I love your reviews! Thank you so much. I decided to write an extra long chappie, just for you!
Drake knew Jareth well enough to know that all his cousin needed was a good night's sleep in order for his anger to ebb. He also knew, judging from the dark shadows under the Goblin King's eyes, that a good night's sleep was definitely not what Jareth had had last night.
And so Drake kept quiet as the two prepared for the day's events, signing paperwork and organizing it with more care and attention than he had ever exhibited before.
Jareth eyed his cousin suspiciously. He couldn't remember the last time Drake had gone this long without a good natured tease or an off-colored joke. Jareth stood up from his desk and casually stalked to the other side of the room, where Drake was bent over a ledger, trying desperately to ignore the dark figure now directly before him.
"You did hear me yesterday…when I instructed Ellette to keep Sarah's presence to the servants' quarters only, did you not?" Jareth drawled in the direction of Drake's bent head.
"I did," Drake replied calmly.
"Any yet you persuaded the maid to allow Sarah into the gardens," Jareth continued.
"Yes, I did," Drake repeated, just as calmly as before.
"Was there a particular purpose to your betrayal?"
Drake sighed and rose to his feet. "Jareth, have I ever been anything but loyal to you? To our family?"
"That is not what we are discussing at the moment," Jareth replied, his voice even.
"I believe it is. You suggest I have betrayed you…when all I did was take two beautiful women for a walk in a garden. Simple. Harmless. No different from my usual behavior."
"Sarah is a prisoner, she is not a…" Jareth stopped short.
Drake smiled. "You would be lying if you finished that sentence," he jibed. "My preference in female attractiveness may differ from yours, but there is no denying Sarah Williams' beauty."
Jareth narrowed his eyes. "Must you always test my temper, Drake?"
Drake continued to grin. "The unexamined life is not worth living, cousin," he replied.
Jareth brought his fingers to his temple, sighing. "It's a bit too early to be speaking in prose," he said, his voice a bit lighter.
Drake inwardly sighed his relief. It had been a while since Jareth was legitimately unhappy with him. If he was teasing, the worst of the storm had passed.
"Don't blame Ellette; she somehow knew you'd be angry," Drake continued.
"I can never blame a woman's actions when you are involved, Drake," Jareth replied. "You seem to dazzle them right out of their senses," he added sarcastically.
"It was just a walk in the gardens. And Sarah doesn't seem like the terrible person you remember her as. I found her quite charming," Drake went back to his ledger, perusing his schedule.
"You are not the first person to be fooled by her," Jareth said softly. "One would think a mortal would have less sway over a kingdom of magic."
"Perhaps she had changed," Drake suggested.
Jareth crossed his arms over his chest and moved towards one of the gaping windows of the throne room. "Humans do not change," he said, so quietly Drake had to strain to hear. "Given the opportunity, I am certain Sarah Williams would destroy our world once more." He turned to look at Drake. "And it is my responsibility to ensure she does not get that opportunity."
Drake nodded. "I understand, Cousin."
Jareth dipped his chin in silent appreciation. "I would rather not waste more of my morning discussing Sarah Williams," he said abruptly. "I do have a kingdom to run."
Drake smiled. "That you do," he agreed, lifting the ledger from his desk. "And today's events should get your mind off of…other things."
"Ah, yes," Jareth said. "Today is the jousting competition. I had almost forgotten."
"Yes, the field is being set up as we speak," Drake walked over to the southern most window and pointed in the direction of the excitement. "I presume we shall follow the same rules as last year?"
Jareth nodded. "The victor will be awarded an admirable position within the ranks of our militia and have one wish granted, so long as it is reasonable."
Drake chuckled. "Remember when Galliet won and wished for a night's stay in the castle?"
"He should have specified exactly where he wanted to stay," Jareth smiled slightly. "I doubt he had a very comfortable night in the dungeons."
"The look on his face was priceless," Drake laughed. "But you must admit that the wishes have become a lot more specific since then."
"Specific and monotonous. I would perish of shock if anyone wished for anything other than money," Jareth said, adjusting his gloves.
"Yes, well. Times are tough, to borrow an aboveground euphemism," Drake reasoned. "However Baltus L'Atoru seems to be the expected winner of this year's event…and I wouldn't put a creative wish past him."
Jareth's brow furrowed. "I despise that braggart," he hissed.
Drake laughed. "You and the rest of the Underground. Still, his air of superiority is valid when it comes to his jousting abilities. He is quite talented."
"That depends on whether one thinks it takes any talent at all to knock an opponent from a moving horse with a long stick," Jareth countered.
"Good point. Baltus is harmless, Jareth. He's just a spoiled child that grew into an entitled man. No different from most of our noble class, I'm afraid."
Jareth sighed. "Perhaps one of my men will succeed in removing him from his pedestal."
"That would make the day much more interesting," Drake said.
"What time are we planning to begin?" Jareth asked.
"Ten o'clock," Drake tapped the ledger. Jareth glanced at one of the archaic clocks in the throne room. It was just past 8.
"I will meet you back here at a quarter to," he said.
"Very good," Drake replied. Jareth began to leave when Drake decided to press his luck just a bit. "Jareth, perhaps it would be good for Sarah to witness today's events. It might give her some perspective on her new home."
For some reason, it bothered Jareth that Drake kept on referring to the Underground as her "home." There was no part of Jareth that considered any part of the Underground as belonging to Sarah.
"A caged animal is more likely to exact revenge on its captor than one allowed to roam the fields freely," Drake added, not really sure why he was pressing the issue. "You cannot keep her locked up day and night; if she's anything like you say she is, she'll be raising hell in a matter of hours."
Jareth raised an eyebrow. "You believe yourself to be quite insightful today, cousin. I wonder why that is."
Drake shrugged. "No reason," he said, feigning indifference. "It's just a fact. I wouldn't want you to find yourself at odds with Miss Williams quite so early in her visit."
"Your concern touches me," Jareth drawled dryly. "And if it is so important to you, then I give my permission. Instruct Ellette to bring Sarah to the competition. However, once Sarah leaves the servants' quarters, she is also your responsibility."
Drake swallowed. He hadn't expected Jareth to first agree, and then place Sarah in his charge. But, being related to Jareth, he also refused to back down. "I accept the challenge, Your Majesty," Drake bowed…half out of respect, half out of sarcasm.
Jareth smirked and left the throne room.
Drake smiled to himself as he sat down to scribble out a quick note.
Sarah felt the earth shaking. She didn't know how long she had slept…minutes, hours, days…or exactly where she was, but she knew an earthquake when she felt it.
She bolted upright, prepared to make her way to a secure doorway when she realized the earthquake was courtesy of Ellette, who was gently shaking her by the shoulders with a decidedly excited expression on her face.
"Ellette! What's going on! You scared me!" Sarah exclaimed breathlessly, pushing her hair from her eyes. Lunette, who had come out of her hiding place after Jareth had left, was also perturbed, standing on Sarah's collarbone with her tiny fists on her hips, demanding an explanation.
"I'm sorry," Ellette said, out of breath. "It's just that…well…I just…here." She thrust a piece of paper into Sarah's hands. On it were just a few sentences, which, by the smudges of the ink, was written quickly and barely given time to dry.
His Majesty has forgiven yesterday's trespasses and has had a change of heart. Please bring Sarah to today's jousting tournament. I will meet you both at the entrance to the southern field.
Sarah looked up at Ellette, surprised. "A jousting tournament?" She asked. "Like in medieval times?"
"Mid…Med…evil?" Ellette repeated, confused. She shook her head. "No, it's at ten o'clock."
Sarah stifled an unexpected laugh.
"Who cares what time it's at," Ellette giggled. "We have gotten a personalized invitation!"
Sarah yawned. "Big whoop. Drake is probably trying to get us in trouble again."
Ellette's brows furrowed, considering this. After a moment she spoke. "No, Sir Drake wouldn't do that. The King must not be so angry anymore."
Sarah thought for a moment about the anger in Jareth's eyes when he had appeared in her room the night before. Part of her wondered if it was a dream, but as she caught glints of the glittering magic that dusted off Jareth as he moved on her plain stone floor, she knew he had visited.
"I might not know him as well as you, but something tells me that he doesn't ordinarily change his mind this quickly," Sarah said, skeptical of the whole thing.
Ellette tipped her head to one side, thinking. "No, he doesn't," she allowed. But, smiling anew she added, "but there is a first time for everything, right?"
"So your mother is Annie and you are Pollyanna," Sarah muttered under her breath.
Ellette shook her head again. "Did you get enough sleep, Sarah? You're not making any sense."
Sarah sighed. "I'm fine."
Ellette smiled. "Good, then hurry up and eat," she pointed to a tray she had placed on Sarah's chest of drawers. "Then we have to get you dressed!"
The bustle of activity that was spread out before Sarah did indeed remind her of a medieval festival. Brightly colored flags, each one matched to a compet decorated the field. Competitors in equally vibrant costumes were talking and laughing. Vendors were hawking everything from jewelry to food, their voices loud over the melee. The ever growing audience was taking their seats on huge wooden risers that reminded Sarah of high school basketball games. Hundreds of ethereal beings, gnomes and creatures Sarah couldn't put a name to were everywhere she looked, obviously excited for the event.
Ellette had led Sarah to the entrance of the field, off to the side, away from the hectic crowds. Lunette had flown off, explaining to Sarah in pantomime that she would return.
"Sir Drake's letter said he'd meet us here," Ellette said, fiddling with her hair and smoothing her skirt.
Sarah looked down at her own attire. She was now outfitted in the clothing Ellette had brought yesterday, namely a simple, white, flowing robe over equally simple pale pink skirts. Soft white doeskin slippers covered her feet, and her hair…freshly washed in rose-scented water and combed out, hung in soft waves down her back.
It was actually a refreshing, comfortable change from her normal work attire.
A gentle breeze was flowing through the scene, and Sarah closed her eyes as she inhaled the fragrant air greedily. The sun was warm on her face and the atmosphere was one of joyous expectation. Despite her current situation, Sarah found herself smiling.
"Lady Ellette, you must introduce me to your friend."
The voice caused both women to spin around. There stood a tall, handsome man, his thick brown hair secured neatly at the nape of his neck and his armor impeccably polished to an impressive shine.
"Lord L'Atoru," Ellette identified the man, dipping into a curtsey. "How lovely to see you."
Sarah noticed that Ellette sounded as if the meeting was not lovely at all.
The man smiled condescendingly down at Ellette's bowed head and then turned his attentions to Sarah. "You are a mortal," he said, still smiling as if he knew some great secret.
"Last time I checked," Sarah replied, folding her arms over her chest. It was apparent that this man was borne of nobility, but Sarah could not bring herself to curtsy.
"Has His Majesty acquired a new pet?" Baltus directed the question at Ellette, but kept his eyes on Sarah.
"Lord L'Atoru, this is Sarah Williams. She is visiting us from aboveground," Ellette explained, her voice thin and plaintive.
Baltus's eyes widened. "Surely you are not the Sarah Williams…the Goddess who defeated our King years ago? Why, you're just a tiny little thing…and you couldn't have been more than a child the last time you were here…surely you were not victorious over him." Baltus laughed at his own observation.
"Actually…" Sarah began, ready to set this well-bred oaf straight.
"We are waiting here for Sir Drake," Ellette interrupted sharply, eying Sarah. "He should be here any moment."
Sarah looked over at Ellette, wondering why she so quickly changed the subject. However she did not continue with her diatribe.
"I see," Baltus said, no longer laughing. "Then I shall take my leave of you. Ellette, it was a pleasure." The tall man then moved closer to Sarah, taking one of her hands in his own before she could pull away. "And you, pretty Sarah. I hope to see you again soon." He raised her hand to his lips, and pressed a soft kiss on the back of her fingers.
Baltus bowed stiffly and then called to one of his pages, heading off to the competitors' tent.
"Who was he?" Sarah asked, rubbing off the kiss on her skirts.
"Lord Baltus L'Atoru. He's a troublemaker. The King and Sir Drake do not get along well with him," Ellette replied. "He will probably win today's tournament."
"He seems rather full of himself," Sarah commented.
"He is." This came from Drake, who was suddenly at their side. "If it weren't for his jousting abilities, he'd be just another dimple on the collective backside of the upper class."
Ellette giggled. "That's positively terrible, Sir Drake," she said coquettishly.
"Terrible, but true," Drake replied. "And how does this fine day find the two most beautiful women in the Underground."
"Better than yesterday," Sarah replied. "Thank you, Sir Drake."
"For what am I due thanks?"
"You obviously talked to him," Sarah said, knowing that she wouldn't need to explain who 'him' was. "Seeing as how I am being allowed out of my room."
"Oh, yes. Well. My cousin tends to be a bit dramatic at times. I blame it on the stress of running a kingdom," Drake winked. "Now, shall we take our seats?" He gestured to several empty chairs that were lined up beside a much larger chair…a throne really...all of which sat in a covered enclosure in the dead center of the wooden risers.
Ellette gasped. "Surely the king doesn't want us seated in the royal ward!"
Drake laughed. "Did you think he would have you among the commoners?"
Ellette bit her lip. "Usually, that's where I am included," she replied softly.
"Well not today," Drake said, offering each woman his arm again.
This time, Sarah took the offering, causing both Ellette and Drake to smile.
"I am the envy of the Underground," Drake announced grandly. "I have the most stunning company today."
Sarah smiled to herself as Ellette giggled helplessly. It was obvious the elfin maid carried a burning torch for the winsome Drake.
The "Royal Ward," as Ellette had called it, was positioned so that each member of the audience and the competitors had a clear view of their king. Since His Royal Highness was still nowhere to be found, Sarah found herself subject to the curious stares of nearly an entire kingdom. She was seated between the throne and Drake, who was happily devouring what looked to be some sort of prehistoric slab of meat on a giant bone.
"When will the jousting begin?" Sarah asked Drake, who did his best to swallow an enormous bite before speaking.
"Soon," he replied, tossing the bone onto the dusty ground in front of them where several frightening looking birds immediately attacked it. "I met with His Majesty before I came to retrieve you two; he was just finishing up some business. The games cannot begin before…"
Drake was cut off mid sentence by an explosion of trumpeting horns. In an instant, the huge crowd was on their feet. Sarah, Drake and Ellette followed suit, bowing and curtseying as the missing party arrived at the Royal Ward.
He was dressed in all black. It was nearly impossibly to distinguish boot from pant from cloak. A sliver of white skin peeked out from the low cut of his dark shirt, an intentional design. His white-blonde hair spiked away from his face, drawing the looker's attention to his mismatched eyes and the firm line of his mouth. With a barely perceptible nod of his head, the crowd was seated.
Sarah noticed that he didn't look at her once, even though she was scant inches from where he now sat. She likewise kept her head locked in a forward position, her back rigid as she watched the events begin.
Exciting wasn't the word for what she witnessed.
Her idea of jousting was indeed based on the one time she had been to Medieval Times. The theme restaurant had been nearly 100 miles from their sleepy Connecticut town, but Toby had been begging to go for months. So, for his 5th birthday, Sarah's father had taken the family. It had been a fun night, but as the games began here…now…Sarah realized just how comical her only other experience with jousting had been.
Armored man after armored man rode huge horses headfirst into each other, the clang of pole against steel resonating through the crowds. The audience would cheer and boo, according to their favorites. Even Sarah found herself clapping along with Drake or Ellette's picks to win.
Out of the corner of her eye, Sarah noticed that Jareth remained stoic, his eyes carefully following the contestants, but otherwise remaining still.
It was unnerving.
The competition continued well into the afternoon. At some point, a pretty servant girl brought over fruit and bread and cheeses, which delighted Ellette. She leaned across Drake, careful not to touch him and whispered to Sarah, "I've never been waited on before!"
Drake laughed. "Stick with me, Ellette, and all of the finer things in life will be yours."
Sarah heard Jareth scoff, but he did not speak.
"Your Majesty," Ellette had somehow found the courage to speak to Jareth for the first time all day. "Thank you for allowing us into the Royal Ward. I have never had a better time."
Jareth smiled tightly and nodded, avoiding eye contact with Sarah. "Thank my cousin, Ellette. It was his idea."
Ellette smiled genuinely at Drake. "No thanks are necessary," Drake said, holding up a hand before Ellette could speak. "I know I speak for my cousin when I say we have never had better company."
Jareth scoffed again. This time, Sarah acknowledged it. "It would seem that His Majesty disagrees," she said, still not looking in his direction.
"My cousin and I differ on our opinion of good company," Jareth drawled.
Drake and Ellette exchanged nervous glances.
Before anyone could break the tension, trumpets sounded again. This time, it was to announce the final battle.
As Ellette predicted, Baltus L'Atoru had made it to the deciding combat. His opponent had also proven himself a worthy adversary, having won each of the ten rounds he participated in. While Sarah wasn't certain of the prize, she was sure that both men would give it their all in this particular skirmish.
The crowd was on their feet, cheering as the two final contestants mounted their horses. She couldn't be sure, but it seemed that the audience was hoping Baltus would lose, as they were chanting a name she wasn't familiar with; she presumed it was the other man's.
The starting bell was rung with one loud strike. Both men kicked their horses to a start, and immediately the dust began to fly. The two blurs of color flew towards each other. The crowd's cheering increased…and within a moment, the familiar crack of steel ripped through the air and a clear winner emerged from the dust.
Lord Baltus remained atop his steed, circling in victory around his opponent, who was flat on his back, a dazed expression on his face. Baltus pulled a flag that was tucked into his armor and swung it around his head, celebrating his win.
The audience clapped, but an air of disappointment was palatable. It appeared that this was not the outcome the Underground was hoping for.
Baltus galloped to the front of the Royal Ward, the pride he felt oozing off of his very armor. "Your Majesty, I present you with my flag," Baltus said loudly.
Jareth nodded. "You have bested your opponents," he said, his voice flat and uninterested. "Ladies and Gentleman, I present your winner, Lord Baltus L'Atoru."
Again, a smattering of disappointed applause was heard.
"You shall take your place among our militia as Garrison Commander of the Northern Troops," Jareth announced.
Drake laughed quietly. He whispered something to Ellette, who also laughed and then turned to Sarah discreetly. "The Northern Troops are the smallest outfit in our army," she explained into Sarah's ear. "Surely this is a blow to Lord Baltus's ego."
Sarah nodded and watched as what Jareth had just said registered on Batlus's face. It was obvious he was not pleased. Yet, no one argued with the king.
"I thank you for your participation," Jareth continued. "For everyone's participation. You all fought well."
Jareth stood as if to leave.
"Is there not one more reward?" Baltus said suddenly, louder than necessary. "I believe I have a wish to be granted."
Jareth sighed. He had tried to glaze over that part of the prize, but he should have known Baltus would not. He nodded for Baltus to continue.
"I have no need of riches, having more than enough of my own," Baltus said in a self-satisfied tone. Even Sarah rolled her eyes at that one. "I already have a high rank in my family and have no need for material things," Baltus continued. "My wish is of a more…intangible sort."
"You're trying my patience, Baltus," Jareth said between clenched teeth. "We have had enough games for the day. Out with it."
Baltus frowned, but recovered quickly, his eyes flashing mischievously up at his king. "Very well, no more delay," he said, smiling once more. "I would like to get on with what I want as well." He took a breath and dramatically dismounted, coming to stand directly before Sarah, who did her best to avoid Baltus's firey gaze.
"I wish for a kiss from your pretty new pet, Sarah Williams."