A/N: Apologies for the delay but an extra long chapter to make up for things. Enjoy xContact
Sarah shifted in the small bed, unable to recall when she had last slept in the nursery with her children but realising the reason why she would more often take them to her bed than stay in their room. She opened her eyes as she realised sleep would evade her no matter what she tried, looking across the room to Freddie's small bed, toys littering the floor around it. Five new plush teddy bears sat on the comforter but his arms were still curled tightly around a threadbare doll that had once resembled a goblin, his thumb stuck firmly in his mouth as he slept. She smiled at how unaffected he was by all the drama in the castle, his dreams filled with the Christmas he had spent with his grandparents, a world away from the Underground.
She sighed as she longed for his innocence, nothing worrying him beyond which toy he would play with next. She had spent nearly an hour comforting Anna after she had left the drawing room and her brother, finally getting from both her and Hoggle the tale of their unconventional relationship. Despite her early misgivings she had seen the conviction in their eyes and knew that, however difficult, they were committed to one another and she could do nothing but give them her support. When Anna had calmed and Hoggle had led her away into the castle beyond, Sarah had ventured into the drawing room but she had found it empty, the open window betraying her husband's exit. Anger had flooded her at the thought of him leaving without rectifying the problem, knowing how upset Anna was and how much the twins needed each other especially since Osiris had disappeared. She had tried to search for him but he blocked the magic of her crystals from finding him and after several hours she gave in. She had thought to wait for him in their room but with her anger still bubbling she had avoided the confrontation and gone to sleep in the nursery.
She heard the telltale snores from the room beyond the nursery where Nanny Shee slept, the elderly banshee never far from her two young charges and soon to be on call even more often when the third child was born into the castle. She closed her eyes once more, willing sleep to take her but it remained elusive and seemed to be spreading as she heard Freddie's soft whimper from his bed. She sat up and looked over once more, the little boy fretting as a dream took him. She climbed out of the small bed and went to his side, sitting down on the mattress as she smoothed her hand over the blankets covering him.
"Hush my little one," she said, "Mama's here. Hush darling."
Freddie curled instinctively towards her, the sound of her voice ever a comfort to him. She stroked his tatty dark head, his hair growing more and more like Jareth's wild strands by the day but never growing quite so long, that choice being left to his rebellious teenage years and father's influence as he grew. She soon lost herself in the soft strands running between her fingers and it took her a moment to register the sound from across the room. She finally heard her daughter's plaintive cry before she sat bolt upright in bed, her eyes wide but unseeing.
"Lilly?" said Sarah, "Lilly, lie down sweetheart, its bedtime."
The girl didn't move, her eyes seemingly drawn to something over her mother's right shoulder. Sarah glanced behind her, seeing only the hanging marionettes in their usual place. She looked back to her daughter, seeing tears glittering in the little girl's bright eyes.
"White lady," said Lilly softly, "White lady."
Sarah felt a chill run through her at the small sound of the child's voice, checking behind her once again before she got to her feet, heading towards the bed.
"Lilly darling, lie down. You're dreaming," she said as she padded slowly across the room, "Lilly, lie down."
The girl didn't respond, still sat staring towards the corner with unblinking eyes. Without warning she suddenly clamped her hands over her ears, her scream piercing in the silence of the room.
"Lilly!" cried Sarah, running the last few steps to her daughter's beside before taking hold of her, "Lilly, darling wake up, wake up! Nanny! Nanny I can't wake her."
She heard Freddie begin to fret from his own bed but nothing could stir her from her daughter's side, the child's scream tearing at her heart. Nanny Shee rushed into the room, dressed in her nightgown with her long grey hair trailing behind her.
"What is it? What's the matter?" she cried.
"I can't wake her," said Sarah, "I can't stop her screaming."
"Fetch the master," said Nanny, "Go on my Lady, go. The master could help."
Loathed to leave her child but at a loss for anything else to do to help her she left the room, running out into the corridors, crying out for aid as she went. She heard doors beginning to slam open throughout the house but didn't stop until she reached her own chambers, throwing open the network of doors to reach the rooms within. She heard the sound she had unconsciously dreaded since Lilly had begun to scream, her husband's own anguished voice echoing the cry. She hurried into the bedroom, her heart seizing in her chest as she saw Jareth on the floor at the foot of the bed, the sheets twisted around him. His hands were clamped over his ears, his cries doing nothing to hide the agony he was feeling.
"Jack!" she cried, falling to her knees before him, grabbing him in an attempt to stop his thrashing, "Jack please, fight whatever this is. Fight it off, I need you Jack, I need you."
He continued to struggle in her grip and Sarah had to back away for fear of him hurting her as his eyes were as unfocused as Lilly's. Sarah heard the door open behind her and she turned to see Hoggle in the frame, his face a picture of frantic worry.
"Oh no," he said, "I was hoping… Anna's the same girly, all screaming and crying."
"Hoggle I don't know what to do," said Sarah, "Its got Lilly too and I'd hoped that Jack…"
Hoggle rushed to her side as she finally gave into her tears, holding her as best he could as she cried.
"Sarah, yer needs to take a breath girly, yer ain't no use to Jareth or the little 'uns if you don't take a breath," said Hoggle as Sarah's tears continued to choke her.
Sarah took tighter hold of his hand, trying to calm herself as Jareth's screams continued to tear at her soul. Finally she brought her tears under control, feeling the tightness in her chest flee as her lungs received the much needed oxygen. Hoggle hushed her gently, his large hand rubbing her back as she composed herself. Jareth's cries seemed to increase in pitch and she shuddered, feeling more helpless than ever before.
"What do we do?" she said, "How do we help them?"
"Send for Osiris and Mab," said Hoggle, "They'll know what to do."
"There is no need to send for me Master dwarf," came a voice from behind them.
"Osiris," said Sarah, getting to her feet and hurrying to him.
She cared little for ceremony or custom as she threw her arms around him, his solid form an anchor against the world that seemed to be too rapidly turning.
"Peace my daughter, I'm here," he said softly, "Do not tremble so child."
"Help them," said Sarah, "Lilly and Anna are the same, please you must help them. Send for Mab if you must, and the Ancients, anything you can do to help them."
Osiris' dark eyes grew haunted as they strayed to his son, the younger man still in the throes of the terror that had taken him, "I'm afraid this is beyond my magic and my parents are upon the winds," he said, "As for Mab, my coming here seems well timed but is not for my son's cries. Mab is dead, murdered and I came back to warn you all."
"Murdered?" cried Sarah though her voice was drowned by another plaintive cry from her stricken husband, "Jareth please wake up. Why does Ra punish us like this? We have done nothing wrong and now…"
"Ra's work is not for our question Sarah," said Osiris, "We may not be able to stop these terrors but we can aid those stricken. Is anyone with the child?"
"Nanny Shee, I left her with the children when I came to find Jareth," said Sarah.
"Then they are well comforted, Lilly has a presence of love with her," said Osiris, "And my daughter."
"Ain't none with her sir," said Hoggle, "I hads to leave to fetch Jareth."
"Then a father's love will comfort her," said Osiris, "I will go to her and ride this storm with her. You and Hoggle must stay with Jareth, speak to him and soothe him as best you can. He trusts you both, more so than any others. We must only pray that this passes without any permanent harm."
Osiris' commanding tone left little room for argument as he left the bed chamber. Sarah looked back to the foot of the bed, Jareth's cries raw and cutting as he fought with the blankets that seemed intent on restraining him.
"Whats do we do Sarah?" said Hoggle, his face a picture of horror at Jareth's fate but more so the longing to return to Anna's side in Osiris' place.
"We do as Osiris said," said Sarah, returning to his side and sitting back against the wall, "We talk to Jack and we try to calm him down."
"And if that don't work?"
"We pray," said Sarah softly, "And hope that Ra will answer."
It seemed an age when the strange and eerie sound of silence settled once more on the castle. At first it took Sarah a moment to realise that the screaming had stopped at all, the only hint that she had not just deafened herself to the cries being the tightening of Hoggle's hand in hers.
"Jareth?" she said tentatively, her voice hoarse from her tears and the words of comfort she had been muttering over him, "Jareth can you hear me darling?"
The Goblin King remained silent, seemingly fast asleep in the tangle of blankets at the foot of the bed. She looked up as a warm, soft muzzle pressed against her ear, meeting the eyes of her guardian.
"Kai, where have you been?" she said.
"With the children," he said, "I heard their cries first and stayed with youngest whilst his sister was cared for by her nurse. The child has quieted now and has woken. She seems to remember little of her ordeal."
"And Anne?" said Sarah, feeling Hoggle tense beside her.
"I shall go and enquire, my Lady," said the wolf, "With hope she is unharmed also."
"I hope so," said Sarah before she turned to the dwarf beside her, "Go with Kai, Hoggle. I know you would rather be at Anne's side."Hoggle got to his feet, a small wry smile on his face, "But should you need me…"
"I'll call," said Sarah softly, longing for a simpler time when all she had to do was go toe to toe with the Goblin King in the Escher Room.
The silence of the room seemed to grow four fold as Kai and Hoggle left, the only sound being her own and Jareth's now even breathing. She shifted herself to his side, reaching out tentatively and stroking his wild hair.
"What's happening to you?" she asked, "Why does all this have to fall on you?"
He remained silent, fast asleep it seemed against the hard floor but Sarah knew it was no ordinary slumber as he never failed to wake at the sound of her voice, however softly she whispered to him in the night. She righted the blankets over him as he shivered in the night air before she lay down beside him, knowing she could not stay long in such an uncomfortable position but needing to be near him. She studied his sleeping features, the feathery lines around his eyes seeming deeper with worry though he still gave nothing away of the millennia and a half that he had lived.
"Whatever we need to do to take this off you, we're going to do it Jack," she said, "Whatever it takes and you're going to have to accept that we need help."
She allowed herself a small smile as he began to stir, a familiar petulant noise issuing forth as he fought his way between sleeping and waking. She pressed a kiss to his forehead before she sat up, knowing she would regret spending half the night running around and resting on hard floors as she felt her son begin to stir within her.
"Jack darling, wake up for me," she said as he became more animated.
"Sarah?" he said, groggily, "Sarah…why am I on the floor? Was I sleep walking again?"
Sarah felt tears spring to her eyes as he looked up at her, his expression fuzzy and confused, "A little more than sleep walking," she said, helping him to sit up.
"I had the weirdest dream," said Jareth, "I was in your old room, sat in the window like I always did but it wasn't you at the dresser. I was talking to whoever it was and then…"
"And then what?" said Sarah.
"I don't remember much else," he said, "I'm sorry if I frightened you."
Sarah wrung her hands in her lap, "You more than frightened me Jareth," she said, "And it wasn't just you who frightened me either. Lilly started screaming but wouldn't wake up so I came for you and found you here, screaming the same as she was. By all reports Anna experienced the same too. Lilly has woken now or so Kai tells me and I hope he'll bring the same news of Anna. Your father is with her though so I know she's in safe hands before you fret."
"Osiris is here?" said Jareth, "But I never sent the letter."
"He didn't need a letter," said Sarah, "He came with news but maybe we should see that you're alright before I tell you it."
"I'm fine Sarah," he said, "Tell me what message my father came with."
"Its Mab," said Sarah, "I don't know why but Osiris said she was dead. Murdered."
The colour drained from Jareth's face at her final word and she thought for a moment he would vomit before he recovered himself.
"Murdered?" he said, "But Mab… no enemy could touch such a Fae, she was too powerful."
"I don't know the story, there was no time to ask," said Sarah, "We should go to him and check that the others are alright. I couldn't leave you but I need to see Lilly."
Jareth nodded almost dumbly as he got to his feet, letting the blankets fall from around him as he retrieved his discarded waistcoat from the back of the dresser chair, his clothes the same as he had been wearing on their return to the Kingdom. Sarah took his hand firmly in hers, the feel of every bone in it a comfort to her as it chased away the horror of his dream. They had barely stepped outside when they heard the sound of Kai's paws on the flagstone floor, both of them turning to him with a look of question.
"The Princess is quite well and remembers nothing of her ordeal," said the guardian, "The Lord Osiris bid me come for you both. He has the family gathered in the library in the hope to better fathom what has occurred. Are you fit to join him?"
"Are the children with him?" said Sarah.
"Yes," said Kai, "He went to the nursery as soon as the Princess Anna was settled."
"Then lead on," said Jareth, "And pray Ra we find some answers tonight."
The corridors had never seemed so forbidding as they headed down to the chambers below, the night air chill around them and darkness yet hanging on the snow flecked windows outside. Sarah clung tighter to her husband's arm, feeling the warmth of him as though she had been too long in the cold. She knew whatever they found from the events of the night that danger surrounded them, even if there were no obvious threats to be fought.
The sight of the library with a fire blazing happily in the hearth was a balm at least to the stark empty halls though the faces of their gathered family did little to alleviate the oppression of the situation. Anna sat with Hoggle at her side, the dwarf unashamedly holding and stroking her delicate hand, his expression the same as that on Sarah's face she was sure, a look of suppressed worry that something could so easily snatch away the person they held to. Nanny Shee had Freddie on her lap, the little boy clinging to his moth eaten toy, while Apis held his pupil with a fierce devotion even after only half a year as her mentor. Titania and Osiris stood by the fireside, their voices low as they spoke, the flames casting shadows across their faces that hollowed their fine dark skin. Sarah was once more reminded the power that surrounded her in the room, her own Avalon-gifted magic seeming to pale in comparison to the Fae who surrounded her.
Osiris raised his head as they entered, a small smile coming to his face as his eyes fell upon Jareth. He left Titania's side, heading towards them with a tentative gait.
"With all that has passed between us, is it too much to ask to hug my youngest son?"
Sarah thought at first that Jareth would keep back from him but his arm soon left her grip as he accepted his father's embrace.
"I've missed you," he said, without a care for who heard, "I'm sorry."
"If apologies are to be made then they are by me," said Osiris, "But we can look to that when we have more time. Now I have news to impart and a mystery to unravel, for I fear there is a shadow now on our House."
"Sarah told me that Mab had been murdered," said Jareth, gasps of astonishment echoing from the people around him who had not heard the first telling of the news, "Please tell me that she misheard you."
"Alas, she did not," said Osiris, his hands still firm on his son's shoulders, "Sit, Jareth, you have been through a trauma enough. I will tell you all I know, though it is little; then we must look to what has befallen you tonight."
Jareth nodded, sitting in the chair Osiris guided him to, Sarah settling herself beside him and taking hold of his hand once more. Jareth covered their joined hands with his free one, the gesture strengthening them both as they awaited Osiris' tale.
"There is not much to tell of Mab's fate," said Osiris, "The news came to me by my Host not two nights ago. I felt the death of a Fae but their presence was not clear and I knew I would find out who I was to bear when I reached the Styx. The soul had chosen their Host bearer and she had gone to her task but came to me without her charge. I followed the Host then and found to my horror, Mab's body, slain by a hand that I fear was none of the Seelie. There was the mark of the Shadow upon her though I could not tell you what dealt the blow. I could not ask even her spirit what had befallen her, it was too damaged by the magic that had slain it and so I bore her across the Styx to the gates of the Beyond. The Keeper took her soul and I returned, heading here to warn you. You may not have seen Mab as your ally Jareth, especially after her part in the deceit we forced upon you, but she was a strong line of defence for the Underground, one who could control Oberon."
"My personal opinions of Mab and her actions towards me are my own Father but the death of any Fae saddens me and if it was truly by the hand of the Shadow then we should all be trembling," said Jareth, "There has been all but silence from their world since the last war so either we have become lapse in our defences for this murderer to slip through or we once more face a much greater threat."
"While the first may be easily remedied, in light of recent events I fear the latter," said Osiris.
"And I," said Jareth, "I have hoped for so long that the strange occurrences we have all experienced were merely coincidence, something to be forgotten when they had passed but I know in my heart I never believed in that hope. Sarah I did not speak truthfully to you moments ago when I said I had no recollection of the dream that took me and scared you so. I do remember what I saw. I was stood on the cliff by the sea and I was looking over to the Styx but it was not the wide expanse that I know, the distance to the other bank was short, no wider than a river. At first all I saw was mist but then a figure emerge, more recognisable now than she has ever been to me. My mother stood on the opposite bank and I felt a pull from deep inside my heart, wanting to take me to her but my feet would not move. She asked for my help but I could not answer. She begged and still I was silent. That's when the sound came and I've never known such pain. It was like every voice of every soul yet in the Styx cried out at once in such pain that I had not the capacity to pity all of them. When it fell silent I woke."
"And this dream," said Osiris, turning his gaze first to his daughter and then to his granddaughter, "Is this what you both recall?"
Anna shook her head, her fingers tightening around Hoggle's hand where it rested in her lap, "No Papa, I remember nothing. I remember falling asleep and waking up to see you beside me. Nothing more."
"Lilly my dear, can you remember anything of your dream?"
"I remember Mama being in the room, she was sitting by Freddie and then she came to me and told me to go to sleep," said Lilly, "Then Nanny Shee woke me up."
Osiris was silent as he leant back once more against the mantle surrounding the fire, his eyes cast to his boots as his fingers rubbed his temples. Titania reached over, laying a delicate hand on his shoulder before her free hand lifted his chin to raise his gaze to hers.
"Speak your thoughts," she said, "For none of us will know the answer. You are Lord of the Dead, Osiris, you know their ways, has this been heard of?"
Osiris shook his head, "I never heard the like but then I have never known anyone with power as Jareth's before," he said, "I do not know what has passed this night. Had all three experienced the same vision I would be greatly concerned but rational thought begins to point me to another route, despite all that has occurred beyond the castle. Jareth's thoughts have always fallen on his mother in times of trouble and the Underground has trouble enough to bear right now. The dream may yet be just a dream with Jareth's powers augmenting it and forcing into the minds of two of those closest to him, with a link both by blood and by power. Anna is his twin, they share a soul and she has often felt his pain, whilst Lilly mimics her father's abilities and that power may yet attract to its source. Until anything further comes from this I suggest we reserve judgement and action, let us be sure that this was not just coincidence."
"Apis, what's coincidence?" said Lilly.
Her tutor shifted her in his arms to better see her face, his smile small and barely hiding the worry he had felt for his young charge, "Its something that happens alongside something else that makes people think they're related but they're not," he said, "Queen Mab has been murdered so we all thought the dream you all had had something to do with it."
Lilly paused for a moment her eyes leaving Apis' to trace to the corner of the room. She gave a small nod before she turned back to him, her face in a quizzical frown, "The White Lady says she isn't Queen Mab but that our dream was for the same reason."
"The White Lady?" said Sarah, leaving her husband's side to go to her daughter, "That's what you said before you started screaming. Lilly who is the White Lady?"
"More importantly where is this White Lady to be answering questions asked in this very room?" said Osiris, joining his daughter in law.
Lilly looked at them both with bemusement before she pointed to the far, shadowed corner of the room, "She's right there," she said quietly, "Can't you see her?"
Every head in the room turned to the sight but the corner stood empty, the pattern of the wallpaper even apparent despite the gloom.
"There is no one there," said Osiris.
"Perhaps a little of her dream lingers," said Apis, "She is too young to hear so much that will scare her."
Sarah stroked her daughter's hair, forcing a smile of reassurance, "There is no one there my darling," she said softly, "There's no need to be frightened."
"But I'm not frightened Mama, the White Lady is kind," said Lilly.
"Lilijana there is no one there," said Osiris, his tone firmer than Sarah's had been.
"On the contrary Father," said Jareth getting to his feet, "Lilly is quite correct in her assertions."
"The image is not clear," said Jareth, his eyes fixed on the corner, "But there is a figure and it is one I have seen before, one that I have seen in my wanderings at night. I had thought her a dream…"
"She is not a dream," said Lilly, swiftly wiggling free of Apis' arms and dropping to the carpet below, evading the hands that attempted to take hold of her as she hurried to the corner of the room, "She's real. She's got pretty, long hair and blue eyes and a brown dress. She's got no shoes. She looks like aunty Anne."
"By Ra," said Osiris, looking on as his granddaughter turned her face up to the figure he could not yet see, "It cannot be."
"Is it her?" said Jareth, "Lilly ask her her name."
"Can't you hear her?" said Lilly, "She says her name is my name."
"Its not possible," said Osiris, "My Lilijana?"
"But how is it that the child alone can hear her when the Lord of the Dead cannot?" said Apis, a faint line of panic in his voice as he seemed a heartbeat from leaping the room to snatch the small girl from her invisible companion.
"Because the Lord of the Dead leads the Host but he is not one of them," said Titania, "Osiris, Lilly sees and speaks clearly with the dead, a feat clearly even her father's powers cannot achieve. I know it is not common to see the calling in one so young but can you truly deny it?"
"That my granddaughter has been elected to become one of the Host?" said Osiris, "No, I cannot deny that now."
"Lilly one of the Host?" said Sarah, "But the Osiran line has borne none, Host are chosen from other families."
"But we are not of the Osiran line Precious," said Jareth, "My father's blood does not truly run in my veins. If Lilly has been chosen then we may answer this conundrum surrounding us at last. Lilly, ask the lady beside you to sing and then tell me what you hear."
Lilly did as she was asked before falling silent, clearly listening to the response, "The song you sing to put us to sleep," she said, "But she knows more of the words."
"Your mother's song," said Sarah, "The one you sang to me in the hospital all those years ago and the one that keeps the Labyrinth alive."
"Then there is no doubt…"
"Daddy I'm getting tired," said Lilly plaintively from the corner.
"The powers of the Host do not last long Jareth," said Osiris, "And Lilly is full young to be using her gifts, call her to you."
"But we should speak to…"
"We will find a way to speak to your mother," said Osiris, "Call Lilly before it becomes too much for her."
Jareth hesitated but Sarah did not, "Lilly, come to us darling," she said, "Come away."
Lilly was still for a moment before she left the corner of the room, hurrying to her mother's arms and burying her face in the tumble of dark hair as Sarah knelt to embrace her.
"You're such a clever girl," said Sarah softly, "And so brave. You've done so well Lilly."
Lilly yawned, clearly longing to curl into her mother's lap despite the obvious hindrance, "I'm sleepy."
"Apis," said Osiris, "Would you take the child?"
"Yes sir," said Apis, lifting Lilly frown her mother's arms, the child dozing at his shoulder the moment she was settled.
"She's gone," said Jareth, his eyes once more on the corner of the room, "I can't see her anymore."
"She may be with us yet," said Osiris, "Lilly's powers as a Host may have made her more apparent but should there be a message to impart, she will remain though I have never heard of one so long dead being able to pass the gates."
"It seems that you do not know everything about the Beyond," said Sarah though there was no reproach in her words, "We need to find out what's happening here."
"I will send for the Host," said Osiris, "They could help."
"Papa even I know that the Host respond only when they are chosen by the deceased," said Anna, "If the spirit was truly Mama then she has chosen Lilly and none other will hear her."
"We cannot have Lilly put at risk, she is too young," said Osiris, "However we must find out what has caused this."
"A fronte praecipitium a tergo lupi," said Kai as he came to Jareth's feet, "You are between a rock and a hard place young master but you need to answer these questions before us clearly. I feel much unrest brewing."
"And mother was begging for my help in my dream," said Jareth, "But how to do this without putting Lilly in harm's way?"
The room was quiet as they all turned to their own thoughts, Sarah however knew she could offer little, concerning herself instead with her children who were now both fast asleep. She set a blanket over Lilly as she lay within Apis' arms, brushing several golden strands back from her face and looking once more as though she were no more than a young child, absent of power and abilities far beyond her mother's understanding. With a kiss to the girl's forehead she turned her attentions to her son, the little boy clinging to his nurse even in sleep, craving comfort from the tumultuous night. Nanny Shee had soon settled him in Sarah's arms as she set herself down in a chair, his small, warm body a comfort in the chilly room. Faint murmurs echoed from the group ahead of her, Kai, Jareth, Titania and Osiris discussing any course of action possible whilst the others looked on. Sarah soon found herself dozing but was soon woken to the sound of Osiris' raised voice.
"If you think I will let you try that in all of the seven ages child you are very much mistaken!" he cried.
"I can't see that it is your choice either way," countered Jareth, "It is my power and I will choose what I do with it."
"Risking your life in the process," said Osiris, "You are meddling in things that you do not understand."
"Well we've not exactly got far with the person who's meant to know all about the Beyond, Your Lordship!"
"Jack, for heaven's sake, reel it in," said Anna, "You screaming at each other is not going to help."
Sarah quickly handed her son back to Nanny Shee and got to her feet, hurrying to the group yet standing, "What's going on?"
"He's being bull-headed, that's what's going on," said Jareth turning from his father with a dismissive wave and only stopped from leaving the room by Titania standing in his path.
"I'll give you bull-headed you arrogant young pup," said Osiris, "You have no idea about the depths of this power of yours and yet you're willing to attempt something wholly frowned upon by our people."
"Well it will match everything else he does," said Sarah stepping between the pair, keeping her voice as calm as she could, "Now please will you explain what has you screaming at one another before you force me into early labour."
The anger in Jareth's eyes cooled a hundred degrees to be replaced by a look of concern, "Is the baby alright?"
Sarah smiled, "The baby is fine," she said, "I just wanted you to realise there are other people in the room. Now tell me what has got you worked up."
"I know of a way we can contact Mama without endangering Lilly," said Jareth.
"You only think you know…"
"Osiris," said Sarah, holding a hand up to quiet him, "You'll have your turn in a moment. The both of you talking over each other will get us nowhere."
Osiris was silent but the petulant look on his face at being quieted was so similar to Jareth's that Sarah had a hard time believing that they did not share the same blood. She turned back to her husband and took his hand.
"Tell me your idea."
"Its not conventional and it is dangerous, in fact its all but forbidden for the Fae to attempt though its common Above, however mishandled," said Jareth, "I want us to hold a séance, I believe my power is strong enough to allow me to be a vessel for whatever message needs to come through. We can hear what Mama has to say without putting Lilly at any risk."
"And the down side?" said Sarah, turning back to Osiris.
"Its never been tried in my lifetime," he said, "It has been forbidden. Mortals dabble with what they believe to be the occult and some of the truer religions do succeed but their contact is normally the Host elected to speak for the deceased. As we Fae are ever closer to death, we would risk ourselves to attempt such a feat. The dead should only speak with those born with a gift to hear them."
"In other words we risk Lilly or we risk Jareth," said Anna.
"A choice I would not dare to make," said Titania, "You are both too precious."
"It is a choice that I can make though," said Jareth, "I will not put my child at risk. I am her parent I will veto any vote that places her safety below mine. It is my power, it is my choice. We need to know what the message is and I'd rather it be me hurt in the process if that is necessary."
"Jack no, surely there's another way," said Sarah, "A way to keep both you and Lilly safe."
"We don't have time to find one," he said taking her face in his hands, "Precious, I know this is hard, we've been through so much already but we need to know tonight. We're running out of time, I know we are but I'm certain I can do this. I just need you to put your faith in me."
"You have that faith Jareth," said Sarah, "Its never shaken. If it is the only way then I won't stop you but I will stay with you."
"Osiris…Father I will need your help in this," said Jareth, "You may not know the practice but you know the theory of our task, I will need your guidance."
Osiris looked set to protest but then nodded, "I will help you," he said, "But we will need seven in the circle to conjure the spell."
"Then me as four," said Titania.
"We'll help," said Anna, speaking for Hoggle as she kept tight hold of his hand.
"I'll be your seventh," said Apis, settling Lilly down on the chair without waking her as he joined them.
"Then we will begin as swiftly as we can," said Osiris, "Nanny Shee, take the children to the far side of the room, Master Kai will be with you. I would have them out of harm's way but also where I can see them, only Ra knows what may be released and it will be best if we are altogether."
"Yes my Lord," said Nanny Shee, taking first Freddie and then Lilly to the furthest part of the room.
Kai soon followed, grumbling his discontent as he went about being a babysitter rather than the Guardian he was but Sarah knew he was as devoted to the children's welfare as he was to anyone else's in the Kingdom. With her children settled, Sarah stood back from the centre of the room as Apis, Jareth and Osiris manoeuvred a large oak table into place, the papers and books that had been covered it swept to the floor rather than moved by any magic. A mismatch of chairs were placed around it and Osiris waved them into their seats. Sarah sat down between her husband and Apis, her eyes meeting Anna's across the table and knowing the fear she saw there was mirrored in her own.
Osiris was the last to join them, wielding a large tome that Sarah and Jareth had used more often to wedge open a door than to read. He flicked expertly through the pages until he lighted on the one he wanted, having to force the spine to give to keep the book open.
"You must all enter into this freely and of your own will," he said, "I know nought of what may occur once the words are spoken and the spell cast."
All those gathered gave their affirmative albeit tentatively and Osiris began to recite the ancient words. Sarah felt something began to stir in the room and was glad when Osiris instructed them to hold hands, Apis' sturdy grip and Jareth's warm, long fingers providing anchors to her as she felt the storm growing around her. She turned to look at her husband, meeting his mismatched gaze that showed equal measure of terror and wonder as the room seemed to fill with a nameless oppression. At first she thought one of the people around the table had taken ill as she heard a faint moaning but then she realised that she heard more than one voice, a number higher than their mere seven moaning at the disturbance to their world. She longed to scream out for Osiris to stop but her voice seemed lodged in her throat and all she could do was grip tighter onto the hands of the men beside her as a wind began to blow around them.
Invisible fingers tore at her hair and her clothes, reminding her of the time she had first followed Jareth to the Underground to face Oberon's challenge, their presence unwelcome in the world. She felt sure she would be torn from her seat as she screwed her eyes tightly shut, willing the room to stop spinning and wailing. As though answering her prayers silence fell and she heard nothing but her own ragged breathing. She slowly risked opening her eyes, realising that the wind hand blown out the candles and the fire in the hearth but the room was still lit by a faint blue glow that cast the faces of her companions into shadowed relief. She followed their gazes upwards to say the large translucent orb that floated above them, the source of the iridescent light.
"What is it?" she asked, barely recognising her own hoarse tones.
"A pre-manifestation," said Osiris, "The first stage of a coming spirit."
"What do we do now?" said Jareth.
"We let it find its host," said Osiris, "Look inside yourself Jareth, open yourself to the Beyond and it will come to you."
Sarah looked on as Jareth closed his eyes, his breath evening out. The room was silent, every soul waiting for the two worlds to merge but nothing happened. Sarah waited to see an entity rise up or a voice to issue forth from her husband that was not his own but silence still reigned. Finally Jareth opened his eyes, a frown on his face.
"I feel nothing," he said, "Just empty. This isn't going to work."
"That's because I can't come to you that way, my child."
They all turned at the sound of the alien voice, familiar only to Jareth, Sarah and Osiris, as it issued from the darkness. Sarah's blood ran cold though as she heard Nanny Shee speak straight after.
"No Miss Lilly, you must sit down, you must…"
"Lilly?" said Sarah breathlessly as her daughter left her nurse's side, her eyes focused on the table as she walked towards them.
"Peace, your child is safe and has borne me willingly," came the accented voice from her daughter's small lips, "She has longed to tell you of me, Sarah."
"Lilijana," said Sarah as she recognised the voice of Jareth's mother, "Please don't hurt her."
"I will not harm the child," said Lilijana, "She is of my own."
Sarah choked on a sob as she saw the alien look in her daughter's eyes, far older than a child of seven should look. The girl continued her path, passing Sarah, Apis and Titania until she reached Anna.
"You are my first born daughter," she said, "Anastasia I called you."
Anna nodded, struck dumb by the voice she had long since forgotten throughout her years in the Fae world.
"You are a beauty," said Lilijana, "You look like my mother."
She passed by Hoggle, not recognising the dwarf for the man who had once served her husband, but paused as she reached Osiris.
"Not a word for me, my love?" she said, "You were never so silent before. You fear me now as I was once forced to fear you and your power. I bore you no ill will at my death Gabriel, you took two of the precious ones and you kept them alive."
"I've not heard your voice in so many years," said Osiris, his own voice cracking under the strain of the emotion it brought to him.
"But I have been with you, when I may," said Lilijana, passing behind him until she came to rest at Jareth's side, "You grew tall, I knew you would. I should have known you when you both came to me in Manningtree but I was blind to you, forgive me."
"I never had anything to forgive," said Jareth, tears breaking from his eyes.
Lilly's small hand came up to her father's cheek, brushing the droplets away with all the gentleness of a mother to her child, "Weep not Jareth, you were always the strongest of us."
"I wish I could see you," he said.
"That is not yet for your eyes my son," said Lilijana, "And you must hear me now for I daren't linger long and risk the child."
"I will listen…Mama," said Jareth.
"Then hear this, you are right to fear the one the Ancients call Seth for he holds no compassion for those not under his power. He will never relinquish the Underground from his grip for he is jealous of it and longs to possess it fully. His actions though divert your attentions from a greater foe, even greater than the Unseelie you have twice faced, for his servant serves him still as his master."
"I don't understand," said Jareth but the curse that issued from Lilly's mouth silenced him, the blue light above them flickering.
"Something comes," said Lilijana, "One of them. He comes on the devil's soft feet but I hear him."
"Mama, what is wrong?" said Jareth.
"There is no time, he comes and I have not the strength to hold him back. You must be brave my little one, you must be brave and face this foe that haunts you. You must come to the Beyond and face him there, there is no other with the power. My son must come to me to save all our worlds, he…"
Her voice trailed off and Lilly's head slumped forward, the child seemingly all but asleep on her feet.
"Mama?" said Jareth, "Mama, are you still there? Lilly, sweetheart can you hear me?"
Before any of them could move an invisible force swept the child from her feet, suspending her above the centre of the table, beneath the orb that now gave off a vile, black light. Her bones cracked as her head was forced up, her body almost bent double as her long blonde hair brushed her bare heels.
"Lilly!" cried Sarah leaping from her chair but a dark plume shot from the orb, pressing her back into her seat, "Let me go."
"Address me not mortal, you are no more than vermin in this world," came the deep, sinister voice from her child's tightly stretched mouth, "You have opened doors that were not yours to open."
"Then let us close it," said Jareth, the anger in his voice barely contained as he struggled against the same invisible chains that bound his wife, "Let the child go."
"And why should I?" said the voice, Lilly moving as though she was stretching out long underused muscles, "It has been too long since I've had a body."
"Leave my daughter alone!" cried Sarah, struggling all the harder but she was further forced back in her chair as Lilly moved, her small hands coming to her mother's neck with a strength not of her own. Sarah struggled for breath as Lilly's hands grew tighter and tighter, choking the life from her.
"Let her go! Let her go!" cried Jareth, "Tell me what you want to release her and you will have it."
"Your word," spat the voice, "Your word that you will remain in your own realm, that you will not follow any other path."
Jareth looked defiant for a moment but then Sarah's strangled cry met his ears, "You have my word," he said struggling against his bonds once again, "Just let her breathe."
The hands unclamped from Sarah's throat, allowing her to take a shuddering breath but she remained bound to her chair. Lilly's body was once more dragged onto the table, laid out face down on the table.
"You have my promise, release my daughter," said Jareth.
Lilly's body contorted, her face turned towards her father despite how uncomfortable the position looked, "Make me?" it spat, a wicked smile forming on the child's contorted face.
Jareth relaxed back, giving up the fight against his bonds, "Lilly," he said, "Lilly, hear me."
The girl laughed cruelly, "She cannot hear you."
"Lilly," said Jareth again, "You can hear me child, you can fight this. Push out the shadow."
Sarah felt the panic rise in her anew as she smelt something burning, realising that it came from beside her, flames lighting her husband's hands, "Jareth no, you'll hurt yourself," she said, "Don't."
If he heard her, he did not respond, "Lilly, fight it," he said, "You have the power to. Push him back."
"Papa!" came the plaintive cry before a feral growl replaced the familiar sound of Lilly's voice, "She will not defeat me."
"Lilly," said Jareth, "You can my daughter, you know you can. Fight him."
The little girl screamed as though in agony, convulsing against the hard wooden table, bones and sinew cracking as she thrashed. Her struggle had an affect however as Sarah felt freer, the bonds that kept her in her chair seeming to lift. The power weakened around Jareth also and Sarah let out a scream as he shot from his seat, his hands still aflame as he took hold of his daughter. The fire engulfed the pair and a piercing scream rang out from within, the flames sucking in all the air from the room until it finally pulled the glowing dark orb into its centre also. The oppressive magic fled the room and all of the family were soon on their feet, crying for Jareth and his daughter as the flames continued to burn.
Sarah stood on helpless, pushed back by the heat of the flames. Osiris conjured water from thin air but it did not even create a steam as it touched the fire, even as Titania joined to help him. It was only when they both gave up, exhausted that the fire changed, the flames turning a vivid blue and then a glittering white before they transformed entirely; tiny white feathers fluttering to the ground and revealing the figures within. Lilly was on her feet, her arms tight around her father as he knelt before her. The feathers finally settled as the two released each other, a smile touching Jareth's face as he stroked his daughter's cheek.
"You did it," he said softly, "You beat him."
Lilly pressed her face into her father's hand, crystalline tears lighting her eyes, "He hurt me Daddy," she said, "But the White Lady got away."
"You're alright now?" said Jareth.
Lilly nodded before she hugged her father once more. Jareth released an arm from her to beckon to his wife, Sarah hurrying to the pair and embracing them both as she wept for the scene she had witnessed. As their tears quieted, they separated but Lilly stopped her mother from pulling too far away, her small hand gently touching the already darkening marks at Sarah's throat.
"I'm sorry," she said softly.
"It wasn't you, baby," said Sarah before she hugged her daughter tightly, "Oh Lilly I was so scared."
"How on Earth..?" said Osiris, as Jareth stepped away from mother and daughter, submitting to the fussing of Titania and his sister as they seemed intent on checking him for injuries.
"I felt it," said Jareth, waving away the curious hands and beckoning Nanny Shee to him, taking Freddie from her arms and rocking the trembling boy, "When Mama left Lilly and that other entity took over, I felt Lilly. It was like she was reaching for me, our magicks met and we gave each other strength. I knew together we could force the creature from her. I can't explain what happened, I just knew what I had to do."
"But what was that thing?" said Anna, "That dreadful voice that came out of Lilly?"
"The Shadow," said Jareth, "Though I couldn't tell you specifically. I was more bothered with releasing my child from its grip than asking its name."
"I should never have let you put yourselves at risk," said Osiris, "When I think of what could have happened."
"We tried to keep Lilly out of it," said Jareth, "But she's my mother's chosen Host, I guess the rest of us wouldn't do."
Sarah finally released her daughter from her desperate embrace, her cheeks still tear stained from the trauma of the evening, "Is this the risk she will have to take if she becomes one of the Host though, vulnerable to an attack like that?"
"Lilly has no choice in becoming one of the Host," said Osiris, "She has been chosen and she will have to serve that calling. As for the possession she faced tonight, that was only…"
"Because you opened the door," said Lilly, as though it was the simplest answer, "The White Lady couldn't close it in time."
Sarah choked on a sob, "I never want you to go through that again."
"She won't," said Osiris, "For as long as I live I will never allow any member of my family to undertake that practice again.
"We got the information we needed thought," said Jareth, "Oberon is but a puppet in all this, looking for his own gains no doubt but a puppet to the Shadow once more. I don't understand what she meant about the servant once more serving him as his master though. I will need to speak to her again."
"You cannot risk the cub again young Osiran," said Kai, "Her powers will be weakened after this night."
"Then I'll do as my mother asked," said Jareth, "I will go to her and speak with her in the Beyond."
"What?" cried Sarah, "But you swore you would not do as she asked."
"I lied to save Lilly's life," said Jareth, "My mother sought me out for a reason, I need to go to her."
"Out of the question," said Osiris, his voice rising above all the others as they offered their protests, "Jareth I have, in the end, supported you in everything in your life, in all your decisions but this I cannot bear. You do not know what you're saying. This is not a mere case of you sailing to the shores of the Beyond, you have done as much at my side before, but you would need to go beyond the gates and into the world of the dead. No living person has ever gone beyond those gates and come out again."
"No Fae has summoned his powers when they have suppressed by Avalon, save me," said Jareth, "No mortal born child has challenged the Ancients for power, save me. No Fae has survived an inferno that should have destroyed all, save me. Why should I not be the first to pass through the gates and return to tell the tale?"
"Because even you are not indestructible, you're no more than a child," said Osiris, "I cannot let you do this."
"You say that Lilly has to follow what she has been called to follow, this is what I am called to do."
"Ulula we do not even know if the woman we spoke to was your mother," said Titania, "This could be some trick of the Shadow."
"She sang my lullaby to Lilly, that song is unique to her," said Jareth, "I know it was my mother and she needs me."
"That woman would have given her life for you," said Osiris, "She would not ask you to sacrifice it."
"Unless she knew more than you do," said Jareth, "Unless she knew who I was."
"I think after nearly two millennia of being your father Jareth, I know who you are," said Osiris, "You are an exceptional man, with exceptional power but you would be as mortal as anyone if you took this path. I forbid it."
"Maybe you do but someone else orders it," said Jareth, placing Freddie in his sister's arms and hurrying to one side of the room and pulling several books from the shelves before he pulled a rolled seal from behind them, the Osiran seal broken.
"That's your Book?" said Osiris.
Jareth nodded, bringing it over to the table, "It is," he said, rolling it out, "And within its pages my name is…"
"Jareth," said Titania, in confusion, "Just Jareth."
"But it said Jareth-Ra, it used to say Jareth-Ra," said Sarah peering down at the hieroglyphs before her.
"I inscribed it Jareth-Aten," said Osiris, his fingers tracing the black paint circled in a cartouche that spelled Jareth's name, "This is my hand and yet the name is wrong. I made this book the day you came to Avalon and your adoption was granted, when I gave you your name. I would suspect a forgery but the paint work is my own, I can feel my own magic within the strokes."
"And I read Jareth-Ra when I took it from your library on Avalon," said Jareth.
"I remember," said Sarah, "I questioned you when you showed me because Anna had taught me how to spell your name but that's not the name I saw."
"Ain't none been near that book," said Hoggle who had been silently at Anna's side for so much of the evening, "Only Jareth and I knew where it was in this room."
"Hoggle's right," said Jareth, recent events that had separated them seemingly forgotten in light of the more pressing matters, "It has been in this room, hidden for so long."
"So why does it just read Jareth?" said Anna, "How can written words change themselves on a page?"
"Maybe Papa needs to choose," said Lilly, leaving her mother's side and taking hold of her tutor's hand, "Apis always said that we have certain things given to us but we have to decide about what we want to be from there. I have my magic but I have to choose to do good things with it. Perhaps Papa needs to decide what he's meant to do with his name."
"Lilijana Karee," said Apis softly, "Sometimes you think to deeply my young pupil. Perhaps we should leave your family to mull this over without our interruptions."
"No Apis, there is no need to take the children away," said Jareth, "Besides, Lilly, as is becoming more and more common recently, is quite right."
"Jareth, do not take this path," said Osiris warily.
"Father, you and I both know this has been an inevitability," said Jareth, "Look at all that is before you."
"I do not want to."
Anna looked up at the both in confusion, "Can you two please explain the riddles you're talking in?"
"What purpose have I ever served Anne?" said Jareth, "I was not born Fae, yet I had their power but I was brought to Avalon to have that suppressed and I was no exceptional talent after that. I became Captain of Avalon because I was too stubborn to turn tail and run when I first faced the Shadow and I became the Goblin King so that I was out from under Oberon's feet. I have never truly had a calling. I am even heir to the Underground because we all fear Oberon's actions should the rule pass to Horus or Anubis."
"That's not true, you earned your inheritance," said Titania.
"And yet long after it was to be mine, I am still not ready," said Jareth.
"Because I have given you time to be a husband and a father," said Osiris, "And we did not predict the trials we would face with Avalon when we first discussed your inheritance."
Jareth smiled ruefully, "If I was meant to be ready I would have been ready Father," he said, "All my life I have looked for a purpose and now I am presented with one. In under a year I have learnt the truth about my birth and my power, I have been haunted by an entity that has wanted nought but my attention and my daughter has revealed her powers as a Host so my mother can bring me a warning. My book once called me Jareth-Ra and only Ra has ever passed the gates and returned, even if only in legend. I know it sounds crazy but I know I need to do. You know what I need to do."
Osiris shook his head, "You're my child."
"No I'm not," said Jareth thought there was not malice in his words, "But maybe you were meant to find me, maybe you were meant to help me reach this point so that I could follow this path."
"Stop it!" cried Sarah suddenly, "Just stop it! I don't care who you are or what you've done, if you think I'm letting you leave us Jareth to follow a whim then you are very much mistaken."
Her tone was such that the room was truly silent as she paused for breath. Titania was the first to snap out of her shock, placing her hand on Anna's shoulder.
"Perhaps we should allow Sarah and Jareth to speak," she said, "It's a little crowded in here. Anna, Hoggle, if you would set an example."
Anna nodded, handing Freddie back to Nanny Shee as she headed to the door, Hoggle, Apis and Lilly following behind. Osiris seemed reluctant to move but Titania reached out and took hold of his arm, guiding him to the door before she sent a call over her shoulder for Kai to follow. The wolf left with a low growl, leaving the two final occupants of the library aware that he would not be far from the door should he hear anything that he did not like.
Even after the door had clicked shut the pair remained silent, an unease falling over them that had not been apparent even before they had kindled a friendship from Jareth's tortured arrival on Sarah's doorstep so long before.
"Sarah…" Jareth began in an attempt to break the silence but his wife cut him off.
"Jareth don't," she said, "Don't tell me that you've stumbled on some big destiny that you have to follow. You're my husband and you're a father, nothing beyond that matters, not when we need you."
"You need me to protect you," said Jareth, taking her face in his hands, his thumb brushing away a tear that had broken loose, "I know how sudden this all is but I need to do this otherwise I fear what might happen to us all."
"I can't accept that," said Sarah, "If all this is to be believed and there's a message that we need to hear then surely someone else can go. Why cannot the message be brought to the gates and Osiris collect it?"
"Because it doesn't work that way."
"And on that alone you expect me to just say ok and let you go?" said Sarah, "You don't know what's going to happen there, if you'll ever come back. Do we mean that little to you that you'd take that risk? You could go and get stuck or die and that means we'll never see you again. Your children will never see you again. In three months I'm going to give birth to our second son, how do I tell him that his father wasn't even there to welcome into the world? How to do I tell him and Freddie that they'll have to learn how to be a man by watching their grandfather and uncles because their father chose to leave us? How do I tell Lilly that she'll have break with tradition on her wedding day and ask for someone else to give her away? Tell me how I can do that Jareth and then I'll let you go and while you're there you can tell me how I'm meant to survive without you out my side."
Jareth was silent for a moment, her words clearly hitting hard and he struggled to rein in his emotions before he spoke, "I could stay and do all those things," he said, "You know me well enough to know that if I could I would take you all away from this, live a mortal life with just my family, this world and everything in it be damned. I'd do it in an instant Sarah, I'd do it now if you asked me. Tell me you want me to abdicate, to relinquish my immortality and my power, to take you and our children Above and live out a mortal life as normal people. I'll do it."
"Why do I feel a but coming?" said Sarah.
"Can we deny that we've both known that something has been coming, something bad?" said Jareth, "We feared a war with Avalon and Avalon alone but now we face the Shadow again it seems. We could live Above, we could forget this world and become mortal but if the Shadow comes to the Underground it won't be long until all we build away from here is destroyed too. That's our choice. We can ignore this and carry on here or up sticks and leave but with either of those choices we will be forced to face whatever comes without a hope of countering it. If I go though, I could stop that threat before it comes. You learned long ago that I would give my life to protect you and that promise increased when we brought our children into the world. I don't want to leave, I don't want to run the risk that I will lose the chance to be with you but if leaving means that I keep you and our children safe then I have to go. This has been coming for a long time and you know as well as I do, that its been coming for me."
Sarah's tears finally broke and she buried her face in the folds of silk as he held her protectively, "I want to tell you to take me Above and forget this place," she said.
"Then tell me to."
"I can't," said Sarah through a shuddering breath, "I can't."
"I will come back Sarah," said Jareth, "I promise you."
"You will be held to that promise you realise," said Sarah, "Or I'll be coming after you."
Jareth managed a weak laugh, "I think Father was hoping that you'd talk me out of this."
"I was hoping I would too," said Sarah, "But nothing's ever simple with you. Guess we need to get you ready."
Jareth shook his head, "Not tonight, its late. We can talk about this in the morning, right now I want hold in our bed and pretend that you made me abdicate."
Sarah pulled back enough to meet his gaze, "If we walk out that door we're going to bump into a bunch of people who will want to know what you're going to do."
Jareth freed a hand and summoned a crystal, "That's what magic is for," he said, "They'll realise soon enough that they'd best all head to bed."
Sarah smiled as he tossed the crystal into the air, the library disappearing around them as Jareth's magic took them back to their own chambers.