Because it has been so long since I updated this story, I went back and re-read everything. I was horrified with all of the grammar and punctuation mistakes, and set about making it right. I used grammarly dot com to bring the chapters up to snuff. I strongly encourage the readers to go back to the beginning and re-read all the chapters (I fixed the chapter issue too). I made some story changes in some of the chapters as well, so it would benefit you greatly to re-read the chapters. If you don't want to re-read all the chapter, then just re-read 8, 9, and 10 because significant changes were made to most of those.
Without the gentle encouragement of Happyfish, this chapter wouldn't exist. Thanks so much for giving me the tap in the butt I needed!
Grateful doesn't even come close to how I feel to those of you who have tenaciously stuck with the story! You're all awe-inspiring. Thank you!
I own nothing and make no money.
Dare To Heir
Jesse broke away from the horde hiding behind Sarah and ran toward the grinning Gideon.
"Mr. Gideon, Mr. Gideon…Guess what!"
"Careful there, Jess." Gideon raised the cup of coffee higher so as not to spill any on the barreling child.
In a breathless voice, Jesse exclaimed, "There's a real king here!"
Gideon gasped, and then in an awed voice said, "Really! How exciting!"
Jesse's caramel curls danced around his vigorously nodding head. Pointing in Jareth's direction, he declared ecstatically, "Yep! See!"
Apparently, Gideon didn't see because he turned in Jareth's direction and – without batting an eye at his odd appearance or apparel – bowed low saying, "Good afternoon, your majesty."
Jareth's brow flew up. Stating the obvious, he remarked with a tinge of surprise, "He cannot see me. This is truly fascinating. I have never gone unnoticed by a mortal before."
I'll bet Sarah thought wryly. Jareth would certainly be hard to miss, and the fact that Gideon was missing him had her torn between relief and annoyance. On one hand, she wasn't going to have to come up with some crazy story to explain away Jareth's presence. On the other, it would have been a load off of her mind to be able to share this situation with another adult. Maybe, together, they could have tried to reason out how to untangle this unholy mess. Unfortunately, for her, it seemed as if she was destined to take on the Goblin King alone. So, if she were going to deal with him by herself, then she better get on with it.
In an effort to remove the children from danger, Sarah blurted out hurriedly, "I think Mr. Gideon should take you all back to the nap room." After corralling the children – sans Jesse who still stood next to Gideon – into a loose embrace, Sarah managed to push them in Gideon's direction. "Hurry along, now! Don't dawdle!"
Gideon's face twisted into a frown at how desperate she sounded. Immediately he flew into Irene mode. "Are you okay?" Tucking the book under his arm, he strode closer and peered directly into Sarah's face. "Are you feeling sick? Faint? Dizzy?" Placing the back of his hand on her forehead, he said in a relieved voice, "No fever, so that's good. Still, maybe you should go home. There's no sense pushing it your first day back."
"Have you been ill?" Jareth asked, sounding both demanding and accusatory.
"It's none of your business," Sarah snapped back angrily, "Just stand there and be quiet!" At Gideon's hurt expression, Sarah quickly added, "I'm sorry, Gideon. I didn't mean y…" Softening her voice, she said, "I know you're just worried, but I'm fine. Really."
Looking far from convinced, Gideon opened his mouth, but Sarah got there first and with eyes that pleaded, asked, "Can you take them back, please?"
"Sure," he agreed, after a moment's hesitation, fully intending to revisit the subject once the children weren't around to hear. Pasting on a smile for the benefit of the kids, he briskly clapped his hands together while announcing with lots of enthusiasm, "Okay gang, let's all head back to the nap area."
With great reluctance, and a whole slew of grumbling from Mary Lou, Gideon managed to rustle the swarm of youngsters back into the other room. Before turning the corner, he held out the red book and said, "I found it in the back seat of the car. It must have fallen out of the box of supplies somehow."
Sarah eyed the object with barely concealed horror. "Uh… why don't you take it with you? Don't read it to the kids!" Noting Gideon's perplexed expression at her overly vehement request, she said more calmly, "I'm certain the boys won't enjoy it at all."
"Take the book, Sarah," Jareth commanded quietly.
Giving him a side-long glare, she bit out waspishly, "No!"
Jareth snapped in exasperation, "Once summoned I cannot leave empty-handed. Answers could be found within its' pages. If you do not take the book, in all probability, I cannot return. That being the case, it is of the utmost importance that you obey me."
"You're not the boss of me," Sarah proclaimed angrily, inadvertently amusing Jareth with her childishness. "If it's so damned important, why don't you take the blasted thing? Believe me; I'm more than ready to see the back of you!"
Motioning in Gideon's direction with his lustrously gleaming head, Jareth patiently explained, "The object which your fellow-human holds has not been touched by Fae hands for several centuries. I have no way of knowing the consequences if I were to touch it after it having been Above for so long a time."
"Afraid of getting contaminated by mortal cooties," Sarah asked derisively. "Too bad! I'm not touching that thing with a ten-foot pole."
Frowning, Jareth murmured fiercely, "Objects created from magic yield to the spell placed upon it by the creator. I do not know who created the book, but the rules must be observed." Sarah rolled her eyes. As if, he even knew, how to follow the rules. "My point being that this particular item was created for mortal use; not Fae. You, however, have held it extensively and not suffered dire repercussions. If it is the only way for us to discover what is happening; then you must take it"
Sarah, whose eyes sparkled angrily, huffed through tightly gritted teeth. "Not suffered?! Are you kidding me? That thing brought me nothing but trouble. I was lured into flights of fancy by the words on those pages. Not to mention the fact that it sucked me into a world of make believe where I almost completely lost myself. Worse, it almost cost me Toby!"
Clicking his tongue and sounding very disappointed, Jareth muttered quietly, "I had thought you would have grown out of this pension for blaming others for your misdeeds." Sarah's face clouded over with guilt. "It was your imagination which woke the books' magic. The blame for all that occurred, lies squarely with you, and no one else."
Sarah gazed at her nemesis with such a forlorn expression that Jareth felt his chest tighten in response. How sad and vulnerable she appeared. Regardless of how she appeared to him now, he knew full well that Sarah Williams had hidden strength at her disposal.
"It is not mere coincidence that has brought us together once more," Jareth pointed out reasonably. "There must be a purpose to all of this. Clearly, I was not summoned in the unusual manner. Let us discover the nature of this fascinating phenomenon. Repeating myself is annoying and tiresome, but there seems to be no other recourse where you are concerned, so I say to you once more: Take the book, for it might hold the answer."
Torn between fear and curiosity, Sarah hesitated, then having made up her mind she whispered, "Give it to me, Gideon."
"Sarah," Gideon began in a soft voice, "I think we should call the doctor."
Puzzled, Sarah asked, "Whatever for?"
"Have you been listening to yourself," Gideon chided gently. "You've been holding a conversation with thin air. I'm worried that you could be having an adverse reaction to the medication. While you were in the bathroom at the hospital, the doctor did mention that a small percentage of people might have hallucinations. It was something we were specifically to keep an eye out for, just in case."
If only it were that simple, Sarah thought miserably.
"No, no it's nothing like that at all," she was quick to assure him. "I do feel a slight head-ache coming on, so I think I'll go into the office and get a Tylenol. The quiet will do me good, and maybe I'll take a nap on the couch. You go back and play with the kids and get them their snack. The little monsters are probably starving by now."
"If you're sure," he answered still worried.
Nodding, she replied, "I am. Now, give me the blasted thing and get going."
Jareth had no way of knowing what the outcome would be once Sarah had the book in her grasp. It was eons old magic, and when dealing with such magic one must exercise great care. Often, it was unstable and quite volatile. This being the case, he watched with intense, glittering eyes as she reached tentatively for the enchanted item. It was almost anti-climatic when absolutely nothing of import occurred upon the tips of her fingers gliding over the books' cover.
Sarah let out a huge sigh of pent up emotion, clutching the book to her heaving breasts. It was a massive relief that not a whit happened. No flashes of light, no mental pictures bombarding her mind, and no menacing Goblin King trying to tempt her with promises that he had no intention of fulfilling. She did, however, notice a slight tingling coming from the book, and while it may not have been affecting her mind with broken images – as it did when Toby had given it to her the first time – it was having an effect on her memory.
Frowning, Jareth murmured, "I do not understand." Crossing his arms over his chest, he continued sounding contemplative, "I find it highly improbable, considering the circumstances which must have been manipulated in order for us to have come to this point that this book plays no part in our unexpected meeting." Sighing, he said, "Clearly, I am mistaken."
Jareth hadn't been mistaken. The longer she held onto the book, the more long-forgotten memories seeped slowly into her brain. For a huge chunk of her life, she had gone on believing that the majority of her adventures in Jareth's land had been figments of her own imagination. Slowly – as she'd grown up – those imaginative bouts of fiction and been firmly relegated into childish fairy-tales; eventually all but forgotten.
Even when Toby had mentioned the Labyrinth, Sarah's first inclination had been to denounce it as a story she'd made up, although she'd had no real recollections of it all. Not until he had insisted that she take the book. After she had, it had been confusion and chaos in both her waking and dreaming world.
Instead of informing Jareth that the book was actually working, or whatever, she quietly said to Gideon, "Thanks. You better go."
Sarah sounded so defeated that Gideon felt compelled to pull her into a tight hug, whispering in her ear, "You rest, dear heart. I'll make sure the little tykes keep it down to a dull roar. I'll check on you frequently too."
Sarah felt the burn of tears and fought desperately to keep them at bay. No need to worry him further. Hugging him back, she managed rasp out, "You're the best friend a girl could ask for, have I told you that lately?"
Chuckling, Gideon answered playfully, "Not yet today. You've been too busy telling me to back off and quit being such a mother hen. Besides, there's really no need to go around professing your undying love and devotion. I do know that you appreciate and love me."
"I hope so," she muttered into his shoulder. "I'd really hate for you to think otherwise just because I don't stand in the town square ringing a bell, and declaring it out loud on a hourly basis."
Rubbing her back in a soothing up and down motion, Gideon replied, "No worries on that score, my love.
Jareth watched this intimate exchange with cool, calculation. It wasn't in his nature to be moved by mortal exchanges of affection. In point of fact, he was seldom the recipient of physical expressions of emotion. Therefore, he considered such actions highly embarrassing at best and uncomfortably cumbersome at worst. Other than Willum's infrequent clasping of the shoulder, Jareth rarely allowed anyone the liberty of touching him.
Exceptions were made, of course, such as in the event of trying to conceive a child. There was no other recourse other than physical intimacy in such cases although, even then, Jareth had kept himself somewhat removed from the process. Not to say that he didn't enjoy indulging in pleasures of the flesh; his body reacted to physical stimuli just like any others' would. Still, while his body might respond, his heart remained untouched and aloof.
Pulling herself together, Sarah forced a small smile to form around her lips before gently disentangling herself from Gideon's grasp. Patting his face lightly, she ordered good-naturedly, "Get out of here, Mr. Gideon. You have a tribe of loveable troublemakers to give your attention to and, with me out of the picture; I can only assume that you'll have your hands full for awhile."
Placing a smacking kiss to her forehead, Gideon answered with a grin, "Your wish is my command." Face turning suddenly serious, he added, "If you're still not yourself after your nap, I'm calling the doctor. Adverse reactions – especially hallucinations – are nothing to slough off as unimportant. Okay?"
"Fine," Sarah said, seeming to give in gracefully.
Satisfied, Gideon turned and made his way back to the playroom.
Shoulders slumped, Sarah made herself meet Jareth's searching gaze. It was disconcerting, now that she could remember, or - rather was the case, made to remember more clearly – their former dealings with each other. He'd treated her badly from the outset. Sarah supposed that, in some ways, she'd deserved it. Wishing Toby away had been inexcusable of her, but back then, she'd been an unhappy child with a silly notion that everything in her life was unfair. Toby. Irene. Her mother abandoning her only child for another man and a career. Her father's attention having been divided up between three people instead of solely on herself. All of that, and so many more, had fallen into the Unfair category in her mind.
The Goblin King – in her opinion – had taken unfair advantage of her misery. He'd ferreted out her deepest longings and desires attempting to use them against her. He was a cold, unfeeling adversary, mocking her every move and plying her with lie after lie in order to stop her from reaching his castle. Their battle of wits had almost ended badly, but in the end she had defeated him. Him, and his lousy Labyrinth.
"Your human friend seems quite taken with you," Jareth remarked casually. "It is a shame that he does not yet realize that his hopes of mating with you will all come to naught."
Sarah, tempted to smack that snide smirk off of his handsome face, had to clench her hands into fists around the book to keep from doing it. Instead, she snapped angrily, "My relationship with Gideon is positively none of your business. Leave him out of this mess."
Negligently shrugging a shoulder, Jareth answered back, "I was merely pointing out an obvious fact. After all, are you not in possession of the fact that I have a wife? Is not turnaround fair play?" Tapping his pointed chin reflectively, he mentioned with a sneer, "I do remember, when last we met, how you went on and on about the importance of fairness, or the lack thereof. Of course, that was merely your flawed perception of the events which took place."
"You did everything in your power to prevent me from saving Toby!" Waving the book in front of his stony-featured face, she went on bitterly, "The book has restored my memory. I now recall everything, everything you did!" Jareth's eyes narrowed. Oblivious to the danger, she continued, "The lies and empty promises. How you cheated at your own game! The oubliette! That blasted peach and what the poison did to me!"
"Poison? I never…"
Ignoring Jareth's attempt to speak, Sarah cut him off by stepping closer until barely an inch separated them. "You were vile then, and I seriously doubt that has changed." Narrowing her own green eyes gleaming with hatred, she spat out triumphantly, "I beat you before, Goblin King and if I have to… I'll do it again! You have no power over me, you filthy bastard!"
Nostrils flaring violently, along with the tightening of his fine jaw-line, were two subtle indications of the rage coursing through Jareth's entire being. The throbbing vein in his temple and harsh breathing were less subtle, and an intelligent person would have heeded those signs. Sarah was beyond caring; so caught up was she in her own ire and bile.
"Preying on helpless children, for nothing other than, your own amusement? It doesn't get much more twisted and perverted than that." Sweeping her gaze up and down his form, she uttered derisively, "There's nothing royal in such barbaric behavior. You're a coward! A sniveling, whining coward!"
"Enough!" Jareth bellowed, grabbing her roughly by the arms. Pushing his face close to hers, he snarled, "How dare you speak to me in such a way."
Refusing to back down in the face of his frightening visage, Sarah hissed back, "I dare it! Whole-heartedly, I dare it!"
Jareth's finger bit into the soft flesh of her forearms as he shook her violently. Sarah's slender neck snapped back and forth causing her vision to swim alarmingly, and she feared she might pass out again. It was this, more than anything that had Sarah fearing for her safety. She did not want to have another seizure, and she wasn't at all sure that Jareth's brutality wouldn't bring on another one.
"You…" Jareth growled, "You… headstrong, foolish, impertinent, misinformed, child!" Each word was punctuated by a vicious shake; Jareth was ferocious in his seemingly justified retribution. "I would whip you within an inch of your life! Flay that smooth, lovely white skin from your bare back until you begged me for mercy!" Gripping her ashen, bemused and – yes, there it finally was, Jareth thought with smug satisfaction – terror-stricken face in between vice-like fingers he sneered venomously, "Do you know what I would do then, sweet Sarah? After I have you before me… at my feet, cowed and quivering in agony, begging me for the release that only I can give you?" He paused for a heartbeat before saying waspishly, "Nothing! I would do nothing to ease your suffering, my little imbecile."
Sarah surprised them both, by letting out a small, hollow laugh before answering breathlessly, only half conscious, "I would expect nothing more or less from the King of demons."
With a violently muttered oath, Jareth seized Sarah's pony-tail, yanking it back sharply. Ignoring her startled moan of protest, he captured her quivering lips with his own; savaging them brutally with his sharp teeth. It was an attack, make no mistake. With ruthless intent, he plundered their delicate, cushiony contours. Her frantic struggles were pointless; holding her resolutely by the waist and hair, he did as he pleased. Not even when the bitter, copper taste of blood seeped between his marauding mouth did he cease his inhuman assault.
What finally drew his attention from teaching this mortal brat a much needed lesson was the strange hissing and burn he felt coming from his chest area. Sarah had the book pressed against the breastplate of his black armor which, he noted was giving rise to small spirals of smoke and flame! The book was melting his armor! Before he had a chance to make sense of this odd occurrence, he was forcibly struck alongside the head by a book-wielding, outraged Sarah.
Clearing his spinning head, Jareth took a moment; artfully unhooking the smoldering, fire-ridden armor, letting it fall to the floor with a loud clunk. Ducking, he barely managed to dodge another blow at Sarah's hand; hearing the air whistle as the book passed over his head. Grabbing her wrist in mid-air he ground the delicate bones together until she whimpered and cried out. He could not allow her to land another strike. The acrid aroma of sizzling hair reached his nose, and he could feel the slight sting of a burn to one of his ears. This book was beyond dangerous to his well-being!
Sarah seemed to call upon untapped, unforeseen strength and ripped her wrist from his grasp. Taking the magical menace in both hands, she grinned nastily, and let out a warrior-like yell intent on bashing his brains in for all she was worth. However, the strike never hit its mark because Jareth, intent on saving himself, managed to place his hands directly onto Sarah's hoping the book would not be able to eat away at his gloves through the protection of her skin. The moment their hands came together – united with that of the book – Jareth's senses toppled sideways.
The next thing he knew, he was stumbling awkwardly in order to keep his balance. No easy feat considering he was now bearing Sarah's weight as well as his own. He placed his arms around her waist to counter-balance, but Sarah had other ideas and used the point of her elbow to jab him sharply in the middle. Finally, righting himself – as well as the ungrateful wretch he was currently attempting to subdue – he was able to get Sarah's arms by her sides, pinning them with his own.
"Will you be still," he rasped into her ear, neatly avoiding her attempt to bash him in the face with the back of her head.
"I bid thee welcome, Jareth, King of the Goblins and Lord of the Labyrinth."
The voice was soft but powerful, seeming to echo all around him. He felt Sarah go completely still in his arms. Standing before them was a woman of stately beauty; tall, with long limbs and fiery red hair. Her eyes were an odd golden shade while her skin was dark brown and, even from here, Jareth could tell that it was marred by wrinkles. She must be of a very great age, for the Fae Folk was seldom bothered by such things unless quite, quite elderly.
Smiling benignly, the woman fixed her peculiar gaze upon Sarah. Then, those amber orbs lit up, glowing with a flickering flame dancing in their very center. Sarah gasped, and Jareth would be lying if he didn't admit that he too was impressed. He was of the opinion that this… being, whatever she was, was responsible for all that had occurred this day.
Raising one arm, she crossed her hand over her chest, laying it between her breasts in formal greeting. The being then graced Sarah with a slight bow at the waist before whispering in a most reverent tone, "Welcome home, Sarah; Savior of the Labyrinth and of all which the Goblin King holds most dear."