Finally! I return to my poor, abandoned Labyrinth fic. I crave your pardon for making you wait so long. All I can say is that Jareth was being his usual irritating self and refusing to tell me what was happening. But I managed to, er, persuade him to tell me. I'm afraid, though, that there isn't much of him in this part. However, I finally managed to introduce my favorite character, Melukeh. Oh, I do love that boy. He's so much fun! I hope you come to enjoy him as much as I do. Um, I don't know that this part is that long, but I'll try to make the next one longer to apologize for my absence. Well, anyhow, have fun!
Ladymage ; )
Part 6 ~ Aftershocks and Other Forces of Nature
The remaining members of the group sat in silence, Jareth brooding darkly, the others staring at each other in amazement.
Lily was the first to speak. "Did someone shoot me when I wasn't looking?" she asked. "I know life hasn't been normal, but this is getting way out of hand."
"It's kinda hard to believe," Matt commented. "I mean, we've known Celi for years. And now we find out she's got a whole other past we knew nothing about. I mean, the girl lived over four thousand years ago!"
"That's a long time," Lily remarked vaguely. "Makes you think, don't it?"
"Think what?" asked Matt. "I don't know what to think."
"I don't know what there is to think about," Alan said suddenly, fiercely. "Can you honestly say it's any stranger than what's already happened? Does it really change your perception of Celi that much? I don't know about you, but I don't give a damn about what she's been or done. She's my friend and I trust her and that's all there is to it!" With that, he sprang up and raced out the door, slamming it behind him.
"He's right," Sarah said slowly after a few stunned seconds. "Jareth, you know he's right. Celi's our friend. She's a good person. I can't believe she'd do anything out of spite like that."
"I know no such thing," Jareth replied tersely.
"Then you're a blind fool!" Sarah unexpectedly shouted. "I can't believe you, Jareth! Can't you see that what you're thinking goes against everything else? Celi's not like that! She's never been anything but a good friend to you, to us. I may not have been there four thousand years ago, but neither were you! And I think you could at least give Celi the benefit of the doubt!"
"And I would think," he ground out, mimicking her, "that you would allow that I have somewhat more knowledge about this affair than you." He turned, assuming owl form before she could say anything more and flying out of a magically opened window.
"Damn him!" Sarah seethed. "I hate it when he does this! He always shuts down on me! Damn him!" She stamped her foot in fury and stalked out of the room.
Lily and Matt looked at each other.
"So. . ." Matt said. "What do you want to do now?"
Hitoshii found Cecilia at a window not far from the room they had just left. She stared out at the magnificent grounds of the castle, her face just as expressionless as it had been. He moved to stand beside her, maintaining a respectful distance.
"We should return to the party," he said idly, betraying his worry with not even a glance.
"We should," Cecilia agreed.
"Would you do me the honor of accompanying me, then?"
She smiled at him, then, a polite, social smile. "It is my duty to accompany you wherever you go, my lord," she replied, taking the arm he offered and her eyes told him so much more than either of them could allow themselves to express.
Alan gazed after Hitoshii with a slightly wistful expression, wishing he could follow, but knowing that the two needed time alone. Besides, Celi and Hitoshii were so perfect that sometimes it hurt. Ah, well. . . For himself, he knew better now.
One of the fae turned a corner into the hallway. A servant, obviously, as he carried a tray almost larger than himself with envied ease. "Excuse me," Alan tried. "Could you show me back to the ballroom, please?" He figured it was the best place to wait for the others, but he couldn't remember the way they had come.
The fae stopped, startled, and stared at Alan so long in silence that he began to wonder if he was growing a third eye, or something equally unusual. "Of course, young one," the fae finally replied, though he appeared even younger than Alan. "It is this one's duty to serve the Tressa Siabrae and any of their guests. I, myself, go to wait at the festivities. If you will follow me, young one, I will ensure that you arrive safely."
Curiouser and curiouser, as Alice would say, Alan thought as he followed the lithe figure down the hallway. But I have to remember, this isn't my world. Things may not be the same and they may not be as they seem. But that is true of Earth, as well.
The pair reached one of the entrances to the ballroom and the small fae opened the door and motioned for Alan to enter. Once again, Alan was overwhelmed by the lights, the color, the gaiety of the gathering, especially now that the festivities were in full swing. Almost immediately, Alan was pounced on (there really was no other way to describe it) by the fae he had met earlier.
"Alan, love!" the fae crooned. "Do come and join us; we would love to hear a human's point of view in our discussion."
"Especially from such a handsome human, ne, Mennwyn?" added a small redhead.
"Of course, dear, of course!" Mennwyn answered, his black eyes sparkling as his arm went around Alan's waist, drawing him over to the knot of fae. "Handsome men of any type are always appreciated around here. Do remember that, will you, love?" he whispered in Alan's ear. Alan started in surprise, but couldn't retreat from the fae's grip.
"So, what do you think of tonight's events, lovely?" the redhead asked him. "I must say, I never expected Jareth to mate with a human."
"Well, I--" Alan searched desperately for an appropriate answer, distracted by the proximity of the half-dozen fae around him.
"Good evening, loves!" Alan heard a smooth voice behind him and looked up to see its owner crossing the room. He felt relieved at the interruption, then stood stock still, stunned.
Smiling flirtatiously at a man across from him was the most beautiful face he had ever seen. Smooth lines, the barest hint of cheekbones, long eyes highlighted with deep black liner and bronze shadow, lips colored a deep red-brown. All framed by a long, curling, dark gold mane.
On any other man, the effect would have been effeminate, ridiculous. On him, it was beauty, pure and simple beauty.
The beauty turned slowly to Alan and winked, then proceeded to prowl among the group. Alan took a small step back. Beautiful or not, this man was dangerous.
"Mmm. . . Heran, how are you doing this evening?" he purred at the tall brunet across from Alan.
Heran smiled down at the lithe form in flowing shirt and floor-length tunic. "Predatory, little one. Predatory," he answered.
"I think we can accommodate that," the beauty murmured in reply.
"Melukeh." Mennwyn, standing very close to Alan, said the word almost as a command. For a moment, Alan thought it was a command. "Melukeh, this is our guest tonight, Alan. He is one of Lady Sarah's friends." 'Lady' had the merest hint of sarcasm. "Alan, this is Melukeh, the court whore." Alan was taken aback at the man's blunt statement. The beauty blinked slowly, calling attention to his thick lashes, but gave no other sign of his reaction.
"All too true," he sighed. "Poor me. I cannot decide on one of these worthies long enough to make a commitment. But then, they are generous enough to let me share them."
"Of course we're generous," the readhead replied sardonically. "Considering the prices you charge."
"But I do make it worth the price, don't I, love?" Melukeh looked pleadingly at the man. "After all, a lad has to keep himself fed and clothed."
"Melukeh," Mennwyn's voice lashed out, whip-sharp. "We tire of your banalities. Leave us." It seemed to Alan that several of the men were disappointed, especially Heran, but they said nothing, making him wonder. Melukeh pouted, but managed to maneuver behind Alan, startling him when he felt Melukeh's hands on his shoulders.
"So cruel," he sighed. "If I cannot remain in your company, may I borrow this little morsel, then? I must have some amusement when I am not graced by your company."
"Very well." Mennwyn waved them both off. As long fingers gripped his wrist and an arm circled his waist, Alan could do nothing but follow. As he left the ballroom, he could have sworn he heard the men laughing.
He found himself in a small side room just off the main ballroom, just large enough to hold a vanity with a large, ornate mirror, a small trunk, and a bed. A very large bed. Alan began to back towards the door.
"No, you don't," Melukeh said, guiding him to the vanity's chair. While still smooth, his voice had lowered a tone or two, his vowels broadened slightly. And despite his slim appearance, his arms were very strong.
As if reading his thoughts, Melukeh murmured, "My arms get a lot of exercise." Alan didn't want to know. He was seated in the chair and looked up at the man. Unconciously, he began to tremble.
But Melukeh was moving away from him again. He leapt into the high bed to lounge against the mound of pillows there. "Relax, love" he advised Alan. "I've done all that I'm going to do to you. Or for you," he added. "I don't work with unwilling clients."
"So why am I here?" Alan asked, giving a credible imitation of a steady voice.
Melukeh gave him a sharp look from beneath lowered lashes. "I brought you in here because it is a far better place than out in that crowd." He gestured towards the doors.
"Why? Because I'm competition?" Alan threw back, trying to regain some ground.
"Hardly," Melukeh drawled. "If you developed a fancy for one of them, you would be very sorry."
"And what if one of them develops a fancy for me?"
"You would be even sorrier." The courtesan's voice was sharp, his dark eyes piercing. "They can use me as their fancy takes them, but you would not even be paid. You would find yourself--even tonight, perhaps--at a party you never intended to go to. A party for two, or five, or ten. And then it wouldn't matter what your fancy was." He turned away from Alan, becoming distant again. "Take my advice, little boy. Keep your distance from the Tressa Siabrae. You won't like it if you don't. They think even less of you than they do of me, a Diblide."
"Why are you doing this?" Alan's voice was sharper than he meant.
"Jareth did a favor for me, once." Melukeh rolled onto his back, stretching like a cat. "I owe him one."
"What kind of 'favor?'"
"You don't trust me, do you?" he mused, still staring at the ceiling. "What is more, you don't approve of me. Well, that's a whore's life, I suppose. Male or female. The men that use us feel superior, everyone else looks down on us from their high moral ground." He waved his hand in vague dismissal. "Doesn't matter. As long as I can get my money, doesn't make a damned difference what anyone thinks."
"What are you trying to pull?" Alan demanded.
"'To pull?'" Melukeh rose on his elbow, looking confused. "What does pulling have to do with anything?"
"Oh, never mind," Alan said, exasperated. "I mean, how do I know you're telling me the truth? What do you owe Jareth?"
"Like I said, I owe him a favor. Nothing more, nothing less." He began to look angry. "The details are between him and me. Nothing to do with you or with anyone, even Lady Sarah." He threw himself back down on the bed. "I've done my duty, so whether you believe me or not is up to you." Turning his head to eye the boy shrewdly, he finished, "But somehow, I don't think you're willing to risk it if I am telling you the truth.
"Well, you can go back out to the wolves or not, as you like, but take my advice: Never, ever be alone as long as you're here. You've no magic of your own and even your friends cannot react quickly enough if one of the High Fae decides he wants you. Oh, they'll find you and get you back, perhaps even destroy the Fae who took you. But they won't be in time to stop what he plans to do to you. Whatever that may be. So stay with someone you trust, little one, someone with magic, hopefully."
Alan shrugged. "What difference does it make, anyway?" he whispered to himself.
Once again, the courtesan gave him a look, but said nothing. Then, rolling onto his stomach, he gave the boy a come-hither look. "So," he said in a sultry voice, "shall I entertain you?" He broke into a grin at Alan's wide-eyed horror. "I don't know what's popular where you come from, but I rather like draughts, myself."
Alan gazed helplessly at the exotic creature who now wanted to play checkers with him. "Uh, sure," he replied, confused. Then he decided to throw reason to the wind. "Why the hell not?"
"Oh, lovely!" Melukeh clapped his hands together softly in anticipation, then flew to find his board. "Now, white or black?"