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Chapter 28 (Epilogue Part 2: Promises)
Sarah lay on the soft green grass in the middle of a new inner courtyard. A small fountain bubbled nearby, and pleasant smells from the numerous flowering plants filled the air. The sun was straight up in the blue sky, and Sarah absentmindedly wiped her brow. For the better part of an hour, she had been teaching a small group of goblins how to tumble and do handstands, but now she was exhausted. The goblins, once stripped of their bulky armor and odd assortments of clothes, were actually remarkable gymnasts. Currently, Sarah waited and held her breath as they tried to form a goblin pyramid. Soundlessly, a shadow fell over her, and Sarah leaned back to see Jareth watching the goblins with avid curiosity. He joined her on the grass, languidly, like a cat stretching, and shared a smile.
Sarah examined him from the corner of her eye as they both laughed at the goblin antics. Jareth looked lovely, dressed in red and gold, his long silver hair was pulled back from his face, secured with lace. He had one leg stretched before him, the other bent at the knee, his arm draped lazily over it. Since he awoke, Jareth had been kinder, calmer, and not just towards her. He rarely kicked his goblins, or threatened them, or even commanded them to "shut up". No, he seemed more willing to take things in stride. But Sarah also noted differences with her husband other than the shimmering silver hair and the eye of gold. Something was pressing on Jareth's mind, and now was as good as any to figure it out. "Jareth, are you alright?"
Jareth smirked, but continued watching his goblins. Ever since the day he went dark, Sarah had been able to pick up on his emotions. It was a subtle empathy that he found enduring and irritating simultaneously. "In the larger scheme of things…yes, I'm fine."
Sarah rolled her eyes. "That's not exactly an answer, you know."
Laughing, Jareth lightly kissed Sarah's cheek before standing. "I have a few errands to attend to Above. Can you handle these miscreants for a while?" Sarah bit her bottom lip, a habit that Jareth found quite adorable, and nodded. He could see the questions forming in her eyes, but she remained silent, for which Jareth was thankful. He turned his eyes to the sky, and within a blink, a magnificent white owl appeared, flapping and winging away, quickly disappearing from the Underground.
The back alley was dark and dirty, smelling of garbage and human refuge. The lone street light had long since burned out, and Derrick Scott stumbled blindly down the alley, hand trailing the brick wall from the building next door. He was almost unrecognizable. The loafers on his feet were spotted and stained, his designer suit was wrinkled and unkempt, his face was covered by stubble and his thinning hair was standing on end. And Derrick Scott could not have cared less.
His life was in shambles, and was going to stay in shambles. Ever since the day Sarah left him (again) he was living in fear. Jareth was no ordinary man, Derrick knew that, and he had no illusions. Sooner or later, Jareth would find him, and Derrick dreaded that day. So, he hid in a liquor bottle. The barkeep had kicked him out once he began rambling about mirrors and crystals and dwarves, so Derrick began the trek home.
A breeze blew through the alley and Derrick froze. There was something odd about the air, something foreign…unnatural…otherworldly. He stopped dead in his tracks. A few feet away, barely visible in the dark alley, a silhouette had appeared. Derrick swallowed, frozen still. Another breeze drifted through the alley and Derrick got a glimpse of long, silver hair. The shadow moved and suddenly a light flared. Derrick squinted, the brightness hurting his eyes. After a few blinks, Derrick was able to focus. Before him, dressed in black, was Jareth the Goblin King. In a gloved hand he held a glowing crystal which created grotesque shadows on his face.
Jareth smiled, allowing the points of his teeth to show. "Hello, Derrick." Derrick swallowed nervously, never taking his eyes away from the creature before him. Jareth slowly rolled the crystal and Derrick unintentionally began following the movement. "Do you like it?" Jareth asked as he watched Derrick. Derrick never blinked and Jareth smiled. "You can have it, if you like. All you have to do is touch it." Jareth held the crystal toward Derrick.
Derrick's hand was so close to the mesmerizing orb, but he didn't remember reaching for it. He froze, hand still extended, "What will happen?"
"It is just a crystal, nothing more," Jareth began twirling the crystal, "but if you look into it this way, it will show you your dreams." Jareth knew Derrick would take the crystal. He had seen the same look once too often; to live ones dream was awfully tempting, so when Derrick reached for the crystal, Jareth was not surprised, but he was prepared.
With a little woven magic, Derrick Scott was absorbed inside the crystal. The transformation was fast, shock did not even register on the man's face. Triumphantly, Jareth peered inside the crystal. Inside, Derrick's face, white with fear and wide-eyed, glanced back. Jareth sneered and spoke to the crystal. "So, you want a world of dreams? Then you shall have them, but they shall be of my making." Derrick began to shout, but his voice was distorted and muted.
Jareth flicked his wrist and the crystal shrank and transformed into a necklace, the crystal swinging on a silver chain. Jareth did not trust himself with the crystal; the urge to smash Derrick Scott to oblivion was too strong. No, he would need another to guard this crystal, and he already had an idea. Jareth help up the crystal to his eyes, pleased with himself. A quick death would never be punishment enough for Derrick Scott, but endless torture…now, that had a better sound.
Toby flip-flopped in his bed, trying in vain to fall asleep. His roommate, Allen, was a snorer, and tonight his nasal serenades were driving him batty. It wasn't just Allen though, that was bothering Toby. Lately, he felt the world around him had lost its appeal. At one time he loved attending Grant's School for Gifted Young Men, but now…the lessons were boring. The mansion that housed the students had once seemed imposing and mysterious, but now it was just an old house. The expansive grounds held no mystery either; they were only well manicured lawns and paths. They world was grey and Toby was at a loss as to the cause.
The night had been still and stuffy. The old mansion had no air conditioning, so Toby had opened the bay windows hoping for cool air. Up until now, he had been disappointed, so when the curtains began to billow and a strange scent filled the air, Toby curiously moved from his bed to peak out the window. No moon illuminated the grounds, but Toby was able to see a figure standing beneath an old oak. His heart sped up. Even from this distance, Toby could recognize Jareth. The man had presence.
Quickly and quietly, Toby donned some loafers and shimmied down the lattice under his window. He was sure footed and efficient, for he often sneaked out his window on sleepless nights. Not wanting to be patient, Toby dropped the remaining four feet to the ground, stumbling, but quickly regaining his footing. He jogged across the school grounds and toward the Goblin King. When Jareth came into focus, Toby slowed down, slightly startled, "Whoa, what happened to you?" Toby instantly saw the physical difference: the silver hair that was much longer, the eye that was gold, the thinner physique, but he also felt a difference.
Jareth gave Toby an appreciative glance. "I will tell you one day, but not tonight."
Toby frowned, but did not argue. Instead, he fidgeted slightly. Jareth's gaze was unnerving with his new golden eye. "Ok…so. Um, what can I do for you?" Jareth's brows rose and Toby laughed. "Oh, come on! The Goblin King isn't going to check up on me just to see if I'm sleeping alright. You want something, so just ask." Toby could not explain what he was feeling, but suddenly he felt alive again, like the world was much brighter, more vivid and it gave him energy and strength.
Jareth examined the teen for a moment, and then nodded, as if he had come to a final decision. He held out his hand. A necklace, with a small crystal pendant, swayed gently. "I would have you guard this," Jareth spoke with severity, stressing the importance of the duty.
Toby subconsciously crossed his arms. If Sarah had told him once, she'd told him a thousand times: the Goblin King was crafty. "Guard it? What is it?"
"A crystal," Jareth replied with a smile.
"And nothing more? Ha!" Toby scoffed, "Have you forgotten who my sister is?" Toby had meant to tease, and was unprepared for the look of aguish that crossed Jareth's face. For only a moment he had looked miserable, tortured, and it frightened Toby. "Jareth?"
The moment passed and Jareth's eyes narrowed, his mouth set in a firm line. "Understand, Toby: I will not tolerate any trespasses against me or your sister. Those who do so will be punished."
The air suddenly felt colder and Toby nodded, reading between the lines. Jareth was not angry at him, his anger was directed elsewhere. "And the crystal? Does it hold a trespasser?"
"Of the worst kind," responded Jareth, his voice low and growling.
Toby frowned, "Ok…but, why me Jareth? Surely you could guard it Underground."
Jareth peered into the crystal, lips snarling before he looked away, "I would destroy the crystal if it remained in my presence."
Toby's eyebrows rose and he examined Jareth once more. Well, he thought to himself, if a magical being called you to service, who was he to argue? Toby held out his hand, "Yeah, ok."
Jareth placed the crystal gingerly on Toby's palm. "Wear it, guard it. Do you accept this responsibility?"
The air changed as Jareth spoke, it became heavier, charged. And when Toby glanced up, Jareth's golden eye was emanating a faint light. Toby could nearly taste the magic and suddenly he realized this was an important oath. He slipped the necklace over his head. "I will," he said solemnly.
Jareth placed a hand on Toby's shoulder. "You are the Guardian, Toby, from this moment on." His golden eye flashed bright, blinding Toby.
When his vision returned, he was alone under the oak, Jareth's words echoing in his ears. The Guardian? What the hell did that mean? "Hey! Jareth!" He called out into the night, "Does that mean I get to come back?"
A breeze moved around Toby, carrying that perfumed scent. On the wind was a whisper, "In due time."
Sarah was sitting at a stone table sipping tea when Jareth reappeared in the Labyrinth. The sun was past its zenith, but several hours remained until dusk. She smiled as he made his way to her. "Hi, there. All done with errands?"
"For now," he replied. "Sarah, come with me," he extending his hand, which she took immediately.
The world blurred during the transportation, but when Sarah's vision cleared, she was standing upon a familiar hill, overlooking the sprawling Labyrinth. The new castle sparkled majestically in the afternoon sun and Sarah felt her heart swell with love and pride. She turned toward Jareth, who was leaning against the trunk of a tree. Previously when she had stood here, the branches had been bare, but now the tree was crowned with green leaves and bright purple flowers. She smiled, "This is so beautiful."
Jareth returned the smile and approached her, holding her waist with his hands. "I love you Sarah. This is your home now, and I swear I will do everything I can to protect you."
She draped her arms around his neck. "You made me immortal, remember? There's nothing that can separate us now." Jareth avoided her gaze. "Right, Jareth?"
He frowned. "Immortality is not as absolute as it sounds. Granted by magic, it can be revoked by magic, but only by one who is stronger."
Sarah swallowed. "And who is stronger?
"No one in the Underground is stronger than I am, not now," Jareth answered quickly.
Sarah kissed him softly on the lips. "You see, then?" She took a deep breath. "I think, Jareth, finally, we can have our happy ending."
He tightened his hold and pulled her closer to him. "Hmm, three hundred years I have waited for you Sarah Elizabeth, my love, my life. Don't think I'm ever letting you go."
Sarah met Jareth's mismatched eyes. "I'm counting on it." She pulled him in for a passionate kiss that he returned with fervor as he led them down to the soft green grass.
Together, under the shade of that flowering tree, on a hill that overlooked the Labyrinth, Jareth and Sarah began a new life together. Finally, forever could begin.
There it is! The end of The Highwayman! Thank you all for reading my labor of love.
So here's the thing, there may be a sequel to this, but the idea is still just a germ. I usually have the entire story done before I start posting. IF I can get the plot, characters, etc., sorted, maybe this will be out around Christmas.
I really appreciated everyone's reviews.
The Queen of Water: Thank you, sincerely.
DawnRain: Yeah...I really like that idea, but I hadn't thought of it. lol.
Lylabeth1: The Irish really are a crazy lot. ;-)
Clockwork Mockingbird: Sorry, no babies this round. But I do so love that image too.
Grey Kindle: Of course I'll keep writing. I'm an addict...can you be addicted to writing? Bah, nevermind. Thanks for your reviews!
UnwrittenOpus: I hope you liked the ending. I wanted a happy ending. lol
Sarah Rose 29: I love the idea of torturing Heryah.
Keep smiling everyone!