Chapter 6

Obstupui, Steteruntque Comae, et Vox Faucibus Haesi
(Latin) "I was astounded, my hair stood on end, and my voice stuck in my throat." - The Aeneid (II, 774 and III, 48) [VIRGIL]

Sarah awoke to yet more magic, there were rose petals scattered over her bed and left in a path toward her door. There was a note tucked under her hand. "Please join me when you awaken, follow the petals. Love, Jareth." Sarah smiled and sat up and grabbed her robe and ran her fingers through her hair before following the petals. They led across the hall, his bedroom door was open and he was sitting in his own dressing gown, hair delightfully askew in wild abandon and he was sitting at a small table for two with a pot of tea and pastries and fresh cut fruit laid out to share.

"Good morning precious." He said lazily, standing to greet her and she sighed. He decidedly looked edible first thing in the morning. All rumpled and tousled from sleep. His night shirt open to expose his smooth chest, his dressing gown belted loosely around his hips and his linen sleep trousers bunched around his ankles over his cheerful tartan patterned slippers. He looped his arms around her waist and pulled her closer for a gentle embrace.

"Good morning to you. Do you always start the day sweeping girls off their feet?" Sarah asked returning his embrace and resting her cheek against his warm bare chest.

"Just one particular girl." Jareth chuckled kissing the top of Sarah's head.

"I'm flattered."

"You should be," Jareth laughed leaning back and gesturing Sarah should seat herself by pulling out her chair for her.

"I prefer a light breakfast and had hopes you would join me. I have duties I have to see to right after and I will unfortunately not be finished until dinner. I wanted a little time with you before I must away. I hope you don't mind." Jareth said and Sarah smiled.

"Of course I don't mind Jareth. You've done so much for me; I would be selfish to keep you from your duties. Anytime we do have together then means that much more." Sarah replied as Jareth poured tea.

"It does. Thank you precious. It is Christmas Eve and I will try to wrap up my engagements as quickly as I can to spend the evening with you. To pass the time, you are more than welcome to lose yourself in my library. I have a few books that might be of interest to you. They are quite enlightening." He said passing her the pastries.

"I can't imagine a better way to spend the day. I do love getting lost in a good book." Sarah said and Jareth smiled.

"As do I." He said truthfully as they ate quietly. Sarah noting he was not wearing his gloves. He apparently did not sleep in them and eating pastry with gloves on would have been difficult. His fingers were long and elegant, his nails manicured and clean, and almost bone white. They very rarely saw the sun; she could see a marked difference of skin tone from his wrist to his hands. His hands were beautiful and she suddenly longed to feel them on her skin.

He seemed to read her thoughts and smirked at her over his teacup. Damn the man was smug and she was buying what he was selling. She muttered under her breath something that sounded like bastard and devil and a few other choice adjectives, all of them appropriate.

It was in this light mood Cyril came in through the open door and scowled at both their states of improper dress. He quickly escorted Sarah back to her rooms, grumbling about Jareth being the spawn of an Incubus and scolding Sarah that it was unseemly for a lady of breeding and unmarried to keep company with a man in her night attire. Sarah just kissed Didymus on the cheek.

"I adore you. My virtue was quite safe, it was only breakfast my good lord chaperone." She teased and he patted her on her head.

"Your virtue is never safe with that lad about. Though, I must give him credit where it is due. He is showing remarkable restraint. However, until the two of you are wed properly, I am making sure he remains restrained." Didymus said and Sarah coughed.

"Married? Didymus he hasn't even proposed and don't you think it's a bit soon to be talking wedding bells? I've known him just a few days." Sarah said and Cyril just smiled.

"Minutes, days, years, when there is love it knows no impediment and when lost is a wound which never truly heals. I would give you words to think upon my lady. Perhaps in understanding him, you understand his heart." Didymus said and then began reciting a poem.

When we two parted

In silence and tears,

Half broken-hearted,

To sever for years,

Pale grew thy cheek and cold,

Colder thy kiss;

Truly that hour foretold

Sorrow to this.

The dew of the morning

Sank chill on my brow

It felt like the warning

Of what I feel now.

Thy vows are all broken,

And light is thy fame:

I hear thy name spoken,

And share in its shame.

They name thee before me,

A knell to mine ear;

A shudder comes o'er me

Why wert thou so dear?

They know not I knew thee,

Who knew thee too well:

Long, long shall I rue thee

Too deeply to tell.

In secret we met

In silence I grieve

That thy heart could forget,

Thy spirit deceive.

If I should meet thee

After long years,

How should I greet thee?

With silence and tears. [1]

Sarah shivered as Didymus fixed his sorrow filled eye upon her. "That my lady is your past, your future your present. But it is changing, growing, rediscovering. Know, feel, and embrace what is before you." Didymus said quietly, leaving Sarah bewildered and contemplative for the rest of the morning.

She sat for a time on the edge of her bed, looking at the sun sparkling on the frost of her windowpane. Then decided, she wasn't going to resolve what Cyril had said in a few minutes and she had to get started with her day. She took a shower and then wrapped in her bathrobe headed to the closet, they had brought her clothes over the day before so thankfully she didn't have to wear her dirty clothes again. However when she opened the closet, she stopped short. She had very little in the way of clothes, a few pairs of jeans, a couple of loose poet shirts, a vest or two, a handful of sweaters and sweatshirts, what greet her was substantially more than what had fit in her tiny closet at home.

This massive walk in closet was full, and she noticed full of clothes that belonged in another century entirely. Gown after gown hung in her closet. From a myriad of eras she noted, A few corseted monstrosities like her red gown from the evening prior, a few that looked like they should be draped on Grecian statues and even more, the majority of them in fact, were empire waist gowns that came right out of the pages of a Jane Austen novel. It appeared one Mr. King had a liking for things decidedly not the norm, or of the current century. They were all beautiful and each dress was probably worth more than she'd ever earn in a year working at the bookstore. There were stockings and shoes and soft chemises and petticoats and everything a woman needed, if that woman was named Elinor Dashwood or Jane Eyre that was, Sarah frowned.

"Am I a doll to play dress up? What on earth? I can just see me going to school looking like Elizabeth Bennet, honestly they think I'm odd enough as it is. It's one thing to prance around in costumes at a ball or in the park, but every day?" Sarah talked to herself, rolling her eyes.

It was Christmas Eve however, and she wasn't going anywhere, and she loved a good dress as much as the next girl did. "I'll humor you today Mr. King." Sarah said pulling down a lovely white gown, embroidered with golden threads with a lacy embellishment along the modest neck line and along the cap sleeves. It had a matching shawl to toss over her shoulders to keep out the chill. Once dressed, Sarah had to admit, she felt beautiful for a change. There was just something about a finely made dress that made your boobs look great and flattered your figure that made a girl want to stand a little taller and preen.

She went to her vanity to comb her hair, and found a box sitting there that she had not noticed before. It was a jewelry box of sorts and inside was enough hair accessories to go with every single outfit in her closet. "He thinks of everything. He must own a stage company to have so many costumes lying about. These certainly don't look like cheap stage craft things however. These had better be glass gems and not real diamonds, Jareth." Sarah muttered fitting a headband onto head that matched the dress she was wearing. If they were real, she'd be terrified. The headband alone would be worth a small king's ransom let alone the other flashy clips, tiaras, bands and broaches that were gleaming at her in that box.

"I haven't played dress up in years." Sarah laughed at herself in the mirror and she inspected herself one final time. "I never had anything this nice." She added, grinning like the Cheshire Cat before heading downstairs. Cyril was reading a book in the parlor and smiled at her appreciatively as she entered the room.

"My dear, you look lovely." He said and Sarah twirled for him.

"I feel like it. Does Jareth own a theater troupe or something? Where did he get all those crazy dresses?" She asked and Cyril maddeningly just shrugged.

"Forget I asked. I have some gift wrapping to do and I forgot to buy wrapping paper yesterday. Do you have any?" She asked switching gears and Cyril closed his book and stood.

"We do, come with me." He said leading her to a closet in the hall. Inside were all sorts of wrappings and trappings for just about every festive season.

"Oh wonderful!" Sarah squealed, selecting a few rolls, ribbons, and bows and headed back to her room to wrap her gifts for the others.

Once finished, she returned the paper and ribbons to the closet, took the opportunity of being alone with the Christmas stockings to stuff the money she had left far down in the toe of Jareth's, and then carefully placed her gifts under the beautiful tree they had decorated yesterday. There were quite a few presents under the tree that morning and far too many of them had her name on them.

"He's going to spoil me. Honestly." Sarah sighed as Hoggle shuffled into the room.

"That's what King's do Missy, although his presents can be questionable." Hoggle grumbled setting freshly chopped wood next to the fireplace.

"Good morning Hoggle." Sarah said to the grumpy man as he stacked firewood in the antique brass fire basket next to the hearth.

"And to you Sarah, stay inside today, temperature outside has dropped you'd freeze yer pretty toes off in that get up." Hoggle said dusting his hands off on his trousers.

"Sound advice, thank you. I was just going to read a little today anyway." Sarah said as Hoggle adjusted his cap and fidgeted.

"Sarah, he's not been mean to ya has he?" He asked concerned and Sarah looked taken aback.

"No, he's been lovely to me. Why?" She asked wondering why Hoggle was looking so upset.

"It's nothin', just… well… I'm just concerned for ya is all. Jareth can be… intimidating." He said and Sarah smiled.

"I'm sure he can be I can see that potential in him. Honestly though Hoggle, he's been nothing but a gentleman towards me. He's been wonderful and kind and has made me feel like a queen these past few days. I'm very happy." Sarah said and Hoggle nodded.

"Good. Just checkin'." Hoggle said with a grunt before stomping out of the room.

"Strange." Sarah sighed, wondering why Hoggle didn't trust Jareth. There was a history between those two that was for certain.

Whatever it was Sarah wasn't going to concern herself with it on Christmas Eve, there was a library calling her name somewhere in the manor and she was going to explore it thoroughly. With a spring in her step, she went in search.

Her search yielded its quarry and Sarah gasped in delight. It was a scholar's dream. Books lined shelves floor to ceiling and when you're dealing with two story ceilings that was a whole mess of books. She had no idea what she was going to read seeing as she was suddenly spoiled for choice. She decided to let fate decide and she trailed her fingers along beautiful spines in rich leathers until a bright blue bound volume caught her eye and her fingers alighted and she pulled it from the shelf. It was entitled "The Aos Sí, The Lore of the Sidhe" she had always meant to read that book, they had a copy of it in the bookstore, but not nearly as nice as the one in her hand. Jareth's looked to be a first edition hardback. So Sarah settled into a large overstuffed chair, sat very unladylike with her legs draped over one arm with her back against the other armrest and her head resting lightly on the back of the chair. Perfect reading position, with the book propped up on her lap, she began to flip through the pages, stopping here and there to read a passage that caught her eye next to illustrations and woodcuttings that were beautifully detailed.

The Sidhe it is said are quite cruel and equally affectionate by mortal standards, loving games and trysts to pass the long hours of seemingly immortal existences. Love is an emotion however, they can feel only once and once they love it is eternal. When a sidhe loses his or her true love, they often times fade away into nothingness. It is death to a sidhe to lose their love. Creatures who live for thrills often find that love, the strongest of emotions, is their downfall or their salvation.

Sarah smiled, it was romantic if a little fatalistic. She flipped the page to see a Sidhe couple holding a babe in their arms, little Goblins around their feet carrying items that would belong to a baby.

The Sidhe do not breed well, it is perhaps a boon for creatures that live such long lives. If they bred as mortals, the underground lands of the Sidhe would become overpopulated quickly. That does not however make them long or children any less. The Sidhe adore children and the few births that happen among their kind are met with great joy and celebration. For others, who find they cannot conceive, they often adopt unwanted mortal children. Contrary to myth and popular belief the Sidhe do not steal children from mortals, nor lure them away with song. Those mortals who come to the underground are the unwanted, the wished away children, the abused and neglected. It is the timeless duty of the Protector of the Unwanted, a Sidhe not of Seelie or Unseelie but of the wild magic, to collect these poor children from lives of sorrow. He offers one chance at redemption to the mortals who wish away their children. They run the Labyrinth, a test designed to show those who run its paths the true nature of their souls. They must face their fears, fight against a mirror of themselves to reclaim their children. All fail and most never come out alive again. It is the nature of their own souls that destroy them. For any mortal to wish harm to their own children, find they visit a worse fate upon themselves in the end. The children are then healed if needed and made into changelings and given to Sidhe couples to raise as their own, to be loved and cherished.

Sarah shivered something was now gnawing at her, her stomach clenched. Why did she suddenly feel she had just learned something incredibly important? She turned the page and all the blood drained from her face, there staring at her from a book was Jareth and Sir Didymus. It was unmistakable, it was them, dressed in garments centuries old. In Jareth's hand was a crystal orb and in Cyril's a crystal sword.

The Goblin King, the protector of the Unwanted, Master Weaver of Dreams and Lord of the Labyrinth. Of all the aos sí in the underground, he is the most mercurial and the one with the most contact with mortals. He is neither a part of the Seelie or Unseelie, he is the balance between good and evil, darkness and light. He is the scale of justice for the Sidhe when it comes to their dealings with mortals. It is his ancient duty to collect the unwanted from mortal lands. He is the Sidhe called upon to create changelings and bring children who have been wished away to the underground realms of the daoine sídhe. Be careful what you wish for, he just may grant your wish. Nothing however comes without a price and the cost is always dear when dealing with The Goblin King. Legend says that the Goblin King created his Labyrinth to punish the greedy, ensnare the wicked, and test the merit of the mortal souls who wish away their children. Only one wholly unselfish and pure of spirit will survive the test and gain their dreams. No one has ever entered the Labyrinth and come out alive. But then again, anyone as heartless as to wish away a child are unlikely to defeat a test designed to expose him or her for what they truly are within.

The scream died in Sarah's throat as all her buried memories came flooding back to her in one fell swoop. Toby, how she had wished him away out of misplaced sorrow, her running the Labyrinth, Hoggle, Sir Didymus, as a fox no less and Ludo. Jareth, the peach, the dance where she realized she was attracted to him, barely fifteen. The battle and then, oh god, his words in the ruins of the Escher room. The look of utter despair on his face as she said the words that ended the test ended the game. In order to save Toby, she had to destroy him! The pain in her stomach was agony, she had been so cruel. How he must hate her. She was sure it was his turn now to play with and then break a heart. She deserved that, it was nothing less than she had done to him.

She was such a horrible person, no wonder everyone left her, she drove them all away with her cruelty. Her heart twisted in her chest. Oh his revenge was sweet indeed as her heart shattered. He won; he had all the power over her he could ever hope to achieve. He always had. She couldn't bear it anymore, she had lost everything but this one, this last magical hope she had finally found someone that loved her at last was a bitter pill to swallow. She was broken, she had seen her soul and found it wanting. She was so very unworthy of anything.

Her depression consumed her, the tears streamed down her cheeks as she stood. The book tumbling to the floor. She had to leave… forever. She couldn't bear it any longer, there was only so low a human could fall before they broke. She had finally reached her breaking point. She hurt everything she touched, the world was better off without her.

She walked to the front door and silently left everything behind. The frigid air cut like knives across her skin and within minutes the satin slippers on her feet were soaked and she could no longer feel her feet, but she walked on, blind to everything around her, her body as frozen as her heart and her mind. It was over now; it wasn't far to the river from here. No one would ever miss her; even Toby would forget her in time.

JARETH OUR QUEEN IS IN MORTAL DANGER!

Jareth stopped what he was doing, going over end of year reports for the kingdom and seeing to last minute disputes. The Labyrinth very rarely spoke to him directly, the wild magic was more sentient than not but even so deigned very infrequently to converse. It emoted rather than spoke; it sent terror and fear into Jareth's body that nearly knocked him out cold.

"Where is she?" He asked, conjuring a crystal and watched in horror as she stood on a single lane bridge over a swollen and frozen river. She jumped and Jareth's world fell down around him as he vanished from his castle, praying he was going to be in time, he'd reorder time if he had to, and the consequences be damned.

(To Be Continued…)

[1] "When We Two are Parted" – a poem by Lord Byron 1788-1824

Author's Apology:

AHHH Evil Cliffhanger don't shoot the author please! And you're gonna hate that it's probably not going to be until after Thanksgiving for the next update. I'm being invaded by family and I'm cooking the feast so time will be short. Which is also why this chapter is shorter than the others are, it was a good place to end it and still give you something before the Holiday.