A/N: Aaagh! I didn't mean to take so stinking long to update but life has a way of keeping us busy sometimes. First our internet wouldn't work for a few days, then I went on a trip, and then I got re-swamped with wedding photography and more weddings! Whew. Wedding photography is crazy busy. I'd only recommend it to those who really love taking photos...a lot...Haha.
Ok, well just go read the chapter ;). I know you're dying to since I left you all on a bit of a cliffhanger...and there's a bit of a surprise in this one.
P.S. After this, I'm going to start putting any Author Notes at the end of the chapter because you guys would probably rather just get right to it and then hear me talk, haha (unless it needs an important pre-note).
ME a guest: Thank you so much for leaving such a wonderful review! I'm so glad you're enjoying the story and so encouraged by such great compliments about my writing style, story progression, and characters. I really wanted this story to be just right, so I'm so happy to hear it. You're awesome. Just thought I'd let you know...:)
Many huge thanks to my lovely reviewers: TheWordMasterOfFiction, Kaytori, ME a guest, The Queen of Water, Dreamingcharlie, She with the hazel eyes, , nortega, Elisabeth Sinclaire, lauren. , and ButterflyOnTheWall. You guys are so amazing!
Chapter Thirteen: Your Eyes Can Be So Cruel
"The Sidhe Court?" said Sarah. She'd heard some of the legends about the Fey but not enough to really have a grasp on their way of life or customs. "And a Midsummer's Eve festival. Wow. It sounds amazing."
The Goblin King sent her a wry look. "I'm sure it does." He handed the elegant invite back to Hoggle who still stood there waiting to see if he was wanted or not. "Take this to my study and leave it there."
"Yes, your Majesty."
"Hoggle?" Sarah called.
"Yes Sarah?" The dwarf hesitated trying to decide if he could get away with delaying when Sarah was present.
"Will you be staying around today?"
"Uh...yes?" He sent a nervous glance towards his king and received the slightest nod in return. "I sure will. Bye Sarah."
Then he scurried off to do what he was told.
"When is this celebration?" asked Sarah.
"In a fortnight."
From the indifferent expression on the king's face and his casual posture, clearly the invitation was of no interest to him. Maybe he'd attended so many over the years that they didn't matter anymore; but she could imagine it to be the event of a lifetime, to be at a celebration straight out of myth and legend full of immortal, magical beings. It was her one opportunity.
"Sarah, you should know I never attend these foolish occasions."
Her hopes crashed down around her in pieces. "But...why? Isn't it a beautiful place to be?"
"Perhaps, perhaps not." He clasped his hands behind his back and avoided her eyes. "It's been a very, very long time since I mingled with all of them or came to any of their events. They are a waste of my time, and I don't plan to start changing that now."
Sarah pulled at her bottom lip with her teeth and tried to find some argument that might win him over. He didn't want to go, but she certainly did and didn't plan on giving up on this one chance.
"You wouldn't go even if I wanted to?" she asked softly.
His eyes still wouldn't regard her. His back stiffened.
"Jareth, please. It'll be so beautiful, and I'll only get this one time to go to something as special as this. You know what? I'll even make you a deal. Because I've already asked so much of you, if you let me go to this, you have my promise that I'll owe you a favour. Anything you ask. It'll make us even. Although, I guess if my kind aren't allowed, that would make sense, but if they are..."
She trailed off in hopes he would have some sort of soft spot down deep where she could reach. Then she really looked at him and almost gasped loudly, instead choosing to press her lips firmly together. The way he was staring at her was intoxicating. How could she even explain? It was as though his eyes were trying to take her in until she was a part of him, their ancient depths brimming with intensity and indefinable emotion that felt like a fire threatening to sweep over her or deep waters threatening to drown her.
And then it was gone.
His name. Sarah had finally used his name rather than his title. The only other instance was when she screamed it out in fear of her life, but now it slipped from her rosy lips gentle and true. Warm satisfaction settled in his chest.
Another step forward. And yet her request was not a simple one for there were a great many risks attached. Just the use of his name was enough to put him under her whim and will and give what she asked, but she had to know the dangers.
"You would desire to go even though it puts you at great risk?" he said with a voice rich and tense. "This gives Fiachna a perfect opportunity to get to you while we'd be away from my kingdom where he can't come. He can come into other realms, especially this one where he'd be as welcome as any other Sidhe to celebrate the Summer Solstice. There's more than one reason I'd rather you didn't attend such an event."
"But with you I'd be safe."
The girl was either very cunning or very naïve. Perhaps a little of both because her simple use of words was swaying him who was often likened to rock that cannot be moved. He wasn't known for being gentle or kind, but this one woman had the ability to stir up things within him he thought dead or non-existent. For her he would do anything.
"It flatters me that you believe in my ability to overcome any other force here, but you must know, Sarah, that I'm not invincible. I may be immortal, but as I said, our race can be killed. Do not forget it."
It was a painful reminder but necessary for the both of them.
She was fingering the skirts of her dress. As if she wasn't already a beauty enough to enliven a cold heart in his breast, but she had begun wearing the gowns more often. They suited her well, so well that he didn't want her to put on those strange pants from her world ever again. This one was a soft coral shade that complimented her creamy skin and shadowy hair rather wonderfully. It also displayed her fine figure with taste.
Some of the Fey maidens were infamous for showing a great deal of skin to exhibit their 'qualities' to others, but that had never interested Jareth. He admired women of modesty who knew the art of subtlety and beauty rather than wantonness or blatant seduction. At occasions like the Midsummer's Eve celebration the variety of personalities was vibrant and obvious. What would Sarah look like in their midst? She was mortal, yes, but he knew she wouldn't stand out as much as one might assume because of the difference.
"I'm sorry," she said softly. "If it really is that dangerous, then I guess we shouldn't go. I realise it's selfish of me to ask to put you at risk because of me."
He drew in a deep breath and released it with a heavy sigh. Sarah waited in suspense for his final response. Those eyes. Those glittering pools of green would be the death of him how they pulled at his will till he knelt before her in spirit and would bend for her desires. Such cruel eyes.
The more he considered it, the more he strangely discovered he wanted to take her. He could sense it was a strong desire of hers as well. How would all the high Sidhe react to bringing a human amongst them? It had been done before in the past more than a few times, and yet it would cause a raucous particularly for the King of the Goblins to have a mortal girl on his arm when so little was known of him anymore. He remained secluded and secretive. To arrive with Sarah would certainly give that lot a hundred years' gossip to discuss.
That thought quirked his lips into a small smile. Not to mention, she'd promised a favour in return. Now that was a pleasant thought indeed.
"It's a deal. Sarah, in a fortnight you and I shall attend the Sidhe Court's Midsummer's Eve gala at the Adamant Palace."
Excitement rippled through her in bursting waves, and she almost leaped forward to catch him in an embrace. Sarah barely stopped herself and grasped his gloved hand instead.
"Thank you! Thank you so much! I know it will be dangerous, but I think it'll be worth it."
A slow grin spread over his face.
She laughed and hurried away to go find Hoggle or Mary to share the wonderful news. As she half-ran half-walked back into the winding halls and stairways of the castle, she wriggled her hand around. Strange. It tingled a little.
"Master, how do you know they'll go?"
"Gerdol, do you question me?"
"No! No, Your Majesty. Of course not. I just am too dim-witted to understand this plan."
Fiachna nodded as he poured over notes written on yellowed parchment. He hadn't left his Black Tower since he returned to the Underground after a failure to catch that mortal girl, but he had sent his spies to keep an eye on the Goblin Kingdom to report anything of note or activity of any kind. So far, nothing. The ravens watched night and day, but Jareth was no fool. He knew his enemy would not leave them unguarded after that failed attack.
If only that stupid girl hadn't called out for him! I wasn't planning any torment for her—she actually was rather pleasant—but for that stunt I'll need to devise a little something special. My plans would have worked if she hadn't gone and done such a foolish thing.
But he was beginning to wonder if this was even better for Jareth would have the human with him and fall prey to her charms yet again, only to have her ripped away a second time. Yes, this was turning out better than he'd hoped. The pain would be enough to rid their world of that infernal Goblin King forever for his heart would break at the loss.
"I'll likely have to take her life to do so," he muttered to himself.
Gerdol heard but didn't respond. He knew better than to speak without permission. There were scars from that lesson from years ago still laced across his back.
Fiachna straightened and looked at his shaggy-haired underling. The dwarf was quite ugly but fairly useful. Maybe the girl wouldn't need to be killed. She was very lovely and would be much better to look at than his ravens and his dwarf; however, she'd have to be broken somehow.
"Gerdol, I know they will go to this...festival...because of that human girl. She's a mortal. We are immortal legends of her world. If she hears of it, which is most likely, then she will long to go and Jareth being the weak man that he is will agree to her request. And that is why I know they'll be there."
"I see now, Master." Gerdol bowed his head.
"And that will bring them right into my trap," Fiachna said with delight edging his voice. His golden eyes gleamed brightly against the shadowed room. "I will wait to strike until after they arrive so they gain a false sense of security and let their guards down a little. They will be distracted also. Jareth has other acquaintances that will swarm him with questions and idle chatter, not to mention all of our curious race wanting to know who the mortal is and why she's come with the mysterious Goblin King. You see, it all will fall together rather well, I think." He began pacing the length of the room. "There is a small possibility that it will fail simply because of too many others around. That's the one flaw. But if I wait till they're travelling back home Jareth will be alert again, so it must be there at the Adamant Palace."
Gerdol nodded even though he probably wasn't listening well anymore.
"Now all we do is wait. There is still a fortnight before I can put it all into place."
Fiachna dismissed his dwarf abruptly and drew into his private study where he closed the door and drew curtains over the windows. The shadows drew in around him as he surrendered to their pull and practised his dark magic for long hours into the night, growing in power so that he could face the King of the Goblins and at last bring defeat. Then they would finally see who was the greater.
The cost of the pieces of his soul given to the Dark each time he surrendered to learn more of its power was something he blocked out of his mind. He focused only on the present, on the now of destroying his greatest enemy.
"Mary! Mary, I've got wonderful news!"
Sarah finally found the older woman munching on buttered bread while sitting in a window down on the lowest level of the castle.
"That mage finally give up on ya?"
"You get to go back home?"
"No, not that either. I mean, those would be fantastic too, but it's nothing like that."
"Well, then out with it! What news is so wonderful?" Mary tugged at her braid and tapped her foot on the ground.
"Jareth is taking me to see the Midsummer's Eve gala at Adamant Palace! He said the Sidhe Court was hosting, so I guess there will be a lot of lords and ladies and royalty of those lovely people. It's all real! I can't believe I get to see something like this."
The truth still took its time to settle into reality. In the stories of her world, balls were either exciting events highlighted by handsome men and extravagant gowns or stuffy occasions made dull by the people in attendance. She couldn't really imagine a festival like this one being at all dull since it was hosted by Fey who were known for their beauty, mischievousness, nobility, and adventures. If there were even a few like the Goblin King, it would prove to be a very intriguing evening.
Wait, when did I start calling him Jareth? That's odd. Well, I was getting tired of the formalities and the mouthful it was to call him King of the Goblins all the time.
"Is he now?" Mary said quietly in her Irish brogue. She made a noncommittal noise. "You sure are deep in it now, lass. You sure you want to go? We humans don't get taken to such parties unless...You know, never mind that. I'm sure you'll enjoy yourself a great deal."
"Unless what?" Sarah prodded. Mary actually appeared to be slightly embarrassed. "Are you saying that they'll think I'm his...his mistress?"
Mary shrugged, then nodded.
"Oh no." Sarah lifted a hand to her brow and sighed. "Is there no way around that? I really wanted to go."
"There is a way around it, dearie. Don't give a goat's hoof what anyone else thinks and just have fun dancing and eating and whatever else they do. It should be fairly spectacular if what I know is right. All our tales in Ireland told of wondrous fair Midsummer Eves that the Sidhe would throw since it seems to be their biggest celebration of the year."
"Another adventure, more memories to treasure for the rest of my life," said Sarah with a wistful glaze to her eyes.
"Yes indeed," said Mary. Her expression was teasing although the young woman was too distracted to notice. "Maybe of a kind you don't expect."
The following day Sarah wasted little time before hurrying to the Tower to peruse the books and all the fascinating objects and maps. Jareth had revealed a hidden room bursting with treasure just waiting to be discovered, and he'd given her free reign to come and go as she pleased.
Was there any end to his gifts?
Today she wore a dress of pale grey with crystal beading sown in a v-shape over the fitted bodice. She partially expected dresses like these to be uncomfortable, but each one she'd worn was quite the opposite. She lifted the skirts as she scaled the Tower steps with an eagerness almost equal to the day before when she didn't know what it was.
The dark green door was slightly ajar. Puzzled, she gently pushed it the rest of the way and peered around it.
Her mouth dropped open. Her heart stuttered.
Jareth was slumped against the wall on the floor with his head tilted back against the cold stone, his eyes closed and his pale skin even whiter than before.
Panic ripped through her. The Goblin King had never looked so drawn and sallow. Every time he appeared he wore assurance and mischief about him like a cloak of regality, strong and imposing in his dark mantles with those penetrating eyes. His presence commanded attention. But there he lay as if fallen ill like lesser beings.
Sarah rushed to his side and placed her hands on his arm. He was only in his black breeches and white ruffled shirt that dipped low on his chest to reveal that peculiar medallion, so she could feel the chill of his skin through the thin fabric. It should have been warm. His chest rose and fell with breath, so he was obviously still alive, but clearly something was very wrong.
"Jareth," she said urgently. She shook his shoulder. "Jareth, please wake up. I'm not sure what's wrong, but if you wake up you could tell me."
The only response she got was him moving his head a little towards her and his lips pressing tighter together. The dark circles under his eyes stood out sharply against the pallid shade of his skin.
"Jareth, please open your eyes. I need you to tell me what's happened."
The soft, melodic tones of her pleading eventually encouraged him to open his eyes. They slowly pried open as if the effort was almost too much or as if he'd awakened from a deep slumber. Those piercing blue orbs latched onto her, and he reached out a limp hand to touch her shoulder.
"Sarah," he whispered. "I hoped you wouldn't come."
"What?" she said in alarm. "You look like you're dying and you're saying you didn't want me to come? What's wrong? You have to tell me so I can help you. Please let me help you."
"I didn't wish for you to see me like this."
Of course he would choose this moment to be a stubborn man. His appearance frightened her enough to not even care about who he was or anything else except helping him, but she couldn't do anything if he refused to divulge why on earth he was collapsed against the wall.
"I'll tell you," he continued in a faint voice, "when this has passed. For now I would like to just get off the floor if that's possible."
Even in the state he was in, Jareth still managed to maintain his wry humour. Sarah wondered if this wasn't such a rare occurrence or if nothing fazed him. She took in his tall, lean figure and decided she might be able to get him to one of the deep cushioned chairs about ten feet away.
"If you can move at all," she said, "I'm going to help you stand and walk over there. You think you can manage?"
She rolled her eyes and found herself hesitating. They were already so close that every detail of his mismatched eyes was vivid, but this would mean fitting herself to his side. It was only a second's pause. The Fay needed someone and here she'd been determined to give back to him in whatever way she could find. This was not a time to care about proximity.
Still bent over beside him, Sarah drew closer and slipped an arm around his waist. He was thin, though in a lean sort of way, and it felt the chill of his skin was gradually fading back to fleshly warmth. They both used the wall to stand up together, Sarah wobbling almost as much as him under the weight: she wasn't exactly very tall or physically strong. Fortunately Jareth didn't weigh a great deal, but he did lean heavily on her once they moved away from the wall as she used her body to support his unsteady legs. Strands of his soft golden hair tickled her cheek, and his unique scent of night wind, musk, and leather washed over her senses as the nearness registered in her pulse.
It frightened her to imagine what could do this to a powerful being like him. It sent a chill to her heart. Her first instinct was to think of the Raven Mage, but that didn't seem possible.
Just as she was feeling she might stumble beneath his weight, they were in reach of one of the chairs. He pulled away from her with care and collapsed into it.
"I must ask you to wait, Sarah," he said with a subtle hint of more strength in his voice. His eyes had closed again, and his body relaxed completely into the padded confines of the chair that luckily had a high enough back to support his head. "Wait until I am improved and able to speak at length."
He fell silent and rather still. She studied his placid features while he sat in front of her regaining his strength.
Well, waiting it is then. Hopefully not too long. I want to know the reason for all this, for putting my heart through the crucible within seconds and making me question everything all over again just because of one thought: what if he'd died?
NOTE: Ooo...yep, I'm that author: the evil one who does cliffhangers. Hehehe...
Things are beginning to come together! In more ways than one. But what happened to Jareth? I promise it won't take me as long this time to update though. Yay for autumn and less crazy busyness! Plus it's just a beautiful time of year. Reviews are greatly wonderfully appreciated!