Chapter 6 – Groot's Punishment
Sarah peered over the top of her menu, watching as Kyle babbled away.
"The Pepperoni Plus is good, or are you a vegetarian? Then maybe we should get this one," he turned his menu around to show her a pizza three quarters of the way down. "It's just like mushrooms and crap."
"I'm not a vegetarian," Sarah stated, closing her menu and placing it down on the table. "Kyle, why did you ask me out on a date?"
Kyle put his own menu down and answered her question, "I've liked you for some time now," he rubbed the back of his neck as if he were nervous. "Just haven't really known how to ask you out."
Narrowing her eyes, Sarah watched his face closely. "You seemed pretty confident in asking me at lunch."
Kyle just shrugged. "I thought being direct with you was the best to go. You would have said no if I gave you a chance to, right?" he winked at her with one of his blue eyes and Sarah instantly found herself comparing the colour to the Goblin King's right eye.
When Sarah had danced with the King in his crystal ballroom, she had had the perfect opportunity to study his unusual, unmatching irises. Kyle's eye colour was dull in comparison, even Toby's big bright eyes did not compare.
"You ready to order?" Katrina asked breaking Sarah's train of thought as she pulled a small notepad out from the pocket of her apron and waved it in front of her face.
Kyle placed their order. "Yeah, we'll have a Pepperoni Plus with a side of potato skins and some garlic bread," he looked over at Sarah. "You want anything else?" Sarah shook her head and Katrina scribbled down their order.
"Drinks?" they both ordered a Coke.
Just before she left, Katrina bent down to whisper into Sarah's ear. "Cheer up; you're on a date with a sexy guy." Sarah gave her friend a small smile. It was true; she might as well try to enjoy herself.
"So what are you into?" Kyle asked when they were left alone
"I like plays and reading, do you read?"
Kyle chuckled. "No, I'm more into sports." Sarah nodded, sarcastically thinking to herself, this is going to be fun.
Katrina popped by once again, instantly dispersing the tension that hung in the air, a tray with their drinks and some breadsticks resting on it in her hand. "Here you go, two Cokes," she said, placing the drinks down on the table. "And here are some breadsticks." She put the basket of bread down between them, before dashing off again.
"How long have you and Katrina known each other?" Kyle asked.
"Since kindergarten," Sarah answered, pulling a breadstick free from the basket and nibbling on it.
Jareth lounged on his throne (still dressed in his formal attire) glowering as a thick mist radiated from his person. The dark tendrils of fog slithered about the throne room, the faintest hint of glitter tainting the haze. He had transported himself straight back from the Fae City, but not before his father had harassed him with the details of his betrothed. He had learned that her name was Ballah from the Elven kingdom of Rossendale; his father had been adamant that the wedding would go ahead no later than the summer solstice, which gave Jareth less than a month to get out of it and to get Sarah back to the Underground.
"Dizzy!" come an anguished cry that rang out through the throne room.
Groot had been stuffed into a metal cage in the shape of a sphere and was currently being kicked around the floor by the other goblins, which were playing a game of football. "HELP!" he called, his head spinning as the cage was toe punted across the room and collided with the wall, the metal bars clanging and ringing in his ears.
"STOP!" Jareth bellowed, suddenly standing up from his throne and descending the steps before him, the cloud of mist tucking itself around him tightly. His subjects moved out of his way as he passed, watching him in silence as he approached Groot, whose cage was rapidly spinning around on the floor.
Coming to a stop in front of the barred enclosure, Jareth lifted a booted foot and pressed his heel down onto the sphere, bringing the rotating device to a halt. Removing his foot, he knelt down to look at Groot's face which was slightly greener than usual.
"Feeling sick?" the king asked mockingly with a sneer. Groot nodded instantly regretting the action as his vision reeled; he clapped a dirty hand over his mouth as Jareth continued. "Now, Groot, you are aware of what you have done wrong, are you not?"
Afraid to move his hand, the goblin closed his eyes and gave one dip of his head to indicate that he knew what his king was referring to.
"I asked you to do one simple task and you failed," Jareth said, placing a finger on one of the bars and swaying the cage from side to side. Groot braced himself for what he thought was about to come, but it never did. He looked up at his king, who had his ears pricked up, like a cat, listening to something in the distance that nobody else within the throne room could hear.
Jareth stood to his full height and Groot gave a sigh of relief as the king's attention was no longer on him. But his relief was short lived as the mood induced haze emanating from the man's body thickened as he swiftly kicked the cage across the room.
"Continue your game," Jareth said to the numerous goblins dotted about, they let out a raucous cheer and rushed towards the 'ball', continuing their onslaught on the device.A feminine scream escaped Groot's lips followed by the sound of vomiting. "It's in my tail!" he wailed as the other goblins broke out into laughter. Jareth rolled his eyes and disapparated from the room, he had felt someone disobey his strict orders.
Reappearing on the outskirts of the Labyrinth he sighed, an unusual amount of pesky fairies fluttered about the maze's perimeter and his gardener was nowhere to be seen. Jareth leant back against one of the walls, crossing his arms over his chest and waited for Hoggle to return. The Labyrinth let out a deep rumbling growl, making the swarm of fairies panic and dart away in search of cover.
"Still mad at me?" Jareth asked humour in his tone. "Patience, my friend, there has been a change of plan. Our queen will be here before the summer solstice." The growling ceased and Jareth's mist slowly recoiled and then completely disappeared at the thought of Sarah returning to his kingdom.
Hoggle emerged from behind a tangle of overgrown shrubbery, a sad look on his face. He knew he would have to report his visit to Jareth, it was one of the conditions of being able to visit Sarah in the Above, but he would try his best to avoid the miserable king for as long as he possibly could.
Hoggle kicked at a loose stone and watched as it clattered across the dusty floor and rolled into the stagnant pond before the Labyrinth's entrance with a splash.
"Hogwart, I see you've been neglecting your duties," Jareth said as soon as the dwarf came in to view. A fairy had settled on the king's shoulder and he pointed to it with a disapproving look before flicking the small creature away.
"Aww crap," Hoggle mumbled narrowing his eyes. "And it's Hoggle!"
Jareth waved a hand in the air dismissively, "Whatever, I believe you have something you need to tell me."
Hoggle nervously scratched his arm. "I's been to see Sarah."
"Oh I'm very much aware of that," Jareth said, pushing away from the wall and stepping closer. "What did you talk about?" he stopped at the edge of the pond and glanced down at the murky water, a small ripple radiated across the still surface as a tiny fish darted up to grab an insect that had been resting on it. Jareth was surprised that anything could survive in the dirty pool.
"We spoke about Sir Didymus and Ludo," Hoggle told him standing on the opposite side of the water feature.
Hoggle hesitated. "She had a feather, one of yours."
Jareth's face remained stoic but inside he was glad that she had kept the feather. She may not know it but it was a peace offering, one that represented a fresh start for them.
"What else?" Jareth asked again.
"Nothing," Hoggle lied, shifting on the spot.
Jareth saw straight through the untruth and flicked his wrist to produce a crystal. "You're forgetting that I hate being lied to, Higgle."
Hoggle gulped, he knew it was futile to lie; Jareth could easily pull the events of the visit up in one of his crystals, either way he would be punished for not sticking to the rules. "Okay, okay she went on a date!"
Jareth's perfect eyebrows flew up. "She what?" he asked trying to keep his voice composed, that had not been what he was expecting to hear.
Hoggle repeated in a whisper, "She went on a date."
Jareth could feel an ache beginning to form in the pit of his stomach as he thought of some other man courting his Sarah. But he did not pursue the matter, instead he changed the subject.
"That wasn't what I meant. One of the strict rules for visiting the Above is that you do not tell Sarah about what has befallen the Labyrinth or discuss its king, which you broke."
Hoggle's wiry eyebrows flew up. "How?!" he demanded crossing his arms over his chest.
"You spoke of its king; 'down right moody' I believe you called me."
The dwarf stared up at him defiantly. "That ain't giving anything away!"
Jareth strode around the pond coming to stand in front of Hoggle. "Listen to me," he said venom lacing his tone and his features growing dark. "Sarah has a certain perception of me that I do not very much care for, so you claiming that I am 'moody' does not help my cause of gaining her affections," Jareth smoothed his hair back and his features softened as he composed himself. "I will not punish you, but you may no longer visit Sarah."
Hoggle began to protest but when Jareth's eyes narrowed he held his tongue and uttered a meek, "Yes, Your Majesty."
"Good, now get back to work," Jareth ordered, dropping his crystal into the pond and disappearing. The scum in the water began to part, revealing a number of fish swimming about in the now transparent liquid.
Hoggle stood unmoving as he watched a swarm of fairies hovering overhead; he couldn't believe he had just been banned from seeing Sarah.
Jareth stormed into his bed chamber, slamming the door behind him. How another man could consider himself worthy enough to court Sarah was beyond him. In all the time that she had been back in the Above Sarah had never once shown a genuine interest in another male before and if she had, he would have put a stop to it abruptly.
Conjuring another crystal, Jareth peered into the transparent orb, his eyes narrowed when Sarah came in to focus nibbling on a breadstick. She sat opposite a blond haired teen that was chatting away about nonsense as she looked on in a rather bored manner. Jareth's harsh expression eased up, he was happy to see that Sarah wasn't particularly enjoying the boy's company.
Jareth let the crystal pop, he was sure that he had nothing to worry about, but just in case he would send in a chaperon to oversee Sarah's evening. Jareth left his room and headed alomg the hallway towards the throne room. Goblins lounging around in the corridors jumped out of his way to avoid a kick as he passed.
Jareth burst into the large hall and all within instantly feel silent. "Where's Groot?" he asked no one in particular stepping further into the room.
One chubby goblin with a pot belly peeking out from under his armour spoke, "He's up there," he said pointing towards the high celling where Groot was still in his cage, firmly wedged between two rafters.
"Majesty!" he called down, staying as still as possible.
Jareth was not about to shout the entire conversation with the goblin, nor was he about to give him an easy way down. "Goblins, get Groot down and do it quickly," he ordered, standing back as the creatures began tossing empty pitchers and loose rocks up at the goblin.
"Ahhh!" Groot cried as the missiles pounded against the steel bars making the cage rock.
The potbellied goblin picked up a spear that had been left lying on the ground and readied himself to launch it. He began to run forward bringing his stubby arm back, but just as he was about to release the lance his feet left the ground.
"I want him down, not dead," Jareth spat out, shaking the spear until the fat goblin released it.
The cage had shifted slightly thanks to the numerous pieces of debris that had struck it, but not enough to dislodge it from between the beams.
"Rock the cage!" Jareth called up watching in mild amusement.
Groot shook his head. "Nah huh, no way!"
Jareth gave a mischievous grin. "Rock the cage or it's the bog for you!"
As soon as the words had left the king's lips, Groot grabbed on to the bars and frantically began to shake, causing Jareth to chuckle. The ball was soon freed and plummeted towards the ground, Groot's girly scream sounding all the way down. He landed hard against the floor, the cage splitting in to two halves and he spilled out, sprawling onto the cold stone with a groan.
Using the spear still in his hand like a cane, Jareth approached the goblin and poked at the vertically challenged creature with the dull end. "Groot, I want you to go and watch over Sarah," the goblin groaned in response. "If the mortal she is with tries to take advantage in any way, I want you," he poked at him again. "To stop him, am I understood?"
Groot sat up with great effort. "Yes, Majesty," he obeyed shakily climbing to his feet.
"Good! Usual rules apply: do not be seen, do not talk to anybody, eat nobody's pets, and clean yourself up before you go. And, Groot…" Jareth walked past him towards his throne. "If you mess up this time your punishment will be far more severe."