Deals With the Devil
Jareth wasn't particularly concerend about how Thelte had done it. Nor did he care where she was. I'll have to check to make sure she really is gone, he decided, then I can get back to my life. With a twist of his wrist, a crystal appeared. Jareth concentrated on searching his Labyrinth for his uninvited guest. Wherever she was, she was nowhere in the Labyrinth.
Satisfied that the Cobalt Terror had gone off to trouble some other corner of the Underground, the Goblin King went back to his Castle. He was so relieved by Thelte's disappearance that he didn't even bog any other goblins. He just punted most of them the impressive distance from one end of the throne room to the other. In fact, the hall was a bit small for this activity: The kicked goblins tended to crash into the opposite wall. Lucky that his subjects had such thick heads, then.
After that memorable day, Thelte went straight out of Jareth's mind. Which made the surprise all the more unpleasant when Thelte's mother showed up on the threshold of the Labyrinth. Jareth discovered this follow-up invasion by sheer chance. Naturally, despite the Labyrinth's dense ( in more than one way) population, not one of his subjects noticed let alone reported the presence of the fey woman.
Jareth, however, was not so blissfully oblivious. He nearly appeared on top of his aunt. Oh, bollocks! he swore mentally, hiding around a corner. She had nearly seen him. He'd been about to have a word with that dwarf, Hoggett or some such, about what happened to gardeners who didn't meet their quota of dead or disabled fairies. He could hear the idiot now, with the slow upward count and sporadic spritzing sounds.
"Hoggett! Hoggett!" Jareth hissed desperately, keeping an eye on his aunt. She was making impatient gestures at the stubbornly blank walls of the Labyrinth. He was glad that at least the maze had at least listened to the threats he had flung around after the last relatively visitation. Such a pity, Jareth thought with disgust, That the most intelligent entity in my realm besides myself are the walls. "Hoggett!" The spraying sounds stopped.
Jareth waited impatiently, listening to the hesitating shuffling come closer. As soon as the tiny figure was in view, the Goblin King pounced on him. He shook the little creature by one oversized, hair-filled ear and shoof him viciously. "Owwwooo!" the dwarf howled.
"Next time, when I call you, you hop on it, Hogbreath! Or you'll be spending the rest of your wretched life at the bottom of an oubliette!" he snarled. Relatives made him even more cross than usual. He threw his imbecile subject into the dust. He checked to make sure the other fey was still preoccupied.
He sneered down at the dwarf. "Hogbrain," he started in the tones of one attempting to instruct an idiot, "Can it be that you have, tragically, become deaf? Or have you merely lost your memory? In which case it is fortunate for you that I remember, perfectly, what I said would happen to anyone who allowed my relations to wander freely about my realm." His voice was dangerous but low.
"I remember that perfec'ly, Yehr Majesty," the dwarf said cringingly, "And if I saw any of yehr family, yeh ken be sure I'd-" Jareth interrupted this assurance by grabbing the creature by the nose and forcibly directing "Hogbrain's" gaze toward Jareth's aunt. The dwarf stilled at the sight of the imperious fey lady.
Once Jareth had jerked him back around the corner, the dwarf fell the short distance to his knees and grabbed his monarch's leather clad knee in supplication. "No, Yehr Majesty! I swear I didn' see 'er! Don't wrap me in concertina wire and toss me in the Bog of Stench! Please!" Jareth kicked the groveling creature away from him.
"Listen to me, Hogface-"
"Yes, Hoghead, now listen. This time, I shall be generous. This time. If anything even remotely like this happens again, you will be bathing your wounds in Bogwater!" This threat delivered, the Goblin King decided it was time to deal with the real problem: Morgan. He appeared leaning casually in a niche near her.
"Hello, Auntie," he drawled. Morgan turned to her nephew. Jareth was pleased by how out of sorts his self-possessed aunt was looking. Her face looked washed out and weary, and was flushed pink with frustration from haggling with the walls. For a moment, she seemed at a loss for what to say. Then she drew herself up.
"Jareth, where is Thelte?" she demanded without preamble. Jareth smirked, covering his mouth with one gloved hand and pretending to yawn.
"Really, Morgan, you should try to keep from losing them. I know you have other children, but..." he chided. His aunt lookedas though she wanted to choke him to death.
"I sent her here. To you. You've lost my daughter?!" she shrieked. Her long fingers crooked into claws. She appeared to be about to commit Goblin King Assassination Attempt #9.
"Next time you attempt to foist your little brats on some unsuspecting person, I suggest you make sure that the foisted-upon being has agreed to keep them for you. Now, if you'll excuse me, I do have things to do." he said cooly. He prepared to appear directly in the throne room.
"Wait! Jareth, please, Thelte is missing, I've looked everywhere, help me find her!" Morgan cried in motherly anguish. Jareth felt that it served her right. Having children in the first place, then raising them up to be such little beasts richly warranted the loss of one of the little monsters. In fact, Jareth was always surprised that no one had ever wished one of the delinquents away to the Goblins. Not that they'd make particularly good goblins, but still...
"What will you give me if I do?" Jareth asked casually. Morgan gasped indignantly and he smiled. A very catlike smile it was, too. All smugness. "It's only fair, auntie dearest. I didn't lose the brat, so why should I look for her?"
"The fact that she's family has no bearing at all on the matter I see." Morgan said sarcastically. Jareth quirked an eyebrow at her and said nothing. He continued to smile. She sighed.
"Your mother ruined you. You always were a spoilt brat." she growled. Jareth simply shrugged elegantly. "Fine. Fine, fine. I should get the fairies to bite your nose off for this, Jareth." She said tersely. Jareth arched one eyebrow at her agitation. A small cloud of fairies hovered about him.
"Bite me," he dared them, "See what comes of it." He grinned viciously at them. The fairies zipped out of sight.
Jareth turned back to Morgan, trading an innocent look for her indignant one. "Now, how much do you want her back, oh Blood Kin mine?" Jareth mocked. "What are you willing to give up in exchange for your child?" The question was clearly one that Morgan liked not a t all. Her lovely face twisted bitterly. He continued to look at her expectantly.
"I can give you a seamstress so skilled that she can spin gold from straw, or spiders back from silk. She can make lace out of snowflakes and silk from dawn. Does the prospect tempt you?" She watched his face with eager cunning. He yawned elaborately.
"I have clothing." He reminded her with a shrug.
"A star then, plucked from the sky in the waxing of dawn and caged in silver." She offered impatiently.
"That is an easy task, I could pick all of the stars from the heavens and rearrange them on a whim. I choose not to." He said in a studiously dispassionate manner.
"Oh, could you? Well why don't you just-" she stopped herself just in time, and huffed sulkily. "Alright. Fine. What about a marvelous horse which, in one bound, can cross the greatest ocean Aboveground? Will you trade my child for such a wondrous steed?" she wheedled. There was a sarcastic edge to her voice. Jareth smiled patronizingly at his mother's sister.
"Morgan, I could find a horse able to cross the widest Aboveground ocean, if I so desired. But that is an inexact and unruly sort of equine indeed. Do not waste your breath." He idly played with one of his crystals. She looked at it hungrily.
"I admit defeat, nephew. What do you want in exchange?" She asked in a facade of graciousness. Jareth smiled a smirk of blissful victory.
"Seven days, Morgan. I want you to play steward over my realm for seven days in exchange for my help to find your daughter Thelte." His aunt opened her mouth to protest. "Stop. I have been generous. I might have asked a year and a day of you. I might have cheated you, and revealed the location of one of your other female offspring. Do not try my patience, Aunt Morgan. You are great among mortals only, and I am a King. I suggest you leave and start searching for earplugs capable of dulling the sound of goblin voices." With that, Jareth disappeared. Morgan looked at the spot where her nephew had stood and swore bitterly.
"Oh, and I reserve the right to toss you headfirst into any of various unpleasant places if at the end of you term I come back to find you have worked some revenge on me, be it a Goblin Rebellion or pink curtains." The Goblin King's voice said from all around. Morgan started and then recommenced swearing, more viciously now.