Okay dokey, in my haste to post this as I was on my way out the door to do some Christmas shopping, I realized that I did not clean up the end of this chapter. Some of you might have been confused when you reached the bottom. This chapter was supposed to end with Jareth's father commenting on Sarah's fate. So I am editing it and hope it gets posted correctly.
I own nothing and make no money!
Jareth was slouched low in his throne brooding, and contemplating his next move when he felt it. He knew it was coming or rather he was coming. One couldn't do what he'd done and get away without some sort of visitation. He sat up with languid grace while pulling on his leather vest. One must look ones best when in the presence of the High King, now mustn't one?
My, but he is in rare form, Jareth thought while struggling to keep an unrepentant smile from twisting his thin lips when the doors of his throne room were thrust open with such force that Jareth's hair blew back in a wild dance from its aftermath.
Without preamble of any sort and throwing etiquette to the side, the High King roared, "What have you done now?" Striding toward the Goblin King, the Fae of higher rank continued his questioning the length of the stone floor. "Have you gone mad?" Throwing his arms up on the air, he demanded in a harassed manner, "Do you never think of the consequences of your actions?"
Tapping the handle of his riding crop against his temple, Jareth pretended to think deeply on the High King's question, and then replied in a laconically, "Rarely." And that was all, he added nothing more.
"Rarely? Rarely? That is the answer you provide for me?" The High King could not believe the gall of the younger Fae. Pointing his finger at Jareth and wagging it furiously, he reminded him, "If you were not in the High Queen's favor I would have bound your magic long ago!"
Now Jareth did smile. "The High Queen is gracious and benevolent in her patronage," he purred, and watched as his father's face filled with enraged color. "In point of fact," he added with a satisfied grin, "she has been most generous many, many times. I delight in entertaining her when she feels the need…" here he paused, "to escape the constraints of the High Court and its personage."
"Tatiana was well aware of my varied duties and commitments before our marriage! As you appear to be in her confidence, you can be left in no doubt that matters of state at High Court consume much of my time and attention."
"As do the ladies of High Court," Jareth smoothly interjected. "I hear that you are often consumed by them as well."
"Do not test me, young whelp," the High King exclaimed through tightly clenched teeth. "You will not win, I promise you!"
In truth, Jareth had no real need to best his father; he just could not abide the manner in which he treated his fair wife. Tatiana was far more than just a beautiful Fae woman. She had wit and a keen mind and was not above visiting his lands. Many of the High Court looked upon his world as something akin to the gritty unwanted dregs which settled at the bottom of a tea cup. Not so the High Queen. And for that, she had his gratitude and respect.
"My personal life is of no concern in this matter," Oberon stated, his tone indicating that to continue along this vein would be dangerous. "It is your life that is under discussion here, so let us proceed."
"As you will, father," Jareth conceded quietly. "How can I serve you?"
Taking a deep, fortifying breath Oberon said, "You can start by informing me of what has occurred."
Raising an eyebrow in inquiry, Jareth asked, "Can you not be a bit more specific?"
Oberon was losing patience with his most wayward of sons, and it showed. "What," he demanded, "have you done to the Runner? Answer truthfully, Jareth for I will accept nothing but the truth. Do I make myself clear?"
"Very well, father," Jareth sighed. "But, you will be most displeased."
"Of that I have no doubt," was Oberon's retort.
Sighing again, Jareth began, "A child was wished away and I answered the call as is my duty. After the goblins brought the child to this very room, as is their way. I played with the lovely chap and then decided that I would keep him for myself."
Oberon's brows shot up. "Why would you do that," he asked, truly astonished.
"There is the matter of an heir," he reminded his father with a lazy drawl.
"A human! You sought to place a human on the Goblin throne?"
Waving a negligent hand through the air a perfectly formed orb appeared on the tips of Jareth's leather-clad fingers. "Here," he invited. "See for yourself."
Oberon leaned in and gazed into the crystal. In it's depths he saw the image of a human child dressed in striped pajamas and sporting a thatch of hair the color of corn-ripened grain. "He looks to be a fine fellow," Oberon conceded. "But, a mortal child as heir?" Shaking his head from side-to-side, he exclaimed, "It just is not done, my son. Those of the other realms would never accept him."
Jareth threw the orb in the air where it burst apart into a shower of glitter. "Just as they have never accepted me," Jareth proclaimed quietly. Then, in a voice filled with contempt he added, "If Fae convention will not lay claim to me, I will not lay claim to Fae convention!"
Oberon stared at his son's stony face and could find no words of comfort. What Jareth said was true; he was not welcome in most of the homes of the Royal Fae. Jareth had a tendency to offend and the fact that he was less than complimentary to those of equal status went against him. It was not in Jareth's temperament to faun nor flatter. Sadly, in most courts such actions went a long way to procuring acceptance.
Looking round the near empty throne room, Oberon asked, "Where is the child?"
"Gone," the Goblin King muttered angrily. "Gone… taken back by the Runner." At Oberon's confused expression, Jareth stated sharply, "The Runner beat the Labyrinth!"
Oberon blinked. "What?"
Pinching the bridge of his nose, Jareth snapped, "You heard correctly, father."
"How is such a thing possible? To the best of my knowledge none has ever managed to complete the task let alone win!"
Jareth covered his face and groaned. "I may have helped her along somewhat."
Oberon zeroed in on one thing. "Her? You were bested by a girl?" Oberon threw back his head and let lose with a series of guffaws. "Wait until I tell this tale to Puck! What fun he will have with this one!"
"I am so glad to have amused you," Jareth growled through his fingers.
"Dear, boy," Oberon gasped, wiping traces of laugh-induced tears from his face. "You have no idea how precious this is."
Jareth's head jerked up, and in a sing-song like fashion he whispered, "Oh, you precious thing."
"It is no wonder that the place shook from top to bottom and from side-to-side." Regaining his serious demeanor, the High King stated, "Still, this is a problem of some magnitude."
"How so," Jareth questioned, sounding bored.
"It's obvious, oh son of mine that you have cheated."
Sounding outraged, Jareth exclaimed, "I did not!"
Wagging his finger once more at the lounging Goblin King, Oberon asked, "Did you or did you not say that you helped the girl along?"
Examining his gloved fingernails with great intensity, Jareth mumbled nonchalantly, "I may have."
Spreading his hands widely in front of him, Oberon asked the obvious, "Well then, is that not cheating?"
"I suppose," Jareth agreed reluctantly. "But, what's said is said, and what's done is done."
"True," the High King conceded. "Tell me, how did you 'help her along'?"
Staring his father straight in the eye, he said with no remorse, "I gifted her with certain powers."
"Such as," questioned the High King with great impatience.
Tapping the heel of his boot, Jareth commented airily, "With the ability to communicate with various denizens of the Labyrinth, for one."
"All of the inhabitants," his father asked with a glare.
"Yes," was Jareth's succinct reply, glaring right back at the High King.
"Let me make sure that I understand you correctly. This girl now has the ability to understand and speak the various languages of your realm?"
Jareth nodded. "Though, to her, it sounds as if they are speaking her own language. She does not know that she is now versed in Goblin, Troll, Dwarf, Fairy, Rock Monster…" letting his head fall carelessly back over the arm of his throne, Jareth muttered,"… and etcetera, and etcetera, and et-cet-ter-a."
Oberon could not believe the lackadaisical attitude of his son. Did he not realize the danger that he had unleashed?
"I did not think that I had given her anything of importance." That much was true. "It was a mere whim on my part." That was a lie, but Jareth was not ready to divulge too much to his father at this point. "I was sure that she would either give up or lose altogether." Another true statement on Jareth's part. "Those with who she came in contact with while in the Labyrinth gave assistance."
"Who would dare risk the wrath of the Goblin King," Oberon asked in disbelief. "All fear you, and rightly so."
It was widely known that Jareth was not a tolerant monarch, nor was he patient or forgiving. Those who went up against him were often punished severely. The example of Jareth's ire was enough to keep the Goblin King's subjects in line. Oberon wondered what Jareth had done to the ones who gave help to this Runner. It would not have been pleasant, of that he was certain.
Jareth thrust himself up from his throne and began to pace the floor gesturing wildly as he spoke. "That… that girl bewitched them! She flashed those damning, cruel eyes in their direction and they folded like a deck of cards!" He snorted. "It was pathetic, father! They were pathetic!" Jareth stopped in his tracks, hands clenched tightly together at the base of his spine. "It would take more than a pretty face to sway me," he scoffed angrily.
One of Oberon's brows rose high upon his forehead. "Pretty was she,' he ventured to ask.
"What has that got to do with anything?" Jareth's scathing question elicited nothing but a mild laugh from his father.
Oberon watched with amused eyes as Jareth continued his tirade against the girl. He listened patiently for a few moments before he took it upon himself to interrupt his son by commenting in a benign fashion, "And was it not… pathetic on your part to endow her with certain powers?"
Advancing on his father, Jareth spat out, "She left me no choice!" Jareth fisted two gloved hands in the thickness of his tawny-blonde hair and howled, "Damn her and damn that blasted book!"
"Book?" Oberon echoed his son. Then the truth of the matter struck Oberon like a thunderbolt. Closing his eyes in despair, Oberon exclaimed, "You foolish idiot! So, not only does this girl walk Above with powers that she is completely unaware of, but she is also in possession of the book?"
Releasing his hair, Jareth exhaled in a long whoosh and answered in a low voice, "That's about the size of it."
"This explains much," Oberon informed Jareth. "Tell me about this girl. Better yet, show me."
With obvious reluctance, Jareth conjured up another crystal and handed it to his father. Through narrowed eyes, Oberon gazed at the images which flashed by; exposing the past thirteen hours.
"She bewitched them, you say?"
"Yes," was Jareth's terse reply.
"I can certainly see how she might have done so. She is a lovely young woman, and I can feel how sensitive she is to those around her." He paused, and then said quietly, "She seems to have a natural affinity with her surroundings."
Oberon suddenly went silent. Jareth scrutinized his father's face attempting to gauge his reaction to the visions passing through the crystal. Jareth picked up flashes of admiration, concern and confusion.
"What other powers have you gifted her with?"
Jareth found it difficult to meet his father's eyes. "What makes you think there is more than just the ability to understand the tongues of the Underground?"
Sounding annoyed, Oberon exclaimed, "Because, my son, I do recall that you mentioned you had given her certain powers. Powers, Jareth. Plural."
Taking a deep breath, Jareth said, "You recognized her natural affinity." Oberon nodded. "She is a true believer, father. A true believer! Do you know how rare that is?"
"Tis certain that there are too few of the mortal realm who maintains a strong conviction of our worlds, but this is not reason enough for your actions."
Clicking his tongue in annoyance, Jareth pushed forward, "It is not only her strong belief which makes Sarah out of the ordinary! Her advanced age combined with her own firm notions of our domain make her extraordinary."
"Jareth, tell me plainly what you have done," Oberon ordered, his expression set in a serious manner.
"I was so certain that she would fail," Jareth insisted, punching the air with a clenched fist. "If she had, they both would have been living here in the castle by now. Her brother as my heir, and Sarah as…" Jareth paused.
"As…" Oberon encouraged his son to finish the sentence.
Jareth shrugged. "I had not yet figured that one out," he admitted with a look of bewildered chagrin. "I only knew that she must stay."
Oberon rolled his eyes. It appeared as if it his sons' subjects were not the only ones to have been bewitched by the dark-haired beauty. It was clear that on the subject of this Sarah there was much confusion in Jareth's mind. If he had not been so worried by the Goblin King's actions, he would have been highly intrigued. As it was, this fascinating state of affairs would have to wait.
"I ask you once more, Jareth. What other powers did you give to this mortal girl?"
Jareth glanced at the firm set of his father's features, and knew that he could put the truth off no longer. "She can enter the dreams of others… mine in particular. While I, in turn, can enter hers at will."
Oberon shut his eyes, and sighed quietly before saying, "You gave her the power of dreamwalking." Opening his eyes once more, he asked, "What else?"
"Eventually, she will be able to create crystals of her own."
"What?" The High King roared. "I cannot believe that you, of all the Fae, could be so damnably simple-minded!"
"I told you that you would be displeased." Jareth could not prevent the small note of glee which had entered his voice. "But, take heart, that particular power might not manifest itself at all," he added with a twist to his lips. "The ability to materialize crystals takes tutelage and as she has no one to tutor her, it is unlikely that she will be able to do so."
"Can you lay claim to that certainty," Oberon snapped, gnashing his teeth together.
"Now, father," Jareth laughingly rebuked, "you know as well as I that so little in life is certain."
Oberon threw his hands in the air and asked grievously to no one in particular," What am I to do with you? This could be the ruination of you! The others will be out for blood, and not just yours, my boy!"
Jareth snapped to attention, and asked in a deadly whisper, "What do you mean?"
"I mean," Oberon spat out, "that your little mortal girl will now be the target of Fae assassination! Did you really think that she would be permitted to walk about – no matter how unaware she might be – as if nothing of import has happened? "
Striding to his father's side, Jareth snarled, "No one, and I mean no one had better harm a hair on Sarah's head! I won't allow it!"
"Oh really," Oberon asked snidely. "And pray tell how will you ensure her safety? When they discover your massive stupidity, they will act immediately! I will be unable to stop them for they are within their rights to do so. They will think only to protect the Underground. Your Sarah is nothing to them!"
Jareth's fine features twisted into a mask of despair. "No," his voice sounded choked, "this must not happen! Sarah must not die!"
Oberon looked on his son with pity. "There is nothing for it," he claimed. "You have sealed her fate."