Chapter 17: Act III, Scene I (I): Games of Skill and Chance- Ruff and Honors
Jareth's goblins were engaging the Seelie soldiers of the fortress. Now Sarah could see why Bucca Boo had seemed to relish their escape as a challenge. The goblin was vicious with a sword. He gave his opponent a nasty grin before dispatching him with a sword through the gut and then turning around as if he'd done nothing more than swat at a fly, flinging the blood off as he went.
"Good to see you again, Sire," the goblin said in his gruff voice.
"How many?" Jareth queried.
"Thirteen left out of twenty," Bucca Boo said with satisfaction.
"Brag got a scratch or two, but he'll live."
Jareth nodded his understanding. "We'll have to leave the fortress quickly. Who has the horses?"
"Two of the hobgoblin's men. He says they're trustworthy—" Bucca Boo said doubtfully.
"They'd better be if they know what's good for them," Jareth said, effectively ending that line of discussion. "Where's the Captain of the garrison?"
Bucca Boo nodded his head back toward Brag. "He's the one that got Brag. Seems he's the only one who's able to use magic like you, Sire."
Sarah watched their discussion with interest. It was beginning to dawn on her that her trip through Jareth's labyrinth would have been much different if he had sent goblins like these after her. Now she just had many questions and no answers.
"Let's end this quickly, shall we?" Jareth said quietly.
It sounded rather menacing to Sarah's ears. The expression on his face was one of anticipation, as if he would relish whatever fight was coming his way. Bucca Boo gave his king an evil smile of complete understanding and commiseration.
"Aye, Sire," Bucca Boo said, even as he threw a sword at Jareth.
That Jareth easily caught the thrown sword was not going to impress her, Sarah decided. He had likely had a sword shoved in his hand as soon as he could walk. That he fearlessly jumped down into the middle of the skirmish with the Seelie soldiers and planted himself directly in front of the Captain of their garrison was slightly impressive though, she had to admit. Okay, it was very impressive. When the burly Captain proved to be absolutely no match for Jareth's skill level, Sarah caught herself accidently staring at Jareth like an adoring loon. She shook her head in disgust at herself. Sarah Williams was not the type of girl to be besotted with a guy who excelled in testosterone driven activities, thank you very much.
Soon enough, Jareth had disarmed the Seelie Captain and had his sword at the other man's throat. The fighting quickly stopped at this point as if the rest of Seelie knew they had lost once their Captain was down. They were certainly outnumbered by goblins anyway and losing badly.
"Do you yield?" Jareth asked the man quietly.
"To Unseelie scum? Never," the Captain said disdainfully.
"You'd rather die?" Jareth asked softly.
"Death before dishonor!" the Captain intoned like a mantra.
If Sarah remembered correctly, according to Sir Didymus, it likely was.
"Get used to dishonor then. I find you pitiable enough to stay my hand," Jareth sneered, even as he lifted his sword from the Captain's throat. "Tie him up." Jareth turned his back on the Captain dismissively.
It was enough to cause the other man great offense. "Kill me! Don't just leave me here!"
Jareth continued to ignore him and came back over to Sarah. Then he turned back to Bucca Boo as if he had thought of something quite amusing. "As a matter of fact, why don't we just tie them all up?"
Robin Goodfellow went pale at that, but Bucca Boo and the rest of the goblins shared nasty grins. Personally, Sarah didn't see the problem. Sparing lives instead of killing people seemed like the right thing to do to her.
"What is it?" Sarah asked worriedly.
"They'll find no place among the Seelie after this, and because their Captain refused to yield, they'll find no quarter among the Unseelie either," Jareth explained.
What did one even say to that really? Sarah didn't know any response that would suffice, so she didn't say anything. She was finding herself fairly speechless a lot these days, to her chagrin. This was culture shock to an extreme. Other girls went to visit other countries, but Sarah Williams had to go and visit an entirely different realm of reality. She almost giggled at the thought.
Jareth ushered Sarah to the wall where the scaling ladder was and had her slowly follow him down. Robin Goodfellow went after she did and made sure she had a good hold on the ladder.
"I must say that my view of things has significantly improved," Jareth said teasingly from below.
Sarah glanced down only to go red in mortification. Jareth had a clear view up her dress. "Oh, really mature," Sarah mumbled in embarrassment.
Jareth gave Sarah a mischievous smirk as he helped her off the ladder.
Finding the horses and heading back toward the border territories seemed a little too easy. As a matter of fact, Sarah was a little disconcerted with how easy their escape seemed, but she wasn't going to complain.
"Sire, we can't take the main road on the way back," Robin Goodfellow said. "I know a way back where we likely won't be caught- it's just more dangerous."
"How dangerous?" Jareth asked.
"The Seelie won't go near that part of the forest. I've always thought it odd the Seelie claim it as part of their territory, when it is more fitting for the Unseelie."
Jareth hissed through his teeth in recognition of what Robin Goodfellow was talking about. "Are we truly that desperate, Robin Goodfellow, that you would have us risk going to such a place?"
"You know as well as I do that this is only a reprieve, your Majesty."
The whole exchange put Sarah on edge. That they wouldn't even speak of exactly what the danger consisted of spoke volumes.
"And still we must face Mab—" Jareth said pensively, while staring ahead. Jareth shrewdly looked at Sarah as if taking her measure. "Stay close, and if I ask you to do something, don't question it. I won't have you die."
Sarah had a sharp retort on the tip of tongue, but held it when she saw that Jareth was serious. She nodded in understanding and Jareth seemed pacified. At this moment, a piercing cry was heard, and all of the goblins looked to the trees in the darkened forest. Sarah knew whoever it was must be after them. However, before anyone could think of attacking, a kestrel came barreling down and transformed into Lord MacFhearhgais. Her biological father was seemingly alone and was holding a gleaming sword.
His countenance was livid. "Fiend! Release my daughter to me," the dark haired man seethed.
Jareth gave Lord MacFhearhgais a look of pure disdain. "I think not. You have no claim on the girl."
"And you do?" Lord MacFhearhgais sneered.
"Yes, as a matter of fact, I do. We are betrothed."
"Lies! I'll not stand by and have you abduct my daughter—"
"I'm afraid that's exactly what you're going to do," Jareth mocked. "Did you know your daughter left you to come to me?"
At Jareth's pronouncement, Lord MacFhearhgais looked at Sarah sharply. On noticing the necklace Jareth had given her, his eyes widened. "What have you done, girl?" the dark haired man asked. He didn't wait for Sarah to explain before turning back to Jareth. "Now, see here! I'd wager the girl doesn't have a clue as to what you've tricked her into! It's just like Unseelie scum to steal a bride!"
Sarah's heart was almost warmed to hear that her biological father could have some semblance of concern for her, late in the game though it was.
"How much?" Jareth asked dryly.
Lord MacFhearhgais visibly hesitated before responding. "As if I would ever consider negotiating a bride price with one of the Unseelie!" he responded with an affronted air.
He didn't sound very convincing to Sarah's ears. Plus, she was a little put out that the Underground still practiced such antiquated marriage rituals.
"No? Pity," Jareth responded. "Well, if that's all—"
"Wait—" Lord MacFhearhgais said reluctantly. "How much would you be willing to give for her?"
"Nothing now. I don't make such an offer twice," Jareth said with a smirk that succeeded in enraging the Seelie lord.
"Then she won't be going with you!" Lord MacFhearhgais brought up his sword and swung it at Jareth, who had long since dismounted from his horse.
Jareth easily blocked it with his own sword. "She came to me, MacFhearhgais, in prison. She rescued two prisoners this night. She willingly accepted my token. I'm sure your queen will be delighted to hear of it," Jareth taunted.
Lord MacFhearhgais was also an excellent swordsman and increased his attack in his rage. "No daughter of mine will dishonor the family by being an Unseelie whore!"
"Yet, you were willing to sell her to me but a moment before," Jareth glibly replied with a parry and a thrust of his own.
"A mistake I'll not make again. I'd rather see her dead than with you," the Seelie lord responded.
By this point, Sarah had dismounted. She was quite upset. "Honor?" she demanded. "What good is honor without love?"
Sarah's interference cost Jareth though, because Lord MacFhearhgais wasted no time in cutting him on the left shoulder with his sword, as Jareth had momentarily diverted his attention to Sarah. Sarah cried out at the scene upon seeing Jareth's blood.
However, Jareth continued fighting as if the wound was nothing, his own attack gaining ferocity. His armor had done its job, as the cut could have been much worse.
Shortly, Lord MacFhearhgais' fortune was reversed when he found himself disarmed. At the end of Jareth's sword, Lord MacFhearhgais didn't look any less dangerous or angry.
"You will have to kill me, because I will not stop until I hunt you down and kill you," the dark haired man spat contemptuously.
"Gladly." Jareth had a manic gleam in his eyes and looked ready to dispatch Lord MacFhearhgais to the afterlife.
"No!" Sarah wailed, running forward. "Don't kill him!"
Sarah didn't like Lord MacFhearhgais at all, but he was her biological father. She didn't want him dead.
Jareth didn't look at her this time and seemed intent on ignoring her in lieu of accommodating his own whim of violence.
"Please," Sarah whispered, while reaching a tentative hand out and touching Jareth on his arm. "Do it for me."
Jareth stiffened, but didn't shake Sarah's hand off. "A favor, Precious?" Jareth said darkly. "By rights I should kill him. What do I get in return if I do this for you?"
Sarah racked her brain and came up with nothing. She looked up at Jareth beseechingly. "I- I don't know," she said nervously.
Lord MacFhearhgais began laughing bitterly. "Listen to me, girl. You dishonor me by asking for this. If you go with him, you dishonor your family. It is better to hope for death."
"I could give you another option," Jareth said slyly.
Lord MacFhearhgais glared at Jareth, understanding his meaning even if Sarah didn't. "By making me only fit for the Unseelie? Is your Court so lacking that it needs to recruit new members?"
"It's the only option I'm willing to take that will let you leave here alive," Jareth responded. "You are not so different from us as you'd like to think, MacFhearhgais."
Turning back to Sarah, Jareth pierced her with his gaze. His cold eyes briefly flickered with a look of warmth before his mask was back in place. "I'll require a forfeit of sorts, my dear."
Oh, no! Of course, Jareth would find something disagreeable for her to do in exchange. Sarah's stomach clenched in nervous anticipation of the bad news she was about to hear. "A forfeit? Of what?"
"Of returning Aboveground."
Sarah went pale and she closed her eyes. Not returning Aboveground? It was practically unthinkable. She had been counting on being able to go back. "Not even to visit?" she asked in a small voice.
Sarah had still not removed her hand from Jareth's arm, and she felt his arm tense slightly under her hand, before abruptly relaxing. She had a death grip on his arm by now to steady herself.
"Perhaps visiting is not out of the question, but you shan't be returning there to live. I mean to take you to wife, and I'll have no wife of mine not living with me," Jareth said fervently.
Sarah opened her eyes and looked up at Jareth in surprise. They would definitely be discussing this wife and marriage thing later. She wasn't going to marry anyone without being given the option of acceptance or denial. That required actually being asked. And then there was the whole love thing. She'd certainly not marry for less than love. She pursed her lips and then smiled sweetly. Jareth hadn't made any conditions about how long she could go Aboveground to visit. She'd exploit that loop for all it was worth. Giving up a permanent life Aboveground was quite a sacrifice, but there was no way she would be party to patricide if she could help it. Her life would not become a fucking Greek tragedy if she had anything to say about it.
Her tone had obviously been a bit too sweet because it caused Jareth to look at her consideringly. Then, his lips went taut when he suddenly understood why she had been so accommodating to his terms. He had been sloppy. "Minx," Jareth muttered. "Step back, Sarah."
Sarah let go of Jareth's arm and stepped back warily.
Lord MacFhearhgais looked at her solemnly. "Is that your name, girl?"
"Her name is no longer your concern, MacFhearhgais. I have the honor. Have ye?" Jareth taunted as he raised his sword. "Well, what shall it be? An ear? An eye? A disfiguring scar down your handsome face? A hand, perhaps?"
Lord MacFhearhgais didn't respond, but kept looking at Sarah as if she was the ruination of every hope and dream he had ever had.
She turned her head away. She couldn't bear to look.
His tone was unrelenting. "No, girl. I want you to watch. This is your fault. What sort of Unseelie will you make if you can't watch your own handiwork? For all it is by his hand, you might as well be the sword."
Sarah bravely turned her face back to look at him. Tears were in her eyes and she bit her tongue to keep from wailing. Why did everything have to be so strange here?
Jareth was fast. His sword quickly ran through Lord MacFhearhgais' right eye, ruining it. It was a mess of blood and gore and Sarah had to swallow to avoid gagging. Her biological father fell to the ground in pain.
Jareth calmly cleaned his sword and looked at Lord MacFhearhgais dispassionately. "Well, I expect I'll likely see you at Court one day."
"Go! Leave me! As of now, I have no daughter. Take your slut and go, Goblin King," the dark haired man hissed in pain.
"Careful. Keep up the insults and I may have to take offense, regardless of your injured state."
Sarah's head was spinning with everything. She simply didn't get the ways of the Underground. She had to admit that she didn't get her biological father at all- and why did it hurt when he really did disown her at the end?
Jareth turned on the spot and his previous demeanor changed quickly to a much lighter one. It was as if the whole ordeal with Lord MacFhearhgais hadn't just occurred.
She huffed and turned her back on Jareth, only to have him swat her on her backside with his sword. She jumped in surprise and whirled around to face him again, her face red.
"Don't turn your back on someone who's armed, Precious," Jareth teased her, but his eyes were devouring her. Sarah took a step back and Jareth kept coming forward, sword in hand. Soon enough she was backed against a tree. "Do you yield, Sarah?" He was so close to her she could feel the heat of his body.
Sarah looked into Jareth's mismatched eyes and immediately had the notion to run. She was prey. "What?" she whispered.
"There is a saying. 'To the victor go the spoils.' And I do believe I've won your hand fair and square, wouldn't you agree?" Jareth said wickedly.
Then he kissed her passionately and Sarah lost all coherent though. She was sure that Jareth deserved a smacking, a tongue lashing, or both. He probably deserved her disdain too. However, none of that mattered because he was kissing her, and she liked it. She grabbed him by the collar and pulled him closer. He smirked into her mouth. He was wicked and he was awful and Sarah was awful for liking his attentions. She pulled away reluctantly.
"Jareth! I- oh- this is so confusing! Everyone here is crazy!" Sarah said looking flustered.
He had that insufferably smug expression on his face again. Jareth winked at her and gently took her hand and led her to her horse. "Well, from our perspective, you're the one with the mad ideas, my dear."
Sarah didn't know whether to laugh or cry at that. For all she knew, maybe Jareth was right. Perhaps she was the mad one.
Notes: Ruff and Honors is an Elizabethan era card game of the trick taking variety. Games like Spades are very similar. Anyway, as part of the game, when a player is in possession of the ace of trump, he/she declares, "I have the honor." He/she will then ask his/her partner, "Have ye?" If the partner has any of the honor/face cards, they'll get a point. So, I thought it was a nice touch to have Jareth essentially tell Sarah's biological father that not only did he know and have the honor of using her name- he had Sarah.