I've been interested in old fairy tales lately, so here's a wintry Christmas fanfic based on fairy tales and a hint of old Irish mythology. There are some obvious differences between this and your standard fairy tale, but that's the basic form I've chosen to write in. Possibly also inspired by a tad too much Neil Gaiman.
Basic summary type doodad: A very long time before Jareth became Goblin King, he wandered far and wide through the mortal realm, having general adventures and being rad.
Sort-of a companion piece to my other fic, 'Such a Sad Love, Deep in her Eyes', taking place between the prologue and the first chapter, but you certainly don't have to read that to get this. No Sarah in this one. This is possible my first pretty well completely snog free fanfic. Hm.
Disclaimer: I own nothing, obviously. Possibly Christmas fanfic is a form of 'regifting'. Thoughts?
Merry Christmas/ Hanukkah/ Kwanzaa/ etc. from Australia, everyone!
Once upon a time, when the Old Country was still young, there was a young prince of the Fair Folk who wandered far from home. He chose for himself the name Jareth the Wanderer, though he was known in many lands by many names, Jareth Owl-Child and The Traveller and Song-Smith and many more besides. In the Old Country he was known to some as a Gruagach, for he wore fine clothes and could perform great feats of magick, and could be seen to change his shape at will. He was also known to be a trickster, and to set impossible tasks for those who boasted too loudly of their great wit and ferocious skill in battle. Some said he was wicked, a demon sent to torment mortal folk and take their children for his own, while others said he was a kindly spirit sent to watch over love-struck maidens and protect their hearts, and some said he was an angel fallen to earth, not good enough to be saved, nor bad enough to be lost. The wisest among the mortal folk called him by an old name, one which means 'He Who is Both Running and Searching', or by the name which means 'He Who Has No Path', and told their children he did not harm those who left him well enough alone, nor those who showed him kindness.
One winter eve, when the moon was full, Jareth the Wanderer was walking a lonely road. It was bitterly cold, with a wind that chilled to the bone, and soon it would begin to blizzard. Jareth the Wanderer was heading for a little village whose lights twinkled in the distance, when he was stopped by a stranger who seemed to appear in front of him from out of the fallen snow.
"Good morrow." Jareth the Wanderer called in greeting.
"Good morrow." The stranger replied, and Jareth could see that his face was pointed and his skin and hair were white as snow and his eyes as blue as glaciers. The stranger's travelling cloak was the colour of a winter sky and his hair stood out stiff from his head like icicles, and his smile was as sharp as an arctic wind.
"Do you go to the little village over yonder?" Jareth the Wanderer inquired.
"I go everywhere, for this is my season." The stranger replied. "What is your name, traveller?"
"I am known by many names, but the name I have chosen for myself is Jareth the Wanderer." He replied.
"I am Jack Frost, the Winter God." Replied the stranger, for it was true; he was truly the God of the Cold Season when the world is white and cold and food is scarce and the old and lonely die in their sleep.
"Well met, Winter God." Jareth the Wanderer bowed, for here was a power greater than he.
"Well met, He-Who-Wanders." Jack Frost bowed respectfully back, for though he held great power, even gods may have cause to fear the wrath of the Fair Folk.
"I must pass now, Old Man Winter, and be on my way, for this is not my season and I must seek shelter or surely perish." Jareth the Wanderer intoned, though this was not true; the Fair Folk were still strong then, and naught could not harm them. However, some gods are vain and insecure of their power, and it does well for lonely travellers to seem in fear of their might.
"You may pass, He-Who-Wanders, if you perform three tasks." Said Jack Frost, for the Winter God ilikes to prey upon lonely travellers.
"And if I do not perform your tasks?" Asked Jareth the Wanderer, who had little time for the games of cruel trickster gods.
"Then I shall bury that little village yonder under the snow, and all within shall perish." Jack Frost pointed to the little village which was Jareth the Wanderer's destination, with a finger as long and straight as the icicles which in winter can be deadly if they fall.
"Then I shall perform your tasks, Winter God, to save the lives of innocent mortal folk." Said Jareth the Wanderer, who was at heart a good and noble creature.
Jack Frost clapped his hands in glee, then blew on the falling snow, making it whirl together into an image for Jareth the Wanderer to see. It was a picture of a frozen pond in the middle of a forest. Beneath the pond's surface was a beautiful young woman, trapped beneath the ice. Her lips were blue with cold and her eyes were closed, as though in sleep or death.
"This is your first task. You must find this girl and bring her to me, for the nymphs in this glade hold her captive, though she is a Princess of the Winter and belongs with me. I cannot fetch her myself , for the nymphs are creatures of Summer and Spring and do not welcome my presence in their glade. Bring the Princess to me."
So Jareth the Wanderer transformed himself into an owl and flew up into the air, searching for the pond where the Princess was trapped. It was very cold and the wind blew very hard and Jareth Owl-Child was blown this way and that through the skies, but still he kept searching until he spotted the little pond far below him, for an owl's eyesight is very keen.
Jareth the Wanderer landed, turning back into his usual form and walking out across the ice to where the princess was trapped. He began to summon up his magic to break the ice, but was suddenly surrounded by a trio of water nymphs who hissed angrily at him.
"You cannot take her from us! She is ours!" Said one of the nymphs. "We must keep her here forever!"
"The maiden you have trapped beneath the ice is a Princess of the Winter. When Spring comes, the ice in your pond shall melt, and the Princess too shall melt away to nothing." Jareth the Wanderer reasoned.
"We care not! You shall not take her from us!" Hissed the nymph.
"I will exchange you something for her." Jareth the Wanderer offered.
"What can you possibly offer us?" The nymphs laughed at him, but then Jareth the Wanderer conjured a crystal and showed them the image within it; there was the Princess, staying with the nymphs forever, not melting even in the Summer.
"You cannot keep her with you forever, but if I give you this crystal you will be able to look upon her face always." Jareth the Wanderer explained.
"This is a good exchange. You may take the Princess with you." Said the nymph, so he summoned his magic and broke the ice and pulled the Princess from the water. Jareth the Wanderer could she that she was as small and delicate as a snowflake, with a cloak made from the skins of an arctic fox and hair as soft as snow when it falls like powder from the sky. Her eyes fluttered open and she looked up at Jareth with a wondering look.
"You have rescued me." She said with a voice like the tinkling of icicles in a breeze.
"Yes; now I must take you back to Jack Frost, the Winter God, or innocent lives shall be lost." Jareth the Wander replied, but the Winter Princess shook her head and buried her face in his cloak.
"Please, do not take me back to Jack Frost, for he is cruel and has no love for anyone. Let me stay with you, and I shall give you anything you wish. I love you, do not take me to Jack Frost!" She implored, and Jareth the Wanderer felt as though his heart would break. However, he was wise despite his youth, and knew that all whose season was Winter were tricksy, and their hearts were made of ice.
"You do not love me, Winter Princess." He said, for it was true. "You love no one, for your heart is of ice. I will take you back to Jack Frost."
So Jareth the Wanderer turned back into an owl, and turned the Winter Princess into a stoat, and carried her in his claws back to Jack Frost. When Jack Frost saw that he had returned, he scowled and stomped his feet and caused icicles to crash perilously from the trees, for he had not expected Jareth the Wanderer to succeed. However, the Winter Princess was returned to him, and so Jack Frost blew on the snow until it whirled together and showed Jareth the Wanderer an image of a dark cave.
"This is your second task. In this cave is a dragon who has stolen a diamond from me. The diamond is a gift for the Winter Queen. I cannot fetch it myself, for the dragon breathes fire and would melt me away to nothing. Bring the diamond to me." Jack Frost ordered, so Jareth turned himself into an owl and took to the skies in search of the cave.
Now, Jack Frost was a wily god, and had never planned to let Jareth the Wanderer best him. He decided to trick Jareth the Wanderer, and so he blew up a terrible wind and filled the skies with snow until the land would have been invisible from up above, hidden in a terrible blizzard.
Jareth the Wanderer quickly found himself buffeted about the skies as though he were little more than a rag. Unable to fly any further, he landed on the ground and resumed his usual form. Looking around, he found himself in a forest of ancient pine trees. Staring at him from between the trees was an old woman, tiny and withered and as twisted over as the trees around her. Jareth the Wanderer bowed deeply to her, for he knew her to be a Wise Woman.
"Good morrow." He said.
"Good morrow." The Wise Woman replied, then said, "Jack Frost has tried to trick you. He wishes for you to perish in the storm."
"This is true. Please, O Wise Hag, where may I find the dragon's cave?" Jareth the Wanderer implored.
"I cannot tell you that, He-Who-Has-No-Path." Replied the old woman. "But if you promise me in the Spring time to bring me the blood of the first child to fall through the melting ice, I will summon a wind to blow away the blizzard."
Jareth the Wanderer agreed, for in those days, as it is still, many children were lost beneath the melting ice, and Wise Women knew how to use their blood for medicines and good magick. So the Wise Woman summoned up the Great North Wind, and bade him blow away the blizzard, and Jareth resumed his owl form and found his way to the dragon's cave.
At the mouth of the cave Jareth the Wanderer again took up his mortal form and walked into the blackness. His eyes were sharp, like the owls', and he could see well in the darkness, and so it was that Jareth the Wanderer could make out the form of a great, white dragon curled atop a mountain of treasure. Its claws and wings were icy blue and the redness of flames glowed in its nostrils.
"Who is there?" The dragon growled, in a voice that made the earth shake, and Jareth saw that it was blind, for it had spent too long hiding in the dark guarding its treasure, and its eyes were a milky white.
"It is I, O Dragon, who has chosen the name Jareth the Wanderer." Jareth replied, searching the cave for the diamond which was his goal.
"What do you want, He-Who-Wanders?" The dragon asked, smoke curling from his nostrils.
"I seek a diamond taken from Jack Frost, the Winter God." Jareth the Wanderer responded, for it does not do to lie to a dragon, even one who is blind.
"All treasure in this cave is my own, and none may take it from me!" The dragon bellowed, curling tighter around his treasure.
Jareth the Wanderer considered carefully. Most often those who seek to take on a dragon without engaging it in battle must engage it instead in some form of game, such as an exchange of riddles, which dragons enjoy most of all. However, Jareth the Wanderer did not trust Jack Frost not to bury the little village in snow if he took too long, and exchanging riddles may take a long time. Instead, he conjured a crystal, and dropped it on the ground, where it began rolling towards the entrance. Then, he made it so his voice projected from the crystal.
"Then we shall fight each other!" Said Jareth the Wanderer, making his voice come from the crystal.
"I have not battled another in a very long time." Growled the dragon, rising to his feet from the pile of treasure.
Jareth the Wanderer stood very still as the dragon lumbered past, following the sound of his voice as it continued to emanate from the crystal. Then, making not a single sound, as only the Fair Folk are able, Jareth the Wanderer crept towards the pile of treasure. There at the very top was Jack Frost's diamond. Jareth the Wanderer retrieved it, stowing it carefully in a pocket of his cloak, then began making his way back towards the entrance of the cave.
The dragon stood outside in the snow, breathing fire at the trees and bellowing.
"Where are you, He-Who-Wanders? Why do you not fight me?" The dragon roared.
"I am here." Said Jareth the Wanderer, retrieving his crystal. "I have tricked you, O Dragon, and now I take this diamond back to Jack Frost."
"Very well." Replied the dragon, for he knew that it was a fair deal for having tricked a beast such as he. "You make take the diamond back to the Winter God, but know this: you are no friend of this dragon, and are not welcome here."
"That is fair." Agreed Jareth the Wanderer, before taking on his owl form and flying back to Jack Frost.
When Jack Frost saw Jareth the Wanderer had returned, he gnashed his teeth and stomped his feet and caused the air to drop in temperature until anyone not safe inside in front of a warm fire would have frozen to death in an instant. However, Jareth the Wanderer had brought the diamond, and Jack Frost began wracking his brain to come up with a third and final task. After a long few moment's deliberation, he came upon an idea.
"This is your third task. You must bring me a piece of the sun, for I wish to know how to destroy it and keep the world in eternal Winter. I cannot fetch it myself, for the sun is no friend of mine, and would melt me all away. Bring a piece of sun to me, and the little village shall be spared, and you may continue on your way." Jack Frost grinned spitefully, confident that Jareth the Wanderer would find it impossible to succeed.
However, Jareth the Wanderer was cunning, and knew Jack Frost to be vain and foolish, so he conjured a crystal and took on his owl form, taking the crystal in his claws as he flew up into the sky.
Jack Frost blew up a storm, covering the sky in thick, snow-filled clouds. Jareth the Wanderer was once again beaten to and fro across the sky, but he flew bravely upwards until he broke through the clouds, where the sun was just beginning to appear over the horizon. Jareth the Wanderer flapped his wings fiercely until a tiny gap appeared in the clouds, then held up the crystal in his claws so that in caught one of the suns rays, beaming it down through the gap in the clouds, where it caught Jack Frost right in the heart.
Defeated, Jack Frost fell to the ground. The storm clouds blew away, and Jareth the Wanderer landed on the ground again in his normal form.
"You have defeated me in all fairness, He-Who-Wanders." Said Jack Frost. "I shall spare the little village, and you may continue on your way."
So Jareth the Wanderer continued along the road to the little village, where small children were beginning to rise from their beds to find stockings filled with presents, for it was Christmas morn. As Jareth the Wanderer walked through the little village, he heard the laughter of the children, and he smiled, for he knew that now he had defeated Jack Frost, the Winter would be short and the planting season fruitful.
And that is the story of how Jareth the Wanderer defeated Jack Frost the Winter God and saved the little village, though none who slept there ever knew.