Sorry this was so long in the posting, but I want to thank all those who have given a review so far! Especially my 'guest' reviewer who remained patient yet persistent! You're English is just fine, Hon, I understood you perfectly! This should be the second to last chapter and I expect to have the conclusion posted very soon. Like, maybe within a month, soon I hope you enjoy this long awaited chapter. ~Kat~
One Single Tear
'You're Majesty!' a servant's magical outcry filtered into the High King's mind. 'Please come! The castle is under siege! They fill the skies, your Majesty! Hundreds of them…thousands!' The frightened servant needn't finish her plea for help as the High King himself appeared by her side in the courtyard on the East side of the castle.
"There, your Majesty!" she shouted fearfully, pointing needlessly into the sky.
The High King rested a reassuring hand upon the girl's shoulder as he focused on the horizon, squinting into the rising sun's rays in an attempt to better see what made it's way towards his kingdom at an exceptionally high speed. "Call the guards," he stated calmly over his shoulder. His personal guard immediately gave a quick nod and a bow before disappearing from sight.
The horns of battle were sounded mere seconds later, warning all those within the castle and keep that danger lurked nearby. With quick precision and organization the battlements filled with Avalon's armies, joined by those of his guests to fortify the grounds as they marched outward from the castle to meet head on the growing threat that drew closer.
The High King watched his armies gather as great pride welled in his chest. It had been a very long time since his kingdom had seen the likes of anything that could be considered a threat. Curiously, he peered into the skies while he waited for a messenger to identify the creatures that were so numerous that they blocked the sun behind them. Not having long to wait, a small falcon came to rest upon the King's shoulder, giving a message in low tones and piercing chirps.
"Pegasi," the High King whispered low, turning his attention back to the skies with renewed curiosity. "Steward, bring the Goblin King and the cursed servant girl to me at once." The steward bowed with a quick, informal nod, then left the courtyard in brisk, even strides. 'I wonder what you told your old friend, my child,' the King mused to himself, regarding Sarah. 'That would have the Pegasi involve themselves in something clearly not of their concern.'
"Steward, what's happening?" Jareth asked hurriedly, unconscientiously pulling Sarah into his holding chamber to stand behind him as he stepped forward defensively. "Why are the horns of battle being sounded?"
"His Majesty would see you, and the servant girl, in the East courtyard immediately," the steward replied, nonplussed at witnessing Jareth freely stepping from his confines with the servant girl in tow.
Without another word to the steward, Jareth lead Sarah up the stone steps and into the great hall. Women mingled amongst themselves, fretting over a possible attack, while overwhelmed that anyone would be so stupid as to challenge the High King. With brisk steps of his own, Jareth continued outside to the courtyard, pulling Sarah along by the hand, to stand by his King.
"You've summoned me, your Majesty," Jareth stated as a formality, making his presence known to his sovereign while scanning the skies with sharp eyes.
"Jareth," Sarah whispered fearfully, tugging on his hand still holding hers as she stared at the small dark shapes that filled the sky in the distance. "What are they?"
"They," the High King answered, half turning to face her. "Are the Pegasi."
Sarah's expression turned from curious to anxious, glancing past the King to the swarm of flying horses heading their way. "Oh, no." she breathed. "Why are they coming here? And, with so many?"
"I was hoping you could answer that yourself, my child," the High King replied patiently. "Did you, in any way, beseech direct assistance to the winged herds?"
"No," Sarah denied honestly, shaking her head. "We flew to the labyrinth, I warned the goblins, and then we returned directly. There was no beseeching of any sort, your Majesty!"
His Majesty nodded at her response, then returned his focus to the skies. "That's what I feared," he stated calmly, showing no fear whatsoever. "Then they had taken it upon themselves to give alliance. Only I am not certain of which alliance they are sided with as of yet."
"Your Majesty!" a royal guard addressed, having appeared several feet away and now rushed before the King. "Another winged herd flies in from the South, your Majesty," he informed them upon a bent knee. "They are expected to pass over the mountains within minutes."
"They come from the Labyrinth Kingdom," Jareth stated unnecessarily, his tone hinted of unease.
"As the heard before us comes from Darkus' Kingdom," the High King added, turning to meet Jareth's gaze. "They conceal their intent with their magic, not even I can penetrate it." He turned to face forward once more. "Theirs is a different kind of magic. Only those from their realm can detect it. Which, by the by, is why you never felt Sarah's presence within our realm." The King gave Jareth a sidelong glance with a smirk playing on his lips. "Pegasus had taken it upon himself to protect the girl from you until you fully accepted her. A very wise act, I would say, considering your temper and scorned heart."
Jareth found himself diverting his gaze from his sovereign with nothing to say. Glancing briefly at Sarah, he then looked away from her as well. He knew the King spoke the truth. If he had sensed Sarah within the realm when she had first returned to the Underground, he most likely would have acted very rashly on her behalf, and not favorably at all.
Sarah stepped up to his side, and looked up at his face. "I had no idea that you didn't know I was in the Underground," she whispered softly. "All this time I thought you simply didn't care, that you…" Her sentence was cut off by the sudden rush of a hundred flying horses passing overhead, coming in from the South to join forces with those from the East.
They broke their formation to circle and dive, becoming one mass before landing almost as one wherever they could find room. They snorted and pawed the ground restlessly, keeping their wings raised straight up in the air to hide their backs. One Pegasi, Pegasus Himself, stepped forward with slow purposeful strides. His wings were raised high, as was his head, while meeting the expectant gaze of the High King.
Suddenly, to show his reverence, Pegasus extended one leg and bowed his long, sleek neck. Upon righting himself, he lowered his wings to his sides, showing an injured goblin resting upon his back between his wings. Looking for all he was worth, completely terrified.
By the gesture from the High King, an Avalon guard stepped forward to help the small goblin down from the equine's back only for Pegasus to step back warily, whinnying a protest at being approached. "Go to him, my child," the High King commanded Sarah pleasantly. "It seems as though it was you he bowed to."
Sarah looked at the High King with fear filled eyes. "No, your Majesty, I…"
"Go speak to him, Sarah," the High King commanded in a firm but pleasant tone. His eyes met hers with ancient patience and understanding. "It is by your alliance alone that has brought him to us," he told her in a kind tone. "Find out all you can from your old friend, as only you can do."
Hesitantly, Sarah stepped from Jareth's side, immediately gaining everyone's attention as she stepped down to meet with Pegasus. Gasps of surprise where heard amongst the crowd when Pegasus whinnied at her in recognition and stepped towards her. Sarah threw her arms around his neck, as she had always done when they had met. And, rested her cheek upon his sleek white neck while he bowed his head over her shoulder in response.
"Sarah, no!" Prince Ramus shouted, suddenly appearing next to His Majesty's side, opposite Jareth. "Your Majesty, you must stop this!" he implored the High King in alarm. "The Goblin King is using her as a tool for his own means of destruction!" he accused heatedly. "Look at how he carelessly sends her out to meet danger! These beasts are here because of 'him', your Majesty!" Prince Ramus concluded, pointing directly at Jareth with hate filled eyes.
"Actually, your Majesty," Sarah's voice addressed, gaining everyone's attention as she climbed the steps to rejoin His Majesty with the goblin who was astride Pegasus in her arms like a child. "They are here to assist you, your Majesty, against a hidden enemy."
"Sarah," Prince Ramus addressed in shock, pushing himself forward to stand in front of her, blocking her way from the High King and Jareth. "You can speak! By the fates, you are able to talk and move freely!"
"Seize him," the High king directed his guards, dipping his head towards Prince Ramus. "I have had more insolence than I can take from you, Ramus. You are hereby declared as unlawful."
"Me?" he questioned, utter shock showed on his face as he was taken into hand by the guards. "Your Majesty, please, I have done naught wrong! My only concern was for the servant girl, your Majesty! Please, forgive me any insolence I may have incurred!"
"Your Majesty," Sarah addressed formally with a bow of her head. "This little goblin is Dink. He is one of the many that Jareth had sent to rebuild the kingdoms that had been previously attacked by the command of the Goblin King. He wears no armor for battle, and he is badly wounded… as are most of the other goblins that had been saved from an attack and brought to you by the Pegasi."
At Sarah's declaration Pegasus whinnied a shrill command to his winged herd, rearing up on his hind legs to show his dominance as the lead stallion. Every Pegasi responded by lowered their wings to their flanks to show a goblin set upon each back, some of them were so wounded that the wings of their mount were literally holding them astride.
"Those are the very goblins that attacked my kingdom under the ruse of helping to rebuild!" King Darkus exclaimed heatedly, suddenly present when he hadn't been moments before. "Your Majesty, I beseech you to take action against the Goblin King before it is too late! He is the only one who can command such lowly creatures! And now he commands the winged herds as well!"
Pegasus, in response to Darkus' accusations, or perhaps just the sound of his voice, reared up once more while emitting a shrill battle cry. Landing on all fours, he steadily approached the stone steps that separated the equines from the human-like beings.
"Pegasus, no!" Sarah cried out without thinking, putting herself in front of the magnificent horse just as he opened his wings for flight. "Wait!" she beseeched urgently, placing a hand upon his soft muzzle. "Everyone here knows that no one in this realm commands you, Pegasus," she assured him in a calming tone. After a moment and another snort, Pegasus lowered his wings to his flanks.
"Impossible!" King Darkus voice in surprise. "The cursed servant is able to speak! How is this possible?"
"How is it possible that you were unaware of this, King Darkus," the High King demanded to know. "When Prince Ramus declared that very same observation mere moments ago." Darkus looked upon his King with an unsteady gaze. "Seize him!" the High King commanded on behalf of King Darkus.
"No, wait!" Darkus shouted pleadingly. "I have been your faithful servant my entire life, your Majesty! It was Mondrake that wanted Avalon to fall, not me! I had no choice but to adhere to his bidding! He was to be your successor, I had no choice but to adhere to his bidding!" Everyone looked on with sneers of contempt as King Darkus fell to his knees in one last attempt to show his fealty to his sovereign.
"Do you think me such the fool, Darkus?" the High King demanded heatedly, looking down his nose at the traitor among kings. "I have been gathering information of this so called 'attack upon Avalon' for quite awhile now. It was only recently that I was able to find the true enemy and have him removed." The High King smiled sneeringly with his eyes shining with triumph. "Do you think it coincidence that Mondrake's bride suddenly vanished before saying her vows? And yes, I have known all along of your involvement, as well as Gallion and Ramus' part in it all."
The High King paused thoughtfully. "Which is almost a pity for Ramus. The young prince simply found himself in love and had been coerced unwittingly to do the bidding of others just to have a servant girl for himself." He looked upon Sarah, who still held the injured goblin in her arms. "But, you knew what was being planned all along, didn't you child?" he asked rhetorically as he stepped before her. "You had heard a conversation that had never meant to be heard by another. And, so, you had been silenced by the most convenient means available at the time. An incantation that had 'not' been spoken incorrectly at all, but precisely how Mondrake wanted it to be spoken."
"Your Majesty," Jareth addressed, moving to stand by Sarah's side. "If you've known all along, then why allow things to build to such an end?"
"Because this is the end I desired to achieve," he announced proudly, then chuckled with mirth. "Do you honestly think I would chose the likes of Mondrake to be my successor?" He turned to look upon his people standing in the courtyard. "I would appoint the Goblin King before the likes of that sniffling warthog to rule my kingdoms!" He turned back around with flare, his royal cloak swirling around his legs with the motion. "But, it is you, Sarah Williams of the Aboveground, that I feel the most regret toward, and I extend to you my deepest apologies."
"For what, your Majesty? I don't understand. I don't remember hearing anything that spoke of war."
"For not curing you of your curse," Jareth stated with sudden realization. "When he could have done so all along."
"Yes, that is partially true," the High King admitted freely with slow nod of his head. "But, the real truth is that it was my curse that was put upon the girl." He spun around on his heels at all the shocked gasps from behind him. "Come, come my people!" he shouted boisterously. "I am the High King of all the kingdoms of the Underground! There is no power greater than mine!"
Jareth politely cleared his throat at that comment, causing the High King to half turn to look at him from over his shoulder. "I speak of magical power, Goblin King. Your Labyrinth is of its own power, I admit. But, even that power would recognize her King if the need ever arose. Luckily it never has, nor, I would hope, that it never does come to that."
"My apologies, your Majesty," Jareth voiced with politeness and a small inclination of his head.
"Then," Sarah voiced in a small uncertain voice, stepping closer to the High King. "You purposely made me suffer all this time, just to find those who opposed you?"
Jareth chose that moment to take the goblin from her arms, then stepped slightly aside. 'This is going to be interesting,' he thought to himself.
"A king must weigh the balance in all things, my child," the High King explained in a soft tone. "I had cured your curse of the potions that had been purposely spilled upon you. However, if I had let you return cured, you surely would have met a fate worse than your mere silence. Yes, it's been by my magic that has rendered you incapable of motion or speech so that you would live to meet with Jareth once more, and fulfill what was meant to be so long ago."
Sarah backed away from the High King, her lips pursed in an attempt to hold back the pain of her spurned heart. She had trusted him, followed his every command, and had come to respect this man as the great ruler of a wondrous kingdom. But, to find out that he had used her, caused her endless suffering and pain, was too much to absorb all at once. Turning on her heels, she fled down the few stone steps towards Pegasus.
"Sarah, no!" Jareth cried out, realizing what she was about to do too late. "Sarah!" He ran down the steps with the injured goblin in his arms as Sarah leapt upon the back of the winged horse with practiced ease and agility. Without so much as a command, the winged horse spread his wings, turned away from the human crowd, and bolted into the sky. "Sarah!" Jareth called after her, to no avail.
The other Pegasi bowed down to allow their wounded riders to jump, slide, or simply fall off their backs before following their leader into the mid-day sun. Only after he'd lost sight of the infamous Pegasus did Jareth slowly turn around to face his sovereign king.
"I suggest you bid me my leave, right now, 'your Majesty'," Jareth all but growled at the High King.
"I will 'not' explain myself, Goblin King," the High King growled back. "The suffering of one mortal girl is nothing in comparison to the overall safety of not just one kingdom, but the entire Underground! She is a hero, Jareth! She alone had accomplished 'so' much in favor of her King!"
"I am her king!" Jareth seethed, his eyes aglow with anger, his magic reacting to his temper by radiating around him as a tangible mass. "You purposely kept her from me!" he continued to seethe. "Hiding her as far away as possible, knowing full well that one moment within my presence would destroy all the magic you bestowed upon her!" Jareth took a step back, and looked upon the High king with sudden realization. "So, I will end this game. Because, we now know how powerful I truly am, now don't we?" Jareth turned away from his King, and stepped down the stone steps.
"Goblin King!" the High king called heatedly. "If you think for one moment you could possibly defeat me, you have…"
"YOU!" Jareth shouted definitively in a loud commanding tone, spinning around to point directly at the High King. "Have no power over me!"
The entire courtyard was hushed to stunned silence by the Goblin King's declaration. Wary glances flitted to their High King for reassurance only to be left uneasy when their sovereign gave no response whatsoever, but stood with his head held high. Jareth moved to the center of the field amongst his injured goblins. He spread out his hands on either side of his hips, and bowed his head as though in mortal prayer. And then, suddenly, without any pomp or circumstance, no thunder or lightening, not even so much as a brisk wind, every single goblin disappeared from sight along with their king.
Sarah continued to cry, lying on the grassy knoll in a heap of dirty clothes, tangled tresses, and a tear streaked face. Pegasus calmly grazed with a small number of his heard nearby, lifting his head often to check on his female human. He had carried her from the accusations and hurtful words of the magical beings that resembled her physically, but who were neither mortals nor gods. Bringing her to the same grassy knoll where she had whistled for him seemed to be the right choice at the time. Besides, Pegasus liked the taste of this grass, it was sweeter and more succulent compared to what he was used to eating.
Suddenly, the winged horse sensed magic in the air and snapped his head up at attention. Just as he nickered to his human in warning, she magically disappeared from his sight. Pegasus half reared in alarm, and charged to the very spot she had been lying. Dropping his nose to the ground, he detected her scent, familiar and calming. But, he also detected another scent that was also familiar, yet new to him. It was the same scent that surrounded his human friend the night she had called for him. It was the scent of goblin magic.
Reassured that she had been taken by someone trustworthy, Pegasus sniffed the air for anything else unusual, then lowered his head to graze some more before heading home with his herd.