Continuing Tales

Second Chances

A Labyrinth Story
by Stormlight

Part 6 of 18

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Second Chances

"Sarah," he whispered. "This is Sarah." A part of him rebelled at that. It couldn’t be her. After twelve years, since he’d accepted the fact that he would probably never see her again, now she was suddenly coming back into his life…The thought was exhilarating and terrifying all at once, and he was not one to be afraid of anything. But what about the words? Those six little words that had shattered his life and had forced him away from her…would they still hold true? When she came here, would he be forced to leave this place? He’d been here barely a day, and already he rather enjoyed Pixie’s company. It was so rare to be able to hold an intelligent conversation, and even he needed companionship, even if it was with a sprightly old woman like Pixie.

**I have no power over her life, but I have not forced my way into her life. I have been invited into Pixie’s, and it is through no fault of mine that Sarah is coming here as well. She should not be able to make me leave, although I fear that I may do so anyway, should my presence here cause her distress.** He sighed, grimacing. It was a sad day, indeed, when he’d put aside his own comfort for that of a mortal girl. Although Sarah was no normal girl…

"Jareth? Are you awake in there?" Pixie’s voice suddenly cut through his musings, and he blinked and focused on her concerned face. "Ah, there you are," she teased. "Where did you go?"

He attempted a smile. "I was…remembering," he replied. "Sarah is very beautiful."

Pixie grinned. "Aye, just like her mother, only she’s got brains to go along with those looks. Graduated at the top of her class, she did. Was always a bit of a dreamer though. Oh, that reminds me, she sent me a bunch of old books and toys and stuff from when she had to sell her house, when her parents died. Said she couldn’t bear to part with them. I have them packed away. I think I’ll go and prepare a room for her and Toby awhile. Got two extra rooms, so there’ll be space for all. Care to help?"

"Certainly," Jareth replied, mostly because he was eager to find out as much about Sarah as he could before she arrived. Her childhood memories were apparently precious to her, and therefore precious to him. He’d been there, in owl form, as she had put away those memories, one by one, after his defeat. He’d felt heartsick at the time, thinking it was her way of banishing him from her mind once and for all, and perhaps it had been, by forcing herself to grow up. But it pleased him to know now that she had not truly tossed those memories aside. Had merely misplaced them a little. Perhaps it meant that there was still hope…

"Well," Pixie was saying. "Come on out and help me with the animals, and then we can get started on the rooms. The letter said she’d be coming a week from the time she got my reply, if I agreed, and it’ll probably reach her in a day or so. Come along then."

Jareth reluctantly followed her to the barn, where he "met" her friends, the horses and the cow and all. The cats, especially the one she called "Mistofolese", gave him the once over and chose to ignore him. He was surprised, actually. Most cat’s tended to have a bit of faerie in them themselves, and could easily sense that he wasn’t normal. Perhaps they also sensed that he wasn’t a threat, and so was someone not worth their attention. That thought made him smirk. As arrogant as the fae kind could be, even the haughtiest of them could take a few lessons from a cat.

Mercedes was especially interesting to him. He saw her watching him from her perch high in the rafters. "Is that a tame owl?" he asked incredulously.

"Who, Mercedes? Oh, no! She’s just a house guest," Pixie replied with a laugh. "She’s been here awhile now, but I don’t dare get close to her, lest she attack me. We have an understanding, her and I. She can stay and eat as many mice as she can hold, just so long as she leaves my chickens alone, and the cats. It’s worked out fine so far. My Mercedes isn’t a fussy tenant."

"She’s quite the beauty," Jareth murmured. "I’m fond of owls, you see."

"Really?" Pixie eyed him, then nodded. "Yes. Don’t know why, but you seem to me to be an owl type. I can almost picture you with one sittin’ on your shoulder." She chuckled. He smirked in response. She didn’t know the half of it.

* * * * *

Days passed by, and he spent them helping Pixie to clean the house. He even found himself one day out in the forest with Pixie, chopping wood for the fireplace. Him! A king of the goblins! Chopping wood! It was nearly laughable, and yet, at the same time, it helped him to keep his mind off the inevitable arrival of Sarah. More specifically, off of what her reaction might be when she saw him…

He knew she had been ill, from what Pixie had told him. He worried, though he wouldn’t admit it to himself. How ill was she, that she had to leave the life she loved and escape to here? He wondered how much she had changed in twelve years. Was she still as beautiful as he remembered, or had the bitter events of her life changed her?

He was sitting in the room that was to be Sarah’s, several cardboard boxes stacked in front of him that contained, according to Pixie, some of Sarah’s old belongings. He was supposed to be storing them in her closet, but he couldn’t help but wonder what might be in some of them. Surely a small peek wouldn’t hurt anything, he thought, and so he somewhat guiltily opened the top box and looked inside to see what it held. He smiled as he lifted out a book. "Snow White and the Seven Dwarves." Of course. Being the dreamer that she was, this was exactly what he would expect her to read. He lifted out others. A collection of the Brothers Grimm. Hans Christian Anderson. Aesop’s Fables. Various fairy tales by other, not-so-well-known authors…and there, in the very bottom of the box, wrapped in a piece of black cotton—almost like a burial shroud—lay a little red book with a single word stamped on the cover.


He sucked in his breath sharply, almost feeling the book’s own, unique magic humming in his hands. He slowly opened the cover, noting how worn the pages were, dog-eared and slightly ripped and crinkled. Inside the cover, in beautifully written, if not somewhat-faded, cursive was Sarah’s name. This book had obviously been well-loved, once upon a time. He traced a finger along the faded ink, his eyes holding a faraway look.

Abruptly, the look vanished, to be replaced with a steely mask. But now look! It was worthless to her! Shoved away with her other childhood toys, and dressed for a funeral, no less! The cursed book. This had been the start of the end of his life as he knew it. It had enthralled Sarah to the point of obsession. When she had called upon him, he had taken her brother as she wanted, thinking to provide himself with some entertainment. It had been a wonderful gamble, until the price became more than he was willing to pay. Until he had lost his very soul to her innocence and beauty, and when she’d left she had taken it with her, as heartless as a butterfly. Once again, Jareth tried to call upon every ounce of hate he possessed, and closed his eyes, picturing her face in his mind, telling himself what he’d do to her when he saw her again, the horrors he could unleash on her. The games he could play with her mind…

After a long moment, his shoulder’s slumped, and he shook his head in defeat, that mocking smile fixed on his lips. Curse her innocent eyes, but he loved her anyway. Nothing he insisted otherwise was going to change that. The room was suddenly stifling to him. He had been inside for far too long. He needed the solitude of the forest. He shoved the books carelessly into the box, tossing Labyrinth on the top, half-unwrapped, and then, standing in a graceful, fluid movement, he went to the door and grabbed a coat from the stand. "I’m going for a walk," he told Pixie, and nearly ran outside lest she protest.

The snow had melted somewhat, but now it was packed firmly down due to a heavy rain a few days before, making the surface treacherous to walk on. It was no problem for him, however. He glided with ease across the field to the forest beyond, listening to the dead silence that came within. He allowed a smile…a genuine smile…to cross his face as he touched the rough bark of an ancient tree. This was where he came to gather his strength, and now he could feel the energy of this world’s forests flowing into him, renewing him, making him feel alive again.

He stayed there for a long while, listening to the call of a single raven somewhere deep in that sheltered silence, drinking in the beauty and peace. Perhaps he should create his own home there, in the forest. He could live there the rest of his days, thriving on nature. But even as the thought came to him, he abandoned it. Even he knew that he would not survive forever in this world. Besides, he was still a king, and had responsibilities to attend to. He knew he could not abandon his kingdom forever, much as he wanted to. But perhaps…perhaps if he had someone to rule beside him…a queen, perhaps?

With a violent shake of his head to rid himself of errant and impossible thoughts, he turned abruptly and began retracing his steps back to the farmhouse. As he approached, he noticed something that had not been there before. It was a car. A truck of some type, although he was no expert on human modes of transportation. Brilliant red in color, it was impossible to miss against the pristine white landscape. He frowned as he studied it. Now where had that come from?

Then, like a splash of freezing water, the answer suddenly hit him.

She was here. Sarah had arrived…

His heart immediately kicked into overtime as he slowed his pace, his breath coming quicker. A week had passed already? What was he to do? He had hoped to be there when she arrived, a subtle way of letting her know that *she* was invading *his* turf, and not the other way around…Well, that idea was shot. He’d been gone for an hour, at least, judging by the sun. She could have arrived as soon as he’d left, for all he knew. Had Pixie mentioned him? Had mentioned his name, perhaps? Perhaps Sarah would think it was merely a coincidence. But, no, how many other Jareth’s could there possibly be in this world? It was not a mortal name…

He took a deep breath and climbed the steps to the porch, choosing, at the last moment, to go around to the kitchen entrance. Maybe she’d only just arrived, and Pixie had them seated in the living room…

But even as he opened the door and stepped inside, he remembered that the kitchen was Pixie’s version of a sitting room. It was almost traditional to seat the few guests she had (like himself and the postman) in the kitchen for a cup of coffee or hot chocolate, so why not do the same with Sarah and Toby? They were, after all, family. He winced when he saw three figures seated around the table, with Pixie facing him, and the other two with their backs to him. He tried to sneak out again, but Pixie’s sharp eyes caught sight of him, and her face lit up. "Jareth! There you are! I was just telling Sarah and Toby about you! Come on in and meet them," she said cheerfully.

Jareth winced inwardly wanting more than anything to escape to the barn, his room, anyplace but there! But, there was no hope for it, so he gritted his teeth and stepped fully inside the door, as a woman with a wealth of long, dark hair seemed to turn in slow motion to face him…

Second Chances

A Labyrinth Story
by Stormlight

Part 6 of 18

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