A/N: I know it seems like it has been forever since I've updated, and I apologize. Just so you all know...I've quit my job since I was finally accepted at the University. I've already changed my major - from Computer Science to English (Professional Writing track). You would think I would have more time to write, but who would think that Professors actually assign homework?
This chapter is a result from a WC I happened upon with angelicwish (Horizons & Boxing the Compass) because I hadn't felt motivated to write.
My love and appreciation goes out to two wonderful ladies from Project Team Beta - kysouza3123 and KelseyJane - for getting this chapter into tip top shape. As always, I also must thank my wonderful validation beta, sixeightshuffle, for getting this out to you wonderful readers quickly.
One last note before you begin this chapter...I've started a website for both this story and Fraternization. For those of you who review, I send out a snippet, but for those who wish to see other teasers then I suggest you check out .com.
Slowly, Jareth led Bella through the stone confines of his castle with her arm secured in the nook of his elbow. The corridors were aligned with torches on both sides of the walls at fairly spaced increments; however, it was still difficult to see. The ever consuming darkness enveloped them both, but the light of the torches gave Jareth hope that soon a brightness that rivaled the crystal moon would shine. Bella.
The only words that were uttered during their walk were when Jareth introduced each room. When they reached his throne room, he cleared his throat.
"This is my throne room," he said, leading her into the round room.
Bella's eyes scanned the room with a deep interest as she left his side. In the center of the room was a round pit about three feet deep. It was quite dusty and spiders' webbings twinkled in the scarce light along the walls and hidden nooks of the room.
"Why is it so dark and dusty in here?" she asked, spinning around to face him, her hand trailing along the rough texture of a wall.
Jareth left his position from the entrance and sat down on his throne, his legs parted slightly. He rested his elbows on his knees, his hands clasped together except for his index fingers which were straight, tapping his lips lightly.
"I don't utilize this room as often as I used to," he said softly. He brought his hands down from his face, and interlaced his fingers. He didn't want to tell her everything without knowing whether or not she was the one meant for him.
"Why not?" She queried.
Jareth sighed. He hated lying, but had no choice. He deliberated telling her only what she needed to know. "I had to grow up. I decided that goblin parties should go and instead concentrate on running my kingdom," he replied matter of factly.
Unfortunately, Bella could sense his evasiveness. He had taken too long to answer her, but Bella wasn't going to call him out. She welcomed feeling somewhat normal by conversing with him rather than formalities. Her hope was that he wouldn't leave her to her own devices and alone. After all, he was the only other person, aside from Hoggle, that she had met in the castle. "You don't seem that old. How old are you?"
A smile spread on Jareth's face. "Old enough to know not to answer that question."
A soft chuckle escaped Bella and crimson colored her cheeks. "Sorry." She wasn't sorry for laughing at his response but for asking the question. She didn't understand why she felt compelled to ask his age. She enjoyed the lift in her spirit her chuckle had elicited. She wasn't sure, but she believed it had been a long time since she had felt the lightheartedness that she was currently feeling.
Jareth knew all too well that it had been a very long time since something so soft and whimsical had echoed through the halls of his castle. He reveled in her laughter and longed to be the cause of it again.
"So no parties?" Bella asked, bringing Jareth out of his musings.
"It's been a very long while," he answered her, smirking.
Bella noticed how his mismatched eyes danced as they freely spoke to one another. They reminded her of something or someone, but she wasn't sure what or who.
Jareth rose with grace from his throne and extended his hand to her. "Come. Let me show you where my library is."
Bella nodded and placed her hand in his. Using his other hand, Jareth threaded her arm through his and secured it in the nook of his elbow once again.
The Goblin King and Bella exited the throne room and turned right, entering a long corridor. Even more portraits and long mirrors were interspersed with the torches that lined the walls. Jareth's trained eyes detected that the flames were minutely brighter than what they were only moments ago before they entered the throne room.
Perhaps she is the one.
At the first intersection, Jareth guided Bella to the left stairwell, and they traveled down the steps slowly. The steps flowed downward, in a circle almost. The two were actually moving up the east side castle turret. The stairs stopped at a large wooden door with a gothic looking gargoyle head for a knocker. Jareth brought his free hand up, wrapped his gloved fingers around the knocker handle that was hanging from the gargoyle's mouth, and rapped it three times. The door opened with a loud creak that echoed around them, causing Bella to shiver slightly.
After ushering Bella inside the rounded library, Jareth secured the door behind them. No one, other than he, had ever been inside his most prized and private room before. He had spent many nights here learning secret arts and studying humanity.
Jareth noted the way Bella's eyes lit up as she scanned the round room that was lined with shelves and shelves of books. These were very special bookcases that produced whatever book Jareth wanted to read. All he had to do was think of a subject matter and the book would instantly appear at the rounded desk in the middle of the room. The shelves housed books of knowledge, human literature, fae literature, anything and everything imaginable.
Bella's fingertips trailed along the wooden table in the middle of the room as she spun around, gazing at the seemingly endless supply of books. "Wow. This is quite a collection you have, Jareth," she said, breathlessly.
With a casual arrogance, Jareth strolled closer to her. He crossed his arms over his chest and grinned. "I'm glad you approve. This," he said waving a gloved hand through the air nonchalantly, "is the one place in my castle where I can go to truly be alone." He folded his arms across his chest again and watched as Bella absorbed this information. "All you need to do is think of anything that you wish to read and the tome will appear before you there." Jareth nodded his head toward the rounded table.
Bella processed what she had been told rather slowly. It didn't make any sense. "How is that possible? Psychokinesis?"
Jareth clucked his tongue. "Better than that, Bella." The Goblin King's eyes danced, their piercing colors radiant, as he peered deeply into her dark, brown orbs. His lips turned upward in a half smile half smirk, watching her churn his words in her head.
Bella furrowed her brows at him as she tried to make sense of what she was hearing. She sighed, giving in to the fact that she had absolutely no idea what on earth the strange man in front of her was saying. "I don't understand," she murmured, unable to tear her gaze from his.
Jareth slipped his tongue out slightly, moistening his lower lip, before he asked her to close her eyes. Bella blanched at the idea of closing her eyes in front of him. "Excuse me?"
"Close your eyes, Bella," Jareth reiterated, his tone soft, yet demanding.
"No offense, but I don't trust you," she replied barely above a whisper, shaking her head from side to side. Why would this man think that she would just give into his fancy and close her eyes? He may have been a King, but she didn't know anything about him really. Standing in such proximity to him brought out a natural born fear of being in an enclosed room with a stranger. Her mother had taught her better than to trust strange men. She had to be wary of him until she felt she could give him her trust; however, that trust had to be earned. So far Jareth had done very little in earning that trust.
As if he had been able to read her thoughts, Jareth pressed, "Since you are a guest in my kingdom and will be staying in my castle for an indeterminable amount of time, you need to trust me. I understand that you may not necessarily agree with the circumstances as they are. Trust me if I had my own wishes you wouldn't even be in the Underground, but there is nothing that can be done about it now. So, I'll ask you again to please close your eyes."
The sparkle and mirth that Bella had seen in Jareth's eyes just a few moments ago had dissipated. He seemed colder and possibly upset with her for not following his command. She didn't want to rebuff his generosity of allowing her to stay in his castle when he could very well have dumped her anywhere else in his kingdom. Without thinking about it further, she gave in to his demand and closed her eyes.
"Good. Now, that wasn't so hard was it?" Bella shook her head in response. "Clear your mind," he instructed. His mouth was mere inches from her ear. His velvet tone could seduce her into giving him whatever he asked. "Erase every little thought that is residing in it. Make your mind go as dark as the night sky." Without question, Bella did as she was told, removing every cognitive idea, feeling, whim and desire from her mind.
"Now, without speaking, allow the first thing that comes in to consume your entire thought process, and then open your eyes."
Bella opened her eyes slowly, and glanced down at the table on her left. On it sat a paperback book with a cover of ripe, fuzzy peaches. The title read The Peach: Botany, Production and Uses by Desmond R. Layne and Daniele Bassi. Involuntarily, Bella's hand flew to her mouth in surprise. Her eyes were wide as she attempted to understand how the book on peaches was now in front of her.
A loud chortle brought her out of her thoughts as her eyes tore away from the book and right at the man in front of her. The chortle quickly became echoing guffaws, bouncing off the rounded walls, reverberating in her ears. His laugh was infectious causing her facial muscles to contort in a way that she believed they hadn't done in quite some time and smiled. A minute later his laughter died down, but his earlier features were once again adorning his perfect face. His mismatched eyes were alive and a sly grin made her relax infinitesimally.
She looks so lovely when she smiles, he thought, as he tried to recall the last time he had seen it. His meticulous mind knew that it was the first time he'd ever witnessed it. Realization washed over him. Her depression had been so strong that she hadn't smiled in months. What a pity. He smiled back at her seductively, hoping that she wouldn't let it fade. "May I ask why?"
Bella drew in a deep breath. "I really enjoyed my meal earlier."
"I see that. Would you care to try again?"
She nodded and closed her eyes, her smile slipping from her face slightly. She really wanted to know more about where she was and who this man was in front of her. Instead of allowing her mind to completely fade to black, she instead concentrated on two words – Goblin King.
When she opened her eyes, a substantially large, leather-bound tome nearly occupied the entire round table. She gulped loudly as she felt his eyes on her. "Perhaps I should have asked for the abridged version," she squeaked out.
Instantly, his musical laughter filled the air in the rounded room. She closed her eyes relishing in the warmth and bliss it exuded. Suddenly, another set of eyes and another's musical laughter filled her mind. The eyes were an odd color – topaz. Her smile faded from her face and her airway constricted. Her heart rate increased, the thumping in her chest so loud and hard she believed her chest would explode. Instinctively, her hand rose to her chest to keep her heart in place as her eyes popped open, surprised and anxious at the same time. Her breathing became shallow and faltered.
Jareth realized almost immediately what was happening and pulled her to his chest quickly. He wrapped his arms around her tiny frame as she collapsed against him.
Bella's eyes closed of their own accord as she faded into the darkness of her mind.
After depositing Bella in her bedchamber, Jareth retreated to his throne room. He had learned so much while giving Bella a tour of his castle. He had decided, against his better judgment, to show Bella his library. No one had ever been privy to that one. No goblin, servant, or guest had ever been inside its hallowed walls. However, seeing Bella smile was worth it.
He wasn't sure exactly what had caused her anxiety attack. Perhaps she had been too overwhelmed by the magic in the room?
He didn't have time to think about it at the moment. His mind set Bella aside as he produced an orb. A grand mountain materialized in it. For years Jareth had tried to use his magic to penetrate inside the dark cavern that was housed there. He didn't really want to spy on the Sisters, but he just wished to see what they were up to from time to time and communicate with them by any way that didn't require him going to see them. However, he never got very far. The large mountain was protected from his magic. Every year he had been forced to go to them as if he was common – not like a King. That thought disturbed him. Jareth was anything but common. Quickly, he extinguished the orb and produced another one. He blew against the delicate bubble lightly and it left him.
A few minutes later, an out of breath Hoggle appeared before him. "You summoned me, your majesty."
"Yes. I will be leaving the castle for an indeterminable amount of time. In my absence you will watch over my guest. Is that understood?"
"What does his majesty have in mind?" Hoggle asked, remembering to keep his eyes low.
Jareth stood up, but didn't respond immediately. "Are you questioning my tactics, Higgle?" He asked venomously.
The dwarf straightened up and his heart rate quickened. He really didn't like making Jareth mad. "Not at all, your majesty! I just…I mean…How do you want me to watch over the girl?"
Jareth relaxed minutely. "If she happens to wake up before I return you are to do everything in your power to ensure that she remains comfortable without her leaving her chamber. Although I have given her a quick tour, she could become lost and we wouldn't want that to happen, do we? I hope you remember our earlier conversation."
Hoggle nodded his head in understanding. "Yes, your majesty," he said lowly.
Without another word, Jareth walked over to the large window in his throne room and transformed into a tawny barn owl and took flight.
Hoggle stood by the entrance of his king's throne room completely baffled. Although it was quite common for Jareth to take off, he'd never told anyone that he was leaving before. Without another thought, Hoggle left the room and the castle, determined to make things right.
It had been several years since Hoggle had been to his cottage outside the labyrinth. The small building had vines crawling up the stone walls, mingling with the thatched straw roof. His once pristine gardens were now home to overgrown weeds that obliterated the beauty of his flowers. The place smelled of decay and death. Once inside, Hoggle was able to see what the cause of the putrid stench – a large rodent had become entangled in the vines that had penetrated his home. Quickly, he removed the source of the horrible smell with the aid of a shovel.
After lighting several candles so he could see, Hoggle located an old dusty mirror on a small table. With an old rag, he cleaned his only hope gingerly. What he was about to do had been outlawed by Jareth, but he didn't have much choice. He only hoped there would be an answer.
Jareth soared high along the darkness, eager to return to Fire Diamond Mountain and the Sisters that were there. He had never been eager to go there before, but now was different. He was unsure if Bella was the one they had referred to, and he didn't want to take any chances. If she was not, he'd send her back to the Aboveground and wait again for another call.
As he flew over Emerald Lake, Jareth descended down toward the forest. When he was approximately five feet from ground, he morphed back into his regal, fae form and carefully landed on the leaf covered dirt floor of the forest. Instantly, his amulet began shining bright blue. It was brighter than the last time he had left this place, but he didn't have the time to ponder the reasoning for it now. Instead he hurried through the dense trees, faster than he'd ever dared.
Jareth was approaching the entrance that had been carved out of the mountain when he felt a force he'd never encountered before – it pushed him away. Instinctively, Jareth raised his hands in front of him as he pushed back against the unknown force. The blue light radiated out from his amulet and shone against his black leather gloves, bathing his hands in its strange light. It was as if he had hit some type of invisible wall. He swore loudly after his incantation failed against it and pushed again at the barrier that refused to let him in.
Daring the unthinkable, Jareth removed his hands from the invisible wall and brought them to the amulet hanging at his neck. He'd only ever taken it off in the Sisters presence, and he didn't like the idea of leaving his birthright in the middle of an enchanted forest, but he gently lifted the cord from around his neck. He ran back into the forest until he could no longer feel the repelling force. He was unsure where to hide the amulet until he spotted an old tree with a hole. He felt around the inside of the tree before placing the amulet inside. Then, to help hide the light it was emitting, he took several handfuls of leaves and covered his birthright. Now, he was truly powerless.
With a gentle sigh, Jareth turned from the tree and began his journey back toward the mountain. This time, there was no force keeping him away and he entered easily. Jogging, his boot heels rhythmically hit against the stone floor. He pushed himself faster. Minutes later the torches fire changed orange red to blue as he entered the cavern. He took one step inside when he felt a fierce wind flow around him.
"Why have you come here?" The Sisters demanded. The flames from the blue torches rose high as their anger filled the cave.
Jareth blinked. Trepidation coursed through him as he took another step.
"Stop!" They commanded with an authority not even Jareth had. The flames around the ancient room grew brighter and higher.
"You should not be here," the youngest Sister said. She turned her head away from her two sisters and gazed at the Goblin King with a grave look.
Jareth stood bravely with his chest out and shoulders squared, ready for the wrath he was sure that was coming his way.
"You are a fool for removing the amulet," the middle Sister added. Her voice was strong as it carried another gust of wind at him.
"Without the amulet you will die," the eldest Sister whispered. At her tone, the flames returned to their normal state and the wind in the cavern ceased blowing. "You do not require anything from us at this time."
Courageously, Jareth spoke, "I need to know if the girl is the one of which you foretold."
"Go. You have your answer," the Sisters replied as one.
Jareth was about to ask for clarification when he found himself standing outside the mountain entrance. The invisible barrier was back and he couldn't return inside. Defeated, Jareth sprinted back through the forest in search of the hollowed tree that held the amulet. They were right. He was a fool for taking off his power source. He scanned tree after tree, hoping it wouldn't take too long to find the one he was looking for. He was anxious to return to his castle.
Once again, Bella dreamed of nothingness. The darkness enveloped her as she fought her way through her subconscious trying to escape the numbness. Just as she was about to give in to the oblivion she spotted a tiny dot of light in the far distance. It wasn't larger than a grain of sand really, but it was definitely there – beckoning her like a far off beacon of a lighthouse. She moved toward the light, but it didn't grow larger. She continued her struggle until she found herself against something hard.
Wearily, she raised her head and opened her eyes.
I'm definitely not in the library. How did I get here?
A door creaked. She spun her head around quickly, and noticed she was back in the room she first found herself in.
"Good. You're awake," Hoggle said.
Bella pushed herself off from the floor, and wiped her hands on the front of her nightgown. She looked down at the garment in horror. She would have remembered changing, that much she was certain.
As if reading her thoughts, Hoggle offered an explanation. "One of the females changed you while you were asleep."
"Oh. Where's Jareth?" She asked, walking around the bed to the table in the corner.
Hoggle offered her a goblet of water before sitting down opposite her. "His majesty had an errand to see to. He asked me to look after ya while he's gone. Can I fetch you something to eat? You don't look so good."
"No, thank you. Did he say when he'd be back? He was giving me a tour when I passed out on him."
Hoggle arched a brow at her. "Passed out?"
Bella felt her temperature rise and blood fill her cheeks. He made it seem as if her actions were unheard of. "You know, fainted."
"Ahhh," Hoggle drawled. "No, he didn't say when he'd return."
Bella drained the crystal goblet of water and sat the glass back down on the table gently. "Well, would you mind if I changed? I'd love to continue exploring this place."
Hoggle waved his arm to the overly large wardrobe across the room. "Your clothes are in there, but I'm afraid I can't have you wondering the halls by yourself."
Bella leaned in across the table and smiled devilishly. "Would you care to continue giving me a tour? Please, Hoggle. I don't want to stay in here the whole time he's gone. I'll go mad," she said theatrically, including throwing her arms in the air for an added effect.
The dwarf looked at her as if she had already lost her mind. He'd already risked too much. If he were caught going against the Goblin King's orders he was sure he'd end up somewhere worse than the Bog of Eternal Stench or an oubliette. However, Jareth had said that he wanted Hoggle to pursue her friendship.
"I'm sorry, Sarah, I can't," the dwarf replied. "His majesty told me to make you as comfortable in your chamber as possible. He's afraid you might get lost."
"What did you call me?" Bella asked, uncertain if she had heard him correctly.
"Bella," Hoggle quickly recovered. "I called you Bella. That's your name right?"
Hoggle's actions affirmed Bella's thought. He had called her Sarah, whoever that may be. She didn't understand why, but this name bothered her slightly. Bella shook it off. Now was not the time to be worrying over a name.
"Bella, I have to go and check on something. I'll be back though so don't do something stupid like explorin', okay."
The dwarf let himself out of the room and Bella slumped against her wooden chair. "What to do now?" she mumbled to herself. She walked back over to the bed and debated lying back down, deciding against it.
She crossed the room to the wardrobe and swung the large door open. She gasped when she found it full of gowns. "There is no way I'm wearing these," she said aloud as she pushed each grand garment aside. Stashed away toward the end, she found a pair of jeans and a t-shirt.
Now this is more like it.
After changing, Bella was without anything to keep herself occupied.
I feel like a prisoner.
She walked back toward the nightstand beside the bed, hopeful that there was something inside the drawer that would keep her entertained until either Hoggle or Jareth returned. She was surprised when she found a small book on top of the nightstand and laughed out loud when she read the title – An Abridged History of the Goblin Kingdom.
Well, this out to keep me busy for a little while anyway.
She picked up the book and sat back down at the table. Before she began reading, she poured herself another goblet of water. "I hope this sheds more light on him." She opened the cover and smiled. "At least it doesn't begin with 'Once upon a time'."
Long before mankind roamed the Aboveground there was the Three. The Three's power has existed as long as dreamers have dreamed. They are Alpha and Omega.
The Three were able to harness the power of dreams and create a world in which magic was an integral part. The land blossomed and spread as far as the eye could see – green forests; cool waters; tall mountains. This land belonged to the creatures of the dreamers. And so the fae were born.
That's pretty powerful.
Bella became immersed in the book and soon found herself reading about the kingdoms that covered the Underground.
Over the course of millenniums, kingdoms rose and fell. The greatest battle the average fae can recall is the Elvin Battle of Gora. It is during this battle that the Elvin Kingdom was absorbed by the rest of the Underground, forcing the elves that remained into exile. It was a bloody battle in which King Ulric advanced his armies against the other four kingdoms of the Underground. The Dryads, Naiads, Pixies and Goblins banded together and were able to overthrow King Ulric. King Peregrine delivered the fatal thrust that ended the reign of King Ulric. Victorious, the allies celebrated. A small skirmish interrupted the celebration, and an enemy sword pierced King Peregrine's heart.
Once Queen Meris heard the news of her husband's demise, she went into premature labor. She brought forth a son and named him Jareth. Queen Meris had another reason to be upset. The fae that killed her husband had been her cousin, Ardasien, King Ulric's nephew. Queen Meris couldn't bear the thought of more blood loss; she exiled him as well as the rest of the elves to the outer limits, never to set foot on another Underground kingdom again.
Bella placed the book face down on the table in front of her to not lose her place. With a trembling hand, she lifted the goblet of water to her mouth and drank. The way the book had been written, it seemed as if the battle had happened centuries ago, yet Jareth looked quite young. Another thought plagued Bella's mind then.
Where is Jareth's mother?
Bella stood and stretched while she thought. Although she was enjoying the reading, it only kept bringing up more and more questions. Every time she felt she was gaining more insight on Jareth, another ugly question would pop up. She glanced at the thirteen hour clock and realized she had been reading for three hours.
No wonder I feel so stiff.
A yawn escaped her when there was a soft knock on the door. Without thinking she answered, "Come in."
Her door opened slowly, and a small smile spread across her face when she saw who entered.
A/N: So, Bella has really received an information overload...literally. We still haven't heard from Edward. (Soon, I promise.) Who do you think paid Bella a visit at the end? Thoughts on Jareth's mother? And what is Hoggle up to?
I actually wrote the Abridged History before I quit my job. Thinking I had lost it, I began tweeting with my Twilight Counsel mentor, AngelGoddess1981, when I located it in one of the boxes I hadn't unpacked from my job. Believe it or not that history is going to be playing a vital role in this story (provided I don't lose the only copy I have).
So...lots to think about. I'd love to hear what you think. As always, leave me your love (or your hate).