioningly. Sarah slumped onto the nearest stool, which had been made from a tree stump. "What's the strongest thing you've got?"

The goblin's eyes widened as Sarah produced a gold coin and slid it across the bar. As he disappeared beneath the bar Sarah could hear the sound of bottles clanking together as things were moved around. After a moment the goblin resurfaced with a squat glass bottle full of brown liquid in hand. "Wormwood Draught." He stated as he set down the bottle, "Strongest stuff in these parts, that is. Pint a that and ya won't even remember who y'are, nevermind where y'been." The goblin gave her a snaggle-toothed grin as he set a teeny shot glass in front of her.

Sarah's green eyes settled on him as she resolutely stated, "Leave the bottle."

His eyes widened but he merely shook his head as he ventured, "Want a cup at least?"

Sarah shook her head as she uncorked the bottle with her teeth, "That won't be necessary."

Meanwhile, elsewhere in the Underground...

Leaves rustled on a young sapling as Mordred emerged from the dense forest. His stony jade colored eyes were fixed on the raven that scratched at the stone floor of the ancient circle. As Mordred approached the raven hopped frantically causing a stirring of black feathers before it resumed it's true form. Nyx stood imperiously where the bird had just been, his shock of black hair and perfectly tailored black velvet overcoat sharply contrasted with his white cravat and fair skin. His metallic grey eyes danced with impatience as he awaited the news his messenger had brought.

Mordred knew his master well enough to cut to the chase. "It is time. They are at odds." Nyx nodded eagerly, "You're certain?" Mordred's mouth twisted into a jagged grin that was wholly sinister, "I overheard them myself. The girl left the castle."

A slow smile crept over Nyx's face, "Summon the others. We have work to do."

Much later that night...

Sarah staggered down the hallway to her room in the goblin castle, thankful that she hadn't run into anyone, especially Jareth. Now, saturated with alcohol, she was feeling brazenly uninhibited. There was no telling what she might say or do if she and his highness crossed paths. Simply navigating the dark corridors to her room was challenging enough. Even collecting her few belongings would require severe concentration on her part, exercising any restraint, whether vocal or physical, was not even an option in her current state.

After double-checking to make sure she had reached her room and not Jareth's, she took a swig from the bottle clutched in her hand and flung the door open, not even comprehending that the sound would surely travel. Hastily she began dumping the contents of several of the dresser drawers onto the bed.

Sarah wasn't in any condition to be making intelligent decisions about what she may or may not need in her haphazard flight from the castle, so she was going with less discriminating method of just dumping her belongings into the crude sack she had made out of her blankets. In one fluid motion she used her arm to send everything on the top of her dresser flying onto the top of the nearby pile. She would have enjoyed the disarray and commotion had it not been for one thing.

His haughty voice came from behind, like a cold calm cutting through her deliberate attempt of making chaos. "What exactly do you think you are doing?"

As if by instinct, her fingers curled tightly around the smooth glass of the bottle. She turned towards his voice, raising the bottle to her lips as their eyes met. Her intense green eyes remained locked with his as she swilled a mouthful of the burning liquid. The searing of her throat reminded her of the blazing anger she still felt towards him. Mercifully, the mind numbing draught had dulled the breath taking pain caused by his earlier onslaught, but her anger remained, and if anything it was only sharpened by the drink.

Carefully she lowered the bottle and used her sleeve to wipe her lips. Sarcastically she slurred, "Exactly what it looks like I'm doing. Packing."

Jareth stalked closer, crossing his arms over his chest. It infuriated her that even his mannerisms could appear so indifferent. He regarded her for a moment, and when he finally replied, his tone was smug as he tsked, "In case you have forgotten our little bargain, might I remind you that leaving my kingdom is out of the question."

Before he could say another word she drunkenly interjected, "I'm well aware of that."

"In that case...just where do you plan on going?"

"I don't really care. The forest, the stable...the deepest darkest oubliette, or even the bog of eternal stench. I don't give a shit where I spend the night, so long as it's far, far away from you."

"Is that so?"

His mouth was drawn into a somber line, and for one fleeting moment Sarah thought she saw a flicker of regret. But before she could even be sure, it was gone, replaced by indifference.

"After the way you treated me? Yes!" She hesitated for a moment desperately fighting to keep the tears from spilling over. Her eyes were glassy and she was sure it was obvious that she was seconds away from breaking down, but she blinked back the stinging tears. No way was she going to lose it in front of him.

But suddenly there was that uncertainty again. His eyes met hers and for a second they softened with something like concern, his unfeeling mask momentarily slipping. His frown deepened for an instant, before he quickly averted his eyes and lowered his head. Sarah froze, as every fiber of her being screamed to give him a second chance. Though she knew the error of it, she could not stop her herself from feeling. With every breath that tiny flicker of hope burned brighter, her heart beating that single desire for him to make everything right again.

Softly she stammered, "...unless...well...unless you have something else to say to me." Turning his back on her he started back toward his room.

Sarah readied herself for his reply. She expected his authoritative refusal, or some display of bravado to cover up the fact that he cared. God forbid that he actually admit he was hurting too. She had come to expect condescension from him, or a stern warning, perhaps he'd even drag her to the dungeon for her defiance, basically anything that would circumvent the truth. But still she hoped...maybe an all out shouting match would bring her closer to the truth of why he was acting like this.

With his back to her he quietly replied, "I've said my piece, do what you will Sarah."

His reaction was not at all what she had imagined. No ultimatum, nor drama of any kind. He merely walked away.

As he strode back through the doorway of his chamber he left Sarah gaping where she stood in disbelief. He didn't want the last biting word? No stream of condescending remarks? Impossible. Maybe he was having a change of heart...maybe he was already having regrets.

Aghast with disbelief she hurried after him, her bottle of wormsword draught still dangling from her hand as she caught up to him in his chamber. Incredulously she demanded, "You're not even going to try and stop me?"

His tone was indifferent as he glanced back at her, "Why should I?"

She was at a loss for words, "I..."

He interrupted, "Sleep wherever you want Sarah. So long as you remain within the confines of my kingdom, it is none of my concern."

She detected an element of coldness in his voice, but she was growing weary of trying to decipher his cryptic behavior. She was far too drunk for it. If he wanted to be cold and abrupt, than so would she.

Vehemently she spat with finality, "Fine. Whatever. Goodbye Jareth."

Turning on her heel she made for the door with no intention of looking back. But his voice stopped her.

"Wait...Before you leave..."

It was the touch of something almost civil in his voice that made her turn around, however when she saw his icy expression she second-guessed herself. In a tired voice she sighed, "What is it?"

"Before you leave..." his lips twisting into a cruel smirk, "You'd better do as I requested..."

Her eyes widened at his audacity as he finished, "...My boots are in severe need of polishing."

What a dick. She closed her eyes slowly as his words sunk in, kindling an anger so hot it nearly made her see red.

The next few moments seemed to happen in slow motion. Slowly she brought the bottle to her lips. The glass felt cool against her mouth as she took a long drought. Taking the drink allowed her just enough time to contemplate her move. The shocking taste of the liquor seemed to give her momentary clarity of mind. The burning liquid seared her throat, but the sensation was no match for the fire that coursed through her veins. Fury overwhelmed her sensibilities, and with deadly acuity her feral eyes sought what she was looking for.

His black leather boots sat innocently at the foot of his monstrous bed. They had done nothing wrong, it was too bad that they were about to bear the brunt of her wrath. It seemed she was instantly beside them, and without so much as a glance in his direction she raised the bottle in her hand and tipped it, pouring the potent brown liquid all over, and inside, his pristine black leather boots.

Taken aback the goblin king could do nothing but stare as she emptied the bottle of booze all over his boots.

Still holding the empty bottle she viciously sneered, "There! Happy? No?" Before she even knew what she was doing she was flat out yelling at him, "Polish your own goddamn boots Jareth! I'm through taking orders, I'm through with this place...And I'm Through. With. You!!!!"

It took him several moments to replace the surprise on his face with disdain. She had already begun to storm away by the time he had collected himself enough to chide, "Ah yes. Run away Sarah. It's much easier than facing your mistakes head on isn't it?"

Stopping short she whipped around to face him. She was leaning close, and he noticed how red her face was, from her anger no doubt, and when she spoke he caught the strong smell of alcohol on her breath. "You're right Jareth. I have made mistakes. The biggest one being that I trusted you." She shook her head in disgust, "I knew I was crazy to have feelings for you...I should have listened to my instincts. You aren't anything but a monster, and I made a huge mistake to try and see you as something more. My actions have been loaded with mistakes since I came here...what the hell...what's one more?"

She turned her back on him and without hesitation she whipped the bottle across the room with brilliant accuracy. Her aim was perfect. The bottle struck the enormous gilded mirror dead center. With a sickening smash the mirror shattered into hundreds of tiny fragments. Without another word she grabbed up her belongings and strode out of the castle leaving the Goblin King speechless.

It was fortunate for Sarah that she knew the way to the stables like the back of her hand otherwise she never would have navigated the way through the dark with her vision blinded by tears. She was sure she was well out of sight from the castle when she finally broke down and cried. She was a sobbing mess by the time she reached the stable. Luckily Tempest had the ability to communicate mentally, otherwise he may not have ever gotten the gist of what had put her in such a state. He tried to be gentle and comforting, but he knew that the girl had to cry herself out before her emotions simply consumed her. Exhausted by her sobbing she curled up in her blankets atop a pile of hay in the loft above Tempest's stall.

Jareth paced the length of his bedroom, pausing long enough to snatch up one of his boots. After pouring out the liquid that had pooled inside, he cast the boot aside, frowning as he stooped to pick up a fragment of glass from the once impressive mirror. It wasn't the damage to the mirror or his boots that concerned him, for such damage could be righted with the flick of a wrist.

It was another sort of damage that irked him. He had just wreaked havoc on the delicate bonds he had so carefully forged with Sarah. Of course it had been his intent all along, well almost all along, until he had let his heart get the better of him, but his anger had put him back on the path that his scheme demanded. He had been merciless, and the injury he caused exceeded even his own expectations. Surly a wound like that would never heal.

His frown deepened as he let the fragment of glass fall back to the floor. He glanced about the empty room. Suddenly the air in the castle seemed oppressive, warm and uncomfortable. He couldn't think here.

Normally after achieving such a victory he would take flight over the labyrinth and revel in his accomplishment. Tonight he didn't feel much like flying, something about him felt much too heavy. Tonight he would walk.

The rain had stopped and the skies were once again clear. It was rather late and the sapphire night sky above the junkyard was full of brilliant stars that twinkled like precious diamonds. Jareth wandered amongst the towering piles of junk plagued by his thoughts. Pulling his jacket tighter for warmth he crouched beside a blazing fire that had burst into existence by a mere thought.

He knew he would be alone here, as it was late and the inhabitants of the junkyard would have retired to their beds by now. Silently he watched the fire, the mesmerizing flames aiding his contemplation. By all rights he should have been pleased. Sarah was now the one suffering a broken heart. He had won. Revenge was his.

In actuality he was anything but pleased. The flames danced in his dual colored eyes and for the first time in his life he truly felt like a monster. The thoughts circled through his head like a whirlwind of confusion. I hurt her. I deliberately and mercilessly hurt her.

He couldn't get the image out of his head, as the disbelief and hurt washed across her face. He knew that she could be a good actress when she wanted to be but there was no doubt in his mind that her pain was genuine. How could she have been so upset if she didn't love him?

She does love me.

The only one in the world brave enough to look for the good in me. She took a chance by getting to know me. By the fates she saw me and she loved and trusted me. And I hurt her. I betrayed that trust, I betrayed her because I didn't give her a chance. I didn't trust her because I am weak and afraid. All the power I possess, and I fear losing myself in this girl.

I am a coward. I am so afraid, that I hurt her on purpose. I am nothing but a villain. All this time I was protecting my pride, and what do I have to show for it? Nothing. I already have lost myself in her. I close my eyes and I see her smile, her sweet face. Now she knows what a true monster I am. I don't deserve her. How could she ever forgive me after hurting her so deeply? It is too late, I cannot undo what I have done.

I have lost. I've lost everything.

Chapter 38: Monarch in Distress

Desdemona shifted uneasily in her armchair, lowering her book as she glanced at the timepiece on the mantle. Only four hours had passed since her father had left the Northern Kingdom and already she was bored out of her mind. She was rather disappointed at her father's refusal for her to accompany him on his errand, but even she had to concede that it was probably better this way.

Distraction was always easier than dealing with grief, but she knew she'd eventually have to get over her feelings for the Goblin King's page boy. Of course the idea had occurred to her; that it would be the perfect opportunity to sneak off to the Goblin castle and offer her lost love a final goodbye, but it wasn't worth the risk. Not with Nyx already knowing what he knew. Surely he'd expect her to do something brash like that, which was no doubt the reason he'd been watching her like a hawk since the night of Jareth's masquerade.

The only way she could chance such an excursion would be if Nyx also left the Manor on business. A secretive smile formed at the idea. It was entirely possible. Though Nyx had been keeping a close eye on her, he had been away a lot as well. She had caught him returning late at night on many occasions. A dreamy look softened her features as she thought of stealing away to see Sargonne, but then she shook her head and thought better of it. No. I have to stop this ridiculousness. We could never be together. We've said our goodbyes, to force another meeting would just be adding insult to injury. Her delicate mouth curved into a tight frown. It would be wiser to face her grief and move on. At least if her brother left for the evening she would have the manor to herself and could wallow in private.

It was odd. What official business would be keeping Nyx in the dead of night? She frowned, perhaps it was not business at all, but pleasure that kept him. Maybe he had met someone, someone who would not meet father's approval. Her brow furrowed in concentration. Whatever it was, she would be sure to find out. She left her cozy chair in the library and sought out her half brother.

Making as little noise as possible Desdemonna pushed open the door to Nyx's private study. Sticking her head in, she cleared her throat, "Ahem...Busy my brother?"

As she had suspected Nyx was seated behind his enormous desk, his head bent over some parchment. Nyx moved quickly, concealing the page he was writing on with another bit of parchment. "Don't I look busy Des?"

She sighed, "I suppose..."

Straightening he demanded, "What do you want dear sister? Something I can help you with?"

Curiosity had piqued her interest and she tentatively stepped into the room. "Just wondering what your plans might be for this evening? Would you be up for a bit of sport? Father had some new targets added to the archery range..."

His silver eyes met hers, "I'm afraid not. I have urgent business with some members of the trade council. I won't be home until late."

"Oh. That's too bad I was hoping that you might help me with my aim..."

He frowned, "Perhaps tomorrow."

She ducked out of the room closing the door behind her and replied, "Yes, perhaps."

Nyx shifted his gaze back to the parchment on the desk. Under one hand was the carefully handwritten invitation to the masquerade ball that he had attended only a few days before. Beside it, was a letter he had begun to compose. He was carefully to perfectly duplicate the handwriting on the invitation.


We have to talk

Desdemonna waited patiently behind the old suit of armor on display in the great hall. Obscured by the heavy velvet drapes, she waited, unseen. When Nyx finally left the manor, Desdemonna stealthily followed.

The white owl swooped silently into the barn. Landing high in the rafters, he surveyed the scene below him. A lone lantern was burning, keeping its silent vigil over the girl sleeping in the hayloft. On a stool at her feet the dwarf was slumped in sleep, snoring loudly. No doubt Hoggle had refused to leave her alone and had set about keeping watch over the slumbering girl, though by the looks of it his efforts had proven futile. Below the girl, Tempest was dozing in his stall.

Slowly the owl's head turned, it's black expressionless eyes fixed on the sleeping girl. In one fluid motion the bird leapt from it's perch, flapping its downy wings. Soundlessly the change occurred, and it was the Goblin King rather than a white barn owl that crouched beside the girl.

She was curled up beneath a heavy blanket atop a cushion of hay. Her head was turned to the side, her face was pale in the lantern light and her silky dark hair spilled about her. She looked serene and peaceful while she slept, possessing an almost childlike beauty. Her pink lips were frozen in a little pout, and upon closer inspection, he noticed that her pink tinged cheeks were tearstained.

So, she had been crying before she feel asleep. Of course he knew she would eventually break down, but seeing the evidence of her misery with his own eyes affected him. There was an inescapable unpleasant stab of remorse at the sight. The pain of it was so moving that he actually closed his eyes against it.

Tenderly he brushed a stray piece of hair from her forehead. The alicorn was the only conscious witness as he raggedly whispered, "I'm sorry. I...don't deserve you."

After having spotted Nyx entering the black forest, Desdemonna tracked him through the woods. He moved quickly but she was able to keep up at a distance. He had been in his bird form and to her displeasure she had been led to a place she didn't want to be.

She had heard tales of the ancient sacred circle when she had been just a child and the idea of it still scared her. Now at the edge of that dreaded place, she heard voices whispering through the darkness, reverberating off the skeletal trees. As she drew closer to the noises, it became apparent that not one, but many, were moving through the brush to take their places at the perimeter of the circle.

Her trembling sparrow form hid in a dense fir tree, well out of sight, watching silently as many black clad figures emerged from the trees. It was a macabre gathering and she shivered at the eerie sight.

Atop the ancient stone circle the black clad figures fell in line at the perimeter, falling to their knees, they honored their leader. He stood tall and imposing, alone, in the dead center of the circle. Slowly he turned to regard each of them, his unseen eyes hidden beneath the dark cowl as he scanned his minions.

With a communal hiss they beseeched him, "We have all come. What is your bidding master?"

From the cover of her hiding place Desdemona watched them gather. She heard the hiss of voices but she couldn't decipher the words. She was too far to read their lips, though even if she were closer it wouldn't have done much good in identifying them. Their black hoods concealed their features, shrouding them in anonymity.

They were all clad in identical garments, black robes and cowls, seemingly equals, save for the lone one standing in the middle. Something was different about him aside from the fact that he was standing in the center. Upon a cursory inspection, she spotted the talisman. She was too far away to see the silver medallion in detail, but it didn't matter, she saw it in her mind's eye.

The silver skull, holding a bony finger to the mouth. Instead of eyes, were glittering blood-red stones. Behind the skull, a human female and the rearing alicorn, engulfed in flames.

The ancient symbol of the Shadow Horde.

A symbol far older than any of her living kin, a symbol that could be mistaken for no other, a symbol that would remain burned into the minds of her race for ages to come. All races and cultures had their symbols, and most of them had at least one that inspired dread.

Desdemonna instinctively recoiled from the horde's symbol, as to her it seemed the embodiment of evil. A symbol of Fae supremacy, of treachery, a symbol that represented the rape, enslavement, murder, and the ultimate extinction of the human race. With the power of Alicorn blood, it was the Horde's agenda to breed humans out of existence.

The figure was speaking now, and she strained to hear his words. "Your patience and servitude is about to be rewarded."

Horror and sickening disbelief washed over her now, and it was not from the symbol, and not from the fact that she was actually witnessing a very real and active Horde meeting, but from the realization that despite the outward anonymity of the figure before her, she knew exactly who their leader was.

Fire and Rain...It can't be. But it was.


There was no doubt in her mind. His stature, his mannerisms, the cadence of his voice...It was him. Though she had constantly been at odds with her half-brother, she could scarcely believe he could be a part of something so wretched. It was a testament to the fact that she truly didn't know him. At that moment the thought struck her that he couldn't have been more of a stranger to her.

She became frantic at the discovery, and the urge to flee was overwhelming. Father, she thought, father will know what to do. The thought sickened her. Her gentle sweet father would be crushed, but he was wise beyond his years, perhaps he could make sense of all this madness. She longed to slip away and run, but her curiosity held her there. She had to at least find out what was happening. She inched closer, bit by bit, until she could just barely discern the words. She strained to hear her brother's voice.

"The time has come for action. Admittance aboveground is just at our fingertips. By this time tomorrow the Goblin Kingdom, the key to aboveground access, will be ours."

"But what of Jareth...and the labyrinth?"

"Forget about the labyrinth, without Jareth and his power, the labyrinth cannot hinder us."

"Yes, but how? Jareth defends his kingdom from the center of the labyrinth, how will we reach him? With him inside we have no chance of navigating through the maze or of breeching the castle walls."

"Indeed, but Jareth won't be within the castle or the labyrinth when we take him."

A stunned hush fell over the horde and Desdemonna held her breath and listened to hear what her brother was planning.

Later in the Goblin Kingdom...

The Sun had barely risen over the labyrinth, yet the goblin king was already out of bed. He had wasted no time in bathing and dressing himself. In no mood to eat breakfast, he stormed out of his room and down the castle hall. He moved purposefully through the castle, ignoring the goblins that he passed, for his mind was on other things.

Despite the fact that he had barely slept, he was more anxious than tired. It had been impossible to turn off his mind long enough to get any quality sleep, but that hardly mattered to him at the moment. He couldn't seem to get his mind around one thing.

He had made a grievous error.

For so long he had been convinced that hurting Sarah was the solution, but now that the act was done, he realized he'd solved nothing. The longing was still there, in fact, it hurt worse than before. Though, as wretched as the pain was, it was nothing in comparison to the nagging realization that he had no idea how to reconcile the situation...if it even was reconcilable.

Sarah wasn't likely to speak to him anytime soon, never mind understand or forgive what he had done.

Jareth kept walking, he didn't really have a destination in mind, but the constant walking at least kept him from going mad. Not surprisingly, he ended up in his study. It was a much more productive place for thinking than the throne room, which was usually overrun with goblins.

Jareth flopped dramatically into his chair and sighed wearily, resting his head on the high back of the chair. His mind wandered for what seemed like the millionth time, "What are you doing..."

He was no closer to an answer than he was the night before. Exasperated with thinking he let his head fall into his hands, and that's when he noticed the neatly folded letter on his desk.

A single word scratched in black ink stared up at him.


The writing was hauntingly familiar. About a thousand different emotions swelled in him as he snatched up the letter. He couldn't open it fast enough. Giving the handwriting a cursory glance, there was no doubt who had written it.


We need to talk. I don't want things to end this way. Meet me by the waterfall. I'll be waiting.


He was out of the chair before he'd even finished reading the letter. He didn't know if his relationship with her was salvageable, but the letter sparked a glimmer of hope within him. She was willing to talk and that was a start. Determined, he set off, the thought echoing in his mind. I'll get her back...

Desdemonna crouched behind a large fir tree as she struggled to catch her breath. She had trailed the Shadow Horde all night and she was exhausted from trying to keep up and lack of sleep. She had opted to track them from higher ground, which afforded her a better view but also made for a more difficult journey. She had kept out of sight as the horde moved into the ravine below.

She stopped to rest as their caravan halted in the breathtaking valley below. They assumed their positions, hiding behind various rock formations that flanked a waterfall. It appeared as though they were waiting for something or someone.

What a morbid progression it had been, all of them clad head to toe in their imposing black robes, none of them uttering so much as a single word. Though the main function of their macabre garb was to protect the wearer's identity, she reasoned that the vestments had other purposes. It seemed their robes prevented other Fae from sensing their presence, as she had not been able to sense them with her power as she tracked them. Finally it was the sinister appearance it gave them, like intimidating shadows they moved, certain to strike fear into the hearts of all that glimpsed them. It reminded her of the procession before a funeral or execution, but what was even more disturbing was the person-sized crow's cage that they carried, dangling from an enormous pike.

Fearful of what would unfold before her eyes, she held her breath and waited. And then as if on cue, she spotted him. A lone lithe figure with wild platinum hair, descending the grassy hill that led down to the waterfall. He had seemed to appear from nowhere, but that was not surprising, as powerful Fae were quite adept at apparating.

Jareth saw no sign of Sarah as he approached, but as he got closer he thought he heard muffled sobs coming from behind a rock formation flanking the waterfall. Concern was evident in his voice as rushed over, "Sarah?"

The ambush was sudden, occurring just as Desdemonna had realized the danger. There had been no time to call out and warn him. Not that it would have helped, for in doing so, she also would have endangered herself.

It almost seemed to happen in slow motion, and it was a terrible thing to witness, especially knowing she could do nothing to stop it, for the horde far outnumbered her and the goblin king.

The moment Jareth had neared the rocks, scores of dark figures descended upon him from all sides. Some materialized out of thin air. There was little time for Jareth to react, especially against so many. She hadn't sensed them and she guessed Jareth hadn't either because he had walked right into their trap.

Immediately four of the figures seized him, and despite his wild struggling, they managed to hold him. Roughly they forced his hands behind his back, entwining them with enchanted rope, so he was not able to defend himself by producing a crystal and using magic. Jareth strained to see those who were restraining him, but all he saw were their sinister grimaces, as their faces were hidden beneath their dark cowls.

Another approached him from the front and Jareth immediately noticed the medallion hanging around his neck. Cold dread washed over him.

The Shadow Horde.

Strangely, his first thought was not fear for his own life, but concern for Sarah. Surely without him to protect her, an awful fate would await her should she fall into their hands. If they haven't already taken her.

Icy fear gripped him at the thought, and he struggled harder, but to no avail. The grim frown of the leader twisted into a smug smirk. His silken voice was vaguely familiar as he hissed, "Ah Jareth, I've waited a long time for this."

The smirk vanished as the leader's fist smashed into Jareth's jaw. There was no time for Jareth to process the pain before the next devastating blow hit him in the gut, doubling him over. His captors hauled him back up so the leader could continue his merciless beating. When the leader was satisfied he indicated for the others to come forward. They took turns beating him.

Desdemonna winced at every blow, but there was still nothing she could do. Helpless to intervene, she watched on as the goblin king fought to remain conscious as he took the beating of his life. She feared they would beat him to death, but suddenly with one signal from Nyx, they stopped.

They lowered the pike and shoved him into the crow's cage. He collapsed as they let go of him. With a groan the rusty door swung shut, locking him inside. He tried to get to his knees, but he didn't have the strength. The exertion of trying to get up was too much and he fell back to the rusty grate floor and lost consciousness.

The leader motioned for them to assemble and barked, "We have him, now back to the sacred circle where we shall begin the rite and finish this..." Ominously he finished, " ...and then the Goblin Kingdom and the world aboveground shall be ours."

Desdemonna looked on in horror as they heaved the pike upright, lifting the crow's cage into the air. Once they had turned their backs on her and were a safe distance away she wasted no time and took to the air. She had to make it to the Goblin Kingdom before they did, and hopefully before they finished off Jareth. She had to warn Sargonne and the goblins.

Sarah sluggishly dragged herself from her hay bed and washed her face and hands in the icy water from the stable pump. After drying herself off she dressed in her own aboveground clothes, pulled her messy hair back into a tight ponytail, and set about tending to Tempest's breakfast. She dumped his grain into his trough and insisted, "Hoggle, I already told you I don't want to talk about it."

The dwarf stammered, "I'm sorry missy, I thought maybe it would make you feel better to get it off your chest. I shoulda known this might happen. I knew that rat was up to something, I just didn't know what. I still don't know what. None of this makes any sense to me. I have a bad feelin', I tell ya, somethin' just ain't right."

Stomping out of the stall she argued, "Don't you think I know that Hoggle! I've spent the whole night trying to figure out what went wrong! Everything was fine one minute, and the next thing I know, I'm being treated worse than a slave."

Hoggle held up his hands, "I know missy, horrible what he did...but what'd ya expect Jareth to do? He's a rat, I'd expect you to understand that better than anyone."

She rolled her eyes "I know, but I thought things would be different this time..."

Hoggle shrugged, "Well, I dunno, maybe they were for a time. You never can tell what that rat is thinking. Strange though, that you don't know what set him off. I don't know, maybe there's more to it. Could be a misunderstandin' I suppose. Maybe after he cools off, you two will sort it out."

Sarah shook her head, "No, Hoggle, he could cool off for a century and it wouldn't make one bit of difference. It's me that's bugging him."

The dwarf gave her a sympathetic look and replied, "You don't know that." He shook his head and growled under his breath, "Arrrowww, I can't believe I'm defending him...You know how he is, probably something else got him all riled. Maybe he's already sorry. Maybe you could give him a chance to explain."

"A chance to explain?!" She was yelling now, "Are you out of your mind Hoggle? It was downright rotten the way he treated me!"

"I know it was. I just hate to see you upset missy. You're my friend and I hate that I can't fix this, but I'm afraid the only way out is to learn the truth, and Jareth is the only one that can give you that. You'll have to face him sooner or later."

"Ah...Hem," A low gentle voice interrupted.

Sarah turned her head to see the Alicorn poke his head out of his stall, "I don't mean to interrupt Sarah, but Haggle has a point. Perhaps there is some misunderstanding..."

Incredulously the dwarf accused, "You can talk?!? Rowwrrr It's Hoggle..."

The alicorn merely ignored him, "If you don't mind me sayin' it Sarah, I've known the King for a long time, and rarely does he act without good reason. Something set him off for him to be acting that defensively. I know he's a bit frosty on the outside, but he's got a good heart, that I know. With him, things aren't always what they seem, you can't take anything he does for granted."

Sarah looked intently at Tempest thinking that wouldn't be the first time she heard that piece of advice here. Maybe there was some truth to what the alicorn said, but it still didn't excuse Jareth's behavior.

She glanced at Hoggle, "Well misunderstanding or not, Hoggle's right. I will have to face him, and when I do I'm getting to the bottom of this. He may be a King, but he doesn't own me. I'm done taking anymore of his crap. If he doesn't like it, than that's too bad...I'll make him so miserable that he'll have no choice but to send me home. I will confront him, and he will have one chance to explain himself, but I'm not going up there today. Right now I don't want to be anywhere near him. Going in there and screaming at him is not going to solve anything, and right now that's all I want to do. I need time to cool off and clear my head before I talk to him."

The alicorn nodded "That's a wise decision. Think it over for a few days, and then you'll work it out. He probably already regrets the way he treated you. He cares for you Sarah, that I know, no matter what he said."

"It's hard for me to believe that, but thanks for trying to cheer me up."


Sarah was reclining on a bail of hay, thinking of all that had happened when she heard the commotion outside. Goblin voices were shouting her name.

"Sarah! Sarah!"

She rushed to the door of the stable to see a familiar figure flanked by two goblins running towards her full force.

Sarah's eyes widened in surprise, "Des...Desdemonna?"

The Fae youth was dirty, her hair spilling out of it's usual pinned style and she noticed immediately that her dress was torn in several places. Wild eyed and out of breath the Fae skidded to a halt in front of Sarah, "Where is Sargonne? I must speak with him right away."

Uneasiness crept over Sarah as she stammered, "Sargonne is...not available...um this isn't a very good time for..."

Frantically the girl pleaded, "I must speak with your brother...it's a matter of life or death, and it concerns him..." she bent to catch her breath, "and you as well..."

Sarah shook her head, "I'm not sure where he is, but maybe we'd better go to the Goblin King..."

Desdemonna took a deep breath and gushed, "That's what I'm trying to tell you! Jareth has been taken by the Shadow Horde!"

Sarah's face drained of all color, "What do you mean taken?"

"Captured. They will kill him, I'm sure of it. They took him to their sacred circle, they have probably already started the rite to execute him."

Sarah suddenly felt light headed and she grabbed the girl by the shoulders, "What?!"

"They have him. They took him Northward and headed to the ancient stone circle, their place of ritual sacrifice. I saw it happen...I have to warn Sargonne. The two of you have to get out of here before they finish him and come. With Jareth out of the way nothing will stop them from taking the Goblin City. You have to leave...now please where is Sargonne?"

Sarah was no longer listening. Her fingers tightened on the girl's arms as she frantically demanded, "Where exactly is this stone circle?"

"The black forest, Northwest of here...now where's..."

Sarah held up a hand to silence her as Tempest's voice brayed in her mind "I know that place. I can get us there."

Sarah pulled the girl closer and declared urgently, "I am Sargonne, Sargonne is me...Sarah. Jareth dressed me as his page boy."

"What? But...why?"

Sarah shook her head as she rushed into the armory and tack area with Desdemonna on her heels, "I know...I know...It was a rotten thing to deceive you like that...but there's no time to explain. I have to try and stop them...I have to go after Jareth."

The shocked expression on her face deepened, "Are you insane? You are human...have you any idea what they'll do to you? It's suicide!"

Sarah ground out, "It doesn't matter! I have to go."

Sarah whirled around and shouted at Hoggle who was watching the whole scene with a gaping mouth, "Hoggle, assemble the Goblin army, tell them Jareth has been captured and he needs them. I want them hot on my heels in case something happens to me."

Hoggle nodded frantically, "I'll lead them Sarah, I'll be right behind you." In a flash the dwarf was off running, taking the two goblins who had escorted Desdemonna with him.

She glanced at the large black Alicorn in the stall nearest her and announced, "Tempest, get ready...we are going for a ride."

With that Sarah began donning the first pieces of armor she could get her hands on. There must have been something familiar in her voice that struck a cord in the young Fae because without another word she began helping Sarah dress and arm herself.

As Sarah buckled the sword scabbard onto her belt she remarked, "I am sorry for what I did to you...it wasn't my intention to hurt anyone. I know that sorry probably doesn't cut it...but if I make it out of this alive, I will explain everything and I'll do my best to make up for the injury I caused you."

Desdemonna selected a metal helmet and helped Sarah put it on, "You are a noble and brave woman Sarah..."

Sarah looked out from behind the jagged metal and mumbled, "Brave or incredibly stupid?"

Desdemonna handed her a small dagger that went on the strap around her calf, "I would ride with you, but I think I'd be of more use if I reached my father and got him to raise the alarm. He's not far from here, so the Northern army won't be far behind you."

Sarah nodded, "Thank you. You've already taken a risk in warning me, I won't forget all you've done."

The young Fae stared at her for a moment and replied, "You really mean to do this...risking your life to bring him back. You must really care for him."

Sarah swallowed hard, blinking back the tears that threatened to surface at the thought of what would happen if she didn't bring him back, "I..."

"I believe you can do this Sarah. You possess a will and spirit seldom seen in the Fae. You are brave and determined..."

Sarah shook her head, "But how can you say that you don't even know me..."

"You solved the labyrinth, that has to count for something. Now go on, you'd better get out of here."

Sarah's gaze drifted over a multitude of swords as Desdemonna added, "You should also know that the leader of the Horde is my half brother Nyx. He had beaten Jareth rather severely right before I fled...I believe the two of you have been acquainted and if I'm not mistaken...you already owe him one."

Anger flared within her. She had disliked Nyx immensely the first time she met him, but now, well there were no words to describe the amount of misery she wanted to put him through. Without hesitation Sarah snatched up a rather nasty looking broadsword. It had savage looking spikes adorning the handle, and it was still dangerously sharp despite the fact that it was rusty. Grinding her teeth together she shoved the sword into her scabbard savoring the sound of metal against metal. Nyx will pay for what he's done. He'll pay if it kills me. Hold on Jareth, I'm coming.

Chapter 39: Damsel to the Rescue

"On your feet Goblin King!"

The distant order was the only thing Jareth heard before a bucket of icy water was thrown over him. The frigid water shocked him into to consciousness. Sputtering, he scrambled to his knees. The sharp pain in his head was unreal, but he forced it aside as he lifted his head to see his attackers.

Several had gathered around, all wearing their signature black robes. Through the rusty bars of the cage, Jareth noticed the medallion hanging around the neck of the one closest to him. The one that had beat him, their leader.

There was no longer any doubt in his mind that it was the Shadow Horde that had ambushed him. A cursory glance at his surroundings told him that he was also no longer in the valley by the waterfall. Dense forest surrounded him on all sides. His small cage dangled over a cracked and worn stone floor. The remnants of ancient columns surrounded them and large broken stones littered the floor.

With all the authority he could summon he growled, "What is the meaning of this?" He spoke more out of anger than curiosity as he had a good idea what was happening. It was simple. They wanted his kingdom. They needed to possess his domain if they were going to infiltrate the world aboveground. That's what they wanted, the world above was their ultimate hunting ground, and the game; humans.

Now he saw how attainable that goal was, as he was the only thing that stood in their way. He cursed himself for not having thought of it sooner, as it was so blatantly obvious, but then again he hadn't really believed that the Shadow Horde had been resurrected until they had ambushed him.

Now looking at the dark figure before him, Jareth could see that the legacy of the Shadow Horde lived and breathed. Their leader stepped closer, his concealed face inches from the rusty metal bars. From such close proximity Jareth could clearly make out his mouth as he sneered, "Your reign is over Jareth."

The familiarity of the soft-spoken voice struck him as his mind reeled, I've heard that voice before. He dares call me by my name. Do I know him? Jareth's hands tightened on the bars and ignoring the pain in his head, he wrenched himself to a stand and leered at his captor.

The strangely familiar mouth snickered, "You're as stubborn as you are ignorant. Your show of bravado is wasted." He glanced about mockingly, "There are no mortal girls here to impress, Goblin King. All you will accomplish is the hastening of your own demise. Tell me Jareth, How is your head?"

Jareth knew that the nauseating pain he felt could not be being caused by his injuries alone. There was surely magic involved, the disorienting weakness was a tell tale sign. Despite his suffering, he leveled a penetrating gaze at his captor.

Ignoring the blazing warming in the Goblin King's eyes, the leader rapped on the bars and softly chuckled, "You'll find that your new home has some curious properties. Not only is the metal an effective toxin, it was forged with some powerful enchantments. Such an extraordinary relic...must have been as useful then as it is now, it really is quite deadly to our kind."

The familiarity of the voice struck him, the name just beyond his reach of consciousness. Narrowing his eyes at his captor, the Goblin King demanded, "Who are you?"

The velvety chuckle was one of triumph as the figure replied, "I suppose I may as well tell you...you aren't long for this world anyway." Lifting his gloved hand, he pulled back the cowl to reveal a pale face adorned with a striking pair of gleaming silver eyes. Jareth looked on his attacker and his gaze fell to the thin scar that marred his upper lip.

"Nyx." Breathed Jareth. Though he had never liked the youth, he never would have believed him capable of anything as sinister as reviving the Shadow Horde. Sure Nyx was a hot-headed nuisance who was full of himself in a way that bordered on unhealthy, but the secret leader of the Shadow Horde?

The fact that Nyx was power hungry was not a surprise, but Jareth never would have guessed that his ambitions would lead him to delusional criminal madness. Lord Taibarr was an entirely sensible and diplomatic Fae, it was beyond Jareth how a man like him could beget such a son.

"Why are you doing this? Surly you realize you'll never get away with this."

Nyx's scarred lip curled into an ugly sneer, "You are in no position to question my motives. Your kingdom belongs to me now, and your subjects are mine. How unfortunate for them...and lets not forget about your precious humans."

Nyx noticed that Jareth's fist had tightened considerably on the bar. He smiled at the Goblin King's tension and went on, "Hmmm...your lovely little Sarah...she will undoubtedly make a most excellent slave...hmmm perhaps I'll make her my first concubine..."

That was it.

Nyx saw the deadly intent in the Goblin King's eyes just before he lunged. Lucky for Nyx, two of his brethren had reached in and grabbed Jareth. They managed to pull him back, violently smashing him into the rusty bars behind him. The larger of the two slipped a strong arm about his throat and held him against the back of the cage. Despite the fact that he could barely breathe Jareth growled, "Where is she!? By all that is sacred in the Underground Nyx...so help me if you lay one finger on her I'll..."

Nyx laughed, "You'll what Jareth?"

Jareth returned an icy gaze and emphasized in a deadly tone, "I will kill you myself."

Nyx shook his head solemnly, "Now would be a good time to start begging for your life Jareth, rather than making idle threats." Pointing to his men, he commanded, "Hold him. Let us proceed with the rite."

For a brief moment there was nothing but the sound of hooves pounding against the stony ground and the rush of the cool morning wind as it whipped against her face, chilling her cheeks as she urged Tempest Northward. Then the world invaded as sense of purpose flooded back over her.


With an ominous metal clank she thrust the helmet's visor down. The element of surprise would be her only advantage and she intended to make the most of it, and if the helmet could also protect her from the elements then so much the better. Tempest was aware of the danger and the need for haste as he barreled away from the Goblin Kingdom at a flat out gallop.

Sarah had suspected the Alicorn would be fast, but she had never dreamed the degree to which he could outrun a horse. She squeezed with her legs and held on with a white knuckled grip, grateful for Tempest's understanding of what was required. At that moment, simply holding on was difficult enough, especially with the added weight of her armor. They tore through the fields north of the labyrinth, with Sarah holding on for her life as Tempest charged on at breakneck speed.

It didn't take very long for them to reach the deep forest that Desdemonna had told them about. Tempest plunged into the darkness of the woods, dodging trees and branches as though his life depended on it.

Sarah gritted her teeth, thankful for the helmet, as wave after wave of thin whip-like braches lashed about her head. At the speed they were going, the helmet and armor surely saved her from what would have been many painful gashes. Her muscles were screaming in agony from gripping the stallion so tightly. In truth it couldn't have been more than a few hours, but to Sarah it felt like an eternity that they rode through those woods.

Her hands and calves were cramped so badly that she prayed for Tempest to stop, yet dreaded the moment at the same time, as she knew she may well be riding into a trap. A cold sweat had broken out over her body as the realization was slowly dawning on her. What if I can't save him? I may already be too late. I might not make it out of here.

She pushed those thoughts to the back of her mind. She had to try. Suddenly she noticed that the trees had grown denser, and were looking more black and skeletal. They were getting close. Tempest's voice rang out in her mind. "We're nearly there. The circle lies just beyond those trees up ahead. Prepare yourself Sarah."

Still holding Tempest's mane with one hand, she reached down and grasped the hilt of her sword. With a deep breath she steadily pulled the weapon free of its scabbard. She locked her arm to position her shield as she raised her sword.

This is nuts, I don't even know how to use this thing. She took another calming breath as the voice in her head warned, "Well you'd better learn real quick, because your lives depend upon it."

Tempest had reached the trees and he trumpeted his warning, "Here we go lass." Sarah screwed her eyes shut.


Just breathe.

I can do this.

The darkness of the woods was now interrupted by the orange light of a crackling bonfire. Two of the black robed figures came forward from the edge of the blaze and Jareth tried to free himself from the iron grip of the one that held him.

The arm that pressed against his throat was impossibly strong, and on the verge of cutting off his air supply. Stars swam before his eyes, but he fought to stay conscious. He sucked in the life giving air and his vision cleared. It was then he saw what the figure on the right was carrying. Clutched in his black gloved hand was a long wrought iron pole, it's tip bent in some indistinguishable shape and glowing yellow and red.

The other figure had already reached the cage. Sticking his arm through the bars he snatched the Goblin King roughly by the wrist. Jareth struggled wildly, only causing the arm to tighten about his neck. Fighting was getting him nowhere. He was only further exhausting himself.

He stilled, afraid further struggle would only hasten what was sure to be a one way trip into unconsciousness. Another hand reached in, tearing his already tattered and bloodied shirt up the middle and away from his pale torso. Ugly bluish bruises had already begun to form on his ribs and back. There was a glint of light as the fire was reflected off the metal of the Goblin King's amulet.

Leather covered fingers grasped the object, tightening around it before the pendant was yanked from his neck. The figure held up the talisman and announced, "Master I believe this belongs to you now." He threw the amulet at Nyx who caught it and mused, "Yes. I believe it does, now that you'll no longer be needing it Jareth."

Jareth growled his disapproval and made one last attempt to struggle. The arm at his throat tightened as the red hot tip of the iron was thrust through the bars of the cage. The burning metal was pushed against the center of his chest, sizzling his pale flesh. A brutal yowl of pain erupted from the Goblin King, rising to the very tops of the skeletal trees. It seemed the only sound in the silence of the dark wood, though, it was suddenly followed by another.

The thundering of distant hooves grew louder.

Sarah could just make out the fire when she heard the ungodly scream. The pain contained in it seemed to squeeze her own heart, for she knew instantly who made the sound. It was Jareth.

He was in pain, but the scream meant he was still alive. I'm not too late...Hang on Jareth...

Resolve flooded her as she tensed for the assault. Tempest broke out of the thicket and into the circle, giving Sarah her first view of what was taking place. Her eyes immediately sought the Goblin King, slumped in his cage. She saw the glowing tip of the iron in the hand of his attacker and understood what had happened.

White hot rage kindled in her breast and she was overwhelmed with the urge to kill. She didn't second guess the feeling, she just acted. She spurred the stallion forward with a deafening cry of outrage. Rider and Alicorn sailed through the licking flames of the bonfire, emerging as a nightmarish black silhouette on the other side.

Several Horde members cried out in alarm as they dove out of the way. Some were not so lucky. Sarah swung her sword with all her strength as they landed. Two of the figures were simply crushed beneath the weight of the stallion and two more fell as the blade of Sarah's sword made contact.

Jareth fell hard as the arm that had been suffocating him suddenly let go. Pain shot through his hands and knees as he landed on the rusty iron bars that made up the floor of the cage, but that pain was nothing compared to the scorched flesh on his chest where he had been branded. Still, at the moment that sharp pain had been a blessing in disguise as it had brought him back from the brink of unconsciousness. He may have been in agony, but at least he was now alert. He had heard the commotion as he fell, and grasping the bar to steady himself he forced his head up, and he could scarcely believe what he saw.

Sarah was astonished that she had successfully cut down two of the figures with her sword, but there was no time to dwell on her victory. The man with the iron rod in his hand whirled towards them, brandishing the still glowing tip. Sarah raised her sword for another swing, but there was no need. Tempest lowered his massive black head, his silver horn glinting in the firelight as he charged. With the sickening sound of flesh being torn, the man was run through. The silver horn glistened with blood as penetrated his torso.

It was an effort for Jareth to hold himself up, as he was drained of all his strength, but he couldn't tear his eyes from what he saw. The Alicorn was unmistakable. It was Tempest who had charged on the Horde. But what was even more incredible was the rider, or more specifically the fact that the Alicorn had a rider. For Jareth didn't need to see beneath the armored helmet to know who the rider was. He knew it was Sarah and his heart shuddered in a mixture of relief and fear.

Now very near the rusty cage, Sarah swung her sword at the man who had previously had a hold on Jareth. With a cry of pain he fell to his knees, clutching the bleeding gash on his chest. The other figure dropped his staff and backpedaled in terror. Frantically Sarah tried to get a better look at Jareth, to assess how badly hurt he was, but it was nearly impossible as the stallion threw his head from side to side casting off the lifeless body from his horn.

To her left Sarah saw other figures running towards her. More than she had a chance of fighting off. Sarah turned Tempest towards them, raising her sword. At that moment, she heard the unmistakable voice of the Goblin King. Stripped raw with pain and urgency the voice warned, "Look out!"

There was no time to react as something whizzed by at incredible speed. It struck its target with a terrible thud, and it was then Sarah recognized the sound.

An arrow sunk into the stallion's crested neck causing the beast to rear in pain. Sarah could not maintain her balance in her heavy armor and toppled off the stallion's back. As if in slow motion or somewhere very far away she heard Jareth yell, "Nooooo!"

As she struck the ground time started moving forward again and her mind wheeled in panic, "Run Tempest! Get away from here!"

The stallion trumpeted and obeyed, pivoting before galloping off to the right. Sarah clawed at the earth, scrambling to her knees as she sought the one who had fired the arrow.

A pair of black boots strode towards her as she painfully climbed to her feet. Her eyes traveled up the imposing figure's black robes as he lowered his bow. The upper half of his face was concealed by his cowl.

A smooth cultured voice broke the heavy silence. "Ah, what have we here? One of Jareth's loyal subjects?"

Jareth watched as Nyx approached her. His blood ran cold at the sight, and at the knowledge that he was powerless to help her. He was about to scream at her to run, to get out of there, when something occurred to him.

He thinks she is a goblin. If she runs, the others will catch her.

Jareth held his tongue, and with a white knuckled grip on the bars of the cage he watched to see how the confrontation would play out.

Several others, also concealed in black robes had now joined the one who spoke. Sarah's eyes fell to the medallion hanging around his neck and knew that this was the leader; it was Nyx. Her fingers tightened on the hilt of her sword as she inclined her head toward the cage and sneered in a voice unrecognizable as her own. "Let him go."

Now the cultured voice chuckled, "Little goblin, you get marks for bravery, but none for wisdom. But then I've always heard that goblins are foolhardy." The men flanking the leader began to draw swords but he stopped them, "Don't bother. Go after the Alicorn, all of you, for he is far more valuable. Leave this one to me."

Jareth swallowed. If Sarah had only Nyx to face it was a step in the right direction, however she was still in grave danger. A human pitted against a powerful Fae was hardly a fair fight. The voice in his head chided, She stood against me and came out no worse for wear. She threw my life into chaos quite effectively, not half bad for a human. He hoped with all his heart that fortune would be so good to her again. Holding his breath, he waited.

Sarah watched in disbelief as the remaining figures ran off in search of Tempest, leaving her alone with Nyx. Perhaps luck was on her side after all, or maybe she was in more trouble than she knew. The sound of his voice brought back the memory of the night of the masquerade, when he had been about to hit her.

Her gaze was drawn to his mouth, finally settling on the scar on his upper lip. Desdemonna was right; their leader was Nyx. Hatred stirred in her breast, like a waking cobra, ready to strike.

Good. Now I have a good reason to kill him.

Leveling her sword at his chest she growled with grave authority, "This is your last warning...Let the Goblin King go."

Jareth was too weak to get to his feet, even though every fiber of his being was screaming for him to help her. He was struck by her selflessness in coming after him, and he was flooded with regret.

Nyx fingered the sword carefully before brushing it aside, "Quite the show of bravado for a lone Goblin...tell me little Goblin what you plan to do if I refuse."

This time she spoke evenly in her own voice, "Simple. I kill you."

Nyx froze as the lilting voice registered. Taking a step back he remarked, "You don't sound like a goblin..."

Jareth tensed as he watched silently. His fingers tightened on the rusted bar.

With a loud clank of metal, Sarah raised the shield of her helmet to reveal her face to him. Her brow was sweaty and her face was dirty. Her fierce green eyes penetrated deep into the dark cowl as she replied, "That's because I'm not a goblin...Nyx."

For a moment he merely stared at her. Then slowly his hand reached up and he pulled the hood from his head. The light from the fire danced in his silver eyes as he looked her over and mused, "You! The king's page. Come to rescue your sovereign...how touching. Well, you can die with him." A maniacal smirk touched his lips as he finished, "I think I'll rather enjoy this...as I believe I do owe you one. You disgraced my sister after all, Sargonne."

With one fluid motion, she yanked off the helmet and let it fall to the ground with a loud clatter. Sarah shook her head, her mussed hair falling in wild tendrils. A gleam of pure hatred blazed in her eyes as she sneered. "No. Sarah. My name is Sarah."

The look of confusion on his face confirmed that he didn't understand. Well she would clarify it for him. In a flash of movement she swung the sword, thrusting with all her might. The tip of the blade pierced his shoulder, wringing a growl of surprise and pain from him as he dropped his bow and staggered backward.

Jareth inhaled sharply, trying with all his might to stay conscious. He could feel the toxic effects of the metal permeating him to the core. Every part of him ached and he felt as if every last bit of strength was being sucked from his body. He had to stay awake.

Her mouth tightened in a grimace of concentration as she advanced with him, twisting the blade in his flesh. Leaning her face close to his she spat. "There is no Sargonne! I am Sarah. Through dangers untold and hardships unnumbered, I fought my way to the castle beyond the Goblin City...and no one, I mean no one, messes with the Goblin King!"

She punctuated the statement with a hard shove as she brought her foot behind his ankle, sending him spilling backwards like a ton of bricks. "Except me! That's my job, asshole." Quickly she lowered the bloody tip of the blade to his throat and demanded, "Now open the fucking door."

Nyx's eyes fell on the blade as understanding dawned on him. There had never been a boy named Sargonne. The page boy had been Sarah all along. Why the girl would do such a thing was beyond him, but he felt sure that the Goblin King must have been behind the deception.

She certainly had a lot of gall. First she beat the labyrinth and faced down the Goblin King all by herself, and now she dared challenge the power of the Shadow Horde in order to rescue him. How she had found out about Jareth's demise, he had no idea, but something or someone must have tipped her off.

Nyx decided against using his power against the girl, if only for the moment. It would be wiser to let the girl think she had the upper hand, then he might learn how she had found out. She may have been brave to come here, but he seriously doubted she would be capable of killing him, especially if he cooperated. And Jareth, he was no threat at this point. His powers had long since been diminished to nothing, and now he was too weak to even stand.

Nyx knew he could regain the upper hand at any time. He would finish off Jareth, if he didn't die first from his toxic enclosure, and then he would kill the girl at his leisure. He suppressed the urge to grin as all sorts of horrible ways to torment her and the Goblin King entered his mind. I daresay, this may even be fun.

Nyx cast his head down in a mock gesture of defeat as he extended his hand out to her. Sarah kept the blade trained on his throat as she advanced to see a very rusted key in his gloved palm.

Sarah wasn't stupid enough to take the key and turn her back on him. Instead she pressed the blade to the side of his neck and ordered, "You open the door. Anything funny, and I won't hesitate to cut your head off."

Nyx held up his hands and merely nodded his compliance. Together they took the few steps to the cage. For the first time Sarah could finally see Jareth clearly through the bars of the cage. He was on his knees, his upper body supported by the rusted bars. The round cage was narrow, with barely enough room for a man to stand.

The Goblin King did not look well. His fair skin was even paler than usual. His shirt, now torn and tattered revealed ugly purple bruises, and there on the center of his chest, his flesh was seared raw by the brand. A horrible and painful looking representation of the Horde's symbol, it was enough to make her sick. His face was bruised and bleeding, and it seemed he could barely keep his eyes open.

The sight of him caused tears to well up in her eyes, but she refused to let them come. She breathed deeply, turning her despair to rage. Her grip tightened on the sword as she yelled at Nyx who had inserted the key into the archaic lock, "Hurry up...open it now!!!"

She then lowered her eyes to Jareth and spoke, "Jareth, can you hear me?" His eyes opened as he nodded weakly. In a rush she pressed, "You're not well. What did they do to you?" With all his might he breathed, "The cage...it's poisoning..." Sarah wasn't entirely sure how a cage could do that to him, but she recognized the danger and knew she had to get him out immediately.

With a loud clank the door cracked open.

She knew what she had to do. Somehow she had to get Nyx in there and get Jareth out. But how? She wasn't strong enough to pull Jareth out with one hand and still have the use of her sword.

Nyx hadn't taken his eyes off her. As the door swung open a slow smile spread across his face. Glancing down Sarah saw to her horror that the key in his hand was no longer a key but a growing blue flame. He was using his magic. She had to act fast.

The handle of her sword had suddenly grown very hot, and the idea came to her just as the metal hilt scorched her hand. With a growl of pain Sarah turned her hand redirecting the blade downward as she flung it out of her hand. The blade made a direct hit, the tip piercing Nyx's foot as it fell to the ground.

The sudden pain surprised Nyx enough that he hadn't anticipated Sarah's move. With one swift motion she brought her knee up, as hard as she could right into Nyx's groin. The Fae growled in pain as he doubled over. Apparently Fae men were just as sensitive in that area as humans. Sarah had suspected as much.

She knew Nyx's incapacitation wouldn't last, so she burst into action. Flinging the door to the cage wide, she slipped her arms under Jareth's and heaved with all her might, pulling him from the cage. She winced as his body slammed against the ground, but nothing could be done for it now. Quickly she dragged him back, just a few feet, and let him go.

Straightening she pinpointed her target. Bending her knees she crouched a bit and positioned her upper body. Without wasting another moment she charged Nyx, linebacker style, driving her right shoulder into his center of gravity. There hadn't been time for him to react and Sarah hit him like a ton of bricks. Her momentum was such that she couldn't stop herself from falling on top of Nyx's chest as he fell back into the cage. Frantically she twisted her body, and reaching back with one hand, her fingers hooked the barred door.

Before Nyx had even realized what was happening, he heard the heavy rusted door creak on its hinges before it slammed shut with an ominous clank.

In a frenzy of urgency she grasped the key, twisting it violently to lock the door before she freed it, and tossed it through the bars in Jareth's direction. Thankfully his head was turned towards her and his eyes followed the key as it landed beside him.

Quickly she turned away from he door, scrambling to get into a less vulnerable position. It was difficult to move as their two bodies barely fit inside the cage. Bringing her knees up as Nyx struggled to raise his upper body, she found herself straddling his waist. Huffing from her exertions she declared in a voice devoid of humor, "No magic now asshole...just you and me. It's on, you son of a bitch."

Chapter 40: Deliverance

Despite the heat of the raging fire that blazed only a few yards away, Jareth's fingers were icy and numb as they closed around the rusted key on the cracked stone floor beside him. He heard, more than saw, where it had landed. A high-pitched pinging had alerted him to its position as it bounced off the weathered granite slabs of the floor. His grip tightened on the key as he rolled onto his side. He grunted in pain as he forced his body to move.

Everything hurt. Blinking the sting out of his eyes he strained to see through the smoke to find her. A light gust of wind blew the trail of smoke off course for a moment and he caught a glimpse of the cage.

They were both inside.

His chest tightened in fear as he realized what Sarah had done. She had caught Nyx off balance and had pushed him inside the cage, but in order to do so, she had had to use all her strength and had fallen in with him. She had known that she had but an instant to act, and she had done the only thing that she could. She had slammed the door, locking both herself and Nyx inside.

Jareth found himself amazed by her insightfulness yet again. In a matter of seconds she had deduced that the cage had a weakening effect on the Fae. She used that knowledge to quickly haul him out, and trap Nyx inside. Undoubtedly, she had saved his life, and the price was high. Now she was the one in imminent danger. There hadn't been time for her to untangle herself from Nyx and get out of the dangling rusty cage.

Through the fog of black smoke, Jareth heard her threaten Nyx. She knew he would be stripped of his magic, but it would take time for all of his physical strength to also be drained. Apparently, she was going to take her chances.

Sarah hardly recognized her threatening words as her own. Since when had she become so gutsy? Since I no longer have anything to lose. All that really mattered was lying only a few meters away and she wasn't even sure she could save him.

Nyx lifted his head at her threat and his silvery eyes drifted over her carefully, noting each detail, the way a predator scrutinizes its prey just before it strikes. Blessedly the sickening pain caused by her blow to his groin was quickly fading, and he was able to push it aside. The fresh pain in his foot was acute, keeping him alert despite the draining of his energy. His stony eyes locked with hers, his velvety voice taunting, "Indeed it is."

Sarah's right hand tightened into a fist, as her father's advice from years past rang through her mind. "If you ever find yourself in trouble Sarah, use your right hook first, aim for the jaw or the eye and hit as hard as you can. Make the first hit count...it may be all you ever get."

Her mouth tightened in concentration as she drew her fist back. Nyx barely had a chance to blink before she punched him as hard as she could in the jaw.

Sarah winced, pulling her hand back. God that really hurt... There was no time to dwell on the pain in her hand as she drew back her left fist for another blow. Aiming for the same spot she swung again, but this time Nyx caught her fist.

He tilted his head, the tip of his tongue tasting the blood that had welled up from the cut she had given him on his lower lip. He wouldn't have guessed that she was capable of hitting that hard. His eyes burned into hers and darkened, a serious expression forming on his face as he thrust her fist aside and warned, "I wouldn't try that again."

Without tearing her eyes from his, she wrenched her hand free from his grasp. She noticed his skin was quickly turning red where she had hit him, and his lip was split and bleeding. Slowly and stealthily, she slid her other hand back behind her, careful not to draw his attention to the movement.

His eyes were locked on hers, the look in them changing from distaste to malice

Then it happened. Nyx pitched forward, his black, gloved hand closing around her throat. Sarah gasped as he forced her head back against the bars of the cage. He squeezed a little, not enough to really strangle her, but enough to emphasize that he easily could. Leaning his face close to hers, he sneered, "That was foolish...to strike me like that. Jareth's leniency has allowed you to forget yourself...Let me remind you..."

His smoldering metallic eyes burned into hers with revulsion as he whispered against her cheek, "You are nothing..."

To her horror he tilted his head to the side, his nose just barely nudging her neck as he breathed in her scent and continued, "...but a pathetic...filthy...loathesome"

She held her breath as she felt his hot wet tongue trail along her jugular. His breath was hot against her throat as he rasped, "...little human." His face came back into view his lips hovering over hers as he breathed raggedly, "You are nothing but a plaything."

She felt his other hand on her hip, roughly pulling her tighter to him as he squeezed her throat a little harder. Her eyes were frozen on his lips as her mind screamed for it all to stop. She used her revulsion to combat her fear, and determinedly, her hand slid even further back along her calf.

Just a little farther...

His grasp tightened on her throat as he brushed his lips against hers. She tensed against the invasion, fighting the impending panic, and remained stone still as his lips moved over hers. She felt him stiffen beneath her as his hand left her hip, snaking up under her armored breastplate.

She extended her fingers, knowing she had to shift to reach what she sought.

Almost there...

His hand closed over her breast and she squirmed atop him. His kiss only grew rougher, forcing her lips apart slightly. She tasted blood. His hand then clamped down on her throat, strangling her with deadly intent as he murmured thickly against her mouth, "That's it...struggle."

Stars swam in her vision as her body was deprived of its vital oxygen. She twisted her hips as he thrust against her, the evidence of his arousal bruising the soft flesh of her inner thigh. His intentions were obvious, he meant to kill her, but it no longer mattered, because her fingers had closed around the hilt of the dagger that was strapped to her calf.

Bringing her other hand up along his arm, she found the gash in his shoulder where she had previously pierced his flesh with sword. Mercilessly she dug her fingers into the wound, eliciting a cry of rage and pain from him as he leaned away from her. His eyes widened in surprise, just as the blade came down on him, glinting in the firelight before she drove it deep into his chest. His cry of outrage turned to a gurgling growl as she felt the metal scrape against bone and then soft yielding tissue. The hand at her throat went limp and fell away just as Sarah felt the door at her back swing open.

The remaining Horde members spread out through the dense trees, flanking the stallion as they pursued him. The beast was fast, but not fast enough to lose them in their winged forms. Birds of all shapes and sizes kept on him, winging through and around branches, their shrieking cries reminding Tempest that they were not far behind.

The stallion didn't know where he was going. He was simply dodging trees, leading them further and further away from Sarah. He galloped until he could no longer smell the smoke from the fire. He was tiring, and the arrow in his neck pulsed with pain each time his hooves hit the ground. The cries of the birds were getting louder and he knew they were gaining on him. It wouldn't be long before they overtook him.

An enormous outcropping of boulders loomed up ahead. As he barreled toward it, he wasn't sure if he could make the jump. He lowered his head and charged when a wild cry sounded from above. Without warning a great brown eagle dove in front of him, landing on a nearby boulder. Tempest slid to a halt, and reared as the bird flapped its wings and shrieked. As if on cue, a large horned owl and a menacing black vulture landed on either side of the eagle. Tempest snorted and reared again striking out his powerful forelegs in warning.

The eagle lifted its wings as a raging vortex of red smoke whirled around it. The small twister lengthened, pulsing with energy before it dissipated, leaving a very sinister looking black clad figure standing in its place.

Many other birds were now landing in a circle around the Alicorn, some of them transforming as they landed. Black looming figures emerged at every turn, a terrifying site. Two of them began to unfurl a great sparkling net. Tempest trumpeted loudly, his ears pinned flat back as he brandished his silver horn and bared his sharp teeth at them. He may have been surrounded and outnumbered, but they weren't going to take him without a fight.

They meant to capture him, and maybe they would, but Tempest knew that at least some, would die trying. Lowering his head, the massive black stallion pawed at the ground as he prepared to strike at the one that had previously been the brown eagle.

Suddenly the blast of a horn sounded nearby as a voice yelled "Fire!"

The twang of releasing bowstrings filled the woods around them, as crude arrows rained down. Their shafts were shorter than typical Fae weapons, seemingly crafted from gnarly twisted branches, some still sporting dead leaves at their ends. Several birds and Horde members were struck by the volley.

One dark figure bent to pull an arrow out of his thigh and yelled, "Goblins! We are under attack!"

It was then the horde saw them. Creatures of every shape and size scrambled out from under bushes and from behind trees. There was an impossible number of them, brandishing long spears. Their snaggle-toothed beaked mouths snarled as they scurried closer, thoroughly surrounding the Shadow Horde.

The Horde members glanced about in confusion as they backed into one another. Then, the one that had been the eagle ordered. "Use your magic, there may be many, but they are powerless!"

Many turned in surprise as a shaggy dog with a tiny orange fox in armor on his back leapt into the fray with a savage growl. The creature swung a mace larger than himself and barked, "Surrender or be vanquished!"

Two horde members looked at each other and shrugged.

Without warning, a great rust colored beast with curved horns stepped out from behind the large boulder, grabbing them by their cowls he bellowed "Horrrrrde Baaaaad!" With very little effort he lifted them off the ground and slammed them together. They landed with a thud as he dropped them and started to roar.

The sound echoed through the treetops as the Horde members started to fight the goblins. They lobbed balls of blue fire at them, stunning many of them in the process. It seemed that the Horde might prevail over the goblins when the deafening sound of mortar fire erupted.

Several of the black robed figures went down as they were hit. In surprise they looked up to see the cast iron mortar cannon perched on the edge of the highest boulder. A wide-eyed dwarf leered down at them from his position behind the cannon before he fired a second time. His aim was impressive, the fire taking down several more of the black robed figures.

Suddenly, the edge of the ridge became crowded with rolling rocks and boulders that seemed to move by themselves. They teetered on the edge for a moment, and then the large orange beast bellowed again. In unison, they cascaded down, rolling over the horde members as if they had a will of their own. It seemed an eternity that the avalanche of rocks continued. Only when each and every horde member was overtaken did they stop.

The goblins halted, staring in disbelief at their fallen foes, now out cold, a tangled mass of limbs and rocks. Amazingly,not a single goblin had been hurt by the deluge of stones, but then, underground dwellers often underestimated the capabilities of rocks.

With the cage door no longer supporting her, Sarah tumbled backwards out of the cage, spilling onto her back on the ground.

"Oomph." She landed hard, but she was breathing again and that was the important thing. She coughed a few times, trying to catch her breath. The rusted hinges groaned as the door was again slammed shut.

Sarah blinked the ash out of her eyes and focused on the pale hands that wrenched the key, locking the door with an ominous clank. With a weary sigh the Goblin King pulled the heavy key from the lock and pushed himself back from the cage. He only managed to get a few feet away when he fell back onto the ground, exhausted. Even turning his head towards her was an effort and when he spoke his voice was laced with pain, "Are you alright?"

She inhaled deeply, coughing again, before she rasped, "I've been better..."

She could see his face clearly now. He was even paler than usual and deep lines were etched into his face. Concern was reflected in his weary eyes and in his somber frown. He seemed a shadow of his former self and that scared her. Her raw voice trailed off as she added, "I'm not hurt...but you, you look terrible. Are you going to be okay?"

He closed his eyes for a moment and grimaced as he tried to move. Pain was evident in his voice as he ground out, "I have to get back to the castle. And the talisman...you'll have to recover it."

The graveness of his tone alarmed her. Scurrying to her feet she replied, "Your talisman? You don't have it?"

Jareth winced, "No. Nyx had it just before..."

Bending over him she tentatively reached down to pull away the tattered remains of his shirt. His chest was bare, save for the horrible burn from the brand. Her trembling fingers just barely brushed over his jaw as she shook her head, "Don't talk. I'll find it, and then we're getting the hell out of here."

He nodded, closing his eyes in exhaustion as she stood. Her eyes scanned the seemingly unconscious figure in the cage. Nyx's hands were open and empty and he wore only the Horde medallion around his neck.

Probably dropped it during the attack.

She hurried over to the place that she thought he had been when she had first appeared. She frantically scanned the ground. Nothing. Widening her sweeping gaze something shiny caught her eye right near the dangling cage. She rushed to the spot and bent down.

A silver and gold crescent shaped pendant lay on the ground along with its broken cord.

Reaching down she snatched up the pendant, when suddenly she heard Jareth Frantically cry out "Sarah!!!!"

She tried to move, but it was too late. The sharp stab of pain to her shoulder blade drove her to her knees. As she fell away from the source of the attack, it was evident what had happened. Nyx, who clearly wasn't dead, had pulled the dagger from his own chest and had stabbed her in the shoulder when she bent to retrieve the talisman.

She cried out in a second wave of pain, as Nyx pulled the blade from the wound. Before she could get out of his reach, he raised the blade high for another blow, when suddenly, seemingly out of nowhere an arrow ripped through his wrist with a sickening thud.

He dropped the blade just as a half a dozen more arrows struck his torso. His upper body jerked with the force of the arrows before he swayed and fell into a lifeless heap.

She heard Jareth call her name again and she looked over to where he had been lying. He had crawled forward several feet, and was struggling to get up.

"No, Jareth...stay down!"

Sarah glanced about in startled terror when a familiar voice cut through the darkness, "Do not fear my lady, we were sent here by Desdemonna, we have come to help."

She looked up to see Lord Taibarr rushing towards her. Then she looked beyond him and saw the rest of them. There were a great many Fae folk, all fair skinned with pale hair, outfitted in dark green armor. The emerged from the thick of the forest where they had made their attack.

Two of them rushed past her, swiftly dropping to kneel by the Goblin King. She heard them tell him, "The lady is alright. You mustn't further waste your energy. Here, lie still."

Her eyes drifted to from Jareth to Lord Taibarr as he hastily pulled a bandage from his pack. "Will he be alright?" Again her gaze strayed to the Goblin King. She could see the rise and fall of Jareth's chest as he stilled. Her breath hitched in her throat as his dual colored eyes flicked in her direction and remained locked on her. God, if he dies...

She felt pressure on the wound at her shoulder and stiffened. Softly Taibarr remarked, "I believe he will survive, though it will take a long time for all the damage to be reversed. The sooner we get him back to the Goblin City the better. Time is of the essence."

She felt his hand lifting hers as he gently added, "He'll need this." She looked down at the pendant tightly clenched in her grip. How long had she been holding it so tightly? She opened her hand as he took it and gave it to one of the men who had been tending to Jareth.

She opened her mouth to thank him, but the words wouldn't come. He looked at her with kind blue eyes and politely added, "He's too weak to ride, and his powers are diminished, so we must transport him. Here take this."

Opening his hand a small pinkish orb floated just above his palm. He explained, "All you have to do is throw it into the air when you are ready. It will take you right to the king's chambers. They have given him an elixar that will make him comfortable and help him sleep."

Her green eyes flashed up to meet his questioningly.

There was the barest hint of a smile on his lips as he offered, "I think the Goblin King will rest easier if you accompany him. There is nothing we can do, aside from sending him home, that he can't do for himself. With his title restored to him, in his own castle, he will heal on his own. It will just take time."

Sarah breathed, "His title?"

"Yes, it is his talisman that harbors the power he exerts over his subjects, power that is drawn from the labyrinth. There is no better place for him to regain his strength than at it's center."

"You mean the castle?"

"Precisely. Now, my dear you must hurry, time is of the essence."

"Of course...but what about the others..."

"The goblins intercepted them in the forest, thanks to the brave Dwarf who lead them. Hoggle, I believe he's a friend of yours. The remaining Horde members are being rounded up as we speak...and Jareth's Alicorn has been recovered. They are tending to him now."

Sarah nodded, noticing that the pain at the back of her shoulder had lessened considerably. He pressed a small wooden container into her hand that contained a clear liquid. "Dab your bandage in this each time you apply it, and you'll be right as rain in no time." He handed her the bandage he had been pressing on her shoulder, "Now go on and get out of here"

He inclined his head toward the cage behind her, "We'll clean up the mess."

Sarah nodded, "I don't know how I can ever thank you..."

Reverently he replied, "There is no need. It is you who have saved us from open war. The Fae of the Underground will forever be at your service...now go my lady, the Goblin King needs you."

Again she nodded and rushed over to where the Goblin King lay. His eyes were closed, seemingly in sleep. The other Fae made room for her as she knelt by his side. Carefully she placed the talisman around his neck, tying the broken ends together. Once it was secure, she picked up the pink orb that Lord Taibarr had given her.

She closed her eyes and took a deep breath, God, I hope this works...

She tossed it into the air and it stilled, throbbing and humming with a strange energy. Sarah felt a tingling sensation as pink and yellow sparks crackled all around her and Jareth. The glittering sparks increased until they obscured everything, and then as suddenly as they came, they were gone. Sarah glanced around to find that Jareth was no longer lying on the ground, but was atop his own bed, and she was now seated in a soft chair at his bedside.

His eyes were still closed, and the deep even rise and fall of his chest told her that he was sleeping. Glancing around she noticed that a blazing fire already burned in his fireplace, keeping the room toasty warm. Hanging over the flames was a large kettle of piping hot broth. A pitcher of water and two glasses stood next to the bed along with a basin and some linen rags. Apparently Taibarr had thought of everything, unless, the castle itself had some way of fulfilling Jareth's needs. She wouldn't have been surprised, since the doors in the whole place always seemed to open and close by themselves at just the right time.

Sarah sat back in the chair for a moment releasing sigh of relief. Jareth was alive and Lord Taibarr seemed confident that he would recover. She glanced into the basin and realized that the liquid inside wasn't water but some other clear solution with a slightly minty scent. Sarah guessed that it contained some therapeutic properties as it eased the ache out of her hand when she submerged it in the basin. It would no doubt help with Jareth's physical injuries.

Sarah placed the rags in the basin and began to remove her armor. She unbuckled her sword scabbard and gently set it on the floor. Next, off came the breastplate and shoulder armor, as well as the thigh and shin guards. Without the armor she was far less restricted in her movements. Leaning over the Goblin king she gently opened the tattered remains of his shirt, peeling as much of the gauzy material away from his torso as she could.

She squeezed out the excess liquid from the rag as her gaze drifted over his lean body. His pale skin seemed to shimmer, having an almost luminescent quality to it. It was subtle, she doubted she would have even noticed had it not been for the darkness of the room. Her eyes trailed over each bruise and laceration, noticing the skin around those areas had a much duller sheen. The burn on his chest was much more apparent now, taking on a red scabby appearance. But that was a good sign, because it meant that he was healing.

Her eyes then fell on his medallion. It looked as though it were glowing slightly. Tentatively, she reached out, letting her fingertips graze the metal. Instead of being cold, it radiated warmth. At first, it only warmed her fingertips, but the feeling quickly infiltrated her entire body. The sensation was hard to describe. It felt warm and safe, yet exhilarating at the same time. It exuded an energy that was powerfully Jareth, far from unpleasant. In fact, it was a bit too pleasant.

She withdrew her hand quickly, unsure of what was happening. The last thing she wanted to do was deprive him of that magic, even if it was only a tiny amount.

Gently she brushed his soft platinum hair back from his face. Carefully she pressed the damp cloth to his forehead. She diligently dabbed at each bruise and cut on his face, before she gently trailed the cloth over his cheek. He murmured something unintelligible as he turned his face toward the touch of the cloth.

Stilling her hand she whispered, "I'm here Jareth..."

He stilled as if her words had calmed him. Slowly and diligently she treated all his visible injuries with the solution. She paid special attention to the brand on his chest, carefully moving the talisman out of the way as she gently pressed the cloth to the burn.

It seemed as though many of his bruises and abrasions were fading before her very eyes. His skin appeared even more luminescent as it began to take on a healthier fair hue. Despite the blemishes of his injuries, he remained intensely beautiful. She let her eyes drift over him for what seemed like the thousandth time.

It hurt to look at him. She still loved him, despite his cold awful words. She wasn't an expert on such feelings, but she knew then and there that she would always love him. In some bizarre way she was certain that she always had, even before they had ever met. Whispers of what he was and all he could be had haunted her dreams for as long as she could remember. It seemed that there had never been a time when she hadn't been fascinated by the idea of the Goblin King. And now here he was, brought back from a close encounter with death, bright and vulnerable, as he was sinister.

She knew that it had been her intervention that had saved him from the clutches of the Shadow Horde but somehow she couldn't shake the feeling that it had been meant to happen. Now that she thought about it, all of her interactions with him seemed inevitable.

Loving him had been unavoidable. It was just the consequences of her love that she didn't understand. Falling for him had been devastating enough, but the thought of losing him forever, that was just plain unbearable. If they weren't meant to be together, than why did fate have to be so cruel to give her a taste of what his love could be. Looking at him then she knew, her heart was truly breaking.

Why did this have to happen?

It's not fair...

Life isn't fair.

Gritting her teeth against tears that threatened to overwhelm she thought bitterly, Maybe it isn't, but that's too damn bad.

I'm not giving up that easily.

He can be as cruel as he wants...

I know that somehow, somewhere deep down he loves me, and one day he will stop hiding from it...

Until he does, I'm not going anywhere.

Tossing the cloth aside she placed her hand over his, her fingers closing around his hand. No longer able to choke back her sobs, she cried, "Stay with me Jareth. I love you...I'll always love you."

Chapter 41: Repentance

Jareth slowly opened his eyes. The room was aglow with the pinkish light of dawn. A new day.

There was the subtle pressure of something resting against his arm. His hooded eyes shifted to the dark haired girl at his bedside. Her head was down, resting against his forearm. Her deep even breathing indicated that she was fast asleep. It was then he realized that her hand was holding his.

He had dreamt of unsettling things, great pain, and despair, but through it all he had felt as though she had been there too, holding his hand. As he glanced down at her small hand still clutching his, he knew, it hadn't been a dream. She had been with him the entire time. It was that comforting sensation along with her soothing caresses, and caring words, that had made his recovery possible.

He shifted slightly, taking a deep tentative breath. The pain was gone. He was out of danger. The power of the labyrinth had replenished his magic, and she, she had nurtured his spirit. His strength had returned. Of course, it would still be a while yet before his power was back to full capacity, but he felt well enough. He could feel the magic crackling through his veins.

Just then she shifted in her sleep, making a small noise, as she turned her head so that her cheek was resting on her forearm. Her face was now turned towards him in sleep. His eyes drifted over her peaceful face, beautiful in it's serene repose.

Her youthful skin was warm, radiant with a pinkish hue. Her chocolate colored hair cascaded down to form silky pools on the bed beside her, and her rich dark lashes rested against her rosy cheeks. Her coral lips were frozen in that willful childlike pout, practically begging to be kissed. The mere sight of her warmed his heart at the same time as it caused the deep well of sorrow and regret to steal his breath away. It was a longing so deep, it made his soul ache.

So warm and alive...like an angel.

She is an angel.

She saved my life, even after all I've done to her.

Why Sarah? I don't even deserve you."

As If from somewhere deep in the recesses of his subconscious, her lilting voice came floating back to taunt him, "...that's what you do when you love someone, Jareth, you make sacrifices." He stilled as the realization washed over him, his certainty clear as any crystal.

I have to let her go.

Though the longing he felt for her made him want to hold on to her forever. She was, afterall, the most exquisite treasure he had ever come across, and the desire to possess her for all eternity was overwhelming...but he realized it was wrong.

What beauty can be found in jewel whose luster has been worn out and can no longer sparkle.

Once upon a time he'd underestimated her and she wounded him. Fortune had awarded him another chance and through persistence he had acquired her and sought his revenge. But revenge hadn't been what he really wanted. He had heard it said that time heals all wounds, he just never believed it, not until recently.

He had to let go of the past. Letting her go would hurt, yes...but not nearly as much as watching her grow to hate him. Sarah was fierce and passionate, holding her in his castle after all he'd said and done would be a harsh imprisionment. He couldn't bear to snuff out all her vitality by forcing her to remain somewhere that she didn't want to be. From what he'd overheard her saying to Hoggle, she wanted to go home.

Sadly, he looked upon her sweet face and knew.

I will love her forever.

I cannot keep her here.

I don't even deserve to be in her presence.

She will haunt me for the rest of eternity...

He sighed wearily, pulling himself together. Everyone has ghosts to deal with, and so I must deal with mine and set her free. I will learn to live with it...so long as wherever she is, whatever she does, she is happy. And should the day come that she needs me...I will be there. I will always be there for her. She's earned that much. I owe her my life...my kingdom. The least I can do is give her back her freedom.

Closing his eyes he concentrated on the magic within him, gathering it to his center and chanelling it. His intent was pure and clear as he felt the crystal form in his hand. "Send her home...restore the time that she has lost."

Sarah stirred. The room was bright with natural light. It must be day. It hadn't been the light that woke her, rather the moving of Jareth's slender fingers against hers. She breathed deeply, lifting her head, as the familiar sensastion of being pulled in opposing directions washed over her. She knew instantly...she was being transported by magic.

The feeling halted abruptly, leaving her wide awake. She sat bolt upright in alarm, finding herself in her bed in her familiar dorm room. The only problem was she wasn't supposed to be in her dorm room, she was supposed to be in Jareth's chamber in the castle beyond the goblin city. Her eyes darted about wildly and upon seeing that Jareth was nowhere in sight she jumped up from her bed.

Kayla who had been reclining on the bed on the opposite side of the room was also startled. The red leather bound book fell forgotten from her hand onto the floor as she jumped up.

"Sarah! You're back!"

Sarah was hardly listening. Instead she dashed to the bathroom door throwing it open. Upon seeing no one inside she swatted open the closet.

"What the hell just happened?! Where is he?!"

Kayla's blue eyes were wide with apprehension as she came to stand by Sarah at the closet. Her roommate's behavior had her worried.

"He? You mean Jareth?"

Sarah spun to face her, catching her by the shoulders. Searching her roommate's eyes she cried, "Please, tell me you remember..."

"Of course I remember...I was there..."

Sarah exhaled in relief but it was short lived "It was real...all of it. But why now? Why am I back now? The year wasn't up!"

Kayla's eyes widened in surprise, "He sent you back early?"

Sarah's brows furrowed as she tried desperately to make sense of what had just happened, "I don't know...he...he must have."

Now it was Kayla's turn to grab Sarah by the shoulders, "Oh my god...What happened...tell me everything..." She trailed off as she saw the hurt and disappointment in Sarah's eyes.

"I don't know what happened. Everything just sort of fell apart. Jareth was in danger, he was hurt, but I got him back...he seemed to be getting better...and now...here I am. I don't know what happened...I don't even know if he's alright."

Suddenly Kayla's eyes drifted over to Sarah's bed as she stammered, "This is just a wild guess...but maybe that will tell you."

Sarah turned quickly and saw it. A perfect crystal sphere glinted innocently from atop Sarah's pillow.

"It's a crystal. Jareth's calling card."

Slowly she reached out her fingertips grazing the cold surface. In a flash the crystal doubled in size and burst like a soap bubble, leaving in it's place a neatly folded piece of parchment and a tiny clock.

Sarah quickly snatched up the parchment. She turned it over in her hands, it was sealed with red wax, an ornate letter J stamped into the center. Hastily, she opened it and read...


I can no longer hold you in the Underground. You've been released from the bonds of our agreement. You saved my life and for that, I thank you. Know that I am well and on the mend. I have no explanation for you, save this...It was written by a mutual poet friend of ours.



Farewell! Thou art too dear for my possessing,

And like enough thou know'st thy estimate:

The charter of thy worth gives thee releasing;

My bonds in thee are all determinate.

For how do I hold thee but by thy granting?

And for that riches where is my deserving?

The cause of this fair gift in me is wanting,

And so my patent back again is swerving.

Thyself thou gavest, thy own worth then not knowing,

Or me, to whom thou gavest it, else mistaking;

So thy great gift, upon misprison growing,

Comes home again, on better judgement making.

Thus have I had thee, as a dream doth flatter,

In sleep a king, but waking no such matter.

P.S. The clock is for you. You have examinations, I believe, and you've probably long since forgotten your studies. Simply turn the hands backwards to stop time. Once you have caught up in your studies, force the hands forward and time will resume again.

Sarah's eyes scanned the sonnet, not once but twice, and then a third time to be sure.

Meanwhile Kayla could no longer stand the suspense. "Well, what does it say?"

Sarah wanted nothing more than to retreat to a quiet place where she could be alone and think, but knew that her friend would never let her leave without some explanation.

"It's from Jareth. He has released me from the agreement. He says he's alright...and thanks me for saving his life."

"Thanked you? That doesn't sound like his style..."

"There's more. Poetry...a sonnet, one of Shakespeare's."

"Uh-oh, he knows your weakness. What does it say?"

"Here, read it for yourself. See what you make of it."

Sarah handed her the letter as she sat on the edge of the bed, waiting for her to read.

Kayla read the sonnet, her eyes darting over the page as she finished. "He thinks he doesn't deserve you."

Softly Sarah admitted, "Yeah, that's what I got from it too."

"Yeah, well he probably doesn't deserve you...you're the heroine remember, he's the bad guy."

"This is serious Kayla. God, is that what he really thinks?! I mean yeah, he said some awful things...but there had to be a reason!"

Kayla shrugged, "This is just a wild guess, but maybe he's scared. According to this poem, the guy has got some serious insecurities. If he doesn't even think he deserves you, than why should you. Maybe he's pushing you away so he won't get hurt. Guys do stupid shit like that."

"Get hurt...or get hurt again. God, I can't believe it never occurred to me...I hurt him once. He was afraid it would happen again, so he sabotaged it...it was his way of evening the score."

Sarah opened her drawer and began tugging on a pair of jeans. Kayla furrowed her brow, "Where are you going?" Sarah shoved the letter in her pocket along with the tiny clock, "Cafeteria. I've got thinking to do. I need some time alone... I've got to figure out a way to talk to him."


Sarah looked her friend in the eye and resolutely replied, "I love him...and I'm not giving up. I have to make things right between us. I have to think of something...I need quiet."

"Why not the library?"

"Library is bound to be packed just before midterms, and it's never quiet in there. The caf is open all night, less people, more space...plus there's food."

"You can't just tell me that you love him, and leave! You have to tell me what happened...I need the juicy details! Besides maybe I can help you figure everything out."

Sarah opened another draw and took a ten dollar bill out of her wallet. She slapped the money in to Kayla's hand, "Fine you win, but you are getting the short, short version."

"Ten bucks? What's this for..." Kayla's eyes widened, "You didn't...you mean you slept with him!?"

Pressed for time Sarah admitted, "I certainly did."

Kayla was practically salivating. "Details...I want details."

She shook her head, "No time for details, besides...I don't kiss and tell. That's your gig."

"Fine. Just the basics then...since you're in such a hurry."

As soon as Jareth was feeling himself again, he visited to the stables to find that Tempest had been returned to his stall and was being well taken care of. He was about to leave when the stallion spoke directly to him.

Poking his head out of his stall Tempest knickered, "The lass really loves you, you know. Don't think she woulda stuck her neck out for you like that if she didn't."

The Goblin King turned, stunned to find his mount talking to him. "How long have you been able to..."


Jareth nodded. The stallion shook out his mane and replied, "Quite a while. Sorry I kept it from you...but I haven't really had anything important to say 'til now."

Jareth nodded, "I see. Well since you are in such a talkative mood, anything else you'd like to share."

Tempest pawed the ground and replied, "Yes. Please give my thanks to Hoggle the dwarf, Ludo, and Sir Didymus for saving my life. They valiantly led the Goblins against my attackers. They made the capture of the rest of the Horde members possible."

Jareth had suspected as much and promised, "They will be commended, I will see to that."

Tempest munched his hay and added, "I know Sarah is no longer here, I can feel that she is gone."

Stiffly he admitted, "I've sent her home."

Tempest lowered his head, "Please do try and make amends with the lass. I miss her terribly, and I would be delighted if she could come back to visit me every now and again."

Jareth felt a stab of longing at those words and explained, "I cannot promise that she will return...but maybe over time, maybe there will be a way."

Tempest looked intently at the Goblin King, "I understand."

They simply stared at each other and then bid each other goodnight. Just as Jareth was about to leave he heard the stallion whisper, "It must have been very hard to let her go." Jareth didn't reply, but hurried from the stable.

When he was alone in the cool night air when he breathed, "You have no idea."

From there Jareth retuned to the castle. There was business to be taken care of. He walked purposefully towards the door to his throne room. With a mere thought, the door opened widely to admit him. The room was a flurry of goblin activity. He was about to yell at them all to shut up, but as soon as he entered, they all fell silent.

Mouths and beaks opened in astonishment. For a second Jareth wondered if he was dreaming, and then, one by one, they all bent down on one knee. As he neared the throne, one small goblin gushed in a mere whisper, "Thank the powers you are back your majesty."

Sitting on his throne, Jareth leaned down, "Beg your pardon? I didn't catch that."

The Goblin sniffed, sounding though he was holding back an emotional outburst, "We thought somethin' awful had happened to you...we're just glad your back is all."

Jareth looked up to see them all nodding in unison. Goblins were funny creatures. He had always suspected that they needed his stern discipline. Without him to keep them in line there would be chaos, and eventually their ale would run out. His fine eyebrows rose, "Ah. How touching...but do not thank the powers...you owe your thanks to a human. It was Sarah that saved my life."

He noticed the dwarf making his way nearer with wide concerned eyes. His voice rang out above the crowd, "Your majesty...about Sarah..."

Jareth knew where the conversation was about to go, so he cut the dwarf off by announcing, "Yes, well onto the next order of business. Out! All of you." He then looked to the dwarf, "But not you Hoghead...you stay. I have a bone to pick with you."

Hoggle swallowed, looking uneasy as the goblins filed out of the room. When they were at last alone, Hoggle cleared his throat, "About Sarah, your majesty...I was wonderin'...I mean, I heard she was alright an all, but I uh thought I might come 'ere uh...to see her."

Jareth merely looked at him for moment, as if deep in thought. Finally he soberly replied, "How very thoughtful of you Hoggle, but I'm afraid she's not here."

"Not here? Well...where is she then? Hey! You got my name right!"

Jareth grinned solemnly, "It was very brave...what you and Ludo and Didymus did. Tempest is safe, and none of my goblins were harmed. You have my thanks for that. You're not a coward Hoggle, and I will never forget your name again...at least, when no one else is around."

Hoggle was aghast and mumbled, "Uh...thank you're your majesty." He blinked then and ventured, "If Sarah isn't here, then where is she?"

Jareth's expression changed. Suddenly he seemed weary, "I sent her home."

Hoggle's mouth dropped, "You sent her home?! Why?"

Jareth eyed the dwarf, "Not that it's any of your concern, but I thought that's what she wanted...to go home."

Hoggle shuffled, suddenly finding his feet very interesting, "Then, I suppose you've uhhh...set things right with her."

Jareth shot him a disapproving look.

"I know it ain't any of my business your majesty, but Sarah told me about it...and well, I care about her. She's my friend and I don't like seein' her hurt."

Looking away Jareth remarked, "I know. And that is why I'm going to send you aboveground to keep an eye on her."

The dwarf was astounded.

Jareth elaborated, "Things haven't been set right. I'm not sure they ever can be, but I have to know that she's alright. You must go, be a friend to her, and be sure that she is happy."

"I don't understand?"

Jareth looked at him, surprised to see that the dwarf was quite agitated.

Gritting his teeth, Hoggle growled, "Rowrr, how am I supposed to make her happy?! You're the one that she's in love with! And you...you...abandoned her!"

Jareth was stunned by the outburst, but still the dwarf went on, "You're right...I'm not a coward...you are. Tuck tail and run, just like the creepy rat that you are! You hurt her, and she saves your life. And how do you thank her? Send her home, without so much as a word! The least you can do is give her an explanation, she deserves that much!"

Jareth looked into the crystal that he was now balancing on his fingertips. He seemed lost in thought as he answered, "You're right Hoggle. She does." He frowned sourly, "She deserves more than I can ever give her." Suddenly Jareth stood and angrily sneered, "She's too good for me! Surely, you can see that. The stories are right...I am a villain and the villain never gets the heroine." Crossly, he lobbed the crystal across the room. It struck the far wall, shattering into a billion delicate fragments. He sighed wearily, suddenly seeming old to the dwarf, "I can't be what she deserves. She wanted to go back to her life...that I can give her. That's all I can give her."

Hoggle's eyes widened, "Yeah but...wait...what did you say?"

"She wanted to get back to her life. I gave her that."

"Wait...who said she wanted to go back to her life? Did she tell you that?"

"No, she told you that. A few days ago, you two were talking. I overheard her say that."

Hoggle thought hard, the conversation coming back to him.

"Hang on...just how much did you hear?"

"Well not everything. I left after hearing her say that not going home wasn't an option, that she didn't know what she'd do if I didn't send her back..."

Hoggle covered his mouth, shaking his head wildly, "No, That ain't right..."

"It was very clear Hoggle, I heard what she said."

"You didn't hear what she said after that."

Jareth crossed his arms over his chest growing impatient, "Well, tell me then Hoggle, pray tell...what did she say."

"She said she wasn't against coming back! She just didn't wanna stay, without saying goodbye...without tying up all 'er loose ends."

Jareth was stunned. How could he have been so wrong?

Hoggle went on, "She even asked me if I thought you'd be able to go aboveground...to visit her!"

Jareth's expression changed to one of disbelief as he interrupted, "You mean, she wanted things to work out? She wants to be with me?"

Hoggle's mouth hung open limply before he replied, "Obviously."

The dwarf shook his head, "You mean all this time you thought Sarah wanted to go home...that she would just forget about you!?"

Jareth suddenly seemed a million miles away as he breathed, "Something like that."

Hoggle shook his head, "Boy, did you ever screw up..."

Jareth was pulled from his thoughts suddenly. The unavoidable urge to change to his owl form, told him what was happening. He'd just been summoned. He couldn't be sure, but he sensed that it was no child.

Maybe it's Sarah.

"Excuse me, Hoggle, duty calls."

Hoggle stared gaping as Jareth promptly changed into his owl form, and flew towards the window. Limping from the room the dwarf called, "This ain't over, Jareth! You'd better make things right..."

Jareth went where his instincts led him, and needless to say the dormitory where he ended up was certainly familiar. He transformed as he flew in the open window, gusts of wind making the sheer curtains flap wildly, as thunder rolled ominously in the distance. He stood imperiously facing...

Not quite whom he'd expected.

The curly haired blond did not look amused. Her head cocked to one side, her hand resting impatiently on her hip, as her stormy blue eyes locked with his. All in all he had to say her stance was nearly as imposing as his own.

Intrigued, he took as step closer, "You? You summoned me here?"

She bit her lip and boldly admitted, "Damn right I did, Peter Pan!"

Jareth, now more aware of the summons, remarked, "You didn't wish yourself away this time, nor did you wish away anyone else. You simply demanded my presence...clever. Now, what is it I can do for you?"

She looked thoughtful for a moment, taking a few steps closer as she brazenly looked him over, "You can start by explaining yourself."

Pressing his lips together he confidently replied, "I don't believe I owe you any explanation."

She nodded and her eyes held his, "You're right. But you do owe Sarah one."

It was all very nice that the girl was involving herself, but frankly Jareth wasn't in the mood for games. "I don't see how this is any of your business..."

"Ah. Well, let me put it this way. Sarah is my best friend. You hurt her. Deeply. And since I really don't like seeing my best friend in pain...I'm afraid it is my business."

Needless to say, he was impressed by her gall.

Cooly she went on, "Now, I'm a pretty perceptive person, and a very good judge of character, and I have to say I'm not really getting the creepy bad guy vibe from you. In fact, I have a strong feeling that somewhere under all those iridescent threads and glitter, you really care about my bosom buddy. I'd even go so far as to say that I think you actually love her, so you tell me, what the hell is really going on?"

He couldn't help but smirk at her bravado, "You're really persistent."

She nodded her head, "And I really am a good listener, baby, all you gotta do is spill. So c'mon tell me what's really up..."

Jareth sighed, hardly believing the bizarre situation he found himself in.

She warmed slightly and taunted, "C'mon I know Sarah. I know everything that makes that girl tick. If you let me, I can probably help you fix this."

Chapter 42: Redemption

Sarah had been right. The cafeteria was nearly deserted. She chose a table in the far corner of the room and spread her books out. She could have chosen any number of the English literature books that covered the table to start with. Instead, she pulled the small red leather bound book from her pocket. The gold embossed letters shined under the bright overhead lights.

The Labyrinth.

For a moment she simply held the book in her hands, staring at the worn cover, and letting her fingertips graze over the tattered edges of the pages. Finally opening the book, she removed the folded letter that she had placed inside. She looked at the letter, admiring the elegant scrawl of the sharp black letters. She read through the letter, slowly and carefully, and when she finished, she read it again. She folded it neatly, placing it on the table, and then turned her attention to the leather bound book. She opened it to one of the few places where it would naturally fall open.

Her gaze drifted over the worn text. "Goblin king, Goblin King, wherever you may be, take this child of mine far away from me." She knew, better than anyone, that those weren't the real words. All she had to say was "I wish the goblins would come and take me away right now" and she knew they would come. Though as simple as it seemed, she knew there would be complications.

Now as far as she could tell, the Goblins were bound to come and take her, but it was Jareth who had the final say. He followed the rules, yes, but he was also the one that made them. He had already sent her back once, what was to say that he wouldn't simply do so again. Obviously, he didn't want to discuss the situation, as he easily could have, after he had recovered, but he didn't. He had chosen to send her home without so much as a single word.

Except for the letter, the voice in her head reminded. The letter was interesting. It said so little, yet so much at the same time. His message was polite and impersonal, yet the sonnet was startlingly personal. He had chosen her absolute favorite writer to convey the message, that in itself, was captivating. And then there was the message contained in the sonnet. It rang clearly; "I don't deserve you."

Strange last words for such a cold hearted, arrogant, villain. The Goblin King by reputation was devastatingly self-assured, selfish, and very used to getting his own way. The Jareth of old was a hedonist and wouldn't have given a moments thought to trouble himself over what was right or fair. The Goblin King of her stories and her adventure was possessive, not self-sacrificing.

The letter conveyed that he had given her up because he thought he didn't deserve her. What would influence him to make such a sacrifice? What had changed in him?

Suddenly, she remembered when they had been talking so freely the night of the masquerade, and her own words came back to haunt her "...that's what you do when you love someone, Jareth, you make sacrifices."

Maybe he did love her, and maybe he did feel that he didn't deserve her. But if that was the case, than why had he treated her so wretchedly the night before he was captured?

Sarah thought long and hard. She had suspected that it had always been Jareth's intention to lure her back into the Underground; that there had been unresolved business between them. She may have been only fifteen at the time, but even immediately after her return home, she felt that there was something left unfinished.

Thinking back to the nerve-wracking moments when she had traded her freedom for Kayla's, she remembered what her instincts had warned. He wants revenge. Now that she thought back on everything, her suspicions made sense. She had wounded his ego and his pride the first time she bested the labyrinth, and so he had set about getting retribution.

The only problem was that she must have thrown quite a wrench into his plans. Perhaps he hadn't counted on how happy her love could make him. More than once he had let his cool mask of indifference slip to reveal that he too was insecure. The night he had been so ruthlessly cold, there had been a few times when his regret had begun to bleed through. Though it was obvious that he was deliberately trying to hurt her, she wondered why he had waited so long. Her feelings for him must have been obvious for quite some time, so why did he keep prolonging breaking her heart?

Maybe he kept putting it off, because he didn't really want to. But then in the end, he did. What had changed?

She wondered what could've pushed him over the edge? Does he regret his decision now, if he feels he doesn't deserve me, or is he just afraid that it's too late to rectify things between us?

She knew that there was only one way to definitively answer all these questions. She'd have to confront Jareth. The only solution she could come up with was that she'd have to summon him. Even if he did come and take her, there was no guarantee that he'd listen to anything she had to say, no guarantee that he wouldn't just send her home again, and no guarantee that she wouldn't be trapping herself in the Underground.

She was willing to take those risks, if it meant that she'd have even the smallest chance to resolve things with him. Still, it would take much careful thought and preparation. It could very well be her last chance to ever speak with him, and she knew she may not get much time to speak her mind. She would have to carefully figure out how to best plead her case to Jareth, and tie up all her loose ends Aboveground, should she not be able to return.

At the earliest that would take days. Spring break was less than forty-eight hours away, but there was still the unpleasant business of her midterms. The thought occurred to her that she could just skip them. In fact, she was seriously considering it, when something occurred to her.

What if things don't work out?

What if he won't take me back?

Or what if things do work out, but he wants me to go on with my life here?

He gave me that clock, so I could stop time, so I'd have time to study.

I may still be able to finish my education.

I only have one more year of school, I shouldn't just piss that all away.

Besides, if I prolong summoning him for a little while, it will give me time to think.

Putting down the labyrinth book, Sarah took the small watch out of her pocket, and glanced over her English books. She decided that as soon as she finished her last few exams, she leave school to tie up the loose ends at home.

Tomorrow exams, then home...Then I confront Jareth. Her eyes drifted from her English Lit book to the large book titled, "The Complete Works of William Shakespeare."

Holding up the clock, she forced the hands backwards. She then glanced up at the huge cafeteria clock high on the wall, and she saw the second hand freeze. She carefully placed the small gothic looking clock on the table, and began rummaging through her book. She had an idea.

Sarah looked up at the utilitarian classroom clock and put down her number two pencil. There were still four minutes left until the end of the exam period, but she was satisfied in her answers. She quietly closed the light blue exam booklet and massaged her wrist. Writing nonstop for such long period did a number on her joints, but she breathed a sigh of relief. Her last exam was now over.

She stood quietly, rolling her shoulder a bit. The wound in her shoulder had healed extraordinarily fast, thanks to the solution that Lord Taibarr had given her. All that was left was a slight scar and some residual stiffness. She slung her backpack over her other shoulder. She placed the exam inside the answer booklet and brought it up to the desk at the front of the room. She smiled at the professor who smiled back and whispered, "Have a great break."

Leaving the classroom, she exhaled deeply. Wish I could... She knew she had done well. In fact, she felt good about all her exams. The trouble was that she had much more than tests on her mind. Her uneasiness over the situation with Jareth left her feeling far more unsettled than any exam ever had. The weight of it clouded her thoughts every waking moment and the fear that it may never be resolved, the idea that she may never see him again, made even breathing difficult.

As she walked down the hall, her mind buzzed with all the things she wanted to say to him. She was so absorbed in her thoughts that she was oblivious to the other students who trickled out of the other classrooms, all hurrying to begin their spring break.

As Sarah pushed open the double doors that lead out onto the quad, she was surprised to see that the grass was already covered in snow. Large downy flakes drifted down, obscuring the sky and the buildings across the quad. It was rather heavy snow for late March, and it had accumulated fast. It must have started sometime during her first exam and continued on through her last. That was New England weather, clear skies one minute, and a blizzard the next.

She picked up the pace, luckily she had already packed her things for the break and most likely Kayla had already left. She wanted to start heading home as soon as possible before the snow really started affecting the roads.

By the time Sarah had left the quad and crossed the campus there wasn't a student in sight. Her dormitory was one of the older smaller buildings on the edge of the campus. Zipping her jacket up to cover her chin, she left the road and headed up the wooded path that lead to the top of the hill where her dorm was located.

Sarah looked up, blinking the snow from her eyes. There were several enormous pines on either side and they were quite beautiful, frosted entirely in snow. Large feathery clumps of snowflakes drifted down, almost floating in their graceful decent.

Sarah closed her eyes and listened to the almost inaudible hiss as the flakes made contact with the branches above. She appreciated the way the snow seemed to purify everything. It gave everything a fresh start, perfect in its pristine whiteness. She wished that it could do the same for her. She inhaled deeply. There was something clean and nostalgic in the smell.

Crisp and pure and inviting, yet this time there was something else...something very familiar.


The connection struck her just as the cultured accented voice cut through the stillness of the snow, "Sarah..."

She whirled around, her eyes wide with surprise. Standing on the path just behind her was Jareth. The snowflakes swirled around him, stirred up by his sudden appearance.

His attire was all too appropriate for the surroundings. He was dressed head to toe in white. His hair was soft and wild, almost as white as the long white fur that adorned his cloak. The heavy garment looked warm, though his chest was slightly exposed under the open cravat of his gauzy poet's shirt. White velvet gloves encased his hands, perfectly matching his white form fitting breeches. His boots were also trimmed in fine white fur.

There was something hauntingly familiar about his attire. She looked him over. His face was set in a serious expression, just as it had been all those years ago. He looked so much the same as he had back then, just after she had beaten the labyrinth, right before she said the words. He looked so wistful...so otherworldly that it made her heart ache.

His eyes darted over her, and for the moment he was speechless. For once his expression was not unfeeling. He looked forlorn...almost lost in the way that he looked at her. Long lost words echoed in her head, "Fear me, love me, do as I say and I will be your slave."

Remembering those words, her eyes met his. He implored her again, "Sarah..." his eyes and voice speaking volumes in that single moment. His mismatched eyes were fathomless, ageless, now like two wells of sorrow and regret. She swallowed, struggling to suppress the urge to run to him and throw her arms around him. Not yet, not so easily...after everything he's done.

Slowly the fiery outrage crept back in. He had been so cruel, so insensitive...what he'd done was inexcusable, and she deserved an explanation...a proper one. Amazingly the anger rushed back, almost making her forget that she needed to make amends with him. Funny, how he had that affect on her.

Her emotions collided and the mixture was becoming intolerably volatile. She blinked a few times, keeping the tears that threatened to well up, at bay. Her voice was cold and raw and full of strain, "What do you want Jareth?"

"Sarah..." He carefully entreated, "I have to talk to you..."

She inhaled sharply, accusing, "Oh, so now you want to talk? What's the matter? Were you worried your little note wasn't cryptic enough? Thought you'd come here and try to confuse me some more?"

He glanced at the snow-covered ground. He might have guessed that she wouldn't appreciate his rather impersonal farewell. He supposed he deserved her sarcasm. He'd have to be more persuasive if he was going to stand a chance. He looked her in the eye and earnestly replied, "Sarah, I realize you are upset. You have every right to be. I...made a terrible mistake."

"Upset? Jareth, upset doesn't even cover it..."

Whoa, did he just admit he made a mistake?

"Sarah, if you'll just hear me out...I will explain."

She crossed her arms over her chest, suppressing a shiver as her subconscious taunted, This ought to be good...

"Alright, I'm listening."

He noticed the way she hugged herself and saw the tremble in her frame. He gestured to the falling snow and ventured, "You're freezing. We should get indoors. Perhaps your residence will be a more suitable place to talk."

She glanced left and right to make sure that no one was around. "Fine, but we'd better hurry before someone comes."

He moved closer to her, extending his hand, like he did when he meant to transport them somewhere by magic. She glanced at his hand, hesitating a moment before she tentatively placed her hand in his.

In an instant they were standing at the door to Sarah's room. Sarah looked down the hall. No one around.

He watched silently as she unraveled her scarf and unzipped her jacket. Pulling off her mittens, she fumbled with her keys. Shoving the key in the lock, she warned, "This is it. Before you start explaining; spare me the bullshit. Just give me the truth Jareth, no lies this..."

Her mouth froze, hanging open as she looked into the room. For a second she wondered if it even was her room. White pillar candles burned from atop just about every surface, transforming the ambiance of the usually plain dorm room.

She stepped into the room with wide eyes, leaving the key just dangling from the lock. Jareth took the liberty of removing it as he closed the door behind them.

Her eyes darted to her side, where rich satiny fabrics and silky white furs draped everything. An enormous crystal vase glittered on her desk displaying the most brilliant spray of sparkling silver flowers that she had ever seen. Her bed, which was literally dripping with white satin and fur was also covered in silver and opalescent rose petals. The smell was nothing short of heavenly, pure and sweet floral bliss.

It was like something out of a lush fantasy...like a dream. The room had been transformed into an ethereal place of beauty and solitude; a refuge fit for royalty.

She stood, simply gawking as she took it all in. Crystal bubbles floated gracefully suspended in midair, as sweet enchanting music could be faintly heard. There was even a crystal decanter of something resembling champagne and a silver swan shaped basket brimming with delectable white sweets.

Obviously Jareth had gone through a lot of trouble to set all this up, or at the very least he had thrown a fair amount of glitter around.

He watched her reaction and supplied, "I took the liberty of changing the room a bit. I thought it may help...relax the mood."

She half turned her head, wrinkling her forehead, "Impressive. Normal boyfriends usually just leave a longstem rose or two...or maybe a dozen if they've really screwed up."

His mouth twisted as he ventured, "I take it that means you are pleased?"

She turned to face him admitting, "It's all very pretty Jareth, but I haven't forgotten the real reason we are here. You have some explaining to do."

"Ah...then I shall get right to the point. Where shall I begin?"

"How about the beginning?"

He didn't miss her sharp sarcasm. Deftly, he removed his cloak as he conceded, "Very well, but I advise you to sit down, there's much I have to explain."

Sarah sighed as she removed her jacket and plopped down on the ornate bed, discovering that it was even more comfortable than it looked.

He began, "First, let me say that what I have to tell you doesn't begin the night you invoked my goblins." She gave him a confused look and he admitted, "It goes back a bit further than that. Do you remember where you found that little red leather bound book...the one you recited so diligently?"

She knew he meant her labyrinth book and she replied, "Yes, I remember. It was an outdoor flea market at the edge of the park. I was probably thirteen at the time."

He nodded and went on, "Yes, and what about some other items from your room at home, you picked some of those up at the very same market didn't you?"

She nodded, recalling that those items happened to match quite closely some of the creatures she encountered during her journey to the Underground. The bookends with the dwarf that looked like Hoggle, the stuffed fox; even the statuette that bore a striking resemblance to Jareth. "You mean..."

"That was no accident Sarah. Those things came to you on purpose. You were meant to find them. Just as you were meant to find that book."

"But how? Wait! You...you left those things there for me to find?!"

"Remember the park Sarah. Think back to all the times you acted out your stories there. Do you remember seeing an owl? Didn't it strike you as odd to see an owl perched so near, and during the day?"

"You! That was you?! What were you doing...spying on me?"

"Not spying...watching. I sometimes flew there to get away, when the goblins were driving me mad. One day, I saw you. I liked listening to your stories. I liked watching you play them out...I liked watching you."

She didn't know whether to be touched or horrified.

"You needn't give me that look Sarah, my intentions were innocent. At least they were up to that point. Then one day I saw you, and you weren't acting out your dramas like you usually did. You were sitting by yourself and you looked so sad, so lost. I overheard you talking to your dog. You did that often. That was how I learned that your mother left, and of your stepmother and Toby. I could see how unhappy you were. Over time I had become fond of you. Then one day it occurred to me. I could intervene. I knew that jealousy would eventually drive you to wish away Toby, had you been given the means. I couldn't be certain of the outcome, but I could see the possibilities. I knew of your love of books, and knew of the types of stories that compelled you. So, using magic, I concocted the story and left the book where you were sure to find it. I did the same with those other trinkets. I wanted to be sure that the Underground would truly capture your imagination. When I saw you acting out the story in the park, I knew I had succeeded. You read those lines with such conviction. Of course, I'm sure you've realized that the story wasn't an exact match. The words that summon the Goblins are different, but I couldn't make it that easy on you. And the girl in the story was a princess, not really you...but I thought it would appeal to your senses. When you embraced the story, I knew it was only a matter of time before you called on my goblins for help."

Sarah suddenly realized she had been holding her breath, "But why, why would you do such a thing?"

His eyes settled on hers and this time they hid nothing, "Because I was bored, unspeakably bored. And I was lonely and I was...fascinated by you. You don't know how rare it is to come by a human with such imagination. Children don't believe in such things as magic anymore, but you did."

"So what...you thought it would be fun to make me run your labyrinth, for your...entertainment?"

"You know that's not why."

"Well enlighten me then."

"Because every outcome that I imagined seemed an improvement. I was fond of you. I offered you your dreams because I thought you deserved better. I never dreamed that you would be so stubborn. As you fought your way through the labyrinth, I started to realize that you might actually make it to the end. You were far more resourceful than any human who tried before you. I watched your progress at every turn. My fascination with you turned to infatuation somewhere along the line. I decided to intervene again. And so Hoggle gave you that peach. I tried to distract you, to make you see that there were things you could have for yourself. I used romance to tempt you, but still you resisted. Headstrong like a child, but you had me fooled. You seemed so much older physically at least. Your eyes, they were so cruel. You may have only been on the verge of womanhood, but you made me feel a longing that no other woman had ever stirred in me. At the end, I faced you again. I knew it was my last chance, so my offer was blunt. But still you refused. To this day I'm not even sure that you heard me, I don't think you fully understood what I was offering."

"I was fifteen Jareth..."

"I'm not blaming you for what you did...at least I don't anymore. I just want you to understand why there were repercussions."

She nodded and he went on, "I would have returned Toby Sarah, if that was what you wanted. All you had to do was accept my offer. Your brother would have been safe, and you would have had everything that you wanted; love, made to feel that you are the center of someone's else's universe."

Sarah's eyes glazed over with tears as she breathed, "Fear me, love me, do as I say and you can have everything that you want. So that's what you meant..."

"Yes, you would have had me. At that moment in time, I was your dream. But it could have only been if you had given yourself in Toby's stead, if you had given up your power, and let me rule you."

Sarah stood up, suddenly feeling the need to explain, to make it clear to him. "Jareth...I was just a kid then, a bratty spoiled kid who couldn't stand not getting her own way. You have to understand, I was scared. Not getting Toby back wasn't even an option, and you...you scared me in ways I couldn't even comprehend. All those words came at a time when all I could think about was finishing the lines. I...I thought you were just trying to stall me. The thought that you were sincere in all that you said was frightening because the idea of someone like you wanting someone as pathetic as me was preposterous, so naturally I figured that you had some ulterior motive."

"So you said the words."

"So I said the words. Not because I didn't have feelings for you, but because I thought it was what I had to do in order to get Toby back."

"You mean, it never occurred to you to simply ask for me to give him back...or to ask if something else might be offered in his stead?"

"Yeah, like the idea of asking you what you'd like in return wouldn't be at all terrifying to a fifteen year old girl. You were talking about love for Gods sake! Jareth, all I knew of romance and love back then was that it was linked to sex...and all I knew about sex at that age, was that it was a three letter word that my family didn't talk about. Sex lead to babies, and all I was to understand about sex through my father's careful advice was, "Don't...Don't ever". Keep in mind that my mother wasn't exactly around to give the softer less scary version of that talk."

"I should have known that you were too young to really understand. I never dreamed that you would actually win, and defeat me at my own game. Up until then I had never actually lost anything before. Losing both you and the game was...more than I could stomach. Rejection was foreign to me, and I'll be honest...I didn't much like it."

"No one does Jareth."

"Well, unlike everyone else, I am very used to getting what I want. When things aren't going my way, I have a tendency to force them to. But in your case I had no recourse...or so it seemed."

"Kayla's wish wasn't an accident, was it?"

"No. It wasn't. Nor was the fact that you couldn't bring yourself to throw away that book. I placed a very compelling attraction charm on it. I looked and looked for a solution that would bring you and I face to face again, and for a long while it eluded me...but then I remembered, you still had the book. Even if you were too smart to say those words again, I knew eventually someone close to you would, either wishing themselves or someone else you cared about away. I even contemplated the idea that someone, like your younger brother might wish you away to me, but that would have simply been too good to be true. When I saw your precious roommate taking an interest in your book collection, I knew I had my chance. I knew that you still felt guilty about your brother, and since then you've been plagued with a strong sense of duty. I just had to hope that you cared enough about your friend to make the switch. When I saw how desperate you were, that you were willing to negotiate, I knew it would just be a matter of haggling over the price. All I had to do was appeal to your sense of fairness."

"So you traded Kayla for me, her eternity, exchanged for one year of my life."

"Precisely, but I would have settled for far less than a year. I would have gone so far as to accept for just a few days with you. I just would have been much more ruthless in my quest..."

"Your quest? Let me guess...revenge."

"You always were perceptive Sarah, however my plan was far more specific."

"How do you mean?"

"You wounded me Sarah. You injured my pride as well as my heart. You made me love you and then with all the whimsy and cruelty of a child you turned your back on me. You banished me from you. In my mind you deserved the same. The way I saw it was, that if we were to be on even footing, I'd have to do the same to you. Make you love me, and turn my back on you."

"Well Congratulations. You succeeded, you managed to hurt me more than anyone else ever had, and believe me, I've had my share of disappointments."

Gravely he admitted, "I know."

Angrily she admitted, "I fell hard for you Jareth. I loved you more than anything I've ever cared about, what's worse is I still do. God, when I thought I'd never see you again, after you were captured, that hurt in a way that I can't even describe. My own mother left me when I was just a child, yet I knew somehow, someday I'd get over that...but you, I'm afraid I'll never get over you."

"That was my intention. But, something happened that I hadn't counted on. You made me happy Sarah. For the first time ever in my life I felt it. True contentment. The loneliness had been chased away, and the boredom was replaced with endless possibility. It made me rethink my plans. The way you made me feel even changed my mind and I had come to the conclusion that I didn't want to hurt you."

"What? Then why the hell did you?"

"I...overheard you talking to Hoggle. You said something that hurt me...deeply."

"What are you talking about?"

"I've only recently just realized that I had misunderstood. I had taken what you were saying out of context. If I had listened to everything, I would have realized my error, but being my impulsive self, I stormed off in a rage. The next time that I saw you was when I treated you so miserably."

"What did you hear me say?"

"That my love didn't matter to you...that you still wanted to go home."

Sarah thought back, remembering the conversation.

Jareth went on, "It was Hoggle that pointed out to me that what you meant was that you still needed to go back to tie up all your loose ends."

She nodded, "That's right I..."

She was totally unprepared for what happened next. Jareth stared at her with a strange intensity and suddenly kneeled down on the floor in front of her.

"Jareth, what are you..."

"Sarah..." His eyes burned into hers, with savage urgency. "I can't tell you how much I regret everything I said...everything I did. It was wrong of me to manipulate you like that. I should have known that revenge wasn't the answer. I treated you so awfully, and yet you...you risked your life for me anyway. Nyx might have killed you, or far worse. Yet, you fought for me. I owe you my life...you saved me, and my entire kingdom from ruin."

"If you feel this way, than why did you send me home? We could have talked, we could have worked this out sooner."

"When I awoke in my chamber, I saw you there, sleeping at my side. While I dreamt, I knew you were with me. You faithfully kept your vigil over me, to make sure I was alright, even after I had broken your heart. If that's not true devotion, than I don't know what is. It was then I realized that you had given me yet another chance. Since you came here, you've been giving me plenty of opportunities to redeem myself, one after another. You've made sacrifices. You are a good person Sarah, you are kind, compassionate, and trusting. I don't deserve someone like you. Not once did I give you the benefit of the doubt. I sacrificed nothing, and always just expected in return. I've never had anyone to refuse me before, and none of my subjects would dare tell me I'm wrong. I'm a selfish, possessive, manipulative, arrogant, and bitter old monarch. You deserve better than me...you're too good for me."

"Oh give me a break Jareth..."

"Maybe that's why all along I've found it hard to believe that you could truly care for me. What could you possibly see in me? You were right the first time Sarah; I am a villain. That's why I decided to let you go. That's why I sent you home."

Her brilliant green eyes sparkled, her features softening as she breathed, "You're not a villain Jareth. Everyone is selfish at times, and everyone makes mistakes..."

"Well, that may be, but I intend to right some of mine right now." With a gesture a crystal formed on his fingertips. He balanced it there for a moment before he expertly juggled it to and fro. Her eyes followed the movement, mesmerizing her.

Like a whisper out of her past he breathed, "I've brought you a gift." Suddenly his hand stilled and a red velvet box sat where the crystal had just been.

The corner of her mouth tugged upward in a wry grin, and she just couldn't resist, "What is it?"

His eyes held hers as he replied rather seriously, "Something I should have given you a long time ago." He held the box toward her and urged, "Open it."

Sarah held her breath, her hands shaking slightly as she lifted off the top. She peered inside to see a circlet of interwoven gold and silver wires. At the front was a smaller version of his pendant. She looked at the object carefully, realizing what it was. A delicate crown, made especially for her. Her breath caught in her throat, and it took a great deal of effort for her to stammer, "It's, It's a...crown..."

"You can't rightfully rule the Goblin Kingdom without it."

"Rule? Jareth, what are you saying..."

"You've showed your worth, Sarah. You saved my kingdom and you are the only one I know that is clever enough to not get lost in my labyrinth, so whether you want it or not, you have earned a share in my rule. What's mine, is yours, you can have anything that you want. I am your servant, whether you choose to love me or not."

Her eyes widened, "Jareth, are you proposing..."

"Yes. That you be my queen, yes."

"I was going to say marriage."

"Well, that would be the natural course of action, but I realize the circumstances are quite unnatural. So, I will leave that up to you. If you think you can come to forgive me, and if you think that one day I will aspire to be worthy of you, then it shall be done. But I want you to understand, you are the rightful queen, regardless of whether we marry. You already have your own brand of magic Sarah. This crown will allow you to bend it to your will. You have tremendous power Sarah, much more potent than my own. It sleeps in your imagination, but with this, you can unleash it, whenever and wherever you choose. You won't be bound to remain in the Underground or Aboveground, you will be free to come and go whenever you wish. Should you choose a place at my side, it will always be there for you, because my love will forever, belong to you. It is a prize you will always possess."

He stared at her intently, surprised to see the tear roll off her cheek. Offering the crown he gently added, "Can you accept my offer?"

She sniffed, as another tear fell, "Of course I can."

"Do you think you could ever forgive me?"

"I already do, Jareth." She smiled through her tears, realizing that so much of what she had been hoping to tell him, was needless. He had come to her all on his own for reconciliation. There was only one thing that she still wanted to tell him.

"I want to say something. I have something for you too. It's not much, just a bit of poetry that I wanted to share with you. I think it describes my feelings better than I'd be able to put into words...especially now that I'm an emotional mess."

Taking a deep breath, she steadily began,

"Let me not to the marriage of true minds

Admit impediments. Love is not love

Which alters, when it alteration finds,

Or bends with the remover to remove:"

He smiled warmly, looking deep into her eyes as he interrupted,

"O, no! it is an ever fixed mark

That looks on tempests and is never shaken;

It is the star to every wandering bark,

Whose worth's unknown, although his height be taken

Love's not Time's fool, though rosy lips and cheeks

Within his bending sickle's compass come"

Her fingers intertwined with his as she boldly carried on,

"Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,

But bears it out even to the edge of doom.

If this be error and upon me proved,

I never writ, nor no man ever loved."

His face was wrought with emotion, the brunt of his love burning in his eyes as he stood facing her. His usual air of confidence crumbled, and he actually seemed to be trembling as he entreated her.

"Sarah, I know I am far from perfect. I can guarantee that there will surly be rough times ahead. I will test your patience time and again, and as I'm sure you know, arguments will be unavoidable, but I want to please you. I want to make you happy. Please know, I have no expectations. We will start simply, take things slow; get to know each other properly...and your studies, you should certainly complete your education."

Her trembling hands came up to touch his face as she leaned forward and uttered, "Jareth..."

His eyes darted to her mouth as she leaned closer, "Yes, Sarah..."

"Shut up."

Jareth inhaled sharply as he felt her lips close over his. The feel of her mouth melding with his electrified him. He had forgotten how mind numbingly erotic her mouth felt upon his. The sudden spark of desire took him by surprise and he was defenseless against it.

He kissed her back, slowly at first. He'd meant what he'd said, that he was willing to take things slow. He didn't want to press things too quickly. He returned her kiss carefully, fully meaning to pull back before he lost control. He eased up a bit, but Sarah wouldn't have it. He felt her arms tighten about his neck as she deepened the kiss. His hands closed, grasping her green sweater when he felt her tongue slip past his lips.

She would surely be his undoing. He groaned against her mouth, kissing her with all the savage longing that had been pent up inside him. Before he even knew what he was doing, he had pitched forward, his hand closing on her upper arm as he forced her back onto the bed. His hips landed appropriately between her thighs and no sooner had she landed on her back before she shifted beneath him, forcing her body up against his.

He was thankful that she was wearing her denim trousers, because had she been wearing something less obtrusive and more removable, he was certain he would have taken advantage. Blindly, he tore off his gloves, thrusting his hand up her sweater. Greedily he cupped her breast, gladly imagining what the lacy undergarment that barely contained her breasts might look like. Too bad he didn't have the first idea how to remove it with one hand.

Way ahead of him, Sarah pushed against his chest, so that he would lift off her. He pulled back from her kiss, though she seemed reluctant to let him. He stared into her darkened eyes, expecting to see disapproval. Her eyes burned into his as she suddenly pulled her sweater over her head. Faced with the sight of her ample breasts swelling from the black lace garment, he realized his imagination couldn't have done the thing justice. Good God...

He couldn't tear his eyes from the glorious sight. That was until he heard her voice, husky in her state of arousal, "I want you Jareth."

He could see the need in her eyes and knew that she too was struggling to keep it together. He took a deep sobering breath, knowing that he'd have to be the stronger of the two if he was going to keep his promise. "Sarah..." He pulled back a little "We shouldn't...not just yet at least. We should take it slow, we have all of..."

Not surprisingly, she wasn't listening. She grabbed him by the front of his shirt and forcefully insisted, "Yes, we should. I want to...right here..." She pushed him onto his back, quickly straddling his hips, "Right now..."

He had to admit, she was very persuasive when she wanted to be. He swallowed, closing his eyes for a moment in hopes that not seeing her on top of him might quiet his need of her long enough to think clearly.

He sighed, "Sarah, I am trying to do right by you, but you are making it very difficult for me to redeem myself."

He felt her fingertips tracing lightly over the newly healed scar on his chest. Shifting against him slightly, she murmured, "Mmmmm, what do you mean?"

He opened his eyes, which was a huge mistake, as she was looking down at him playfully; biting her lip as a teasing smile began to form. He wondered how she could be both a blushing innocent and a smoldering temptress at the same time.

His eyes locked with hers as he seductively drawled, "I mean...the things you make me want to do to you border on villainy."

"Oh." She looked thoughtful for a moment before her hands came up to grasp her bra, in the middle, right between her breasts. "Only border on villainy? C'mon Jareth, I know you can do better than that." Deftly, she unhooked the clasps, revealing her breasts to him.

The seductive timbre of her voice and the sight of her so unclothed knocked the air from his lungs. He closed his eyes as her fingers played over his chest. It was becoming frighteningly apparent that he was completely at her mercy.

Tearing his eyes from her chest he gasped, "I'm a long way off from becoming Prince Charming, Sarah, but I've got to start somewhere."

"Prince Charming?" She leaned down, her fingers tracing up his throat and along his jaw, as her mouth hovered just over his, "Whoever said anything about Prince charming?"

He could only stare at her, captivated.

"Bad men are far more interesting. Who needs some goody two shoes? I've got something far better than some fairy tale prince."

"Oh, and what might that be?"

"My very own Goblin King. If you ask me, that's a much more pleasing possession."

He grinned at the thought.

He was hers, for all eternity.

She grinned too, placing a soft kiss on his mouth. Then she straightened, and looking him in the eyes she unbuttoned the fastening of her jeans.

"Now, by all means...dazzle me with your wicked magic."

He reached up, cupping the back of her neck as he pulled her down for another kiss, "As you wish, your majesty."

The End