When he passes me by he's a ray of light
Like the first drop of sun from the sky
And I know he's a king who deserves a queen
But I'm not a queen, and he doesn't see me
When he dances, he moves me to a smile
And I see everything near him shine
There's a grace in his ways that I can't contain
I haven't that grace
Oh I haven't that grace...
And the closer he gets I can't help but hide
So ashamed of my body and voice... (Sarah Brightman - He Doesn't See Me)
As I was listening to this song I had a sudden mental image of Jareth riding through the marketplace, tall and proud and beautiful on his horse, and Sarah dressed in rags, hiding in the alley and watching him. The song seemed to speak of her point of view, and how out of reach she feels Jareth is. The only trouble I'm having is how to get her into that position in the first place – ie, in the Underground, destitute, and Jareth not aware of her presence. Any ideas, feedback etc are appreciated.
It was a day like so many others, one in a string of identical beads strung on the same thread. He ordered his horse saddled and strode to the mounting block, smoothing black leather gloves over long fingers. Servants held the grey stallion steady as he mounted with fluid grace, casting a critical eye over the grounds as he rode through the cobblestone courtyard and out into the city. He was flanked by six of his men, a phalanx of warriors on either side.
They were passing through the marketplace, when out of the corner of his eye he thought he saw a familiar form. Dark hair, hazel eyes, stubborn chin – but before he could focus, the figure was gone. He pulled his horse to a stop and swung around in the saddle to look behind him. Nothing. He shook his head and flicked the horses' flanks with his riding crop, taking off at a gallop, followed by his men. She was haunting him even here. This was not the first time he thought he had caught a glimpse of her. She, who had boldly walked in and shattered his whole world – he gritted his teeth – and walked out again without a backward look.
Once she returned to her own world, he resolved to never watch her again, and cut all ties. It had been several years now, and although he had before been accustomed to frequent wanderings in the mortal world, he'd restricted himself since then. Bitterly he thought it may have been better if he had not placed the requirement on himself – he would be much more at ease knowing what she was up to. The thought of a human who had defeated his Labyrinth wandering freely made him more than a little nervous. He would be more relaxed to learn she was languishing in an oubliette somewhere, out of the way, unable to do more damage to him. She had already done enough.
They were nearing the edge of the city, and the gates swung open at his approach. With a thought, he opened an archway in the hedge and rode through it, not looking back to see if his warriors were still following.
She was still shivering in the darkness of the alleyway a long time after he was gone. This time it had been too close. But she was drawn to his presence like a moth to beautiful, dangerous flame. Too close and it would be she who was extinguished. She drew her hood further over her face and hair, and gathered her strength. Standing slowly, she ventured out, stooping as she reached the corner to gather her basket and scattered dried herbs. Swinging it over her shoulder, she stepped back out onto the street, heading for the far west wall of the city.
She knew he would now not be back until sunset, perhaps later if he chose to stay at one of the outer estates. She had learned much of his movements in the last three years. She knew when and where he rode out to attend to his royal duties, she knew which horse was his favourite, and she knew the faces of his men. She knew, via gossip with the servants in the castle, what his favourite meals were, when he slept, and what sort of mood he was in when he woke. She knew who he took to his bed, who he received at his castle out of diplomacy, and those whose company he genuinely seemed to enjoy. She watched, and learned, and stayed in the shadows. He was the only familiar thing in this alien place, and even he was out of her reach.
It was her last semester of high school, and she looked forward to the new adventure of university life with enthusiasm. She couldn't wait to move out, to start her "own" life away from her family (who she loved dearly, but were a little smothering). This new unknown excited her, and she was already planning which colleges she would apply to, which courses she would take, and how she would decorate her first dorm room.
She had begun to go through her things as the weather warmed and spring approached, throwing out old toys, books, papers, and clothes that no longer fit. She was on her knees in the attic, digging through a large cardboard box that held, it seemed, more dust than anything else. Sneezing and eyes watering, she leaned back on her heels and mopped at her nose with the back of a sleeve. As her eyes cleared, she ventured a look into the bottom of the box, grabbing old schoolwork and papers out and throwing them in a pile that was growing at her left.
Her next dive in caused her to stop halfway hanging out of the box, hand half closed around a cold, round object. She sat down heavily on the attic floor, afraid to look at what she was holding. She didn't need to open her eyes to know exactly what it was. A clear, crystal orb that fit neatly into the palm of her hand, its cold weight weighing into her heart.
She had forgotten. She had made herself forget, but now it came back in a sickening rush – her frantic search through stony walls, the clock ticking, weird and fantastic creatures, things that changed constantly without warning, threats seeming to crowd in on all sides, and him. She felt him watching her the whole way, his eyes trained on her every move, as she ventured deeper and deeper into his impossible maze.
When it was all over, she had found this tucked under the covers with Toby, and along with her red bound copy of the book, had hidden it away without showing it to him. She had been too afraid to throw it away, but even more afraid of keeping it in plain sight. So she buried it under old junk, and hoped she would be able to do the same with her memories. She went about the business of forgetting, and got on with her life. She tried to get along better with her family (with varying degrees of success) and was the best big sister she could be to Toby. She was alright. She had forgotten – or she thought she had. The memory of his eyes, mismatched, bright, and filled with barely concealed cruelty and laughter, his pointed, feline smile – filled her inner mind with absolute clarity. It was as if no time at all had passed since she had seen him.
She opened her eyes and found herself clutching the orb to her heart, and dropped it quickly it as though it were poisoned. It landed on the wooden floor with a dull thud and rolled away from her into a patch of sunlight. Light scattered from its surface and lit up the dimness of the attic. She stared at it for a moment, before purposefully getting up and walking over to where it lay, looking brightly innocent and beautiful. Just like he could appear when he wanted to – like a still, quiet river, filled with treachery and death. She bent down and reached out a hand to pick it up. Something inside her stirred and she opened her mouth to utter the name she thought she had banished from her lips years before;
Then the world exploded.
Day and night passed her in a blur, hiding in the huge piles of debris that surrounded the city's west wall, finding what scraps of food she could, hiding from the garbage collectors who lived and salvaged in that place. She was hungry, cold, and frightened and wanted more than anything to get away from where she was. Her life had been normal, ordered, happy, and one word had been enough to shatter it all. She didn't know why it had happened, but the mention of his name was enough to trigger whatever spell had been lying dormant. She didn't know why he would have let such a thing cross over with Toby – she could only assume that he had meant for Toby to find it one day. The thought made her burn with righteous indignation and her anger drove her to survive.
The first time she had been in this country, it had been almost empty – she had gone for hours without meeting a single soul. This time was very different – there were people everywhere, and genuine guards patrolled the countryside around the castle. Whereas before she had approached the castle almost without trying, this time she was met everywhere with suspicion by those who lived around it. The guards at the city gate were alert and held very real weapons, and didn't seem afraid to use them.
She sought to get closer to his castle, thinking only of avenging herself and gaining passage back home. As the days passed she made her way into the city, hiding herself under rags so she wasn't seen as human by those who lived there – she had seen enough to know that humans were relatively unusual and always remarked on. She didn't know why there were humans there in the first place. But whenever one of the Others passed, she knew immediately to hide herself as far away from them as she could. They were beautiful all, like cold gems or silk flowers, colourful and bright, but something about them that seemed unreal. Like him. He had been like a diamond, clear and fair but able to cut deeply.
So she scavenged a living as best as she could, living only to eat for the next day. Her hair became long and dirty, so she hacked it off with a knife. She begged for scraps at a squat house that was built leaning up against the west wall and was taken in by an old goblin woman who was nearly blind - sat on a stool, and fed. In exchange for household chores the little woman struggled to do, she was given a pallet in front of a warm fire and fairly consistent food. The woman had been growing herbs in a small plot of dirt and she took over the job of weeding, watering and tending. When the herbs were hung, dried and packed into linen bags to sell in the market, it became her job to venture forth and set up a small table in a corner of the market and sell what she could. It was there she began to learn more about him. She sat quietly when the others talked of the King, listening, not making it obvious that she was doing so. She learned about how he governed and the kind of person he was, and was surprised that most of his subjects spoke of him respectfully. It seemed he ruled his kingdom well and fairly, even if he was harsh when it came to handing out punishment.
She grew brave and ventured to the part of the city that was just outside the castle gates, hoping for what, she didn't know. The day she first caught a glimpse of him, nearly six months after she had come to the Underground, she felt a strange mix of hate, rage, fascination and some other emotion she couldn't define. The urge to rush out and grab his horses bridle, to reveal who she was and demand that she be returned home was so great that she dug her fingernails into her palms to try and calm herself. She would be dead before she got within five feet of him – the black clad warriors with the stony faces went everywhere he did, and were all effectively armed. So she bided her time. She was careful to stay out of his sight and inconspicuous, blending into the shadows with the dark cloak she had purchased with her share of the money she had helped earn.
Then the old woman grew sick and took to bed permanently, so she took over growing and selling her herbs entirely, taking care of the woman as she had been taken care of. She fed and bathed her, and when the woman reached up and touched her face, fingers seeing what her eyes could not, and asked why she, a human, was hiding away – she told her a little of whom she was. She didn't say that she had been the one to defeat the Labyrinth – she had since heard in the marketplace of the backlash of her actions. She learned of the damage that she had done to the kingdom and the one who ruled it. So she held her tongue and said nothing about that part of her life, leaving the woman to make assumptions about where she had come from.
She continued to go to the markets every day and sought whenever she could to get a glimpse of him. But never did she try to approach him; never did she get any closer than the shadows. He was upright and beautiful as he rode his grey, his face impassive as he looked out over his city and went about his affairs, conducted his business quietly and with efficiency, dealt out justice to those who required it, and punishment to those who had earned it.
He became her obsession, and as time passed, he became the reason that she got up every morning and went out to the city. She lived to catch her forbidden glimpses of him, and devoured every tidbit of information she could get about him. He was her sun, her moon, and she didn't know when the strong emotions she had felt towards him had turned into passion. He haunted her dreams at night, and her waking hours. But she never allowed herself to get too close.
He lay in the soft, wide bed of his country estate, arms behind his head, staring at the ceiling. He was sleepless again, the events of the day playing on his mind. How many times would he think he'd seen her until he forgot her? He doubted that the effects of what she had caused would ever be forgotten entirely. He smiled to himself wryly – not only had none defeated his Labyrinth before, but no one had ever refused an invitation like the one he had given. And he had offered it with as much of his heart as he was able – he understood a different concept of love than she did. But even so, she had turned away and thrown it back in his face. He closed his eyes then, feeling a mix of anger and rejection, still so fresh after all this time.
He still wasn't entirely certain why that particular human had affected him so strongly – after all, there were many humans in his realm – children who had been wished away and grown up, happier in the Fair Realm than they would have been with families who didn't want them. But none of them had a spirit like hers, a bright flame that he could see clearly burning within her heart. She hid nothing of her emotions, her intentions – refreshingly different from the Faeran among whom trickery and deceit were a first nature.
He admitted he had used many of her emotions against her, to shape the Labyrinth and himself into what she had expected to see – but at the same time he had to respect her openness. It was something he could never allow himself, as it would enable those who were hungry for more power and prestige to gain a foothold over him. The closest he had come to showing a little of his real self was when he offered her a place in his kingdom, in his heart. But he had learned his lesson there. Never again.
He wondered idly whether she or Toby had come across the spell he had sent back with them – a wish spell. Its function was fairly simple – one simply had to hold it and it would grant whatever wish was dearest in their heart. He frowned. There had been times when he regretted letting it go across, but he thought little Toby would have used the wish already, gaining some thing his childish heart wanted most. Again he regretted the boundaries he had placed on himself which stopped him from finding out what had happened to them – but he would keep his word to himself. Rolling himself onto his stomach, he closed his eyes and waited for sleep.
The old woman was fading. She'd never been around someone who was dying before, but even she began to recognize the signs. The goblin woman barely moved, breathed shallowly, and seemed to be in constant pain. She didn't know what was wrong with her, but the woman refused any offers she made to go and get help. She seemed content just to have company, to not be alone as she took her final journey.
Her mind began to wander back to her childhood as she neared the end, and she spoke often about her life. She'd had a husband and children, used to live in a farm outside the city. When they had been killed in a conflict with a neighboring kingdom, the King had given her this little patch of land inside the city gates. She hadn't lived grandly, but she had been able to make enough living to support herself all these years. She had been content. Now she spoke of going to meet her family again, and where the woman couldn't hear her, she wept. She longed every day for her family – for her parents, and her brother. She wished there was some way of letting them know she was alive. Surely they would have given up hope by now. It had been three years, and she would have left no clues behind – nothing to point to where she had disappeared to.
One morning, when she went to check on the old woman, she found she had slipped away in the night. She couldn't help but grieve for her passing, and took the money that they had saved together and asked the undertaker to bury her outside the city, closer to her family.
She cleaned, packed her few possessions in a small bundle, took the last of the sellable herbs, and went next door to the small family of goblins who lived there. They had three small children, and though she hadn't much to do with them, they knew who she was. She offered them the land and shack, and they accepted it. They didn't strictly thank her, as direct gratitude in the Underground could be a dangerous thing, and used against you at a later date, but she saw it in the wife's eyes – their own shack was much too small for a growing family. This would give her the room she so desperately needed. Sarah shouldered her burden and set her sights on the castle.
Ok, chapter one. If anyone has critique about Sarah's way of getting to the Underground, I'd LOVE to hear what you have to offer! For the moment I'm sticking with what I have.
Interesting stuff happens next chapter, I promise!