The Villain and The King

(a sequel)

by: Jack Hawksmoor

In the mountains above Rishikesh, in India, there was a path through the woods. Sarah Williams had traveled it before with a young boy and his father, hunting a demon-thing shredding its way in between worlds. She'd never been there on her own before, but both Randhir and his father had schooled her very carefully in the hunting, how to watch as they walked, and the correct things to do.

Sarah turned east at the river, and started singing. She didn't particularly like singing, she wasn't all that good at it and usually left it to Jareth, but it was a requirement of the journey and so she did her best. She sang most of the morning, until her throat was scratchy. 'Frère Jacques', and 'Don't Stop Believing' and 'Pour Some Sugar On Me' which was now a particularly memorable song for her given how all-out Jareth had gone at Karaoke on her last birthday. She even got a little desperate toward the end and started in on the goblin songs. Most of them seemed to be about how to tell how pissed off the Goblin King was, and what he was likely to do depending on how annoyed he was. Some of the goblin offenses were slightly arcane (poisoning without permission?), and Sarah had needed to actually look up what 'defenestration' meant the first time she'd heard it, but it kept her occupied until she finally spotted the rock formation she'd been looking for, turned east, took ten steps and looked to her left.

Sarah grinned, and stopped singing, to the possible relief of anything with ears within hearing distance.

Blue flowers hung heavy in the sal tree that marked the foothold of the the path on earth. Sarah jogged toward it. The flowers wound brightly around the massive trunk, planted by someone clever as a sign for those who knew there was something to look for. Sarah stopped close by and smiled. Sal trees flowered on their own, delicate pink and white things. They looked like orchids with fronds. These flowers were very different; like forget-me-nots, only they were about three inches across. Also, when Sarah leaned in to look, she could see the flowers watching her from their centers with tiny, curious black button eyes. Their leaves curled slightly on their own at her approach, and she pulled away so as not to frighten them.

Sarah reached out as she passed the tree and touched it, stamping her foot solidly to the ground as her fingers brushed the bark, as she'd been told to.

Earth, she thought carefully, and stepped forward. She took twenty seven paces in a straight line, passing by trees not quite on the path without looking at them. Sarah did not look at the trees, but her memory-and her peripheral vision-was very good, especially about scary, life-or-death fairy tale stuff like this, and there were a lot of trees not quite on the path that had died since the last time she'd been here. It was a little worrying. She couldn't get to those worlds, not on this path, but it was creepy to have them dead all around her like that.

Three more steps and then she passed by a large stone on the left, looking at it, giving it a moment of consideration and respect.

Ascolais, she thought, brushing her fingers against the face of it, and passing by. Each world she went by, each turn on the path she took, everything she did was a careful step in a dance that must be completed precisely. Should she stop at the first world and come out again, she must go all the way back to Earth before trying the path again lest she risk becoming hopelessly lost for all time.

Sarah looked up, her heart lifting as she looked to her destination. It stopped cold, and sank right down into her shoes. At a massive fork in the path, a tree that wasn't just a tree but also The Land of Light and Shade was dead.

Sarah's steps hesitated for a moment in surprise, and she felt a thrill of fear, remembering Randhir's father, dark and stern, warning her.

Never stop moving your feet on this path, or it will eat you...

She jerked her feet forward again into motion but slowly, slowly, her fear ratcheting up higher, because she had no idea what to do. It was dead. The whole tree, as if it had been struck by lightning and burned, its branches blackened and reaching balefully for the sky.

There was something terrifying about it. Not evil, but as if great evil had been done. As if something wonderful and good had fallen when Sarah hadn't been looking. She couldn't...she couldn't believe the world was gone. It had to be the gate. Just the gate, surely.

The problem was, Sarah couldn't stop on the path. She couldn't turn around unless she was at a world, a destination, and the destination immediately ahead of her was dead. She didn't know what this dead tree would do to the rules on the rest of the path. Sarah had a sneaking suspicion it would not be good.

She took a deep breath, and stamped her foot down firmly next to the tree, but something in her quailed at the thought of touching it. It was not fear. It was more like despair. Like finding the dead body of a friend in the living room.

The Land of Light and Shade, she thought, and realized she was crying.

She looked past it, her foot already raised to move on. She thought she would go past, and turn around at the next world. Go back to earth and forget the whole thing.

There were two new trees on the path ahead of her. They were terrible things.

Sarah made some small, high sound in the back of her throat and froze. She was at a world, and apparently, even a dead world was enough for the path not to eat her. This was good, because Sarah had pretty much stopped thinking and was leaning toward screaming.

They were pale dusky husks without leaves, and they crawled. Their bark was undulating with unimaginable things just under the surface. Simply looking at them, simply looking at the angles of the way their branches came together was enough to make Sarah nauseous. They strained her eyes just looking at them, as if they resided in a weird area of space, giving Sarah the sensation of having put on a pair of very strong glasses that were not her prescription.

Sarah turned on the spot, wide eyed, and touched the blackened, dead bark of the tree she was standing next to. The forest in the Land of Light and Shade was endless, and the sunlight filtered through like fairy dust. Sarah wanted it to be there. Wanted the gate to be gone, and the land still there. She had a feeling it wasn't true.

At her back, one of the terrible trees made a sound like howling madness in the night.

'Do not run...' Randhir 's father had reminded her.

She swallowed hard, and began to retrace her steps back to earth. Not running. She didn't think any of the trees could actually move, could chase her or get to her in any way, so long as she followed the rules on the path. She still wanted desperately to run as fast as she could as far as she could.

When she got to the exit, and stepped out onto Earth, she sat down and put her head in her hands for a minute.

Close. That was close. If I hadn't looked ahead-

Then she turned and looked at the blue flowers wound around the sal tree that marked the gate to earth with cold, pale eyes. The flowers blinked back at her placidly. Someone else might not look ahead. Sarah wasn't the only traveler on earth. The flowers were a marker. She looked down at her sandals for a second, and sighed. Then she stood up.

The flowers screamed, as she tore them down.

Three days later, Sarah told Randhir this, and he sat quietly for a long time afterward, thinking.

"You should stay," the boy said soberly, his eyes glued to the swirling patterns he was drawing in the sand with the sal branch in his hand. There was power in those patterns, carelessly drawn. It was coming off them like an ozone tang in the air after a lightning storm.

He was wearing what in the states would be considered a dress. White. With embroidery.

In Benares, it was a perfectly normal shirt. Entirely masculine. He squatted down to get a better look at his work, and dabbed at a bit of the design he disapproved of with a finger. The sand stuck to his skin and he made a childish face, wiped it on his white pants.

Sarah gave him a slightly awkward smile, caught off guard. He knew her. He knew better. She'd thought. "Thanks, but-"

Randhir gave her some seriously frank eye contact for a boy that young. "Have you ever read a story about someone, and they just won't make a sensible decision?" He interrupted "They should bring the magic treasure back to the sultan, or take the stolen jewel back to the angry god but they never do. They could drop it by the side of the road, or give it to a beggar, but they don't do that, either. They're always too proud, or too greedy, or too stubborn." The little boy cocked his head to one side. "Don't you just hate that?"

Sarah stared at him, and chewed the inside of her cheek for a minute.

"You know, I never worry about what fortune tellers say," she muttered, poking at the sand with her toe. "I can't ever get anything actually useful out of them."

She glanced to one side. Off to their left a set of stone steps rose right out of the water, flattening into a platform before curling around a large building and disappearing up into the hills. A lot of buildings here crowded in close to the water. On the steps stood two large curly horned cows, watching placidly as the early morning fishermen set up their boats, totally unconcerned by the bustle of the ancient city around them. As confident in their surroundings as New York City pigeons.

"The problem with being a seer is that there must be something to see," Randhir said. "You need to stay, Sarah, or you don't have a future."

Sarah half-laughed, but it died quickly. "I don't...Randhir," she said, with rising anxiety, "you know I can't stay here." She looked around with a flash of panic. At the Ganges, at the few trees on the hills, and the people- the normal people in the distance. Fishermen and ascetics starting their morning routine. She was pretty far from the ones she loved most nowadays.

She thought of Jareth's room, of that massive fireplace cracking away in the evenings, the flickering light chasing shadows across mismatched eyes. Of the windows open and wide without glass, of looking down and seeing Ludo flat out on his back in the courtyard, spread-eagled and snoring under the stars, covered in sleeping pixies. Of goblins snickering and jostling each other as they went home for the night, small dark mischievous shapes on the pale narrow streets of the goblin city. Even Toby was half a world away. Not here...

"They never stop," Randhir said softly, shaking his head, looking back down at his drawing in the sand. He smiled slightly. It was an eerie expression on such a young child's face. "But then, who tells tales about sensible people?"

"If you think, if you really think there's some kind of danger, I could stay home for..." a while, Sarah finished in her head, lamely. Sarah loved the labyrinth. Loved it with a small steady burning flame in her heart that she didn't think would ever go out. But to stand there and promise that she would stay within those boundaries and never set foot outside them again...

Randhir gave her a knowing smile that was somehow frighteningly full of pity. She knew what was in him was older than the boy on the outside but it was still creepy.

"How long? A month? A year?" Randhir put his hands on his knees and stood up, holding the sal branch, hefting it as if he'd never seen it before. About a thumbs-width thick, bendy at one end, blunt at the other. Randhir looked at her thoughtfully. "It's not only your future that's gone out. A lot of paths are darkening. A lot of worlds we can't reach anymore. We have to make our choices carefully now."

Sarah went cold. She'd thought she just had a bit of bad luck lately. But if it wasn't just her...

"You think there's something more happening here?"

He sighed, and looked up, "Sarah, I do like you. One day, I think you might thank me for this." He blinked, and the pupils of his eyes turned snakelike. "Then again, maybe not."

"Randhir," Sarah said, feeling a slightly foolish trickle of alarm as she looked down at the skinny, harmless looking six year-old staring up at her.

Randhir whipped his arms over his head and cracked her in the face with his stick. It felt like being hit by a brick; She didn't feel herself hit the ground.

"Ugh," Sarah groaned, some time later, and spit out some sand. It was kind of cool on her face, which was nice, because her face freaking hurt. She lifted her head. Her necklace was broken. The chain had snapped, and it was laying in the sand right by her face, sort of twinkling up at her accusingly. She was normally so careful with it, she must've caught it on something when she fell. Sarah sat up and touched her forehead gingerly, scowling over at the cheerfully smiling young boy that was squatting down beside her.

By his expression and manner, he appeared to be entirely the age one would expect of him. His body language was quite different all of a sudden; Where before he was careful and thoughtful and creepily adult, he now seemed quite fidgety and awkward around her. Sarah gave him a sour look, and he shrugged in a lack of childish apology. He said something in Hindi, of which Sarah understood just enough to get that he was saying he was innocent. Or he was saying he was a child. Something like that.

She got it. He wasn't the driver, he was just the vessel in his particular weird little arrangement. This had happened once or twice, during their travels together- a personality switchover between possessor and host. His timing was rather suspiciously convenient for avoiding any questions, since this version of Randhir was as lousy at English as Sarah was at Hindi.

Randhir patted her on the shoulder. He picked up her necklace from the sand and offered it to her.

Sarah looked at it for a minute, oddly queasy. Something unpleasant shifted slightly in her stomach. Randhir made a gesture and tried to put it into her hand. Shaking her head, she took it from him and pushed herself to her feet, dusting off her rear end. She shoved a few layers aside, digging for an internal pocket to put it in for now. Randhir nodded in a smug and self satisfied way, and held his hand out stiffly.

He said something else, which Sarah got pretty clearly as 'still friends?'

She took his hand and shook it with a frown. "But I'm going to have some words with our mutual friend the next time I-"

With a wicked grin, Randhir took off running.


Sarah looked around at the banks of the river and sighed. People in this city got up early, and pretty soon, she wouldn't be able to sneak away anywhere. The contents of her stomach shifted again, in a way that made her want to sit down and concentrate on breathing for a while. She swallowed hard and fought the impulse. It was gone in a moment, leaving a cold sweat on her forehead. Sarah rubbed at her face, even though it didn't hurt any more. Actually, she couldn't think why it would hurt. Sarah shook her head, mildly confused.

India had turned into a much weirder trip than she'd thought it would be.

Screw it. She was finished up here anyway. She fumbled with her sari again, trying to get at the small knife she had tucked into the belt under her waistband. She stepped back away from the bank, moving as far as she could into the shadow of the building behind her. This city was like Istanbul built on top of Venice-ancient structure on top of ancient structure; the architecture beautiful and intricate and full of good hiding spots. Like one advanced culture had come in after another had moved on, shrugged, and just started building on top of everything else already there.

There were more portals to strange places strewn around in the city of Benares than possibly any other city on Earth. Everywhere she stepped, leylines ran underfoot like sewer and water lines might run underground in any other city. Even regular people disappeared all the time here. She only had to look for a minute to find something suitable.

Sarah pulled the little knife from its sheath. The black handle was carved deeply with swirling markings. There was a silver knob at the end, not too large as to appear unwieldy, inset with a small silver ring that would turn in a groove independently of the handle. In this ring were set many small symbols.

Sarah moved the ring with her thumb, feeling the symbols, knowing from familiarity which was which almost without looking. The right marking lined up with the right carving, and she flipped the knife and made a quick slash in the air in front of her.

The world opened up, and she stepped into the labyrinth. The throne room, which was nice. She didn't have all that much control over where she ended up, though it was usually in or near the castle. The time she'd landed on the roof had been memorable. Or that time she'd bounced in on Hoggle's bed. Thankfully he hadn't been in it at the time. Even so, Jareth had nearly turned purple when he'd heard.

The throne room was empty, even the chickens more or less peacefully asleep, clucking quietly to themselves at her arrival, so she had to guess it was at least four in the morning. She went to the doorway, and made her way down the corridor with the ease of long familiarity.

The door jolted awake when she tried to open it, and she had to shush it to keep it from waking the whole castle to tell them she was here. It grumbled a little at the brush-off, but it was Jareth's door, so it didn't grumble much. It was rather used to people tending to suffer from wild emotional swings coming through in a mood.

"Ssh," she said, once more, sternly, and quietly entered Jareth's bedroom.

The fire was low but not out, and Jareth was sound asleep in his monstrous bed. She caught her breath with a thrill of delight when she saw him. She wasn't expected. She didn't know how he knew oftentimes to expect her. He didn't know the exact time, but somehow Jareth usually knew when she was on the way. He was annoyingly smug about it. And he usually made sure he looked particularly beautiful and enticing and lickable, while Sarah mostly showed up dusty, exhausted, or covered in mud.

Jareth was sprawled out, mouth wide open, snoring like a buzz-saw. Sarah would have laughed out loud in delight but it would have woken him up and spoiled it.

She looked around as if she was seeing things for the first time. Sarah had a suspicion he was tweaking things around when he knew she was going to be here. Glittering up the throne room a little, giving the chickens a bath, stuff like that. And...maybe...other things. So she always got a kick out of it when she realized she'd managed to surprise him. This was real. This was how it really was. She pressed Jareth sometimes, but he insisted she was imagining things. Sometimes...sometimes the stuff she thought she saw when she surprised him scared her a little.

Sarah went to the window, and looked out at the world. It looked like it had before, though someone had rebuilt the ten houses closest to the castle on this side, since they'd been lost in the Great and Glorious Quiche Disaster the last time she'd been here. Then she looked up at the sky, and got a bit of a wobble.

Were...were the stars different than they had been? No. Now she really was imagining things. Shaking her head, she returned to her former spot at the foot of the bed, regarding Jareth fondly for a moment. She was being ridiculous. Sure, maybe sometimes it seemed like there might be something weird going on. But she loved him, and as mad as it sounded sometimes, she trusted him too. He'd tell her if there was something wrong.

She stretched to put her hands out on his ridiculously ornate bedposts, tilting her head as she admired him. He never looked innocent. But this was about as close as he could come.

A breeze blew in from the window, sending the gauzy orange sashes of her sari dancing. As if the wind had just blown her in from that window, into his life again.

Sarah had a surreal moment, as that orange fabric rustled around her like something otherworldly and alive. As if she was the strange magical thing bouncing in and out of his life, not the other way around. Stopping by for a visit and then coming back again later. For her, it had been only a week and a half, but for him?

Well, at the very least it had been long enough to rebuild the part of his city that had been smashed and covered in a glittery, pulsating mess. The cleanup alone must have taken weeks. All that quiche...good god, no wonder he looked exhausted. Sarah still didn't think she'd ever be able to look at eggs the same way again.

She wasn't really tired, though, and she was nearly certain that if she got into bed with him he would wake up and that would probably be the end of sleep for both of them for the night. Not an unpleasant prospect, but he looked desperately worn out, so Sarah took pity and tiptoed toward the door without disturbing him. She opened it, silently threatening terrible things if it did not keep quiet.

It rolled its eyes, but remained silent.

Sarah walked past the door that led to the hall that sprouted stairways and mysteries and pits and a long time ago, an Escher nightmare for one fifteen-year old Sarah Williams. Even when there wasn't a runner in the labyrinth it tended to grow semi-dangerous things that could get you lost for days, possibly just out of long habit.

Sarah descended from the throne room and hit a small landing with a particularly malicious-looking door. She smiled.


"Excuse me," she said to the sleeping face, grasping the handle of the door firmly. The doorknocker woke all at once, looking murderous and outraged.

"Who dares-" the doorknocker saw her, and stopped mid-roar, his eyes narrowing. "Oi there," he said, much calmer, "you supposed to be here now?"

Sarah gave him a cool expression. "I can do what I like."

His eyes opened wide in mock dismay. "All right there, your majesty," he said, somewhat lacking in the respect one might expect from such an uncomfortably extravagant title. Sarah made a face, and there was a loud click as the door unlocked. Sarah stepped inside, ignoring the door's low mutterings about the late hour.

"Who reads at three in the morning..." the voice was cut off as the door shut with a thump behind her, perhaps a little more firmly than strictly necessary.

Sarah had a hard time believing a library would be possible here, considering some of the things goblins considered recreational activities. Then Jareth had parked her at the landing and let her watch the door do his work. Afterward, Sarah wondered privately why Jareth didn't hide the wished-away children in the library, if he really didn't want to part with them. There was no way anybody without permission could ever get in-that door was just too...too-

-well, violent and ill tempered. And took too much pleasure in his job. Jareth probably thought it wasn't worth risking the books inside, though. And almost the only spot in the castle the goblins couldn't get in to bother him.

The place was a mess, dusty and cobwebby with papers strewn everywhere. Library by Scooby-Doo. Spooky during a thunderstorm, but that was just how Jareth kept the place. An ancient library kept by an emotionally capricious bachelor, not exactly unexpected. Crystals floated like soap bubbles in the air, created and then forgotten about, left to shine their light for no one at all. Sarah approached one and looked inside with a faint smile. Her image was a funhouse reflection in the iridescent surface, her face stretched long, her pupils like slits. She looked up at the high ceiling, saw more crystals hovering overhead. They were unspeakably beautiful, left here on a whim.

Sarah poked around, shifting papers, looking at open books, seeing how much had changed since the last time she'd been here. Something would eventually catch her eye, and she could curl up and read for a few hours until she got sleepy, then sneak back upstairs and slide into bed with Jareth. It would be really delicious if she could manage to do it without waking him. She didn't think she'd ever managed to surprise him in the morning like that. It would be a delight to pull it off.

She dropped a scroll on the ground and bent quickly to grab it, bumping her hip against the table, driving something hard in her pocket against her skin.

Her stomach shifted queasily, and she went down into a crouch, taking a deep breath. The sensation rolled through her just for a second, and then was gone. Shaking her head, she brushed it off as indigestion, reaching under the table to grab the paper and putting it back where she'd found it. Not that Jareth would notice, in all the mess, but still.

She picked up a small, colorful handprinted book that looked like some kind of field guide to the differing types of pixies and their uses. Some of the uses were kind of disturbing-the pixies wore clothes, for goodness sakes-but it wasn't anything Sarah was looking for. She set the book down, glancing around again. She wondered if there was anything written down in a book about goblin laws, or if Jareth just made everything up as he went along. Sarah kind of suspected the latter, which was a little disappointing. She was honestly kind of curious to know what 'poisoning without permission' meant.

There was a book on a stand, in the corner by the window. That was new.

Tilting her head, she walked down the isle, glancing up to make sure nothing precariously balanced fell on her head. She went to the window, looking down at the book standing there alone. There was dust on it, of course, but it looked beautifully illustrated and she blew on the page to get a better look.

"The Great and Glorious Quiche Disaster"

Sarah's mouth dropped open. There were the four Goblins responsible. It was amazingly realistic-Richard Nixon was scowling menacingly at her from the page, fork in hand, his horned helmet askew. Unnoticed in the background, strange and unstable sparkly substances were added to the quiche mix, 'for the pretties', the doomed process led by a tiny, fluffy goblin who Jareth insisted was called Jareth.

Sarah touched the page, which had not been entirely divested of dust, and smeared three fingerstreaks of clean paper across the picture.

She could see now, outside the window in the picture (it was so real) both Jareth and Sarah. They were laughing- Jareth had been complaining about the large hole that had been blown through the side of the wall surrounding the goblin city by the latest person having wished someone away, and hadn't modern people heard of doors. Sarah had responded with some choice comments about the...excess of character...some of the doors in his kingdom had, and how she might occasionally rather go through a wall herself, thanks.

That had been ten days ago, for her. She'd gone out to the forest in Rishikesh to recover from the odd experience of having to fight a wall of living quiche. Jareth had needed to breathe into a brown bag for a bit himself, afterward. The texture alone...anyway, it had been a quick trip, nothing too weird. Okay, the fact that every fortune-teller in India seemed to turn white as a sheet as soon as they saw her was a little weird, and the path had ended scary, but on her scale, that wasn't bad at all.

Sarah rubbed the dust between her fingers and swallowed hard. Her brain tried to estimate, just based on the thickness of the dust...years, certainly. With her clean hand, she covered her mouth for a second, her nerves making her heart skitter a little.

The longer she knew him, the more times she came, the more she had started to suspect-


-that the length of time for him between her visits was immeasurably longer than it appeared to be. Perhaps...perhaps even growing further and further apart with each visit she made. In bad moments she thought there might be some rule she didn't know, that he couldn't tell her. That was the way these things usually went. But she had thought he could stretch and squeeze time as he liked, here. At least to some extent. If something could be done, surely...surely he of anyone could...

She told herself she was imagining it. Jareth told her, too.

The second time she came back, after...well, after she had decided to start coming regularly, every single goblin called her 'Queen'. Not fearfully, not out of respect...on reflex. As if she'd been talked about. As 'the Queen'. For years. When she'd expressed that she was uncomfortable with that, it was like she'd asked them to stop calling her Sarah and start calling her Bob all of a sudden. Jareth had to thunder and storm around, and even then, every five minutes it was 'Que-uh, Sarah', and eventually Sarah just told Jareth to forget it and gritted her teeth through the rest of the visit.

The next time, two weeks later, it was 'Sarah', as if it had been years.

Last year, she'd opened her bedroom door and for a moment, there had been dust on everything. Cobwebs and dust like no one had been inside in decades. Jareth hadn't been expecting her that time, and she didn't often go back to her old room when she was here, but she was completely soaked and she just wanted to get a dress from the closet before she said hello.

She opened the door and it was was like every fairy tale she'd ever read. You go under the hill with the fairies and you dance for a hundred years and you come back and your life is like that room. Then the sunlight from the little window in the back caught the dust in the air and set it alight. The glow flashed like it had ignited the whole room and then Sarah was standing there in front of nothing. Just a normal room. Well kept. Her room, as it was three weeks ago. It was over in an eyeblink.

That one had put ice in her veins. But it had only been a moment. She could have...imagined...

Sarah wiped at the picture, wiped it clean to see every detail, her eyes burning. Every detail of this old illustrated fairy tale that she had just finished living. All this time...She...she never would have been able to bear so much time apart from him. Years, maybe much more than years before he'd see her again...and he never said anything, never showed it, simply let her go. And when he saw her again, only smiled, and said hello as if it had been a few days. As if it was nothing.

How could he...?

She took her courage in both hands and turned the book over to the first page. It was a fat book, and obviously old, so she did it slowly, wincing when the leather creaked in protest.

"Queen first visits the labyrinth"

The first word had been crossed out, and "Sarah" had been written in. It was, however, undeniably a drawing of herself at fifteen, looking honestly a little intimidated standing next to the Goblin King in full regalia as he gestured dramatically at a clock he'd just conjured out of the air.

Sarah swallowed hard, smoothing her hand over the page. Her hand was shaking, she noticed. She took a deep breath. The page was yellow and brittle, as if it had been exposed to the air for a long, long time. The colors were faded a little.

She took half a step back, her arms dropping, shutting her eyes so she wouldn't have to deal for a second.

Oh, Jareth, what the hell are you doing?

"No," growled a voice terrifyingly close to her ear, and someone grabbed her tightly around the waist, yanking her back, away from the window.

Author's Note:

(peering out at the readers in befuddlement) What are you doing here? Don't you know sequels suck?

(cracking knuckles) so, smut warning, next chapter, big time (hey, why wait?) also, I've had to tie up my Tiny Spock and Tiny Kirk in the kitchen for the duration of this story (muffled struggling sounds), but they may escape at some point and run around and need to be written about. For now, Tiny shirtless Jareth has his goblin Richard Nixon watching them...and he is scary.

(Tiny Shirtless Jareth looks pleased and sexy)

(Richard Nixon Growls menacingly). He pokes at his hostages with a stick. Tiny Spock and Tiny Kirk, tied to each other, look pissed.

I may need to sort this out later. Now, I am going to do some thanking and such for some folks who wrote in for 'the lady and the knight'-many of whom will never read this. Feel free to tune out.

To everybody who wrote, begged, e-mailed, pleaded, facebooked, and even that one guy who sent flowers (see you in court, sucker), thank you for reading, thanks for all the encouragement and the crazy jokes and the cool stories, thanks for the in-jokes you added in your stories, thanks for the cool deviant art pictures that inspire, and the crazy awesome jokes that come from the cool deviant art pictures. Thanks for being the best, the funniest, the most fun fandom I'm a part of. I mean it. You guys make writing this stuff awesome.

CPAnthoni- I always start in the middle, and yes, by god, there is a sequel:)

EmeraldRomance- Sarah's not immortal, I'm afraid, and as for the human dreamer/past self thing...well done, I don't think anybody else got that. Or, nobody told me about it...have a bag of glitter as a prize, anyway:)

Moria Polonius- glad you liked Marcus:)

Maxwell02-glad you liked Marcus too, funny, how I'm mentioning him again here...

Doc rein- (whistling) oh bah, let me have my fun. You can't prove nothin'. Nothin! Hee, hee...

Allie C- don't up and die, there's more stuff I'm cranking out.

Thornwitch- you know, I actually got quite a few questions, botanically, about that tree and why it needs seeds and won't produce more, and oddly enough I do have a reason, but I can't spoil it yet.

Badwolf-Phoenix- darkness-fluff, a new genre :)

Much thanks to Deritine, who beta'd this in a very satisfyingly mean fashion:)