I'm baaack! For a limited time only, of course, because, curse it, the end of the semester is evil and all my professors are Teufelswerkzeuge. So I don't have much (any) time to myself. Um. . . This is a sequel to To the Victor and as far as I can tell, this is going to take us deeper into the Underground and Fae history. I meant it to be a comedy, but my characters got away from me again. *sigh* That's all I'm going to say right now, 'cause I need to do work and I don't want to reveal too much of what's going to happen. Oh, and, sorry, but no hentai here, folks. It's much more interesting to leave it to your imagination. R & R por favor!
Ladymage Samiko ;)
Part 1 ~ An Unexpected Guest
Mmmmm. . . Sarah stretched lazily, enjoying the warmth as she snuggled closer to her new husband. Her new, sleeping husband. Sarah smiled smugly. Last night had been rather. . . energetic. By all rights, she should be sleeping, too, but the intensity of the light flooding in through the open-walled tower room had forced her to acknowledge the fact that it was morning. Jareth must be used to it, she thought, since he was still sleeping like a baby.
It was a rare occurrence to be able to watch him sleep, his face unguarded, body relaxed. It hadn't been easy for him, Sarah knew, to live for the past year and a half on Earth, and she didn't blame him. With the memories of his slaughtered family, it sometimes surprised Sarah that he had been able to finally accept her and her circle of friends and family. Still, a part of him always remained tense, wary of each and every human he saw. Now that he was home, Sarah could finally view that peaceful, still expression she had seen only once before.
Of course, both his peace and hers would remain equally short.
"Jareth! Get your ass out of bed NOW!" Now why was she shouting at Jareth? He needed his sleep.
Wait a second.
She wasn't saying anything.
"Bloody hell!" Jareth groaned. "Is the damned sky about to collapse, or is it just a measly goblin revolt? If that's all, Sarah, I swear you're going to regret this."
"Uh, Jareth?" Sarah said hesitantly. "It wasn't me."
"Who the hell else could it have been? You know we sent all the goblins away." His eyes glared blearily at his wife.
"Her." Sarah pointed across the room, where a young Fae woman stood, impatiently tapping her foot against the floor. You could tell she was becoming annoyed, as the sound became louder with each tap.
Jareth peered over the edge of the sheets, levering himself onto his elbow. "Damnation!" he shouted, and disappeared beneath the sheets once more.
"You can't hide from me, Jareth," the woman threatened. "I have to talk to you and talk to you I will. Now."
"I don't know who you are," Sarah told her angrily, "but who said you could be here? This is our bedroom, in our castle, in our kingdom, damn it! And this is our honeymoon! We'd like you to leave us alone!"
"Oh, I beg your pardon, your Majesty," the woman said snidely. "I certainly didn't mean to disturb your High-and-Mightiness. But I meant what I said."
Sarah suddenly found the place next to her empty. Imposing in rich black armor, Jareth faced down the fae, who seemed almost child-like in size next to him.
"What do you want, Faeline," he growled. "I will only tolerate your childishness and your insults so long. Now kindly explain your rude interruption before I let you go play with the Ice Dragons."
"Don't you dare play that game with me, Goblin King," she hissed. "You can only dream of wielding the power I have in my little finger! Challenging me would be signing your own death warrant!"
"Really," Jareth drawled, allowing magic to flow from him, creating an aura that tripled and quadrupled in intensity. The air surrounding him shimmered like a desert horizon.
"Jareth. . ." Faeline breathed. "Damn you, Jareth. Even I never thought you would stoop so low. Bonding with a human to gain power. You make me sick." Her lips curled in disgust.
Before she could blink, Jareth's magic lashed out at her, pinning her to the wall. "Never, never make such insinuations about my marriage again," he snarled, "or I will return you to the primeval muck from which you crawled."
Even though she could not remove herself, Faeline laughed scornfully. "Hit too close to home, have I?"
"Jareth!" Sarah appeared beside him and laid her hand on his arm. "This won't help any," she said quietly. "Once rumors start, you can't stop them. She looks like she's going to start this one. And she won't believe the truth when it's staring her in the face."
His eyes shone with amusement and love as he looked at her. "I have married a veritable font of wisdom," he told her.
"And I've got the most talented man in all the worlds," she replied. "Not to mention the vainest."
"Damn straight," he replied, smirking.
"This is disgusting," Faeline muttered. "How can you stand it, Jareth? How can you let yourself be so. . . degraded? How can she even think to--" She stopped herself.
"'She?'" Jareth pounced on her slip. "Of whom do you speak, Faeline? Answer me!" A tremor of magic as she glared at him defiantly, then a bowed head.
"Lilith," she replied sullenly. Sarah noticed Jareth stiffen. "The Genetrix has declared that a formal Fae ceremony will be celebrated for your marriage." He relaxed slightly, but not entirely. "I was sent to bring your whore back in preparation." Faeline's eyes burned. "Now will you let me go, you damned diblide?"
Almost negligently, Jareth loosed the magic that held her. "I was never diblide, Faeline. And I would thank you to remember it. You may go. I will explain to Sarah the situation and escort her to the Court."
"Very well, diblide," the woman said deliberately. "I shall inform the High Fae of your decision. But you know," she tossed back as she began to shape-shift, "you were much more pleasing when the only sounds you made were moans and the cry of my name. And all I needed to do to excite you was put my hand on--"
"That's enough, Faeline," Jareth grated. A cawing laugh was the only reply as a glossy black crow winged its way across the Labyrinth.
"Jareth." He heard his wife behind him. "Did she mean what I think she meant?" Her voice carried a hard edge to it.
"Yes," he answered simply, turning to her. "I was her. . . lover is the wrong term. Plaything is closer."
"Oh. How long?" She kept her voice carefully neutral, but that cold edge remained. Her eyes were lowered.
"A few weeks only. She tires of one man quickly."
This was worrying. Distant calm was his tactic. In Sarah, it wasn't just upsetting, it was entirely wrong. "Sarah, are you alright?"
"I know what she's trying to do, Jareth," she said tightly. "And I refuse to let her. But I think you'd better explain." Finally meeting his eyes, hers proved to be luminous with unshed tears.
"You deserve an explanation," he agreed, holding his hand out to her. Slowly, she took it and Jareth pulled her tight against him as he transported them to the garden.
A small place, containing the few non-sentient plants of the Labyrinth, the garden adjoined the room Sarah had used when she had previously stayed at the castle. It was quiet here, perfect for reflection. Or confession. He settled them together on a fluff-covered bench, which folded itself around them in comfortable warmth.
"As you know, Sarah," he began, his eyes distant, "there are two types of Fae, the Tressa Siabrae, the High, or Stronger, Fae and the Diblide Siabrae, the Lesser Fae. The High Fae are the most powerful, as they mastered the magic of the Underground and abandoned their humanity. The Lesser Fae chose to retain their humanity and possess only the magic they had prior to the Migration. I am-- I was neither of these. I cultivated the magic of this place, and so the Diblide fear and despise me, but I did not abandon my humanity. Therefore do the Tressa despise me and spurn me, for I was not as powerful as they. Still, at some occasions they tolerate my existence.
"Such an occasion was the wedding of Faeline and Dabrydd, that poor unfortunate known as her husband. Remember I told you a Fae wedding lasts a month?" He felt her head nod against his chest. "The reason is this: In the first two weeks are the sexes totally separate. The bride and groom see each other only during the evening ceremonies. During the latter two, again with the exception of the twilight ceremonies and celebrations, the couple spend the time entirely with members of the opposite sex. Finally, the couple is allowed one night together before the final, binding ceremony."
"How strange!" Sarah murmured. "You're only in your love's company for a few hours a day and then you spend the rest with bunches of men. How-- how-- how frustrating!"
"Fae marriages aren't about love, my dear," Jareth replied. "They are about politics and power."
"'"Not love," quoth she, "but vanity, sets love a task like that,"'" Sarah remarked.
"And, as you know," he continued, "we are all unspeakably vain."
She giggled and turned to kiss his chin. "Really?" she drawled.
"Really," he grinned back at her. "Now. Fae use these ceremonies to create and further alliances, each at his or her own discretion. And they usually have an unspeakably good time while doing it. Only on the final night are the bride and groom permitted to speak to each other about what they have done. Their partners are also allowed--but not required--to do so on that final night. And only if they are pleased with the mixture of fidelity and ruthlessness the other has shown does the marriage take place."
"Jareth," Sarah said, "this is seriously beginning to freak me out. So the weddings are a chance to sleep with everyone before you get married and use that to make power alliances and that kinda thing? Am I going to have to do that?"
"No. Since Lilith has decreed it must be so, we shall celebrate as is customary, but no one will force you into anyone's bed." He held her closer. "I won't allow it."
"Nice to know I have a man to defend my honor," she remarked, only half teasing. "Now how does this relate to the Wicked Witch of the West?"
"Faeline?" Jareth's voice took on a distant quality. "Faeline has fewer morals than a cat and takes every opportunity to indulge herself. I had no idea why I was invited to the festivities. It became painfully obvious when she began telling me how handsome and intriguing and powerful I was."
"What happened then?"
"I told her no. I had no intention of being used as her plaything. Unfortunately. . ." His voice trailed off.
"Jareth?" Sarah turned over. "Jareth, what happened?"
"It turned out that I had no choice in the matter. As Tressa Siabrae, she was more powerful than I. That's not to say that she didn't have more important liaisons, but she always seemed to find time for me. She seemed to enjoy the. . . distaste I had for the whole affair. And the personal disgust I always experienced afterward."
Sarah gave him a squeeze. "Well, you're my husband now," she declared, "and if you're going to protect my honor, then I'm going to protect yours. That little bitch'll be sorry if she tries to mess with what's mine.
"But I have to admit," she continued as he chuckled, "I'm not sure how I'll be able to face all those Fae without you. I mean, two weeks, Jareth! I barely know proper table manners; how am I going to play politics with these people and not be swamped?"
"Just be your usual stubborn, selfish, over-opinionated self and you will fit in perfectly," he teased, before he was punched in the stomach.
"Seriously, Jareth. I'm going to be with a bunch of people I don't know, who have customs I probably can't even imagine, and probably are all going to try to get something from me!"
"Hmm. . ." Jareth tapped his finger against his chin, thinking. "There really are no rules of etiquette you need to know, save that no one speaks to the Genetrix unless spoken to. Otherwise, I imagine that you should act as you would at any other event. The first, of course, is your introduction to the Genetrix and her ceremonial acceptance of our proposed marriage. I will be with you there and as long as you say nothing until she addresses you. all will be well."
"Jareth?" Sarah asked curiously. "Why do you call her 'Genetrix?' What does that mean?"
"It means, my dear, that she is the mother of our race, the one responsible for the existence of each and every one of us. It is by her will alone that we are here."
"Wow, I guess that's a lot more than just queen or empress, isn't it?"
"It certainly is," he replied. "Now why don't we go have some breakfast? I'm starved."
"Hmm," Sarah replied abstractedly.
"Sarah?" Jareth queried as he tried to get a good look at her face, which was screened by tangled masses of hair. "Are you all right?"
She turned to him, eyes wide and crystal-pale. "I'm scared," she whispered. "I know you're trying to make me feel better, but I'm still scared."
"Ah, love. . . " He held her close, willing a protective warmth around her. He kissed the top of her head. "I know, but there is nothing I can do. Lilith has proclaimed what must be and she is the supreme power here. I say, though, why don't we invite our friends from Earth?" Sarah looked up at him questioningly. "I am sure they would love to visit and there presence would provide some familiarity and protection for you."
Sarah smiled shakily. "For you, too," she said. "They're all better than that witch and you know them better, I think, than any of the other Fae."
"True," he answered. "So, shall we invite our friends to the ball?"
"Let's," Sarah agreed.