Authors note: This chapter delves into the history of Jareth. I think it's important to the future chapters and also gives us a little review of things that were previously mentioned many, many chapters ago. I would advise rereading Chapter 4 before reading this chapter to familiarize yourself with events taking place in this chapter.
Chapter 24: Anchors A-Weigh
Jareth and Ardeth continued down the countryside determined to make it back to the Labyrinth before tomorrow. Jareth was weak. Weaker than he had been when they started their journey. They'd been gone from the Goblin Kingdom for almost three weeks.
Although, he didn't voice it, Jareth was almost too weak to even walk. He hadn't eaten much in the last few days having only a few bites of the salted meat they carried in their satchels. He couldn't help it. After a few bites of anything he felt nauseous but too proud to vomit in front of Ardeth even though he had once already. It had been a few days ago as they were leaving the troll's mountain, they'd stopped for lunch but Jareth was unable to keep it down which resulted in a very loud upheaval in the bushes.
Jareth's skin had taken on a feverish glow. His forehead glistened with sweat, his hair hung limp around his face; dirty and wild as ever, producing any kind of magic caused scorching pains through his chest. Even a simple charm to clean himself proved to be too much.
He stumbled on a tree root snaking through the underbrush of the forest. Ardeth, who walked ahead scouting for potential danger, turned at the sounds of Jareth's cursing. He tried to school his face, to keep out the sorrow he felt for his friend. He wanted to keep a stiff upper lip as Sarah would say. Jareth sagged heavily against a tree. His breathing labored like he couldn't get enough air in his lungs.
"Maybe we should take a break?" Ardeth suggested as he walked back towards Jareth. The Goblin King simply nodded slumping down the length of the tree.
"When we reach the Labyrinth I'm going to see her. I cannot go on like this, Ardeth." Jareth murmured without explanation. He knew Ardeth would know who 'she' was. He put his hand up to his chest as if it would help to keep his rapidly beating heart from pounding its way through his ribcage and closed his eyes.
"I strongly advise against it, Sire. Your histories are tragic. She might still be angry with you," Ardeth told him trying to convince him not to go. He knew it was fruitless, however, because Jareth would go if he wanted too. No matter what Ardeth said.
"Once can hardly blame her. I did imprison her after all. It was so long ago…"
4000 years prior to the start of Unbridled Expectations
"Your Highness, where are you going?" the young maid called out to her prince as he tried to slip quietly past the guards.
The prince turned towards the maid with a devilish smile on his handsome face. He cupped her face with his hands bringing his lips close to hers. "I promise I won't be getting into trouble, Natelya. (pronounced Na-TEHL-ya) Tell no one you saw me." He pulled back letting his hands slip down her arms before pressing a few coins into the palm of her hands. "For your silence," he said with an impish grin and a mischievous wink.
He slipped out of the doors quietly past the guards who turned their heads the other way as they saw him approaching. It wasn't the first time the young prince had slipped out of the castle without permission. The men were elven palace guards; nothing got past without their notice but the young price paid them well to keep quiet.
Reaching the gates, the young prince pulled his tattered cloak over his head putting his face in shadow. He'd done this many times before; slipping out of the castle to escape the burden that came with being the only child of the High King and Queen. How he loved to cruise through the market square without people fawning over him, not that he really minded the attention, but sometimes the false camaraderie's were annoying.
Glancing around to see if he'd been followed, the young prince climbed over the stone wall that separated the palace gardens from the market square. He landed silently on both feet before darting into a crowd of people.
The market square was always full in the early morning with creatures of all kinds; dwarf mothers buying salted pork belly for dinner, elven warriors seeking out the blacksmith for a new sword and fae maidens searching for new jewelry to wear to the upcoming celebration at the palace.
Samhain was almost upon them. The fall harvest happened a few weeks ago supplying the castle with a plethora of fresh fruits and vegetables which were turned into light salads, hearty soups and decadent desserts. In three weeks, his parents would hold the yearly autumn ball; an occasion that would be celebrated by everyone in the Underground. They would all flock to the High Castle by the hundreds to take part in the festivities and rub elbows with the royal family.
He wondered aimlessly around lost in thought when he ran into something solid and curvy. The woman he just ran into stumbled towards the ground but the prince wrapped his arms around her keeping her from hitting the ground.
"I am sorry, Miss. Forgive me for I lost my thoughts. Are you alright?" The young prince asked with his arms still wrapped around the girl.
"Yes, I'm fine. You should watch where you are going," she began in a huff as she lifted her gaze to meet his. She stopped rambling and blushed taken by the man's handsome features. His striking blue eyes were like the crystal clear waters of the elven shore and his hair was the color of wheat. His face was angled in an almost severe way where his cheekbones would cut through diamonds. "You can let go of me now," she whispered.
He let go of her so abruptly she almost stumbled again. The prince caught her again making sure she stood upright and stable before backing away. They both laughed relieving the bit of tension between them.
The prince pulled his cloak tightly around himself. At such a close proximity he didn't want the young girl to recognize him but so far if she had, she didn't say anything. He nodded politely before moving past her to continue on his way. He never lingered in one place very long afraid of exposure.
"May I know the name of my rescuer?" the girl called as he walked away. He turned to face her, his lips curled into a smirk.
"My name is….James," he lied. He was incognito and definitely not about to reveal his true identity not even to this pretty girl. "And yours, my lady?"
"Joanna," she told him with a small curtsey. He inclined his head once more before scurrying away like a scolded rat.
After lunch at a tavern that served the best oxtail soup in the area, the young prince took a stroll through the various booths located within the market looking for a brooch to pin to his new shirt that had been made for the ball.
He approached the table fingering some of the jewels that sparkled back at him in the midday sun. Rubies and emeralds and diamonds, oh my. A circular diamond brooch encased in a circle of tiny rubies and sapphires caught his attention. He reached over the table to grab it slightly pushing the person next to him.
The woman scoffed then started laughing. "James, we keep running into each other." Said the woman he had run into earlier. He smiled at her but felt a little uneasy on being recognized. At least she didn't know who he really was.
"After the market I saw her a few more times, always in the market. We started having lunch together and we would walk and talk until nightfall," Jareth recanted to Ardeth as they resumed their trip. Having rested while he told Ardeth his story, he felt well enough to walk again. Perhaps he would even be able to swallow a few bites without getting sick.
"Where is that son of mine?" Flavian, the High King, called from the balcony that overviewed the ballroom of the castle. His voice thundered across the room causing all of the servants to look up at their employer startled.
"I am right here, Father," Jareth called from the middle of the room where he stood hanging decorations with magic. The servants weren't tall enough to reach the ceilings and he needed the distraction. She might be here tonight; the girl from the market. Joanna. His stomach had butterflies every time he thought of how beautiful she was. But he was anxious. She didn't know who he really was and only hoped that she would forgive him when she found out.
Jareth dressed in the finest of clothing. He wore a gray shirt made of the most luxurious and softest materials. The brooch he purchased on the day he met Joanna was pinned at the top of his collar keeping the ruffles closed from exposing his chest. His jacket was navy brocade with an intricate pattern sewn with the thread the same color as his shirt. Black trousers and leather boots completed the ensemble.
Joanna usually saw him in scruffs as he posed as a peasant in the market. Tonight, he looked every inch of the High Prince. Oh how he hoped her opinion of him wouldn't change.
"Did her opinion of you change?" Ardeth asked as he found himself completely enthralled in Jareth's story. It was so rare of the Goblin King to share information about his past. He was so secretive, so protective of his private life. Ardeth had been Jareth's advisor for 2000 years and this was the first he'd heard this story. Ardeth knew of Joanna, knew that Jareth had loved her, and knew of who she became but didn't know the plot twist turns that connected the dots.
Joanna gathered her skirts walking up the stairs to the high castle. Her heart raced as she thought of maybe seeing James at the ball. She dressed in her finest; a dark blue gown with peacock feathers sewn into the skirt and bodice. Tiny jewels were sewn into the bodice which shone in the moonlight giving her an ethereal glow. Her black hair hung in waves to her waist contrasting against the paleness of her skin.
Her friends smiled cheerfully at her even though they were secretly jealous of her beauty. Their ensembles while regal in their own respect were unequal in beauty. Joanna's gown enhanced her natural beauty.
"Oh, Joanna, you look simply beautiful," her friend Althea remarked as Joanna joined her in the foyer of the High Castle.
Joanna looked around in awe. She'd only been here a few times and never had the castle been so decorated in fall colors; oranges, reds and brown. She made her way through the foyer sampling some of the prepared desserts from the displays that lined the hall.
A beautiful melody drifted through the hall from the ballroom beckoning Joanna. The sweetest sound she'd ever heard filled her with warmth and promises of a brighter future and perhaps a handsome boy she'd spent so much time with.
With her friends in tow, she strolled casually into the ballroom excited at seeing the variance of dancers twirling around the ballroom. Men with their suit jackets of various dark shades and women in dresses of all colors from black to yellow to orange to pink to blue like her own, everyone sparkled and shimmered in their finest attire wanting to impress their hosts; the High King and Queen.
There they were mingling in the crowd, both in a shade of gold so luminous they glowed like the sun. Estrella with her white blonde hair and her revealing golden dress, if it wasn't for the black lace it would be hard to tell where her hair ended and her dress began. Flavian with his equally stunning gold jacket; flamboyantly embellished with amber gems and almost obscenely tight gold breeches hugging his manhood pronouncedly. They were quite the pair.
Joanna glanced around the ballroom hoping to spot a familiar face. One that she'd spent the last three weeks having picnics with and walking until their feet were sore, talking about everything and nothing. James. He said he would be here. She hoped to see him soon.
"Are you still looking for this boy you've been talking over incessantly?" Pschye asked. Pschye was Joanna's other friend and companion for the ball. Psyche was a bit snobbish having come from the family who sat for years in the High Court. Her father currently served as an advisor to the king.
Joanna glanced her way, huffing at the indecency of her friend's magenta colored gown with the obscenely low neck line. Why the girl insisted on dressing like a tramp was beyond Joanna's comprehension. "Yes, he promised me he'd be here," she reassured, more for herself than for them. What if he didn't show? They would never let her live it down.
"I'm beginning to wonder if he even exists," Althea chided. "After all, we've never met him and yet you insist you meet him almost every day in the market. Perhaps he's a character from another one of your story books?"
"Stop it. I'm sure he's here…" Joanna began just as she spotted a familiar blonde head. "There he is!" She practically shouted. A few of the party goers around her turned her way, sneering.
The two girls followed her as she began to make her way through the crowd. Joanna only had eyes for him. There he was, finally, her James. He looked devilishly handsome with the grin on his face as he spoke quietly with another man. She was halfway across the room when her friends grabbed both arms tugging her backwards.
"That is your mystery man?!" Althea questioned in a hushed voice. Her eyes were wide with surprise.
"Yes, it is. His name is James," Joanna said pulling her arms free from the crushing grip of her friends.
"James? Are you kidding me? His name is not James. Keep your voice down," Psyche said trying to hush her friend. "That is the Prince, THE most eligible bachelor in all of the Underground."
Joanna scoffed in disbelief. The nerve of these girls! They wanted James for themselves. Just as she was about to retort again, James turned her way smiling as he spotted her.
"Oh my god, here he comes. He probably heard you. Blasphemy on the Prince, we're going to be hanged."
As he approached, Joanna felt her stomach knot. It had been three days since she'd laid eyes upon this man who she now knew to be her best friend and hopefully more. She took a deep breath letting a smile light up her face when he stood in front of her. Althea and Psyche bowed low almost to the floor. Joanna rolled her eyes at them and moved to hug James.
A woman to the left of the trio of girls gasped. "Show some respect girl."
Joanna stepped away from James a bit startled. That was odd. Now this woman wanted him too? She was a bit old for him but he was handsome. She turned a little more to see a few more people were watching them. How incredibly odd. She faced James again to see his smirk was gone replaced by that of irritancy.
He turned his eyes to her and his expression softened immediately. "James?" Joanna asked quietly. She could feel her heart breaking. Had he really been lying to her this whole time?
He smiled softly then sighed. "My name is Jareth. I am the High Prince."
Joanna stared at him in disbelief as her heart shattered into a million pieces. How could he lie to her! How could he be so deceitful? She'd heard the Prince was a trickster. Never in all of her lifetime, which would be quite long, did she ever think that she'd be on the receiving end of his cruel pranks.
"You lied to me!" She gasped turning away from him unable to bear the sight of him.
He went after her as she continued to make her way through the crowd and away from him. "I merely concealed my true identity from you."
She rolled her eyes as she whipped around to face him. He actually sounded amused! How dare he! There it was-that stupid little smirk that she adored and right now hated. How dare he mock her! "That is just a fragrant way of saying you lied. The things I said to you! You're the Prince. You could have me hanged." She turned away from him again wanting to put as much distance between them as possible. She'd caused a scene. Many of the party goers had watched their confrontation, laughing at the girl who'd been smitten with the devilish prince. Joanna was embarrassed and she just wanted to be alone to nurse her wounded pride.
"Joanna," Jareth called out to her as she disappeared through the crowd. He caught up with her easily. Grabbing her arm to turn her to face him, he was surprised to find tears in her eyes. Whatever smart remark he'd been about to say died when he saw how upset she was. "Yes, I lied to you," he began sympathetically, "but I am still the same man you met in the market except my name is not James."
"Please just leave me alone," she pleaded with him. Her heart felt heavy with grief. It weighed her down like her soul had an anchor that had just been tossed into the deepest ocean.
Jareth was determined to convince her of his sincerity. He didn't want her to leave, not now, not like this. He knew if he let her walk out of the ballroom now he would never see her again. "I am still the same man who has feelings for you."
Joanna had been looking around for an escape. Her eyes darting around wildly as she wished to be anywhere but here. His words stopped her. Feelings? She had to know. Joanna was inquisitive and she couldn't leave without knowing how he felt about her, especially now that he'd brought it up. "What feelings?" she whispered.
I love you.
"So you told her that you loved her?" Ardeth asked as Jareth took a break in his story. They'd been walking for almost three hours and Jareth was beginning to feel unsteady on his feet again.
He leaned against a tree. Pressing his cheek into the rough bark, he wished for the uneasiness in his stomach to go away. He felt edgy and weak. With those feelings came a burning hatred of himself, of whomever had done this to him, of the world in general. Therefore, his grunted reply came a bit harsher than he intended.
"Of course I loved her!" Jareth snapped. "She was the most magnificent woman I had ever met. She was beautiful, smart, talented, kind. Did I mention beautiful? I loved her. I loved her with every fiber of my being from the top of my head to the tips of my toes, my love for her radiated through my body filling me with a warmth I'd never encountered. And I haven't felt that way about anyone else…"
Until Sarah was left unsaid but both men knew it to be true.
Jareth got lost in thought as he imagined what his wife was doing right now. He hoped she was well. He longed to see her, to hold her in his arms, inhale her intoxicating scent and kiss her supple lips. He missed her.
"Well, obviously, she took you back," Ardeth commented as he drew Jareth out of his thoughts to continue his story.
"What do you think of my new dress?" Joanna asked as she twirled in front of Jareth. Her face shone brightly with the satisfied smile that spread across her face. A new dress always made a girl giddy! It had been a present from him, a nice surprise. He was always giving her things. A diamond necklace or twenty, a plethora of dresses made from the finest material and a satisfied smile in certain contexts. He spoiled her. Then again, as the Prince he could afford it.
Jareth lounged on the couch behind her, his long legs stretched out in front of him, his eyes predatory as he watched the love of his life twirl around the room. The dress suited her well hugging to her slim curves and ample bosom showing only the smallest amount of porcelain skin. Her dark hair whipped around her face, her eyes bright with laughter, her lips red and plump; perfect for kissing.
In one swift motion, he stood from the couch slithering his way towards his still spinning girlfriend. How he loved her. He captured her in his arms pulling her into a searing kiss, his lips crashing onto hers with burning passion making both of them dizzy with desire.
She laughed against his lips as she pulled away resting her forehead against his. "I guess you like it?" His response was only to growl before pulling her against him again.
"Let's see what you look like out of it," he said after their kiss broke again.
"I'm pretty sure I can imagine what happened next," Ardeth interrupted before Jareth had a chance to go into detail about sex with Joanna. Ardeth was glad Jareth was opening up to him and sharing some of his four thousand years' worth of experiences but some things were better left to the imagination.
Jareth shook his head to clear the memory. He could almost feel her again; her ivory skin so soft like a flower petal, delicate and fragile writhing underneath his fingertips. Sweat dripping on his forehead as he pounded into her center.
He shook his head again. No sense on dwelling on something that happened thousands of years ago and would never happen again. Besides, he had a new dark haired beauty waiting for him at home with whom he could make scream his name in ecstasy.
"Sorry," he replied with a rare apology. "Anyways, Joanna and I were very happy. I loved her openly. It was no secret that I intended to make her my wife. We'd spent almost three hundred years in each other's company. We never spent more than a couple of days apart. But times were different then. I was just a boy and as the royal heir I had certain duties to attend to first before any sort of permanent commitment could be made."
"Royal duties?" Ardeth questioned. He had been Jareth's advisor's for centuries but he hadn't become his advisor until after Jareth was the Goblin King. He knew most of the happenings with Jareth as the Goblin King but he hardly knew anything about Jareth's time as only the High Prince.
"I had to train both in combat and with magic. As a Prince I was expected to be the most skilled fighter in kingdom and as the High Prince I was expected to be one of the most powerful fae in the Underground. Luckily, I excelled at both. My parents wouldn't even allow me to consider asking Joanna to marry me until I had completed my studies. I am their only child, sometimes I think they expected too much and expected in me things they had failed in themselves." Jareth replied bitterly. He'd hated his parents when he was a child for pushing him to his limits both magically and physically.
"So why didn't you marry her then?" The advisor asked as he reached into his sack to hand Jareth some of the meat. It was nightfall now and they'd decided to rest for the night.
"I wanted to. The day I was going to ask her, my father and I had a terrible fight. In a fit of rage, I transported to the Aboveground. He told me I wasn't strong enough, that I wasn't ready to transport between the worlds and therefore, I wasn't ready to stop my studies and get married."
"Son, listen to me, I am only trying to do right by you. You have only been on this world for three hundred years. You aren't ready for a family of your own. You're still a child." Flavian told Jareth. His decision was final. He'd be damned if he allowed his son to goof off on his studies to marry some lesser fae.
"I am a man! I am old enough to make my own decisions! I have decided that I am done with all of your silly games and preening and lessons. I am going to take Joanna as my wife. I love her. You cannot stop me. Stop controlling my life!" Jareth shouted at his father while his mother sat silently on the sofa watching her son and husband argue.
"Your magic is not fully developed. How would you defend yourself outside of these walls? You've been pampered your entire life! You wouldn't last two years outside of this castle," Flavian shouted back. He'd been calm until now but something inside of him snapped. The usually calm and indifferent king felt the urge to strangle his son.
"I can transport between the worlds," Jareth told him proudly at which Flavian scoffed.
"With our help!" Flavian mocked his son. Jareth glared at his father then made a decision and disappeared before his eyes. Flavian eyes widened. "Did he just go Above?" he asked incredulously as he turned towards his wife.
"He probably went to another room. You know he can't go Above without our help. Jareth is much too proud to admit he was wrong. A trait he inherited from you no doubt." Estrella replied as she went back to her reading.
Jareth landed in Aboveground toppling over from the force of the dimensional travel. Grunting in pain, he stood slowly to his feet and looked around. He hadn't been Above in quite a while; fifty years at least. Where exactly had he landed? He wasn't very familiar with Aboveground geography but judging by the hot sun, sandy landscape and towering pyramids must mean he was in the Blacklands or Kemet as the native people called this land.
Jareth shuddered at his clothing. His white silk shirt stained orange from the sand. Luckily, he wore gloves so his hands were blissfully sand free. Oh well, at least I was able to get here without my parents help! He thought. Ha! Pleased. He prepared himself to make the journey back Underground , closing his eyes and directing the flow of magic through his body filling every crevice and consuming every thought.
When he opened his eyes, much to his dismay, he found himself in the same spot. Two feelings ran through him with equal weight. First, hatred; at himself and at his father, damn it the old man had been right he wasn't strong enough to get back without his help and secondly, dread. What if he couldn't get back? His parents weren't even aware that he'd successfully transported between the worlds. They probably thought he'd poofed to another area of the castle. Even if they did know, would they know exactly where he was? He'd heard rumors of what happened when Fae stayed Above too long.
"I've heard this part before," Ardeth interrupted earning him an irritated glare from his king. "You were in the Aboveground for a week and a half. Your magic was almost drained to the point where another night would have caused you to become human. It's a widely circulated story."
Jareth shook his head angrily. "Yes, well, people ought to mind their own business."
"I want to know what happened with Joanna. Why didn't you propose?"
"When I returned to the Underground, Joanna was gone."
"You gave her away to the Goblin King? That maniacal elf?" Jareth was disgusted. How could he give away his daughter?
Joanna's father spluttered as the High Prince berated him. "I have other daughters who may suit you better, Sire. Either of my other two girls, while they may not have Joanna's beauty or grace, would make you an excellent partner." The man reasoned as he dreamed of recapturing the life lost to him by the sale of his beautiful daughter.
Jareth's blue eyes widened. "How can you be so flippant? I love Joanna. Why would you sell her to the Goblin King? What could you have possibly bought from him that warranted a payment so steep?"
The man turned his head away in shame. He was a gambler and a drunk. He'd bet against the Goblin King in a silly card game; a game where the wager was steep. In a drunken stupor, he'd bet foolishly with his freedom. He'd been arrogant that he could win. If he won, the Goblin King would grant him infinite wealth, a good stable life which he could live comfortably forever. If he lost, he'd be indentured to the elven ruler forever, forced to live his life as a servant.
He'd lost. In a plea, he'd struck a deal with the Goblin King; his freedom for the hand of his most beautiful daughter. An offered he'd accepted most readily.
Jareth turned away disgusted with the man's story. Legally, he couldn't have the man thrown in jail. He was within his rights as Joanna's father to marry her to whomever he wanted. Since he was the High Prince, he couldn't do anything rash like curse him so he took comfort in the knowledge that he WAS the High Prince and he'd simply take her back. His word was law or at least his parents.
The end of Chapter 24. Well, what do you think? I apologize for my prolong absence. Don't you hate when real life gets in the way? I actually had a different chapter written to post for 24 that continues directly from 23 but I though a little background story(things I've briefly mentioned before) was necessary before that one. I can't really explain so you'll just have to wait and see. Next chapter we'll deal with Jareth run through the Labyrinth and how he became Goblin King. We'll see Sarah again soon enough!