The Hazards of Love
A Shard by Heist
"When Love cast me out, it was Cruelty that took pity on me."
---Jacqueline Carey, from Kushiel's Dart
When he came to me, he was a young man, and handsome, and summer danced defiant in his bright eyes. He did not understand the circumstances of his arrival, and he protested and fought and struggled, and traced the great Labyrinth for ways to escape, for he believed Love would be enough to guide him free.
When he came, there was a crimson loveknot hand-stitched into the fabric of his coat above his heart, and a twine-tied band 'round his finger, for he could not afford gold. He wore his love like a second coat, his love for his pretty young wife and their new born son, and I found his passion endearing.
It was a pity then, that I had to make him cold.
Madness rides 'ere long in those who feel strongly within the Labyrinth, and whether it is the madness or the magic that twists them, I know not.
My mercy is cruel. I took his past so that the madness could not find a foothold in him, and so there was no love or grief in his heart when the magic came upon him. The Labyrinth must always have a king, and he suited the role as if born to it. Perhaps he believes he was born to it, but I have never asked him. I am capable of some kindness, after all.
Where the King walks, Summer follows. In his former life, he was a bard, and his songs charmed gods. Now, the breeze chases him, bearing oaths and promises. The sky obliges him for a smile, and the stars wink at his dreams, those I see fit to grace his sleep. All is right in this world, and so does our balance reach into others.
Storms cleave their skies less often, the Grand Hunt rides slower and quieter, and our magic chases them little, if at all. Contentment reigns.
No soul is immune to Time. Not even his.
He wants, though I have given him all that could be wanted. He desires, and he needs, and I cannot account for how he should know of these things. His fire burns down, and he would hold our world hostage to this new whim. He believes he knows somewhat of Love, that to have it is something extraordinary and bright and new. Within the wanting rides the madness I have held off him, and though I shield him still, he will have none of it.
He believes me to be a liar, and a thief, and he is not wrong.
I am the Lady, the Labyrinth's soul in absentia. I lack the sturdy form he covets in the dreams he thinks he has hidden from me. He should not remember who he was, yet something of that man survives on in him still.
When he sings now, his songs are lamentations, and the crimson sky rains dust.
His longing cleaves new passages between worlds, and for a time he is content to watch.
I know better, and I watch the winter on his heart listing toward Spring. He does not know what he watches for, he does not know why his breath catches in anticipation at pretty dark-haired girls with fair children, but he will. The soul remembers what the heart can be tricked to forget, and some part of him has not abandoned that world yet, though it has passed him by.
He chases something as substantial as the ghost of a dream, and to him that is still more substantial than I.
I abide in silence.
He finds the Girl, and our world shatters.
Magic whistles down fractured stone corridors, altering landscapes, remaking the world in the image of her dreams.
He does not listen to me, I who saved him and remade him and gave to him a world.
I am the Lady, not the Girl.
He does not listen.
And so she comes, and so he dreams and loves and moves stars for her, and he offers her this strange new world he has altered for her and she declines.
A brother can be a stand-in for a son.
Some choices remain the same, and the Labyrinth keeps her king.
His wife came to me. Their son was ill, and it seemed nothing in their world could save him, so she came to me and offered up her husband for the boy's health.
He was not consulted or informed, and I accepted the gift in the spirit it was given. She believed she had done right, but no good end comes of betrayal, no matter how well meant.
My king dreamt in golden fields and his widow met misfortune. Their son had good health, but good health was nothing to the war he died in, young and without issue. I will never tell him what became of his wife in the end. Such would be too cruel, even for me.
In spite of it all, he wishes the Girl well.
It takes cruelty to forge a crown, coldness to temper a king, yet after everything falls and crumbles and breaks, he stands apart from the rubble of my kingdom unbroken, unbent, and not unfeeling. I have lost kings before to the hazards of love, yet I do not lose Jareth.
Summer does not yet trace the King's steps, but in the pale skies beneath a young sun Spring whispers rumors in my waiting ears. Something has changed, different different different, and I listen and watch.
I learn that the King has broken my compact with the maze somehow. He is free to be whole, to walk in any world, yet he chooses to linger in mine. The magic which would drive him mad looses its hooks from him, seeks another target, changes its ways. Different different different, and strange.
I am not all of the Labyrinth. The maze can be its own monster on occasion, and when it seethes and speaks now it asks for something different different different.
I have never had a Queen before.
Above, the Girl walks, and Summer flowers in her footsteps.
The King watches.
Notes: "How I made you. I wrought you. I pulled you from ore. I labored you. From cancer I cradled you. And now, this is how I am repaid? Remember when I found you? The miseries that hounded you? And I gave you motion, anointed you with lotions. And now, this is how I am repaid?"
And that's where this came from. All credit to the Decemberists, though my Lady seems a bit more practical in her view of the long run.
For Ceal. Enjoy.