I do not own these characters...for the most part.
The first time had been a joke.
Jareth had erected the Labyrinth only a handful of human years before he'd heard the wish. Even if he'd recognized the laughing tone of voice with which the words had been spoken, he could not resist trying out the great new challenge he'd inadvertently created for those who were so foolish to wish away their children.
And so, taking the cheap excuse, he'd descended on the Emerald Isle of Eire, closest to the land he'd once been from, and granted a young girl's wish.
"Ciera, get back here you disgraceful waif! You know father should be home with the council soon!"
A small girl raced past a stone wall, giggling sweetly, chased by a smiling older girl. Though past the marriageable age of fourteen, she was still young enough to hitch up her skirt and run after her younger sister, dark hair flying behind her.
"You've been too serious since you've reached fifteen summers, Saoirse. Come with me! I heard the goblins, they take little children over to the Hill when they steal them at night!"
"You've been listening to Aislin again haven't you?"
"But she told me the goblins come to get children when their mummies and da's wish them away!"
Saoirse laughed. "I wish the goblins would come and take YOU away right now. If we don't get back...."
Her voice trailed off as she rounded the standing stone monolith her sister had hid behind moments before only to find her gone. The air chilled around her as she whirled around in the otherwise empty plane, desperately searching for her sibling.
"Ciera? Where did you go? Ciera? Ciera!" Her voice rose in volume as her panic rose.
"You won't find her."
Saoirse gasped as she spun to face the silken, taunting voice. Her eyes met with a Fair One. His wild hair was flaxen, his skin light gold and his eyes pale. Her gaze captured his skin tight leggings and knee high boots, his loose shirt and long cape. Immediately, she dropped to her knees, concern for her own white dress forgotten. She lowered her eyes, afraid.
"My lord, I did not expect to meet one of Tir Na Nog. How can I please you?"
She heard rather than saw the smirk in his voice as he spoke. "I am not from the land of my brethren. Stand up, stand up."
As she rose to her feet, the shock began to fade and his earlier words struck her.
"What did you mean I would not find her? Where is Ciera?"
His humor was confirmed as she looked into his face. "What do you mean where? Did you not ask for me to come and take her away?'
She gasped, fear falling away as it was swiftly replaced with outrage. "It was not a wish! It was but a joke! All know that such wishes are only to be worried over at night! How could you take Ciera from something so foolish? It's not fair!"
"What's said is said, Saoirse. You should learn to mind your words."
"You must give me my sister back! She and my da are my only family in this great world after so many wars. Do not take her from me!"
"You are very brave to speak as such to one of my kind." His face carved into a cruel smile as he taunted her.
Her cheeks, which had been rosy in ire, paled at the realization that she was actually arguing with one of the Unseelie Court. Yet, even though she knew it to be stupid and that she would very likely die for her words, she could not back down.
"Please, give my sister back."
"No." Her mouth dropped open in shock at his succinct response. She was about to argue when he lifted his arm and pointed out towards the landscape. When she turned to look, Saoirse found herself in a land so wholly foreign from her own that she could but stare.
"You must find her if you want her back. Find her there in the castle at the center. If you can, she is yours to take back."
As she looked, her determination grew. "Fine. I can do this. I've always been good at finding my way."
"Really now, such confidence. But before you begin let me warn you. You have only Thirteen hours to complete the labyrinth before your sister belongs to me."
She swallowed visibly but looked straight and stepped forward to enter the Labyrinth.
Jareth sighed in frustration as he looked into the crystal sphere he held perched on his fingertips. The past twelve and a half hours had been fascinating, and informative. Knowing that she had been there, making her way through his Labyrinth, had robbed him of any desire to do anything else.
He'd watched, captivated, as she came against each pitfall, each hardship, and struggled through. He had known, in the way truth came to him upon seeing mortals, that she was the daughter of kings and warriors, that her mother, now gone, had been renowned as both bard and sage. She had come into the world with an inborn strength that her way of life had nurtured and brought into being.
A strength that was actually defeating his Labyrinth.
Once more, a heavy sigh escaped past his lips and he glanced to the young captured girl, just old enough to reason, as she played with the goblins around her. It had been some time since his hall had been filled with such laughter and he'd found himself eager to keep the child. But it was not meant to be.
He stood as the castle doors opened and revealed the confident, if somewhat dirty, figure of the girl who had done what he'd thought to be impossible. She approached him, head high, and stopped only when she was but a few steps from him.
"I have fought my way through your Labyrinth and through the goblin city. I demand the child you stole!"
His laughter filled the air and the dangerous sound, tinted with power and malice, silenced the noisy room around him.
"You come into my kingdom –"
"You came into mine."
"- and want to test my will."
"You certainly tested mine."
"What power do you hold here?"
She frowned. Her path through the Labyrinth had been long and hard and she was tired and sore. More than anything, she just wanted her sister back and to go home to her life with the family and people she loved.
"I did what you said I must. I completed your Labyrinth and in time. Please," she asked, her eyes begging where only moments before they had been defiant, "please let me take my sister home."
He stared at her, his light eyes cold and unreadable. Then without a word, he turned his back on her and walked away.
Saoirse reached her hand out after him, opening her mouth to protest, only to see that she was once more on the plane where she had started. A quick look down and she found her sister, asleep against the monolith that she'd hid behind some hours before.
"Take care with your words, Saoirse, lest we meet again."
She whirled around to see if he stood again before her. There was nothing. Slowly, and with a care due to a precious object, she picked up Ciera and returned home to her father. Upon arrival, she found that barely any time at all had past. Her father embraced her and the two went into dinner as if nothing had happened.
Years later, after her father had asked once more why she had decided never to marry, she looked at him with something in her eyes that he couldn't identify but had seen more and more over the years. She smiled at him sadly.
"Because, once, father, I met a Fair One and after him no other seemed to compare."
Her father nodded sagely and patted his daughter on her shoulder before leaving her once more in the peace he'd interrupted. Leaving her to stare into the fire and remember a time, a place and a person…all things which had changed her life forever.
AN: I wrote this MONTHS ago but didn't post it for...some reason. Anyhow, this story is AU from the manga but takes part of it into consideration.
The names: Saoirse (Seer-sha) is Gaelic for freedom and Ciera (Kee-rah) is gaelic for Dark.
All the names that come up in this story were pretty well researched to fit time and place. Most of the names for Sarah sound something like it.