Chapter 13: Pride and Prejudice
A low rhythmic ticking made a soft white noise in the background as Sarah rolled over in a half-sleep. The soft mattress made a 'flumph' sound as her body plopped back down and the ropes holding the mattress made a soft creaking sound. She frowned; something wasn't right. Her dorm bed didn't make a flumph and creak sound… usually it made a thump and squeak sound. She furrowed her brow. It was obvious she wasn't in her own bed, but if she wasn't in her bed, whose was she in?
Grumbling slightly, she opened her eyes and squinted about from her position on her right side. She lay on what felt like a feather mattress and feather pillow. Her surroundings looked to be made primarily of a light colored wood, perhaps pine, and they all looked rustic, like they belonged to a cabin in the mountains. The simple bedroom she was in held only a bedside table, a chest of drawers, and the bed she laid in. A snuffed candle sat on the nightstand, but the room was lit sufficiently with moonlight coming from the lone paned window. There was nothing in the room that would help her indentify where she was.
Where am I? she asked herself. The last thing she remembered was Jareth coming through the mirror and insisting that she needed a doctor. Everything went dark after that. Slowly, she shifted the blankets off of herself and sat up, swinging her legs off the bed. It was then that she noted that she was still in her pajamas, and she couldn't decide whether that was a good thing or a bad thing. She rose to her feet and swayed slightly as she stood. Her head spun in tiny circles as blood rushed from it. How long have I been here? the thought popped into her head and panic curled in her stomach.
Shuffling across the wooden floor covered by a simple area rug, she made her way over to the door opposite the bed. Quietly as she could, she opened it, cringing when it squeaked slightly on the hinges. She paused, waiting to see if the sound drew attention; it didn't. Sarah slipped out through the small opening and stood still in the small hallway. Behind her was a wall with a window looking out into a dense forest. To her right was another door that was slightly ajar, but not enough to see what was inside; the room she'd just exited was to her left. Ahead the hallway continued for another twenty feet then ended in what looked to be a large room, but Sarah could only see a very small portion of it from her vantage point. She could hear the low rumble of a male voices speaking, but couldn't hear what was being said. Had she been kidnapped? No… Jareth wouldn't let that happen, and she was fairly sure that she'd been with him last she remembered.
Cautiously, she moved forward in stocking feet to peer around the corner. She had been right; the room was fairly large. Part of its openness could be attributed to the fact that a kitchen was attached to the living area via a wide archway. What little wall there was separating the two rooms held a window, so one could see through. From what she could see the rooms were furnished similarly to the bedroom, rustic and kind of Spartan in its bareness. The source of the voices could be found sitting at the four-chair table in the form of the Goblin King and another male fae. Sarah could tell he was fae because of his strange garb and the telling upswept eyebrows.
Silently, she stepped out from behind the wall, standing still while she observed both the men and the room. She was just examining the respectable sized fireplace when she heard her name. "Sarah," the Goblin King's smooth voice called to her.
Her head automatically moved to face him and her eyes sought his out. A smile lit up his visage and his brow relaxed as relief stole through him. He rose from the table, the chair scraping on the floor with his haste, and made his way around the coffee table in between them before pulling her into a tight embrace. Sarah inhaled sharply as he held her like he was afraid she would leave him forever. "Don't ever scare me like that again, love," he whispered desperately in her ear.
Now she was thoroughly confused. However she wrapped her arms around him and hugged him back, because she could tell he needed the reassurance. They stood in each other's embrace for what seemed hours, but was probably only a few minutes. Jareth finally pulled away, but kept his gloved hands on Sarah's shoulders, holding her at arms length while his gaze roved over her. She blushed at the twinkle in his eye and wished she had a robe to slip on. Almost as if reading her mind, Jareth turned his wrist and the pale pink silk robe she kept in her room at her parents' house was in his hand. "How did you…?" she started to ask.
"We wouldn't want to offend our guest with you being improperly dress," he commented, draping the garment over her shoulders and helping her to get her arms through the sleeves. He pulled the robe closed and tied it with the sash. "Come meet Healer Matthias, Sarah," he said gesturing back at the table.
Sarah stepped around Jareth who put a possessive arm around her waist and moved with her towards the healer. Jareth pulled out a chair for her when they reached the table and helped her to sit. "I'm glad to see you up and moving," Healer Matthias said companionably.
"How long was I out?" she asked of Jareth who had just seated himself beside her.
"Nearly forty hours," he said calmly clasping her hand in his and squeezing.
Sarah did a bit of mental math and her eyes widened when she realized that she'd been unconscious for almost two whole days. Her next question fell from her lips in a rush. "Where am I?" Jareth broke eye contact with her and looked down. She turned to Healer Matthias who wasn't looking at her either. "Jareth… where am I?" she asked again, clearly enunciating each word.
"In the Sylvan Valley near the boarder of the Woodland kingdom," he answered reluctantly.
"The Woodland what? Jareth… why am I in the Underground? I thought… I thought I couldn't…"
"You were already to the hallucination stage. There was nothing else we could do." His voice was a monotone.
"Lady Sarah, if I may be permitted to examine you for any residual effects?" Healer Matthias asked trying to break the uneasy quiet that had settled in the room.
Sarah ignored the healer and continued to gape at the Goblin King. "I'm truly sorry, Sarah."
Sarah shook herself slightly, coming out of her trance. "There's nothing for you to apologize for, Jareth. It's… my own fault," she said, her voice breaking slightly.
Jareth pulled her into his arms as the tears started to slide down her cheeks. She clenched his shirt in both fists, her head falling to his shoulder. He held her tenderly, one hand on her back rubbing soothing circles, the other cradling her head. "Shh…" he hushed quietly. "I do have something to be sorry for, Sarah," he mumbled into her hair.
Her quiet sobs did not cease, so he continued. "I may have some blame in how you came to be stuck in the Underground."
At this, Sarah leaned back with a perplexed look on her face, and waited for him to explain. "Healer Matthias believes that you have unconsciously been soaking up some of the magical aura I exude."
"I know, I'm sorry," he dropped his eyes from hers.
Sarah drew them back though with a hand on his cheek. "You didn't know that would happen did you?"
"Then you are not to blame."
"Just because I did not know I was doing it, does not make me blameless, Sarah."
"Jareth, I don't blame you, and that's all that matters."
Jareth turned his face back up to hers hesitantly, but all hesitancy flew out the window when he saw the completely sincere and honest look on Sarah's face. He drew her back into a tight embrace. They held each other close while the last of Sarah's tears dried and the last of Jareth's fears of her being angry with him dissipated. "Your Majesty?" Healer Matthias interrupted them. "I was serious about wanting to check Lady Sarah for any residual effects."
Jareth chuckled slightly and drew back from the embrace. Sarah gave him a quick peck on the cheek before he got too far then turned toward the healing fae. Healer Matthias set to work immediately, running his long fingers over her arms to find her pulse point on her wrist. He counted silently and nodded to himself before moving on to peer into her eyes. One thumb gently held the lid open. "Look up," he requested. "Good, good… now, if you wouldn't mind, I need you to lay down on the love seat over there," he said pointing to a cushy looking piece of furniture in front of the fireplace.
Sarah nodded and did as requested. Matthias followed, but paused as a thought struck him. "I suppose you'll want to do the honors?" he asked of Jareth, pulling the crystal focusing prism from his bag.
Jareth gave the healer an amused grin then rose and took the crystal from him. "The same place as before?" he asked.
Jareth smirked at Sarah as she eyed him curiously. He knelt beside her reclined body and gently placed the crystal prism on her chest. His hand brushed along the insides of her breasts as he trailed down the valley between along her sternum. Sarah inhaled through her mouth in surprise, and would have been eager for him to continue if it weren't for Healer Matthias being in the same room. Jareth smiled knowingly and drew away, allowing Matthias to take his place. Matthias, who'd missed the exchange, merely continued the same way he had in Sarah's dorm room by placing a hand at her brow and on her abdomen before beginning to chant in a slow melodic voice. Sarah breathed deeply as the crystal began to emit a soft white glow. Healer Matthias continued to chant, his deep voice rising and falling in soft cadences. The crystal grew brighter, a soft tint of blue was now mixed in with it, and Sarah stared at it in amazement.
Finally, Matthias let his hands drop from Sarah and he studied the crystal intently before nodding once and smiling. "It appears that you are perfectly healthy now, my lady."
"Well that's a relief," she replied. Jareth smiled as well and took the crystal from her chest and handed it to Matthias who moved to put it away in his bag. Sarah suddenly frowned though as a thought passed through her head. "I can't ever go back home if I want to stay healthy," she muttered.
Jareth sighed and helped her to sit up before sitting next to her and pulling her against his side. "We'll figure something out, love. In the meantime, you still have five more days of spring break. Enjoy it."
"That is true, and you know, I am spending it how I wanted to…"
"With you…" she said simply. "Did you have any doubt?"
Jareth chuckled. "Not a one. So what would you like to do, my dear?"
"Well… I think eating would be at the top of my list, then maybe a walk in the woods with my fiancée."
The blond monarch smiled. "As my lady wishes. Perhaps tomorrow you could meet the Sylvan King? It is his woods that you are staying in after all."
"I was going to ask about that. Why am I here? Why can't I just stay at the castle with you?"
Jareth's brow furrowed. "I suppose you should know now," he paused for a moment. "Food first though. You haven't eaten in at least two days."
Sarah sighed then nodded, consenting that she was quite hungry. Jareth rose then and led her to a small kitchen with a wood burning stove that was already lit to help keep the room warm. "Sit," he ordered, pointing to a chair against the wall.
Sarah raised an eyebrow in confusion, but did as she was bid. Jareth proceeded to make breakfast, his gloved hands moving with precision and it made Sarah wonder how he knew his way about the kitchen so well. However she did not question the results of which she tasted in the dining room while Healer Matthias packed his things and Jareth watched over her. Apparently the fae had eaten only a few hours before she'd woken. When she'd finished, she pushed the dirty plate away and turned in her seat to face Jareth. Healer Matthias had already bowed out, promising to come back tomorrow just to make sure everything was fine. "So, why am I in the Sylvan King's woods?"
Jareth let out a long breath before beginning. "It's actually much simpler than you would think. Basically you're here because of prejudice."
Sarah gave him a perplexed look, begging him to continue. He inched his chair closer to her and grabbed hold of her hand. "Sarah, I'm in danger of losing my kingdom. I have been for the past couple of years, but it's coming to a culmination very soon. The fae Lord who's been assigned to review me is extremely xenophobic and humans are at the top of his list. They are worse than goblins in his opinion, and his opinion isn't the only one like that. The majority of the Underground is prejudiced against humans."
"And that's why I'm here? Because you're ashamed to have a human in your kingdom?" her eyes turned defiant.
"No! Never think I am ashamed of you Sarah!" He moved to grip her shoulders roughly. "However if Lord Cumberland found out I had a human… that I loved a human… that I intended to marry a human, he would declare me unfit to rule by reason of insanity faster than I could blink."
Sarah's eyes softened and she reached out to gently caress the fae's cheek. "How long are you under probation?"
"Lord Cumberland has to have his report into the Elder Council by the end of next month. It marks the two year period." His hands fell from her shoulders and came to grip her hands.
"You've been under probation for two years? What did you do?"
Jareth smirked. "I let a human complete the labyrinth."
The blood drained from Sarah's face. "What?"
"Don't blame yourself for this, Sarah. I was truly lenient on you compared to other runners."
"But I just barely finished in time!"
"Only because I knocked three hours off your time and you have no magic. It greatly concerned the Elder Council that a human could successfully navigate the labyrinth in under ten hours. I didn't tell them you had help."
"You didn't tell them about Hoggle, Sir Didymus, or Ludo?"
"Of course not! If the Council found out they helped you, they would be banished from the Underground. Do you really think they could survive in the Aboveground?"
Sarah shook her head, picturing her three friends who'd helped her so much. She couldn't imagine any of them in the Aboveground. "No, so you're protecting them and risking your kingdom?"
"That's only the half of it," he scoffed. "Lord Cumberland has been looking for a way to dethrone me for centuries. Your victory was just the key he needed. Lately he's been pulling out all of the stops, bringing up events from long ago as proof that I am unfit to rule."
"So that's why you've been spending so much time here? Because you don't want him to add your absences to his list?"
Jareth nodded. "In fact I should really be getting back just now."
"You don't have to come back tomorrow if you'll get in trouble for it," Sarah said squeezing his hand slightly.
Jareth smiled. "Are you joking? The one time I can visit you and call it a political visit to see the Sylvan King?"
Sarah's face brightened. "All right then. I'll see you tomorrow."
The blond fae leaned forward and gave his lady a gentle chaste kiss. "I don't want to leave you here alone."
"Jareth, I don't want you to get in trouble."
"I wasn't talking about me…" he grinned and created a crystal sphere with an elaborate gesture. He whispered something into the sphere then tossed it into the air; it disappeared at the apex of its ascent.
"What was that about?" Sarah asked, perplexed.
"You'll see shortly," he replied cryptically.
The brunette woman was about to open her mouth to ask another question when a knock came at the door. She sat up straight and looked at Jareth only to see that he wasn't surprised in the least. He broke contact with one of her hands to gesture towards the door, indicating for her to open it. She rose hesitantly and started towards the door. Cautiously, she opened the door slowly. On the front step was a sight for sore eyes. Sarah flew forward, reddish brown fur engulfing her. "LUDO!"
The large friendly giant wrapped his enormous arms around her and nearly picked her up as he hugged her. "Sarah, friend!" he bellowed.
As she pulled away, another familiar voice caught her attention. "My lady…"
She turned sharply to see Sir Didymus sitting astride his noble steed Ambrosias. "Oh Sir Didymus!" she exclaimed before kneeling to engulf him in a hug as well. When she stood again, she was met by Jareth at her back as he placed gloved hands at her waist. "Thank you so much, Jareth!" she expressed, adding a kiss to further express her thanks.
"You're welcome, my dear. The beast and his brother knight will do to protect you while I'm away."
"Not that I'm not grateful, but where's Hoggle?" she asked, turning in his arms to face him.
"The dwarf is still in his own home. He is the labyrinth's first trick against runners, and Lord Cumberland would notice if he suddenly went missing."
Sarah nodded. "I understand. I suppose I can still see him sometimes."
"Yes, he can always visit when there isn't a runner. He isn't as closely watched as I am."
Sarah reached up on her toes to brush his jaw line with soft kisses. "Yes and speaking of which, you should be getting back."
"Trying to get rid of me, love?" he grinned.
"Well I'm going to see you tomorrow, right?"
"I guarantee it."
"Well then yes, I am trying to get rid of you because I would like to catch up with my friends."
Jareth chuckled and held her close to him. Sarah laughed as well at the feeling of him laughing against her. "Alright then, I'll leave you to catch up, and I will see you bright and early tomorrow morning."
"Deal," she agreed before rising once again on her toes to press her lips against his. It was a satisfying kiss that ended too soon for either participant's taste, but end it did and it was shortly after that Sarah was left with only Ludo and Sir Didymus for company. She ushered them into her new (and hopefully temporary) home and wasted no time in asking after what they'd been up to since she'd last seen them.