Author's Note: It's finally here! Thank you for your patience! Also, there are Phantom of the Opera references. This story has been an exciting ride, and I praise Him for every bit of it! For those who like background music, I recommend "Alicia Discovers Nash's Dark World" followed by "Of One Heart, Of One Mind" by James Horner. Enjoy the final chapter of To the Underground and Back: Part 1!
Caution in every step, I remain alert. It's a large circular room, with no entrance except the one now behind me. Torches hang from the ceiling in a decorative manner. In the center, encircled by steps covered in furs, is the throne. From where I stand, it appears to be made of bone, yet structured to permit lounging when desired. Soft cushions provide comfort, and curling ivory frames the border. Dressed in ebony and scarlet, the Goblin King himself reclines gracefully. Everything about him oozes confidence and victory, from his smug smile to his intense eyes.
"I can see you didn't want me to waste any time getting to you," I remark. "Tell me, how did you fare against your party crasher?"
The smile disappears as Jareth directs his gaze to a wall. "It wasn't a pleasant affair," he admits, "but never mind that." He rises, facing me.
Automatically, I tense; he allows a smirk to thread through his countenance. "Back to this, are we?" he asks, descending. "I must say I am impressed." He meets my determined expression. "You were different from the others. You met the challenges in ways I'd never considered, and for that, I congratulate you."
"Enough of your games, Jareth! I made it here before time was up. You now have to send me home."
His goblin smile causes my heart to tighten with unease. "I'm afraid I misled you, my dear. I said my castle has the way home. I never said you could go home."
"You—!" I gasp, my caution transforming into anger, "You had no intention of letting me leave!"
"Oh, of course not," he replies matter-of-factly. "You really thought I would keep my word? It seems you don't know as much about goblins as you led me to believe. Allow me be transparent: Never trust a goblin." He smiles wickedly, "You can never leave me now."
"No," I retort fiercely, eyes widening as the Spirit flares at the deception, "I think not!"
Without warning, I lunge forward with anger as my strength. I shoot a punch to his stomach, which he sidesteps. As I fall through, I use the momentum to spin a kick towards him, causing him to step back. He's fast. Quick to recover, I pivot on the foot just used to thrust a roundhouse kick in his direction. Flawlessly, he leans backward in evasion, using a gloved hand to throw my strike to the side.
Caught off guard, I am spun so that I face away from him. Without giving me a chance to retaliate, I feel Jareth take my dominant arm and twist it behind me. I cry out in surprise as stinging pain shoots up my arm into my shoulder. He grabs my other arm by the elbow, clamping it to my side. I try to wrench it free, but he locks the joint in place.
I can't move! I'm trapped!
"Why continue to resist, Christine?" he hisses with strained patience. "Since I know how you think, your stubbornness is futile."
"I prefer to think of it as a minor setback!" I snap.
I sense a smile before his expression becomes an inquiring one. "Curious…" he muses, shifting subjects. At my confusion, he elaborates, "You see me like the Phantom."
"What?" I say, my voice caught in my throat.
"You see me like the Phantom of the Opera. The tricks up my sleeve, the tension, the masquerade. And it is only fair you share her namesake as well. Tell me, my angel…" Jareth tightens his grip, "when Sarah refused me, did you think 'Poor, unhappy Jareth,' or did you curse the thousands of infatuated fangirls who wished she had stayed with a monster like me?"
"Wh-what are you saying?"
"Ah, I've got you now, haven't I?" He whispers in my ear, the close proximity sending shivers up my spine. "You pity me!"
Those three words cut through me like a knife.
Stunned, I feel numb, even to the pain which crackles across my frame like lightning.
I open my mouth, but no sound comes out. He…I…
"Think about it, Christine," he entreats me, "call your enemy by a name, and he will embody its essence because he knows it brings you fear. You see me as a monster like Erik? I'll show you just how frightening I can be!"
"…No." I manage slowly, my withered voice beginning to resound with strength. "Just…just because I pity you…doesn't mean I want to be with you. There is a difference! I—"
"Enough," Jareth interrupts, "I move the stars for no one! You are now mine, so give up."
"I refuse!" Spirit-infused adrenaline burns through me like scorching fire. With a cry, I twist away from his grasp by my hips, surprising him. With the precious seconds of freedom, I thrust my elbow into his solar plexus as hard as I can before turning to deliver a solid punch to the same target. As he stumbles back, I spring away to create distance, eyeing his movements warily.
Ire flashes across his features. "You contemptuous girl," Jareth growls with hatred, "why continue to defy me?"
Divinely-inspired words flow from my mouth, "News flash, pal! I already serve a King—God Almighty, and I am kin to His perfect Son, Jesus Christ!"
The Goblin King clenches his fists in effort to restrain his cold fury.
I continue, gaining courage through the Spirit's prompting. "You don't like the truth, do you? You saw what happened at the ball. That man was an agent sent by God to protect me, and he was just a taste of God's devotion to His daughter. The King will fight for His beloved. So fine, you win for now. But know this: no matter how terrible you are, no matter what you force me to be, I will forever be His. And as long as I belong to Him, I will never stop fighting you, Jareth!"
When I finish, his face is unreadable. His eyes, however, never leave mine for an instant. I become aware of my heart thudding in my chest, pounding in my head. My hands are clenched into fists, so tightly I'm sure my nails have punctured the skin.
Tension weighs down upon us until I break contact and look to the side.
So be it.
I slowly turn and walk towards the exit. If this fate—this eternal struggle—is Thy will, Lord, may You receive all of the glory. I place my hand on the handle in acceptance.
Staying where I am, I turn to face my enemy. Although he remains silent, I can tell he is conflicted inside. Can it be?
"Is this the truth?" He finally manages to ask.
"Your God," he inquires, watching me carefully, "He…would be relentless in His pursuit?"
"You can count on it."
Jareth holds my gaze for a long time, searching, probing the depths of my certainty. Seeing that I am completely serious, he sighs, his rage evaporating.
His confidence is gone, I realize with cautious relief. He doesn't want to keep me. Not anymore.
"Please," I try again, "let me leave."
He looks at the clock, seeing there are only a few minutes left. "As you wish," he whispers, resigned. His tense posture dissolves as he sits down on the steps nearby.
Seeing him in his defeated state, I find I am filled with a compassion which could have only come from Christ.
Go to him, the Spirit prompts gently.
I stand there in disbelief.
Go. He may have let you go, but I am not finished here.
You're the boss. Obediently, I cross the room and sit beside the Goblin King. Silence fills the space between us.
I run my fingers through my hair, noticing he keeps his frozen gaze directed to the floor. I breathe in deeply to release the tension in my body. God, speak to me, speak through me.
"Jareth," I admit, noting he doesn't look up, "I do pity you because it seems you can never find any happiness. I'm sorry that…you've been alone all this time. I can only imagine what life has been like for you, but please try to understand me. To pity someone isn't the same as to love him, and neither is forcing someone against her will."
God, where are you going with this?
I glance at Jareth, who seems to be miles away.
Forgive him, Christine, I hear the Spirit whisper to my heart, as I forgave you. I draw in a shaky breath at these words. As I exhale, I set my jaw firmly. Okay.
"Jareth," I declare, "let's start over."
He looks at me, baffled. "What do you mean?" he ventures guardedly.
What do I mean? I ask myself, just as surprised by my words. I…I know exactly what I mean. Jesus would do this, which means I should too. "Let bygones be bygones," I answer. "I am willing to put all of this behind us if you are. Somehow, I feel like this has all been a misunderstanding."
"What about your God? Would He accept me, too—just like that?"
"You seem more human than goblin to me."
Jareth releases a sigh that dispels his gloom. "Then there's hope for me yet," he mutters dryly. He waves me away, "Get out of here."
Even as he says this, I detect the hint of a smile. I rise and curtsey, much to Jareth's amusement. "As you wish!" I reply, before racing down the steps to the door.
As I'm about to turn the handle, a thought strikes me. "Oh," I say, turning back to look at him, "there is one last thing I think you should hear, above all else: Jesus Christ loves you, regardless of who you are, and He always will."
Sensing God is now satisfied, I pull the portal open and am engulfed in bright light.
I find I'm in my room. "Wow…" I murmur, sitting on my bed, "that was…absolutely amazing." I fall back in exhaustion, cradled by plush comfort. "Thank You, God."
I glance at the clock: one on the dot.
The window! I jump up, racing into the living room. To my surprise, I arrive to discover the previously smashed window is intact. Not sure what to believe, I wander back to my room in a daze.
"Did any of that really happen?" I ask aloud. I finger the end of the bookshelf with my Bibles when I notice something strange: One of them is missing. In its place sits Jareth's necklace, the chain neatly coiled underneath the pendant. It would appear so.
Picking the accessory up, I notice the gem is a sapphire. I go to my mirror, not surprised to see Jareth standing behind my reflection.
"Collateral?" I assume, holding the pendant up for him to see.
"For now," he replies matter-of-factly. "If I am to know more about you and your God, I need to read the Book He wrote."
I can't help but smile at these words. "Fair enough. Feel free to borrow any other materials you might need."
"I'll take you up on that offer."
We suddenly hear the garage door open and close.
"Mom and Dad are back!" I turn to leave. "Oh, and Jareth?"
"Thanks for the adventure."
"It won't be the last," he answers with a wink.
As the Goblin King vanishes, I go to greet my parents.
"Why Christine! I'm surprised you're still up. Did you have a good time, dear?" Mom asks as I hug her.
"Oh, you know me, Mom! Every night's an adventure!"
Preview of Part 2…
…Tonight is Thursday; Mom and Dad have been invited to a political function. To my delight, I can stay home. After they leave, I settle for getting ahead on homework. In Shakespeare, we're reading The Merchant of Venice. It's not long, however, before I find my stomach growling.
I put Venice down and heat up some soup, channel-surfing as I wait. After dinner, I return to my room. Now no longer caring to read, I lay on my bed, feeling sleepy. With my desk light providing a soft glow, I easily slip into dreamland.
"You're cute when you're sleeping, did you know that?"
I snap awake, finding Jareth's face inches away from mine. He flashes a goblin smile.
"Hello, my dear. I'm back."