A/N: Hello and welcome to Malleus Maleficarum, the sequel to Guardian Angels. You will have needed to read Guardian Angels to understand this story but I hope that doesn't put anyone off as I promise you all the intrigue, romance, angst and terror that was included in that first story. I plan to update every fortnight and hope not to deviate from that pace at any point but as always its your support and reviews that keep me going so please let me know what you think.
Standard disclaimer applies; none of the characters that you may recognise from the Henson film 'Labyrinth' belong to me but the plot is my own. I make no profit from posting this story here and hope you will enjoy it as a piece of fiction written in homage to a film that inspired me in my childhood.
So please join me on a journey back to the Underground and beyond as Jareth and Sarah face their greatest challenges yet.
'Nobody does it better, makes me feel sad for the rest. Nobody does it half as good as you, baby you're the best. I wasn't looking but somehow you found me. I tried to hide from your love light but like heaven above me, the spy who loved me, is keeping all my secrets safe tonight.' – Nobody Does it Better, Carly Simon.
Boudicca slunk along the thin wall, her feet silent on the ancient stones as her soft elvish boots offered no noise with each step. She kept her breathing low and even, slowing her heart with a practised ease after years of keeping herself hidden in attempts to gain information to aid her master. She finally found a small niche she knew provided a good vantage point to the throne room and peered in, noticing only two sleepy looking guards but she knew it wouldn't be long until her true quarry arrived. She did not have to wait long; she knew the timings of the Court before her as she knew any other, the king entering with his usual arrogance ahead of his reluctant queen and ardent followers. She narrowed her eyes to better see the state of the queen, too thin and pale where she had once been so beautiful, a formidable warrior. She wanted to go to her aid but to blow her cover meant more than death to just her.
She kept silent, only taking a soft breath when it was needed as she held herself as still as a statue. She pressed her back to the stones, forgoing sight for sound as she pressed her ear to the niche, hoping today's expedition gleaned information that would be useful for those she worked for. She heard the door finally shut and the familiar swish of robes on the marbled floor. She smirked at the simpering tone of voice as the last arrival greeted the monarch before him.
"My most mighty Lord Oberon, King of all Faeries," he said, his voice dripping with honey, "I bring thee word once more of the unrest in the Underground."
"Spare us your grovelling Erinesso, we have no desire for it today," said Oberon, "Tell us what our nephew next plans."
"An attack sir, the armies of Osiris in the Underground and his fleet of Guardians to press upon this isle within the week," he said, "Preparations are being done in secret but I managed to secrete myself within the household of Khonsu-Amun as the Labyrinth remains closed to all but a chosen few. Prince Aten attended upon his brother with his queen and children and talk turned soon to their plans when the servants were dismissed. The Prince bid his brother prepare and await a code word to be sent. He revealed that this word would be Macbeth at which point his brother hushed him and no more was said."
"That insufferable writer, I never understand Aten's fascination for it. Every code word for this campaign of his relates to that creature but never mind," spat Oberon, before he recovered himself, "You have done well Erinesso, return to the Underground and keep us informed of any more information you find."
"Yes Your Majesty," slimed Erinesso before silence reigned and Boudicca could imagine the simpering bow and creep as the useless spy exited the room.
The Goblin King and his brother had known well of the spy in their midst and had acted accordingly, Boudicca pleased to know her king's plan had gone through without a hitch. She heard the door close and pricked up her ears once more to listen to the conversation of those below.
"Titania!" barked Oberon, "Leave us. You are expected at table at six and be you not late woman."
"Yes sir," said the woman lowly before she passed beneath the alcove.
Boudicca risked looking down on her, wondering at the eleven years that had reduced the once proud and beautiful queen to one so low. She remembered when she had been a formidable force, her teacher and her friend after she had joined the Court of Avalon but Oberon had not easily forgotten her treachery in aiding the Goblin King in his exile and the punishment of Titania continued many years after his return to power. Boudicca knew there was little to be done, despite many wishing there was, the Avalonian Queen bearing her fate as a duty to the King she had betrayed. She hated the honour that bound many to fates such as hers, the warriors' oath to stand for Avalon and for the Sovereign.
The door closed once more and another voice rang out, soft, lilting and painful to her ears as it brought back several unwanted memories.
"So Jareth goes to war at last," said Mizumi, "A development indeed."
"He has been planning to for some time," said Oberon, "He masses support with his campaigns, plays ancient lines of history against the very Scrolls of Avalon, he has been building to war."
"I can glean nothing from either Anubis or Horus," said Isis, "Both support him fully and ask not for their father to pass the Underground to them."
"The fact that this choice of war is come makes me believe that Osiris is close to relinquishing his control, it is a year over his decreed length of reign prior to his bastards' inheritance," said Oberon, "We should move more into the field, find what information we can to counter him. In the meanwhile I will send out troops to meet him, protect Avalon's borders and show him we are not to be trifled with."
"He would not win my Lord, should he choose to fight," said Mizumi, her voice all sugar that made Boudicca want to gag, "He plays only with stories and shadow. Avalon is rife with talk of his silent assassin, they say the she-elf was trained by bandits in the mountains."
Boudicca smiled to herself, trained in the mountains indeed, she loved the new twists that daily joined her myth. She was glad of the disbelief the rumour caused amongst those in power, the whole of Avalon unsure of who really was the cloaked figure that walked the Underground on silent feet when she did not run with the wolf pack of Karee-Nala. Her smile failed as she thought of the lost Forest Queen, a sacrifice many were still trying to repay so long after her demise.
"Jareth seeks to scare us with the belief he holds such powerful friends but he has none beyond his small sphere," said Oberon, "If he has a spy at all I would bet upon it being that ridiculous dwarf of his in a glamour with his face cloaked. I had hoped once to use Hoggle but he is stupidly loyal to the brat and now even more so to the human."
"Jareth was bound to revert to type Oberon," said Isis, "Be glad he pollutes none of our girls with his seed and instead plays house with his dear Sarah. I do not know what he hopes to achieve in petitioning every year for her vile family to come to us and share the gifts of the Fae, we should be over run by humans."
Boudicca shook her head at the familiar conversation, wondering at the boredom of the palace when the three below had only one subject to discuss each time she listened in. She knew she would glean little more useful information from their vicious mouths and knew her time was running short before she was due to report to her king. She crept down the slim cavity with the grace of a cat, her feet disturbing not one beam or stone to give her away. She pulled the scarf tighter around her face, even her eyes hidden beneath a gossamer patch that allowed her to see but none to identify her. She kept to the walls and secret passageways she had learned by heart years before and swiftly made her way out of the palace, moving upwards into the mountains.
She found her small camp, her guide awaiting her patiently. He nodded without a word, acknowledging her as had become their custom in this silent world of the shadows before getting to his feet. Boudicca waved a hand, conjuring a crystal on her fingers before tossing it in the air and allowing it to fall at her feet. The crystal shattered as she wrapped her cape around herself, her form changing to that of a sleek black wolf, fierce and strong. Then they took to the run, two wolves one white, one black, racing through the growing dark towards the shores of Avalon. Those who saw instantly dismissed it, legend in this world of myth and so they passed unhindered. Boudicca, the Goblin King's personal assassin, and Kai, his faithful guardian.
Jareth tapped his riding crop on his boot as he lounged in his throne pretending to listen to the incessant droning of his subjects as they squabbled over something he was sure they had forgotten about in the course of the fight. He looked up at the clock, the hands reading ten to thirteen and he smiled to himself. He let his gaze wander onto the young girl, no more than twelve who had been wished away by her vile elder sister and wondered what form she'd take when she became goblin-kind. She sat quite happily amongst the rowdy throng, befriending several goblins and negating Jareth's need to place her under the watchful eye of Nanny Shee in the nursery. He was sure the old Banshee would have given him a flea in his ear and then some had he asked so of her today, her hands already full enough with children.
He conjured a crystal and checked on his questor, seeing her still sitting at the bottom of the oubliette she had fallen into, sulking. Hoggle had gone to aid her, or take her back to the beginning, Jareth couldn't remember which command he had issued or whether Hoggle would do it anyway, but the girl had ignored the dwarf entirely before stamping her feet for half an hour until he departed. Her audience gone she had settled down to sulk and had been there for a good seven hours, Jareth's victory was certain.
The hands slowly ticked down until it read thirteen and he got to his feet.
"Right then you lot!" he said, loud enough catch their attention, "Party in the Courtyard and make sure it stays there. I refuse to rescue any idiot who chooses to venture into the Firey Forest this time."
The goblins all stared up at him, wide eyed and slack jawed, "Well go on," he said.
The command was enough and all the goblins scampered in joyful cacophony from the throne room, dragging their new playmate with them. Jareth drew his cape around himself and disappeared from the room. He returned not long after, his questor sent home with no memory of ever having a sister and found the Goblin City in loud celebration outside the throne room window. A familiar scent caught his senses and he turned to see a black-cowled figure languishing on his throne.
"You're late," he said to his trusted spy, "I was beginning to think you'd defected."
"Oberon has increased patrols on the shores, we struggled to find a place to cross," said Boudicca, swinging up onto her feet, "He's getting nervous."
Jareth frowned, "When Oberon is nervous he's dangerous," he said, "I want you to wait a while before going on your next trip."
Boudicca nodded, "He's taken the bait anyway, he has enough to keep him busy," she said, "He believes project Macbeth to be military plot to raise forces on Avalon, Erinesso was within the building when you spoke with Khonsu as we knew he would be."
"Hopefully now he will raise arms and we may enter with our harmless petition," said Jareth, "He will have all of Avalon on guard and all we shall offer in attack is a parchment. He will be so mad."
"Well you love to make a scene Your Majesty," said Boudicca, "I listened also to Mizumi and Isis speaking with him. You are still their obsession, as is my fabled training in the Aqua Mountains beyond the city."
Jareth laughed, "Indeed my dear," he said, before holding out a hand to her which she willingly took, "My Boudicca, my warrior queen. I've missed you."
He reached up and loosened the scarf over her face before he bent down to kiss her, her arms coming instinctively about him as the kiss grew in passion. He loosed her long hair from the braids she had fastened it into and ran the strands through his fingers, marvelling at the silken length. He always held her so when she returned from her missions, missions he begged her not to go on but knowing there was none other whose magic was so concealed that it set off no Fae sense on Avalon to alert them to her presence. She still retained a little enough of her mortal self to suppress the power that now marked her as an immortal. It faded year by year though and he feared that one day she would be discovered.
"Sarah," he said as he released her, "Its been barely two days and it feels like you've been gone a month."
"I know," she said, one hand coming to the back of his neck and kneading the tight muscles there, "I tried to get back sooner."
Jareth smiled and kissed her once more, "You're back now," he said, "The children have missed you. They've barely slept waiting up for you to return and Nanny has had her hands full with Anna and I being so needed by Father before the hand over."
"I've missed them too," she said, "I know it's late but I should wake them, let them know that I'm home."
"I think they will sleep better to know it," said Jareth, "Come, I'll go with you."
Sarah took her husband's arm, knowing for the rest of the night she would refuse to relinquish her hold of him. Jareth waved a hand to extinguish the lights in the throne room and conjured a crystal before him, briefly telling Hoggle through its magic to liberate the new arrival from the goblins and take her to the nursery so she would be safe for the transformation. The dwarf had grumbled before he had heard Sarah's laugh and wished her a warm welcome home. When Jareth released the magic Sarah let her hand drift in the glitter of it before following him from the room, neither of them needing a candle on the familiar paths.
They climbed the stairs rather than taking the large, Victorian lift that Jareth had installed for his sister, its pistons powered by the warm air from the springs that ran beneath the castle floor. It was a feat of engineering that had had many coming to view it, human technology amalgamated to Fae. Jareth had been immensely proud of its success but happily allowing his young assistant as much credit, Toby having been a visitor over several weeks to help him with its construction.
They passed several rooms, Anna's silent and dark, the princess no doubt exhausted from the lessons she took with her father to prepare her magic for the rigours of Underground rule, while Nanny's echoed with the sound of snoring. They shared an indulgent smile as they realised all was right with their small world within the walls of the castle and continued on to the private nursery, a good way from where their new wish away would be sleeping.
Jareth opened the door, careful to silence the hinges before they both crept into the darkened room, littered with toys. Dolls and dresses dominated one side while the other showed the growing obsession with Aboveground tractors that often amused Jareth at his son's human traits. Sarah smiled at the organised chaos that had become their home since first Lilly then Freddie had learned to get about under their own steam. Jareth of course had blamed the influence of the goblins while Sarah blamed him and his apparent need to turn a neatly appointed room into a hurricane site whenever he entered. The accusation always earned her a wicked smile and a question as to whether she truly minded him messing up the sheets.
She was so distracted in her musings that she failed to notice the stuffed duck on the floor until the room rang out with an off key quack. She cursed her stepmother's ridiculous gifts, as both silent beds became movement and noise at the sound. It was her son's voice that first rang out, sleep filled and close to tears at being woken before his eyes lighted on her.
"Mama!" he cried out, reaching for her as he tried to push his way out of the tangle of blankets.
Sarah quickly sat down on the bed, liberating him before pulling him into her lap and hugging him close, "Hello baby," she cooed over him as one of his small hands curled into the length of her hair.
Freddie stared up at her, big blue eyes sleepy as he brushed at his forehead with his free hand, trying to save himself from the onslaught of his wild black hair, "Yous been gone long time," he said, his three year old vocabulary so reminiscent of the goblins.
"I know, I'm sorry but I had work to do," said Sarah rocking him as he admitted defeat to his fringe and stuck his thumb in his mouth, "Have you been a good boy though?"
He smiled, his grin nearly as wicked as his father's, and nodded, "Yes Mama," he said around his mouthful of thumb.
"He has not," came the protest from above and Sarah looked up to see her daughter in her father's arms, messy plaits near unravelled from their ties, "He bit me today."
Sarah frowned down at her son, "Freddie, did you bite?"
He grinned just as wickedly and nodded again, forcing Sarah to bite her lip to keep herself from laughing at his defiance.
"She bits me first," he said.
Sarah looked up to her husband, "Jareth?"
"They decided to have a barney earlier over, ugh I can't even remember what over but when I arrived it was pandemonium," he said before turning to his daughter, "But that's all forgotten now isn't it Lilijana-Karee? Everyone said their sorrys."
Lilly stilled her protests, "Yes Papa."
"Good girl," said Jareth as the young girl buried her face in his shoulder, "Why don't you give Mama a hug hello?"
Sarah shifted Freddie onto one arm while holding the other open for her daughter as Jareth lowered her onto the bed. He crossed before them when she was settled, sitting down beside his wife to better support the younger of the two as he began to doze once more in his mother's arms. He soon had the boy sleeping cradled in his arms as Lilly chatted to Sarah, her voice growing slower by the moment as her own tiredness caught her. Sarah rocked her as Jareth sang softly over the pair, his voice the one to always soothe them back to rest whenever they woke.
Sarah carried her daughter over to her bed, setting the covers around her before pressing a kiss to her wild curls. She met Jareth at the door, both of them watching over their sleeping brood briefly, wondering how long it had been since they last had a chance to stand together and just watch them sleep.
When they had finally returned to the Underground as husband and wife eleven years before they had never realised the extent of the fight before them, Jareth's campaign for the freedom of the Underground barely in its conception, let alone its infancy. Sarah had joined him in the fight as soon as her immortality ceremony had been performed, her work dictated for her in her first years beside him as she learned not only to be a queen but also to control the magic Avalon had bestowed upon her. The fight was worth it though, each day bringing them a little closer to the freedom they so desired. It had become even more worth it when Lilijana and then Freddie had been brought into their lives, their future freedom a catalyst for their parents' efforts.
The myth of Boudicca had come into existence long before their births though; barely a year after coming to Avalon Sarah had stumbled upon a conversation amongst several members of Court who were discussing Oberon's reaction to the rumours of Jareth's efforts. She had reported the news straight back to him and he had wondered how they had not sensed her so near. Several experiments later had revealed that her previous mortal state dulled the sense of her magic to the Fae, allowing her to walk amongst them without being noticed by them magically. Her first furore into the palace had been a secret even from Jareth. She had dressed in her armour, minus the crest of their kingdom, and covered her face with a scarf. She had found her way inside and heard little of value but knew she could find some news if she timed her trips right.
The rage Jareth had met her with had near terrified her when she returned and confessed what she did but she soon calmed him, pleading to be allowed to continue as part of their fight. He had been unable to refuse, her co-regency leaving him no leverage as her king and her power as a wife far overshadowing any power he could have as a husband. It had been Jareth who had spread the rumour of Boudicca, a young feral elven girl from the mountains he had caught within the Labyrinth but allowed free from captivity when she had pledged her service to him. She became his fabled body guard, managing to appear in public with both him and his queen, glamours used often within the Goblin Kingdom to deceive those who were not amongst the trusted few. Only those who both Jareth and Sarah trusted completely knew the true identity of the dark assassin who walked the day as an elf and the night as a wolf, running with Kai's pack, and they would take the knowledge to the Beyond with them.
Sarah's changeling abilities had not surprised Jareth in the least, her growing affinity with Kai as she began her training alerting him to the possible identity of her favoured animal. Her first transformation though had astounded even him, his beautiful, lithe queen stood before him as a fearsome, black wolf, far larger than Kai and even rivalling Miyaku in height when she revealed her transformation to their friends in the forest. Her ability only augmented the myth of Boudicca and Jareth was glad of the swiftness that came with her new form.
Sarah looked up at him, away from the study of her sleeping children and smiled, "This is why I do it," she said, "They're worth the risk."
Jareth stroked their hair, "They need a mother more than they need politics," he said, "Freedom will come but not at the risk of you."
"I won't give in Jareth," she said, "I will hold back a while from my crosses to Avalon while the forces are high but I won't stop completely."
Jareth nodded his ascent, knowing he would not win the age-old argument, "We should go before we wake them again," he said, taking her hand.
Sarah closed the door softly behind her before following him to their own rooms not far removed from the nursery. She still missed the bounding greetings of Tibs and Cal as they crossed the threshold, even four years after they both had gone Beyond to rest. Their cushion still sat in the corner of the living room; neither of them having the heart to remove it though they both knew none would ever replace the beloved wolfhounds. Jareth seemed to share her thoughts and smiled at her a little sadly as they passed by into the bedroom.
Sarah felt the tension of her expedition leave her as she stepped into the chamber, the space completely their own, away from duty, family and politics. The children were allowed in of a morning if they woke before their parents but dared not venture in in the evenings, even their young minds understanding their parents' need to escape from the rigours of the Kingdom. She headed to the closet, snagging one of Jareth's shirts, as was her custom for nightwear, the Goblin King not even batting an eyelid at the action.
"I'm going to wash the sea off me," said Sarah as she went to the adjoining bathroom, "Join me?"
Jareth smiled, "Tempting love but I've just had thirteen hours of a pest and a half of a questor which pulled me from work," he said, "I have few letters to answer."
Sarah pouted, "I've missed you."
Jareth crossed the room in only a few strides and pulled her fast to him, kissing her with a fierce passion that had never dimmed in eleven years of marriage. He was pleased to note she still looked as dazed at his kiss as she had at their first as he released her.
"I've missed you too and thoroughly intend to show you what you have missed being so truant recently," he said, his hands wandering unhindered over her black uniform, "But you shall have to wait, while you go gallivanting I have a kingdom to run."
Sarah frowned playfully; "You spend more time in the nursery playing with Freddie's train set than you do on that throne Your Majesty."
Jareth smiled and gave her a gentle shove towards the bathroom, "Get on with you wench, I have work to do."
Sarah raised herself on her toes and kissed him once more, "Love you," she said softly.
"Love you too," said Jareth as she finally left his side.
He watched her go before picking up several papers from the dresser and returning to the living room, lighting a candle or two to allow him to see by but no more, the June air warmth enough to negate the need for a fire and a breeze flowed through the open window, making the drapes sway as though they were dancing to their own music. He set to work, letters from his brothers and various political allies assisting him from the Underground and Avalon in his attempts to gain independence from the isle. He had cursed the afternoon's questor, his full attention needed on both her and the wish away, as they pulled him away from his work. On most occasions he would have deferred either job to Sarah, the Goblin Queen as formidable an opponent as the King to any questor or as good a politician as he in answering the Royal correspondence. Without her though he had been forced to ignore paperwork to watch over his new charges, spending the day missing his queen and worrying for her safety on her dangerous quest. He refused to muse longer on her stubborn refusal to relinquish her secret ventures and got on to his work, knowing one of the goblins he trusted not to be a complete imbecile would be waiting at early morning to despatch the letters.
He was soon so mired in propaganda that he didn't hear the pad of bare feet on the wooden floors and didn't even raise his head to his name, it was only the fragrant damp body clad only in his shirt that caught his attention as his current letter to Anubis was replaced by his wife. She smiled down at him wickedly, knowing full well she had his attention, before giving him a look of affected innocence.
"Busy?" she said.
Jareth smiled, "Not anymore, clearly," he said taking her hand and raising it chastely to his lips, "Are you not tired my sweet after your long journey?"
"Not at all," said Sarah slipping from the table to sit astride him, "I've slept well each night, dreaming of home, of you."
Jareth brushed the long damp hair back from her shoulder and pressed a kiss to her neck, "What kind of dreams?"
"You and me in the orchard, behind the stables, in the throne room, in the library, in the sandstone maze."
"Mmm," murmured Jareth against her skin, "I did enjoy the sandstone maze."
Sarah giggled, "Such a pervert," she said as she began working loose the few buttons of his shirt he bothered to fasten, "Jareth?"
"Take me to bed," she said.
"As my lady commands," he said getting to his feet and sweeping her easily into his arms.
He extinguished the candles with a wave of his hand, plunging them into darkness as he carried her back into the room beyond.
Jareth opened one eye as he heard the sound of tiny bare feet on the floor outside the bedroom. He tightened his arms around the woman next to him, glad that four years of near misses since Lilly had learnt to open doors had meant they ensured they were suitably clothed before falling asleep.
"Our brood awakes, precious," he said, his voice still rough from sleep.
"I heard," said Sarah sleepily as the door handle rattled then clicked open. She quickly covered a laugh with her hand as Lilly hushed Freddie so loudly it would have woken them regardless but still she played at sleep, as did Jareth beside her. The bed dipped first with Freddie's slight weight as his sister deposited him up beside his father before scrambling up herself, the bed far taller than the ones in the nursery. Sarah was glad Jareth's side was nearer the door as both children crawled over him to get into the middle of the bed.
"Pests," he muttered, "What are you doing up so early Lilliputian?"
"Its riding day," said Lilly, wriggling until she had secured herself a space between her parents.
"So it is," said Jareth, grabbing hold of Freddie as he teetered on the covers in an attempt to crawl over them, "Hello Toady."
Freddie smiled at the nickname and snuggled happily into his father's arms as Sarah rolled onto her side to wrap an arm around her daughter.
"Does Nanny know you left the nursery?" said Sarah.
"Nanny was snoring," said Lilly, "Mama are you going to watch me ride today?"
"Of course I am," said Sarah, sharing a smile with her husband, "Its always fun watching Daddy chase you up and down the paddock."
Lilly giggled, Freddie copying her, his eyes full of no one but his sister, "When can I go riding with Uncle Ama?"
"Not until you're a lot older," said Jareth, "And Freddie needs to learn too."
Freddie shook his head, "No horses."
"Aww baby, they're not all scary," said Sarah reaching over to ruffle his hair, knowing he still carried the memory of a month before when Lilly had broken from Nanny when she had heard hooves in the courtyard, dragging her brother with her to greet her father and spooking the new stallion Jareth had taken out on his first run with her sudden appearance. The horse had reared and snorted so fiercely it was only Jareth's strong command that had kept it from bolting but the sight had been enough to keep Freddie far enough away from horses from then on.
"No horses," said Freddie with determination.
Jareth ran a hand through the fly-away black hair that stuck up every which way on his son's head, "No horses then," he said, "You can play with Aunty Anne while we're outside if you like."
Freddie grinned as Lilly groaned in protest.
"But I want to play with Aunty Anne too!"
Sarah smiled at her husband with a look that left the common fight to him, Lilly notoriously stubborn and demanding whenever she perceived herself treated unfairly. Sarah tried and failed on a regular basis to calm her, Jareth the only one able to keep a rein on the personality so similar to his own.
"You get to go riding Lilijana and you'll both see Anne later," said Jareth firmly, "I don't want any drama from you or you won't go out riding at all."
Lilly pouted but relented easily, "Sorry Papa," she said solemnly before turning into her mother's arms, "Mama can I wear my blue dress."
"I can't see why not," said Sarah, "How about you and I go and get ready now and give Daddy and Freddie a surprise at how lovely we can look for breakfast?"
Lilly grinned widely, "Will you wear a blue dress too?"
"Your mother looks beautiful in blue," said Jareth, one hand idly curling his daughter's hair on the sheets before him, "Both my girls do."
Sarah smiled, pressing a kiss to her daughter's forehead before swinging herself out of bed, pulling on a long black dressing robe before she turned to pick Lilly up off the covers, huffing slightly under her weight.
"You're getting too big for me little lady," she said before turning back to the bed, "We'll see you downstairs."
Jareth lazily waved her off, Freddie already dozing once more on the bed beside him letting Sarah know they would have plenty of time to change. She set Lilly on her feet and went to the closet to fetch her own clothes, turning back as someone knocked loudly on the outer door. She heard Jareth grumble as he sat up in the bed before calling out.
The door clicked and Sarah recognised Hoggle's familiar gait as he crossed the living room to the bedroom, stopping in the doorway.
"What do you want Hoghead?" said Jareth with his best kingly air.
"Hoggle," corrected Sarah before going back to her rummaging.
"I's sorry to come early but this came from King Horus this morning," said Hoggle, producing a letter from his pocket, "Envoy says it was urgent."
Jareth beckoned him over to the bed and took the letter from him. He opened it and scanned the page with a scowl.
Sarah sat down on the ottoman at the end of the bed, pulling Lilly onto her lap, "What's wrong?" she said.
Jareth frowned, "Seems perhaps Boudicca didn't get as much information as we hoped," he said, "Horus has his own informers and it seems that Oberon is looking to put sanctions upon Underground exports to Avalon. He does not yet know the extent but he fears he will attempt to cripple the trade links."
"Damn!" said Sarah, "I...she should have stayed."
Jareth managed a half smile, "She did what she could," he said, lifting Freddie up off the bed as he climbed out, "I should go to my brother, see what we can discover. Will you be alright here?"
Sarah nodded, "Will you be back tonight?"
"Don't count on it," said Jareth, "Hoggle, pack up some things for me to take, and let Anna know to prepare to accompany me."
"Yes Yer Majesty," said the dwarf, "Will yer be wanting the carriage then?"
"The unmarked one," said Jareth, "We'll travel as civilians in case the roads are being watched. I'll instruct Didymus and Borghis to have the troops on hand while I am away."
"There's no need for that," said Sarah, "The Labyrinth will protect us."
"I'm not taking any risks leaving you here, not with tensions so high on Avalon," he said, "I know your resilience love but I can't leave the children without the guard on alert."
"I understand," said Sarah, "Hoggle, tell Didymus I want hourly reports on the defences, please."
Hoggle nodded before turning back to Jareth, "Is that all Yer Majesty?"
"Will you take Lilly and Freddie back to the nursery on your way?" said Jareth, "Wake Nanny, let her know what's happened and ask her to watch them a while, I need to talk to Sarah."
Hoggle took Freddie's hand as Jareth kissed the boy before lowering him to the floor. Freddie looked up at him with liquid eyes, clearly understanding the shift in the atmosphere of the room. Jareth ruffled his hair.
"I'll be back soon Toady," he said.
Lilly slipped from Sarah's lap and ran to her father, gripping tightly around his waist, "Don't go Papa," she pleaded.
Jareth loosed her hands and crouched to her level, "I have to, Uncle Horus sent for me," he said.
"But I want to go riding with you," she said.
"We will when I get back," said Jareth, "But for now I need you to look after Mama and Freddie for me."
Lilly threw her arms around his neck, "Its not fair," she said.
"I know," said Jareth, "But the sooner I go, the sooner I can come back so how about you go with Hoggle and find Nanny. Mama will come down after."
Lilly pressed a kiss to his cheek, "I love you."
"And I you little princess," he said before getting reluctantly to his feet, "Go on now."
Lilly reluctantly took Hoggle's free hand as the dwarf led them from the room, looking back only briefly to wave to her father before the door closed behind them. Sarah crawled onto the bed as Jareth slumped down onto the edge, wrapping her arms around him from behind.
"I hate it when she gives me that face," said Jareth, "Of all the days."
"Hey," said Sarah, "She'll understand, if Horus has information its only right that you and Anne go, you need to make sure the Underground doesn't suffer. I wish I'd stayed longer Jareth, perhaps I would have heard something."
"Or been discovered," he said patting her arm, "Its only right you came home when you did. I think though it is time we put Macbeth into action, go to the King with the demands."
"If you think it's the right time," said Sarah, "You know I trust your judgement."
"I'll have Hoggle send the word out, loud enough to reach Oberon's ears and have him on his guard. If he wants to start playing dirty then I'll have to up the ante," said Jareth, "I'll ask father to let me take a band of the Host and have each of my brother's bring their guards. The army will march with us, a show of force as any king has the right to travel with. I think perhaps it will be best if Boudicca is at my side."
"She'll be there," said Sarah, pressing a kiss to his temple, "Hey, sanctions or no the Underground can survive and the people will still support you. Perhaps Horus' spies have misheard anyway. When things quiet, if nothing has come of it before, Boudicca can go to Avalon with the pack and see what information there truly is."
Jareth turned to her, "I don't want you putting yourself in danger," he said cupping her cheek, "I couldn't bear it if anything happened to you Sarah."
"Or I you but they're risks we have to take Jack, you know that," she said kissing him, "You'd better get ready, Horus will be waiting and its a long journey by carriage."
Jareth laid his forehead against hers, "I'm sorry to desert you like this," he said, "Especially with so much to be done. The new goblin will need naming and fostering, could you make the arrangements?"
"Of course," said Sarah, "Any preferences?"
"Whoever you think best love," he said, "I shan't be away for more than one night, I promise."
Sarah nodded, "Alright but take Kai with you, even if you are travelling as civilians."
"I have the army and I would be happier knowing he is with you, he is your Guardian after all."
"Alright," said Jareth conceding defeat, "But only because I know you'll have him follow me regardless of whether I agree or not."
Sarah smiled, "You know me too well," she said, slipping from his arms, "I should get to the children and help Nanny get them ready for the day."
"Why do I feel my relationship with them is nothing but absence and heartbreak?" said Jareth sadly, "I lost one son being absent."
"Lilly and Freddie aren't going anywhere and in their way they understand," said Sarah, "They know you love them. Regardless of how far away you have to go, for however long, you're always going to be their dad."
Jareth rubbed his eyes and sighed, "Never realised this parent thing was so hard," he said, before he got to his feet, "I should get moving."
They dressed in silence, the familiar ritual something of a comfort when they suffered so much absence from one another. Sarah relented without argument as he sat her down before the mirror, brushing out her long hair for her. She knew the action relaxed him and let him continue without protest, even when she knew he had long since removed all the tangles. He finally pressed a kiss to her head, setting the brush on the dressing table, taking her hand in his as he raised her to her feet, his finger idly tracing the band of her wedding ring.
She turned to him, her Goblin King in his familiar clothes, his wild hair slightly lengthened over the years but still as chaotic as the day she met him. She knotted a strand around her finger.
"Walk me to the nursery?"
He nodded and they turned from the room, the locks clicking shut behind them, protecting their private sanctuary from any without their express permission to enter. They walked the long corridor in silence; Jareth's collection of Akhen's art having grown over the years but each piece did little to heal the pain of the loss of the young Pharaoh. They visited Egypt when they could, using Khonsu's dial to assist the walks but the days remaining were rapidly dwindling and Sarah knew soon there would be no period of Akhenaten's brief life span left that Jareth could attend without meeting with his younger self. They still kept his true identity from the children, fearing youthful enthusiasm would reveal the closely guarded secret and do irrevocable damage to history and time. It was only in private where Jareth had the chance to mourn his lost family but Sarah felt no jealousy in it, her heart as taken by her step-son as though he were her own.
They soon reached the nursery and Jareth pressed a kiss to her cheek, stilling her before she could open the door.
"I'd best not go in, it would only upset them," he said, "I will put everything in order in the archives, ready for you to name the new goblin, is there anything else you need?"
Sarah shook her head, "I'll have Hoggle with me and I think I know this place well enough by now," she said, "When will you leave?"
"Within the hour, as soon as everything is ready," he said, "I'll send for you and the children."
"Alright," said Sarah, "Send me word when you get there ok? Let me know you're safe."
Jareth kissed her, "All will be well," he said, "I have to go."
Sarah loosed his hand, "I'll see you in a while," she said, watching as he headed down the corridor before turning a corner out of sight.
She sighed, composing herself before she opened the door into the nursery. The sun streamed in through the large windows and she smiled to see her daughter sat in a pool of its light, her doll on her knee as she dressed it in a dress similar to hers. Her hair was neatly plaited in two but Sarah knew it wouldn't last long, several strands already flying loose and glinting gold in the sunlight. She could hear the familiar protests behind the screen, Freddie squealing as Nanny Shee washed his face for him.
Lilly looked up and smiled prettily as Sarah crossed the room to her, gathering up her skirts to sit cross legged on the floor.
"Susie's wearing a pretty dress today," she said, smoothing the lace trim around the doll's collar between her fingers.
"She's not called Susie," said Lilly.
"Oh, and what is her new name then?" said Sarah, amazed at how often the doll was re-christened to whatever took her daughter's fancy.
"Ankhasunamen," said Lilly, "Like Akhen's little girl."
Sarah smiled, "Well it's a very lovely name," she said, "I'm sure Daddy will love it too."
Lilly frowned, "Mama?" she said setting her doll on the floor in front of her, "Why does Papa always have to go away to see Uncle Horus or Uncle Nu?"
Sarah stroked her hair, "Its grown up stuff honey," she said, "Papa has to do lots to make sure we're all safe here, its hard work being a king."
"Will it be hard work when I'm a queen?" Lilly asked.
"Not as hard, by then Papa will have everything sorted out," said Sarah, "But you don't need to worry, you don't have to be a queen for a long, long time yet."
"No Frederick!" came Nanny's cry, breaking the atmosphere.
Sarah looked up to see her son race across the floor, not a stitch on him as Nanny tried to chase him down, the little boy fleet on his feet as he dodged her, giggling all the time. Sarah got to her feet, grabbing a blanket off the bed before joining in the chase, Freddie allowing himself to be caught and wrapped up in the blanket as she held her arms open to him. She picked him up, laughing at the joy on his face from raising such anarchy.
Nanny came to a stop before them, out of breath, "Sure he's as bad as his father," she said, "Mischief in the blood I swear."
Freddie flashed her a cheeky grin that had the old banshee suppressing a grin.
"Come on then young master," she said taking him from Sarah, "Let's see if we can't get you half decent before lunchtime."
Sarah fussed his hair, "Behave young man," she said seeing the wicked glint in his blue eyes, "Little monster."
Lilly came to her side and tugged on the blanket to get her brother's attention. He looked down and she growled at him, her hands held in pretend claws. Freddie growled back just as loudly and began to wriggle in Nanny's arms.
"Oh no," said Nanny, "No more of that."
Freddie pouted but settled at his mother's look, letting Nanny carry him back behind the screen with one final growl at his sister.
"You sound like Kai with all that growling," said Sarah picking up the doll from the floor and setting her back in the wicker crib, "I wonder with you at times Lilly."
"Wonder what?" said the little girl, taking her hand.
"What you'll be when you're old enough to have changeling lessons," said Sarah leading her to the door, "I'm taking Lilly down to breakfast Nana."
"We won't be far behind yer Mum," said Nanny from behind the screen, Freddie clearly being slightly more co-operative.
"When will I be old enough?" said Lilly, scrunching her eyes as she focused on the end of her fingers, finally creating a small, clear crystal on their tips, "I can do my crystals now, aunty Anna says I'm very good."
Sarah smiled, "You are very good but you're still to young to try and change into anything," she said, "You might get stuck and then what would Papa and I do? You might have to live in the pond, or in the stable."
Lilly giggled, "I'll be a horse like Samson or Blitzen."
"Or a goat like Bin Bag and Tin Can!"
Lilly giggled at the names, "Papa is so silly," she said, "He gives everything silly names."
Sarah swept her up to sit on her hip as she headed down the stairs, "Papa is silly," she said, "Daft as a brush."
"That's grandpa Osiris' words," said Lilly waving at several of the goblins as they descended into the main part of the castle, "Hello Mossy."
"Hey princess," said the little goblin with a wave, "Is pretty dress!"
Lilly laughed and hid her face in her mother's shoulder as she played the coquette at the compliment. The little goblin beamed, all of them fond of the royal family, especially the children.
"You're looking very handsome today too Mossy," said Sarah, "That is a rather dashing coat."
Mossy grinned a lopsided smile, "Thanks you Her Majesty," he preened, running a hand down the mud stained jacket he'd clearly pulled straight from the junk pile, "Queenie is His Majesty going away again?"
"What makes you think that?" said Sarah.
Mossy pulled a scrappy piece of parchment from his dog eared pocket, "Is only been ten minutes since His Majesty comes downstairs and he been kicking three goblins and smashing five crystals whilst shouting at Hoggle and Sir Didymus."
Sarah rolled her eyes, "He has some business to attend to outside the Kingdom but I will make sure everything is kept under control," she said, "And I have a special job for you and your lists today Mossy."
Sarah smiled at the enthusiasm on his face, "I would like very much if you would go into the city and make a list of anyone who would like to be put on the list of parents for new goblins. Could you do that for me?"
Mossy saluted regally, "I's can, I's can Her Majesty," he said scampering off before remembering himself and turning a half turn to bow to his queen and her daughter.
Lilly giggled at the sight, "I like Mossy," she said as she watched him go.
"And so you should," said Sarah, "Its our job to love all the goblins, we have to look after them all."
Lilly frowned, "Daddy sends them to the Bog!"
Sarah set her daughter back on her feet as she lead her through the halls to breakfast, "Daddy shouldn't and he only does it when the goblins have been particularly naughty," she said, "Also, though I'll never understand why, the goblins seem to like the Bog."
Lilly wrinkled her nose, "Like the Bog?"
Sarah laughed, "Well they are goblins, they're different to the Fae in some ways and that's one of them."
"Mama?" said Lilly, "Why are they different?"
Sarah smiled to herself as she opened the heavy door to let her daughter through, the young girl at an age where she wanted to know the whys and wherefores of everything.
"They just are Lil," she said softly, "Like apples are apples and oranges are oranges."
Sarah let the door swing shut behind her as she attempted to answer the incessant questions.
Sarah fought back the tears as Jareth passed the softly crying Lilly into Nanny Shee's arms, the little girl having to be prized from the lapel of his jacket as she begged him to stay. Freddie stared on a little blankly, holding on to Hoggle's hand, as he seemed more concerned by the two horses at the front of the carriage than his father's departure. Anna watched from the coach, her eyes sympathetic as she caught Sarah's gaze before she spoke.
"Jack we must get on, Horus is expecting us," she said softly.
"In a minute Anne," said Jareth, his tone soft despite his words, giving no pain to his twin, "Sarah are you sure you have everything that you need?"
Sarah fastened a button on his coat, "I'll be fine," she said, "I have Hoggle and I do know how to run this place you know."
"I know," said Jareth, with a sigh, "I'll be a swift as I may, I promise."
"Take what time you need," said Sarah hugging him tightly, "I love you."
"I love you too," he said pressing a quick kiss to her lips, mindful of the goblins and other members of the household gathered nearby, "Send for me if you need anything."
"I will," said Sarah, "Safe journey."
She stepped back as he climbed into the coach with his sister, the driver one of the servants he had brought home so long ago from Avalon awaiting his call to proceed. Kai padded up to the coach, setting his paws on the window frame as he spoke to the king.
"I sense a good wind little Osiran, it will be a swift running to the lands of your brother," he said.
Jareth nodded, "In that case, if you would take the point Master Kai, we will be on our way."
Kai dropped from the side of the coach and stood before Sarah, bowing his head, "Call for Miyaku if you are in need most beloved Queen," he said as Sarah reached out to stroke the course white fur of his muzzle.
"I shall call for him if there is a need my friend," she said, "Take care of Jareth and Anna for me."
Kai bowed again before hurrying to the front of the carriage. With a snap of his jaws and a howl the carriage lurched and pulled away from the castle steps towards the gates of the city. Sarah waved the carriage away with her children and those gathered until it was out of sight. She watched the gates close before forcing a smile.
"Well then, best we get on," she said with a feigned happiness as she turned back to those gathered. She forced a smile at her children, "Daddy will be home soon."
She led them all back up the steps, her head held high against her tears, any separation from Jareth a worry as the threat of Oberon loomed like a shadow over the lands of the Underground.
The morning passed quietly, Sarah naming the new goblin and finding him suitable foster parents before she turned her attention to other matters she handled in Jareth's absence. She kept the children with her, not wanting to abandon them to the nursery with both of them hurting over their father's sudden departure and she was often distracted from her work in watching their innocent games, Freddie following his elder sister's every whim regardless of how ridiculous the request.
The emotion of the day however soon got to them and both grew ratty, the games turning into little battles that Sarah found herself having to break up more and more often. The final straw however came when she saw the flicker of a crystal on Lilly's fingertips after Freddie had pushed her away from the toys he had been playing with. She hurried across the room, scattering papers as she went and grabbed her daughter's wrist, closing her hand over the fledgling crystal.
"Don't even think about it young lady," she said firmly, "You are not allowed to do magic without Daddy being here."
"I wasn't," protested Lilly.
"Don't lie to me Lilly," said Sarah, "You are no where near good enough to do anything without Daddy here, you could hurt someone."
Lilly snatched her hand away, "No I wouldn't," she said, "I'm good."
"Lilijana!" warned Sarah, "One more word and I'll have you in that nursery faster than you can blink."
Lilly remained silent but stared her mother point blank in the face and blinked with deliberate purpose. Sarah took hold of her hand and led her swiftly from the room, sending the guard outside the office inside to mind Freddie. Lilly marched sullenly behind her mother as she was led along the winding corridors to the nursery. Nanny looked up from a pile of sewing as Sarah opened the door. Frowning as she saw the familiar inmate shuffle in.
"Is everything alright Your Majesty?" said the nurse.
"Lilly is not leave here till I come for her," said Sarah, "And she is to read the book her father gave her on the dangers of magic. If she so much as creates one spark, send for me."
Nanny looked concerned as Lilly huffed passed her and threw herself face down on the bed with a sob. She crossed to the queen, her voice low as Lilly cried into her pillow.
"My Lady, what this time?" said the Banshee.
"She deliberately conjured a crystal to use against her brother," said Sarah, "If I hadn't have been there…oh I dread to think. She does not have enough control; any spell she casts could prove fatal either to Freddie or to her. I just wish I knew what to do Nana."
Nanny offered a consoling smile, "She is young but strong Sarah, magic is in her very veins and she finds it hard not to call upon it," she said, "Still, she must learn. I will see it that she reads. She is much the same as her father at that age, she will grow out of it."
Sarah nodded, "Call me if you need to," she said, before looking over her shoulder distractedly, "I have to go, I left Freddie with the guard. I'll be back later."
Nanny gave a small curtsey as Sarah left the room, closing the door behind her. Sarah leaned back against the woodwork, running a hand wearily over her eyes and wishing furtively for her husband's return. She had all but summoned a crystal to her fingertips when she thought better of calling for him and instead allowed the orb to form before smashing it against the nearest wall. The shards disappeared upon impact with the floor and Sarah tried to let her frustrations dissolve along with them. She pushed off from the door and headed back to the study, the passing antics of her subjects once she left the private wing enough to improve her mood and she greeted her son with a smile as she returned to her work.
More than an hour had passed in relative peace, Freddie happily scribbling away on a spare piece of parchment as he copied his mother's actions until he looked up with a frown as Sarah froze in position, her face blank as she listened to the hush of the room. She shook her head and cursed, causing Freddie to giggle.
"Mama said bad word!" he crowed with a wicked laugh.
Sarah smiled mournfully down at him, "And Mama is very naughty for doing so," she said as the door ahead flew open, Hoggle standing out of puff in the frame.
"Hog-head!" cried Freddie happily, "Mama said a bad word."
Hoggle didn't pause to correct the child, "Did yer hear it girly?"
Sarah nodded, "I heard," she said, "Would you take Freddie to the nursery while I go to the runner?"
"Of course," said the dwarf.
"Thank you," said Sarah getting to her feet, "Head for the gate afterwards, I want you with them on this one, my concentration is shot today and I do not need to be plucking questors out of swamps because they're idiots. I wish Jareth were here."
With a final sigh Sarah snapped her fingers in the air and a cloud of smoke flew from the fire to wrapped around her. As the smoke dispersed to the air the space she was once in stood empty, only the glitter of crystal shards enough to show anyone had been there. Freddie clapped happily at the sight before smiling up at the dwarf beside him.
Hoggle smiled back, "Come on then young man, let's get yer to Nanny Shee before you find all manner of mischief."
Freddie grinned up at him wickedly.
"Just like yer father," said Hoggle as they headed to the door.
Jareth lounged in the growing night, leaning back against the stone bench as the clean, fresh smell of the hedgerows danced on the light breeze around him. His mind buzzed with all he had spoken of with Horus and Anubis at Horus' palace, the news of Oberon's growing force worrying him as he thought of trying to battle an invasion in the Underground. He knew they would have to pre-empt the strike, attend Oberon in a show of unity and remind Avalon that the sons of Osiris were none to be trifled with. The trade sanctions were still just rumour and he refused to let concern grow too highly, knowing the Underground was fertile enough to support itself should it be required. He was glad he had arrived home before midnight but knew he would be better taking a few moments alone than heading straight to the castle, he had no desire to see his children whilst still bearing the weight of politics and kingship.
He sat up as he heard the faint sound of footsteps and then Hoggle's gruff voice cutting through the hedge maze.
"I's telling yer matey, yer's going the wrong way round 'ere. The Queen ain't one for giving out directions like that, she ain't got no business in wanting yer to win."
"And what would you know?" came a shrill, teenage voice, "You've not exactly been much help, you got me dumped in that Oublie-thingy. Perhaps the Queen doesn't want my brother anymore or perhaps she just liked me."
Jareth chuckled to himself at the overt male teenage confidence, he could almost see the large, italicised neon letters of 'liked', as obvious as a Vegas advertisement, "Teasing the boys again Sarah?" he said to thin air.
The footsteps grew closer and he feigned a pose of indifference, his dusty riding boots propped up on the wall beside him as he twiddled a fallen twig between his fingers. The footsteps rounded the corner before coming to a sudden stop. Jareth smiled to himself.
"Yer..." Hoggle began only to be cut off by the young upstart beside him.
"Who are you?" demanded the teen.
Hoggle shushed him, "Watch yer mouth, that's..."
"No one of consequence," said Jareth with affected nonchalance, failing to even turn and face them, "Just a humble servant of Her Majesty up yonder."
He knew the boy's eyes would follow his finger as he pointed to the castle on the distant horizon. He laid a hand on the stones beneath him and knew the boy had far too little time left to make the distance. He felt no pity for him and wondered at the new acquisition that was probably upsetting Nanny or being fussed over by Sarah in the throne room. He smiled to himself once more, deciding a little evening diversion would improve his mood from a day of politics.
"Did you wish someone away?" he asked, finally sitting up and looking at the boy, a scrawny, greasy youth with matted dull blond hair and a complexion that made the moon's surface appear smooth.
"My kid brother," said the boy, "He wouldn't stopped wailing and I just...I don't even know what I said what I did but then this woman, the Queen, she just showed up in all this wind and next thing I knew I was standing at the gates to the Labyrinth with her laughing at me. I didn't think she was very nice but then she said she'd give me some directions to help me along because I'd impressed her at how well I'd done."
Jareth risked a quick glance at Hoggle who stood out of the boy's eye line. The dwarf shook his head and Jareth had to suppress a smile as he realised a victim of one of Sarah's favourite tricks. She had done it first on only her second attempt at playing master of the Labyrinth, he had watched her from the castle as she had appeared before her terrified runner and offered them the challenge of the Labyrinth. She had known he was watching and had aped him impressively but he saw the change when she found her own stride, her act varying between icy and seductive depending on the runner. She was a force to be reckoned with and almost as devious as he. On her second run she had appeared before the questor after he had quite impressively navigated a tricky part of the maze she had set him. Whether it was an act of desperation or a pre-planned move she soon had him convinced that she was impressed with him and the youth's ego had been flattered by praise from such a beautiful woman. She had soon offered him directions she said would assist him in completing the Labyrinth and he had taken them not realising she had led him a full loop closer to the beginning than he had been going on alone. Her ingenuity had impressed him so much that he had often passed a questor on to her only to watch how she handled the act.
"She can be generous," said Jareth, getting to her feet, "You'll need to hurry though, if you want to reach the centre. Maybe I could help, I know these paths well if you choose to follow me."
Hoggle merely rolled his eyes, already guessing the mischief the king wanted to create. His expression turned to one of a frown though when the teenager jerked a thumb in his direction.
"You'll probably be more help than he is," he said, "What's your name anyway?"
Jareth tried to look down trodden, "She calls me Dogsbody."
Hoggle snorted but covered it with a cough.
"Seriously?" said the boy.
"I'm the Labyrinth's GDB," said Jareth seeing the boy's eyes narrow at the Aboveground slang.
"Well I'm Michael," said the teen, "And the kid she took is called Charlie."
"Charlie," said Jareth as if he were testing the sound of the name before he smiled. He stuck out an arm, closed his eyes and span himself round, coming to a stop pointing down one passage way, "That way."
"Oh you are going to get tedious with that one I can see it," said Jareth, "Come along, not far to the castle from here."
The castle of course was nowhere in sight by the time the discordant chime of thirteen hours rang out from nowhere in the midst of a rice grass maze. Jareth leaned back against the matting walls as the wind blew up around them and Sarah soon stood before them, her clothes midnight black with a mantle of fur about her shoulders. She looked every inch the terrifying queen but her eyes softened as she took in the sight of the man behind the questor.
"Hello darling," Jareth purred softly, "Didn't mean to interrupt you at work."
"Darling!" squeaked Michael, "What on..."
Jareth pushed away from the wall, his simple travelling clothes melting to his black armour as he crossed to his wife's side, "You are quite honoured, my young friend, to be attended upon not only by the Goblin Queen but the Goblin King also."
"Articulate isn't he?" said Jareth, smiling down at his wife.
"You tricked me," sputtered the boy.
"I did nothing of the sort, you simply chose to follow me."
"But the time, my brother..."
"Is ours now," said Sarah stepping towards him, "You wished him away and you failed the Labyrinth. He will remain with us forever, as one of us. You will return Above and you will forget he ever existed."
Jareth feared a repeat of Mount St Helen's as the boy's face grew red with rage, "But you can't. I'll remember and I'll tell people, I'll tell them you took him, that you kidnapped him."
"People who will not remember the child while you rave about goblins and Labyrinths and an Underground Queen," said Sarah, forming a crystal in her palm, "I think not."
She blew softly on the shining orb and it flew to the boy, dissolving as it touched him. The boy fell sleepily to the ground, another questor unworthy of the child they wished away. Hoggle shook his head at the sight.
"He didn't stand a chance did 'e?"
"His heart was not in the fight," said Sarah, "I knew the second I met him that he would fail."
"And the child?" said Jareth.
"A much sweeter temper, he is only five, I think he will do well with the right parents," she said, looking down at the sleeping teen, "I should get him home."
Hoggle didn't need a second glance from Jareth to realise his job, "Don't yer be worryin' nothin' about that girly, I'll gets 'im 'ome for yer."
Sarah smiled at her friend, "Thank you Hoggle, I'd appreciate it."
The dwarf ambled over to the sleeping boy and took hold of his arm. He shut his eyes tight and muttered to himself before he and the boy disappeared into the ether. Sarah turned from the place they had been as she felt gloved fingers wind themselves into her hair. She hugged her husband tightly; glad as she felt the hard breastplate beneath her cheek fade to the soft velvet of his coat.
"I didn't think you'd be home tonight," she said.
"Horus had barely any more information than you returned with, he fears Avalon plans to move against us and agrees that we should go there in peace before he makes any further plans," he said, "I came home on the wing, Father wanted me to stay but I felt bad for leaving so suddenly this morning. Anna remained, I left the carriage and Kai with her, the others will see her back tomorrow, they are coming for the day before we go to Avalon."
Sarah smiled, "It will be nice to have everyone under the same roof, the children will be excited," she said before raising herself up on her toes to kiss him, "They'll be glad to see you too. Lilly has been ratty as anything since you left, when the questor called I felt dreadful for leaving Nanny alone with them."
Jareth smiled, "Nanny dealt with my temper Sarah, Lilly is barely a patch on that," he said, before he caught his wife's glance, "I have every intention of speaking to our daughter about her behaviour though."
"Thank you," said Sarah a touch wearily, "I can't seem to ever get through to her."
Jareth stroked her hair, knowing how hard the burden of parenthood rested on them both at times, "Its a phase love, she'll grow out of it."
"Sometimes I think she hates me."
"Nonsense," said Jareth, "She adores you beyond anything, its just I'm away from them so much I receive less of her temper. Precious you are a wonderful mother and she will be your best friend one day, she's still so young."
Sarah pressed her face into his shoulder for a moment, breathing in the scent of an evening on the wind, "Let's go home," she said softly.
Jareth held her a little tighter and Sarah felt the world shift around her as he transported them to the castle. They landed just outside the main doors, overlooking the city and the Labyrinth beyond. She smiled up at him, knowing it was one of his favourite views from their home. Some of the goblins looked up from the city below and waved to their monarchs but soon went back to their lives, a contented peace Sarah was glad of. The large doors opened with a wave of Jareth's hand and they crossed the threshold arm in arm, the inside of the castle cool and welcoming from the heat of the evening outside. Sarah led him up the stairs, her clothes melting from the terrifying mantle of the Goblin Queen to a soft summer yellow dress that halted just above a white petticoat at her ankles. Her hair fell in waves down her back and she smiled as she felt Jareth step behind her, gathering the smallest amount and wrapping it in a ribbon he plucked from thin air.
They passed the wish away nursery; little Charlie happily playing with several of the younger goblins while another goblin Jareth did not recognise was being dressed by two proud looking parents.
"Feathers," said Sarah by way of explanation, the former wish away bearing a beak like face and feathery soft hair.
"A good choice," said Jareth as they left the goblins to their charges.
The nursery echoed with the sounds of Nanny's snores and Lilly's voice as she sang softly to herself. They crossed the threshold to see her dancing with several marionettes, no one holding up their strings for them.
"She's strong," said Jareth, bringing another puppet into the dance with a wave of his hand, startling his daughter for a moment before she beamed up at him and ran to his arms.
"Daddy!" she cried as he lifted her from the floor, cuddling her tightly.
"There's my Lilliputian," said Jareth smoothing down her hair, "You look half wild Lilly."
Lilly simply grinned up at him, her tongue pressing against one of her prized wobbly teeth. Sarah smiled at the scene before turning to the pile of blankets in the small bed. She lay a hand on it and spoke softly.
"Freddie? Wakey wakey darling, Daddy's home," she said before frowning, "Freddie?"
She pulled back the covers, seeing only a large teddy beneath. She got to her feet, panic already seeping into her voice.
Jareth set Lilly on her feet at his wife's tone, "What's wrong?"
Sarah attempted to smile, "Freddie's hiding I think," she said, "Freddie? Freddie baby come out now, Daddy's home."
Her calls were enough to rouse Nanny and she slowly got out of her rocking chair, nursing her back and neck with her hands, "Good evening Ma'am, Your Majesty," she said as Lilly went to hold on to her skirts.
"Nana have you seen Freddie?" said Jareth as Sarah continued to search around the room, her actions becoming more and more frantic.
"He were tucked up tight in his bed last time I checked," said the Banshee.
Sarah threw open the cupboard doors, "Frederick! Freddie answer me please," she called, "Where is he?"
Jareth took hold of her arms, "Sarah, don't panic, he probably went to hide somewhere and fell asleep."
Sarah shook her head, "No," she said, "Jareth, he's...something happened. I know something's happened."
"Sarah," he said, "What?"
"Just find him," she begged.
The tone of her voice was enough and before long the castle was in uproar, goblins, servants and the family alike searching high and low in the cavernous building. The night was dark and chill, the search proving little use after several hours. Sarah stood overlooking the Escher Room, her hands wringing in front of her in agitation as she tried to work out if she had missed any of the well-known paths. She felt a rush of air as Jareth appeared behind her and knew just by the tension in the room that his search had been as useless. She let out a desperate sob and turned in his arms, hugging him tightly.
"Where is he? Where's my baby?"
"I don't know," said Jareth his voice strained, "We've looked everywhere he could have reached on foot. Scrying is useless, his magic is still too small to get a lock on and my concentration is shot with worry. I'm going to fly out, I can't believe he got into the Labyrinth alone but if he did I'll find him or one of the gate keeper's will and bring him home. You keep looking here, goodness knows he can squeeze himself into the smallest gaps."
Sarah nodded, "He's fine, he'll be alright," she said more to herself than anyone, "Its just not like him to do this."
Jareth hugged her tighter, "We'll find him," he said, "I promise you, we'll find him."
A/N: If you enjoyed please leave me a review or constructive criticism if you think there's something that needs improving. Please no flames, they offer no benefit to anyone and will be ignored.