The Chapters of Life
Chapter Sixteen: Spread Your Wings
Spread your wings
And fly away
Queen, Spread Your Wings
A crystal floated into the air, over the land.
A wisp of air blew his hair back slightly. His white shirt was loose, and though he stood straight, his posture was relaxed. His eyes stared at his land, his kingdom, his labyrinth. His feet were bare on the cold marble floor of the balcony of his bedroom.
One flick of the wrist, and the crystal popped, its flimsy shards falling all over his land, settling everywhere.
Jareth flexed his wrist twice, then allowed a cool smile to settle on his lips. Yes, his power was fully back – his senses were keener than ever, his magic flowing more smoothly than before. But more than that, there was just a sense of… more. Whole. In tune.
He wondered how he had not noticed how much his power had dulled before. Fully back in power, in tune with the labyrinth and the land, Jareth felt more alive than ever.
Then again, he had had many things on his mind back then…
Jareth turned to face her even before she had reached for the handle of the window.
Sarah quietly stepped through the large window onto the balcony. Her face was pale and tired, but there was a certain glow to her, a glow that wasn't visible, wasn't human.
They simply stood there, the goblin king and the now non-human girl, watching each other from opposite ends of the balcony, the former leaning the railings, the latter standing in front of the door.
Jareth found that he had no words, not now, not after last night. So he simply drank in the sight of her, the silky hair let down loose and whipping about in the wind, the flimsy white simple gown she wore, the lithe and small body standing so straight and tall.
Sarah stared back at him, at the goblin king, his exotic hair just as wild as ever, his mismatched eyes never leaving her, his hands looking oddly bare without his gloves.
Then she took a step forward, then another one, and he felt himself moving to meet her.
The two met halfway, and before any word could be said, any breath could be taken, any thought could form, arms went around each other, tightly, just as tightly as the night before, but with none of the desperation.
Their lips met, almost carefully, tenderly, her feet tiptoeing and his head leaning down.
Long moments passed before the two finally leaned back, just enough to see each other's face.
"So." Jareth took a deep breath. She looked back at him, almost quizzically. He did not like the exhaustion he could still see on her face. "How are you feeling?" he asked softly.
Sarah considered the question. She wondered about the answer herself. "I… I'm not sure," she said. "I feel different. Strange." Her eyebrows knitted as she looked up. "I've changed, haven't I?"
Jareth's arms tightened even more around her. "Yes, you have," he said slowly, not taking his eyes off her. Inside, he tried to quell the growing worry, about how she might feel about the transformation. "Have you realized what happened?" he asked, not wanting to tell her right out and risk shocking her too much.
She looked at him with strange eyes for a moment. Then she turned her gaze towards her arms, wrapped around his neck, studying the difference that was tangible yet not visible to the eye.
What's important is invisible to the eye…
"I'm fey," she said quietly. She did not have to look at the answer in his face; she knew. "I'm fey, like you, like… well, all the other fey folk, I guess," she said, the slightest smile forming.
"You are," he agreed. He leaned down gently and gave a chaste kiss on her forehead. "And the goblin queen," he dared to add.
She stood completely still.
It was almost too strange to act so carefully around each other, after all that had happened last night.
"Do you mind?" he asked, softly.
She cocked her head. She leaned back far from him, though staying in his arms, supported by his hands, and pulled her arms away from his neck. She clasped them together in front of her, just below her chin, and watched him intently.
He let his expression ask the question again.
Her gaze flickered back down to her hands. Slowly, she pulled them apart.
There was a crystal shining in her hands.
She held it at the tip of her fingers for a moment, then revolved it once around her hand, much more quickly than she had ever managed before… almost as fast as he had done.
Her face had been frowning in concentration. Now she looked up, and he saw the mischief finally showing through.
"Do you know," she said slowly, a bigger smile playing on her lips. "I don't think I do, not at all."
A chuckle, amusement mixed with relief, escaped from Jareth as he leaned down for a more thorough, no longer careful kiss…
J Y S
"So," Sarah said, brightly, as they stood in one of the countless rooms in the castle. She suspected that the larger door on the wall led to the throne room, but had no idea to where all other doors led. "What do I do, as the goblin queen?"
"Nothing much," Jareth answered absent-mindedly as he cleared away the top of his desk in the corner. He wondered, briefly, if he should give a tour of the castle, but then dismissed the thought. Knowing her, he mused wryly, she would probably figure everything out – including the private office they were now in – for herself through her roaming, and probably more thoroughly, at that.
She walked closer to where he was, raising an eyebrow. "Nothing much?" she echoed.
Jareth didn't answer for a moment, trying to find something in the mess, then gave up. "You'll be regent of the goblin kingdom," he said, finally turning to face her. "You'll be responsible for many things – receiving other fey royals, who don't come here often anyways, and ruling over the citizens in the kingdom. That includes kicking the goblins," he added.
Sarah rather looked as though she didn't want to start kicking any goblins, now, and said merely, "Oh." Jareth, on the other hand, knew the annoying little buggers would frustrated even her –
Or perhaps now. She had always been full of surprises.
Before anything else could be said, the larger door burst open, and one of the smarter goblins came skittering in. "Your Majesty-s," it squeaked, and tried to give a deep bow, promptly falling on its face.
Jareth raised an eyebrow at her, nodding at her to acknowledge it. A good place to start as any other, he mused.
Slightly flustered, Sarah faced the goblin. "Yes?" she asked, with a hint of her haughty voice, honed from the years of practicing plays.
"A messenger," the goblin gasped, "An amba-ember-amb-embassador, from the kingdom of white shadows, Lwenhyn, has just arrived."
Jareth felt himself still. That was Harel's kingdom – when the fey king had been alive, at any rate. A new king, then, had been installed, he guessed, other than the heir that Keith had murdered. It was fitting, then, that the new king should send a messenger to the goblin kingdom; so much betrayal and blood had been spilt in the incident, and the exact nature of the relationship between the two kingdoms had to be determined.
Sarah, on the other hand, had no idea what Lwenhyn was, and merely nodded. "We'll greet him shortly, in the..." she glanced at Jareth.
"In here," Jareth said, not wanting the large audience of goblins and chickens in the throne room. "Announce him in a few minutes."
The goblin nodded hastily, then squeezed its eyes and muttered "Here, few minutes, here, announce him, few minutes, here, few minutes..." as it backed out of the room.
Jareth couldn't blame Sarah for looking just a little startled as she straightened. "What was that about?" she asked, in a wondering tone.
"Lwenhyn was Harel's kingdom," Jareth offered, watching her closely.
To her credit, she recognized the name immediately. "Harel... the king who, from what I could gather, betrayed you?" she asked, hesitantly.
Jareth nodded, grimly. "And Keith's father."
Sarah felt her eyes widen. Keith. She hadn't been thinking of him – but the mention of his name brought fresh memories of hurt and confusion. "Jareth... what happened, after you two left, and I came here?"
The goblin king opened his mouth. Closed it. Then he spoke, in a tired voice that Sarah hadn't heard before: "Harel died. And maybe, later, I'll tell you the whole story... but not now."
Later, when the new goblin queen understood the workings of the labyrinths and their magic, and the connection and relationships between kings and their labyrinths. Later, when years had passed and she truly understood the loneliness of being regent, of being queen. Later, when she better understood pain and death, and betrayal.
"What happened to... Keith?"
Before Jareth could answer – and what would he have said, he wondered as he stood up and straightened himself – the same goblin burst back in. It triumphantly gave a bow, opened its mouth, and promptly forgot what it was to say. It looked uneasily at the two regents standing in front. "Ah..."
"The ambassador from Lwenhyn has arrived, Your Majesty," a smooth voice cut in, then added to the goblin, less than kindly, "You idiot." The ambassador kicked the goblin aside, which looked relieved at the normality of it all and scurried out once more.
The ambassador closed the door, gave a short bow, and took off his hat, revealing his black hair. "The unofficial, but just as authentic, ambassador from Lwenhyn, the kingdom of white shadows, Your Majesty," the fey said, respectfully.
Jareth did not move. "Unofficial, but very powerful," he replied in a measured tone.
"Ah," the fey laughed, raising his head. "There's no fooling you, then, king."
"And it appears that there's no killing you, king," Jareth's voice was still calm as he added, "Keith."
There was a quick intake of breath from Sarah as she stepped forward, involuntarily, then stopped herself.
The new king of Lwenhyn flashed them a smile that revealed white fangs. "There are about five brothers plotting to kill me right now that I know of," he said casually. "Just as many kings and queens from all over the Underground trying to take advantage of the situation. The citizens are refusing acknowledge some by-blow of the king, who abruptly dropped from the sky, killed their regents and claimed the throne, all in one day. I think the labyrinth might hate me still. And I'm standing in front of a fey king, unarmed, who's older and more powerful than I am, and who might possibly want to kill me."
"I think you'll survive," Jareth said, wryly. "You strike me as someone hard to kill."
"Keith," Sarah said, before the new king could say anything in response. "What happened?"
"And the new beautiful queen of the goblin kingdom," Keith said, with a smaller, quieter smile. He nodded at her, respectfully.
He paused, then sighed. "I'm sorry," he said, honestly. "I do regret having had to deceive you, and attack you, like that... I know the whole thing wasn't fair to you. I do not, however," and his voice hardened as he glanced over to Jareth once more, "regret what I've done."
"Of course not," Jareth said, just as harshly, "you went from a lost little orphan to a king."
"And you survived a betrayal that you didn't detect until it was almost too late," Keith responded. "Saving Sarah, in the meantime, from facing a Run through a tainted labyrinth."
Sarah stepped forward, then. "All right," she said, with an authority that hushed both fey kings in the room, "What happened exactly?"
"Things were... a bit shaken up, in my dear father's kingdom, after Jareth left to go through the labyrinth with you," Keith spoke up, before Jareth could say anything. The two men seemed to be in agreement, however, about not telling Sarah every little gruesome detail about what had happened. "I don't know if my father's labyrinth saw me as the rightful challenger to his heir, or if it just wanted to kill me – "
"Probably both," Jareth interrupted.
"Yes, well..." Keith was visibly pale now, possibly remembering his Run through the labyrinth. "In any case... I survived, and the next thing I know, I have five furious brothers whom I didn't know existed hitherto after my blood, for stealing away their inheritance. You two..." he paused, then shrugged. "You two are the only ones I know, in the Underground."
Jareth tilted his head, in an avian way. "You don't know anyone?" he asked, skeptically. "You haven't met and befriended anyone through walking through their dreams, much like the way you did with Sarah here?"
"I still don't really understand that, by the way," the queen put in.
The look that Keith directed at the two of them, then, was disarmingly open and honest. "Believe me when I say I wasn't planning on this," he said. "I just wanted revenge. I never asked for any of this. When I managed to walk in the dreams of anyone... the only thing weighing in my mind was how to meet my father. That was how I entered the dream you two had, long ago, and formed my plans. That was all I did."
Sarah started, finally realizing how Keith had known the dream of the crystal ball from so long ago.
"So," Jareth said, slowly, trying to judge the situation, "what are you here for, ambassador?" He did owe the kid a few things, Jareth wasn't going to deny that; he was damned if he was going to help the new king, however.
"Peace," Keith said. He was addressing both of them, now. "Not quite an alliance, no, I know that's impossible. But there are many who believe the goblin king should be punished for what he did, and some of my dearest brothers – or sisters – may get the inkling that avenging Harel's death may ensure them enough popularity to dethrone me. I will straighten out the family business, and ensure that there is no attack on the goblin kingdom or its king – " and at that moment, Keith appeared more fey than he ever had – "if, in return, you do not make attempts at my kingdom nor forge alliances with those who wish to do so."
Jareth considered it without saying anything, if only because he wanted to put Keith on the spot for a bit longer. There was no reason he shouldn't agree; it would keep the trouble out of his kingdom for long enough for Sarah to become used to being queen, and his policy had always been isolationist, in any case.
"Agreed," Sarah said, quietly but unfalteringly, before Jareth could say the same thing, "but only if you come, in short time, to a reception that will inevitably be held in the goblin kingdom to welcome the new goblin queen. By then, you will have had consolidated your kingdom, and between now and then, you will make no plans involving the goblin kingdom without the consent of either of its regents." Then she smiled, a little ruefully, at her old friend whom she met for only two times, "And at the reception, you will tell me everything that happened, from the beginning. Everything," she repeated, emphasizing.
Keith nodded, slowly. "Agreed," he said. Then he took a deep breath, and was back to his façade once more. "Well, then, I must be off," he said, bowing to each of them in farewell. "I'll show myself out – and congratulations on you both," he added, with a small smile. He walked to the window, opened it, and with one final bow at them both, he jumped out.
Right afterwards, Sarah saw a raven soar up into the sky, in a hurry to get home. only then did she turn to Jareth, with uncertainty colouring her voice. "I'm... Oh, I'm sorry, Jareth, was that all right? I acted without thinking again – I probably should have gotten your agreement, before I said that."
Jareth shook his head. "I was going to agree," he admitted, "and I think for the first time exercising your rights, that went fabulously. Do wait next time, however," he added, with humour, and was awarded by her smile.
"Do you think it's all right, though?" Sarah looked outside the window once more, wonderingly.
"He's a devious sort and I don't trust him," Jareth said bluntly, "But for now, I think we can let him do what he wants. He'll be busy enough trying not to get killed, in any case. He must have been pretty desperate for our support if he came himself all this way." Desperate, or didn't have anyone he could trust at the moment.
"Ah." Sarah turned back to him once more.
"Do you know," Jareth said suddenly, casually, "He said that you thought of me when you were with him. That he reminded you much of me – that maybe you wanted him to be me."
Sarah seemed to consider it for a moment. "There was a certain likeness," she said slowly. "Which, of course, he did on purpose. And yes, I did think of you when I was with him – in those dreams."
She cast him a sideways look then, one that made him catch his breath. "But you know, I don't think I ever thought of him, when I was with you. I wonder why that was…"
Jareth's only answer was to pull her into his embrace and kiss her.
After a while, she pushed him away. "Jareth," she said, seriously, as a thought occurred to her. "Can I... I can visit my parents, and friends, right? They'll already be worried so much, and I've just gone missing..."
Jareth frowned. "You can," he said, a bit uncertainly, "But you will have to learn how to travel between the worlds... that might take some time."
"The labyrinth said it could take too long for me to actually see any of them alive," Sarah said, studying him carefully.
Ah. So that had been her test. Jareth shrugged. "You're the goblin queen," he told her, truthfully. "You... you can exert control over the magic of the labyrinth as not many can. I think you'll be able to learn if quicker than that, especially if that had been your test, since you've obviously mastered the labyrinth and passed it."
"How long?" Sarah asked, a little anxiously.
"More than a week," Jareth said, with a small smile. "Perhaps less than a year, maybe a bit more."
Sarah froze at that. A year... a year, in which her families will be missing her, her friends wondering where she had disappeared to... a year, after which when she finally learned to appear Aboveground, she would have to explain to everyone just where she had been, all this time...
"Can't it be less?" Sarah asked, apprehensively.
"It all depends on you," Jareth told her. "But be aware: it's difficult to control magic."
It wouldn't be just magic. She was going to have to face Hoggle, and the rest of her friends, and explain just what the hell had happened. She was going to have to learn how to control the goblins, which she had very, very little experience of but knew instinctively that it would be frustrating. She was going to have to deal with... by gods, she was married, right after her high school graduation, Sarah realized with a jolt.
Everything had changed. Nothing could turn back, not now. A whole new life had begun for her, effectively ending her old life, and it promised to be full of frustrations, difficulties, and adventures.
And throughout it all...
Sarah looked at Jareth in the eye, and smiled. "It'll be a piece of cake," she said, with a mischievous tilt of her head. Jareth laughed out loud at that.
Maybe it wasn't a new life, starting all over again. Maybe it was just the beginning of a new chapter.
And throughout it all, she knew her goblin king would always be with her, from now till the end of the book that marked her life, throughout all the chapters of her life.
Thank you to everyone who stayed on this rocky ride till the end!
I can't thank you enough – I'll never forget this experience!
Hope you enjoyed reading The Chapters of Life as much as I enjoyed writing it,
and hope you'll have only happiness in the new year ;)
I love you all so much.
Thanks again, and cheers!