Continuing Tales

A Necessary Deception

A Labyrinth Story
by Scattered Logic

Part 12 of 28

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A Necessary Deception

Sarah looked at Jareth in stunned silence. He couldn't be serious.

"Kill him?" she asked slowly. "This entire situation is insane. I don't want anyone to die because of me."

"It wouldn't be entirely due to you, Sarah. A king cannot appear weak; kingdoms have been lost for less. If there is a challenge, it must be completely understood that death is the only consequence for attempting to take what is mine."

"I don't want this to happen. I don't want... You could be hurt," Sarah said uneasily. "Or killed."

"You're concerned for me?" He seemed amused.

"This isn't funny," she snapped.

He merely raised an eyebrow and looked at her patiently.

"Well, of course I'm worried about you," she said, exasperated.

He chuckled.

"You're laughing about this?" She shook her head in disbelief and abruptly began walking toward the door. "That's it. I've had enough. I'm going to my room."

"Sarah?" Jareth called, suddenly concerned. He caught her at the door and touched her arm. When she looked at him, she had unshed tears glimmering in her eyes.

"I just can't take anymore tonight. First I find out that I literally belong to you. Then I get to relive the joys of my childhood. And now I learn that I may end up with a stranger's death on my conscience, or worse--that someone might kill you. And you're laughing about it? This may be just another day at the office for you, but I can't deal with any more right now."

She lifted a shaking hand and ran it through her hair. "And I am sick to death of crying."

He looked at her red rimmed, tired eyes and her strained expression and he nodded. He should have realized that she was reaching her emotional limits. This was all so new to her. The Aboveworld didn't allow slavery or duels to the death. To understand that she now lived in a place where these things were not only possible, but a part of her life, must be extremely disorienting.

"I wasn't laughing at you or at the situation. It simply pleases me to know that you are concerned for me," he said softly. He reached out to stroke her hair. "Sarah, don't go back to your room. Stay the night with me, let me help you forget all this, even if just for a while."

She shook her head. "I can't," she said. "I just found out that I'm your property. Even if you don't see me that way, if I sleep with you tonight it will seem too much like... I just can't, not tonight."

Reluctantly, he stepped away from her. "Then allow me to escort you to your room."

"Please don't take this the wrong way, but I'd just really like to be alone for a little while."

His manner instantly became remote. "Of course, then I shall leave you. I won't disturb you any further this evening," he said formally. He inclined his head, turned and left the library without another word.

"Oh great," Sarah said aloud, "Now I've hurt his feelings. But why should I care? After everything that I've been through today, why should I even care?" 'Because you love him,' her mind taunted. 'Because you love him.'


"Well," Twylla said huffily, when Sarah opened the door the next morning, "I see you've managed to find your way back to your own room."

"Twylla, you don't get to have it both ways," Sarah said sharply. "You don't get to claim that I'm a grown woman and that it's none of your concern, and then still treat me like a kid."

Sarah wasn't in the mood for a lecture this morning. She'd tossed and turned most of the night trying to decide how she felt about everything that had happened.

She had finally decided that as long as Jareth didn't treat her like a possession, or didn't seem to see her as property, there was no point in dwelling on it right now. There wasn't anything she could do about it and as soon as possible she hoped to convince him to grant her freedom.

She didn't know what to expect from this party and worrying about the possibility of a duel over her ownership had tied her stomach into knots.

And to top everything off, she felt bad about hurting Jareth's feelings. She had just needed some time to herself, some time to think. She did love him, but she still didn't know how he felt about her. She had decided that right now wasn't the time to ask. She prayed that Jareth was right and there would be no challenge. After the party, when they were both safely back at the castle, then would be the time to discuss their feelings for one another.

Twylla dropped the breakfast tray down onto the table with a clatter and yanked Sarah from her thoughts. It wasn't hard to see that she'd offended the little maid. 'Great,' she thought, 'one more person I've ticked off.'

Sighing, Sarah said, "I'm sorry, Twylla, I'm just a little out of sorts this morning. I have to go to a party tonight and I really don't want to go."

"Yes, I know," Twylla shrugged with exaggerated indifference. "Paslia's finished another dress for you. You can wear it tonight. I'll bring it by later. The maid seemed to automatically perk up at being able to steer the conversation back to her favorite topic--clothing.

"How do you know about the party?" Sarah asked. "I just found out last night."

"Everybody knows," Twylla said simply. "The news is all over the kingdom."

"Wonderful," Sarah said, chagrined. "I have no privacy whatsoever."

"Oh, I'm to tell you that the King and Lord Ethain want to see you when you've finished breakfast. You're to go to His Majesty's office."

Nodding, Sarah picked briefly at her meal and then shoved it away. Somehow, she wasn't surprised that she didn't have an appetite.


Sarah arrived at Jareth's office and knocked politely. Ethain opened the door and gestured her in with a smile.

"Ah, Sarah, I'm glad to see you. His Majesty wishes to speak with you," he said.

Her eyes immediately went to Jareth, seated behind his desk.

"Good morning," she said, smiling.

"Good morning." Jareth's voice was cool.

She felt her smile slip. He was apparently still upset with her, and she couldn't very well apologize in front of Ethain. What would she say? 'I'm sorry I hurt your feelings? I'm sorry I didn't sleep with you last night?'

"We need to discuss the upcoming events," Jareth said as he gestured toward a chair in front of his desk.

Sarah sat down and said, "Okay, I'm listening."

"There may be questions tonight about your previous trip to the Underground. It's imperative that you do not tell anyone what actually happened." Jareth said.

Sarah looked surprised, "You mean they don't already know? You saved this place, why don't you want me to tell?"

"It's a delicate situation. Traditionally, the single most powerful being in the Underground is the High King. The additional power granted to him by the Seelie Court is a symbol of his office and of the trust placed in him. However, while you were here the first time, you were the most powerful being in the Underground. And when you made my control equal to yours..." Jareth's voice trailed off.

"You became the most powerful," Sarah said in sudden understanding.

Jareth nodded. "For this to become known would be an insult to the High King and could call his authority into question. There's no reason for my father to be placed in that position."

"So, your father doesn't know what you did?" Sarah asked.

"No, only the three of us in this room know the truth. Even Brennan doesn't know what really happened." Jareth said quietly.

Ethain spoke up, "If asked, it would be best that you say you wished your brother away and lost him to His Majesty. As an adult, you found yourself with a terminal illness. You weren't certain that it would succeed, but you wished yourself away in hopes of seeing your brother one last time. As it's extremely unusual for a human to remember a trip through the Labyrinth as reality rather than a dream or a fantasy, His Majesty accepted you and you've since been healed."

Sarah nodded slowly. "And if they ask about Toby?"

"You've seen him, but he has a different name and he doesn't remember his life in the Aboveworld. You've decided against speaking to him. He's happy with his adopted family and you don't wish to disrupt his life." Ethain explained.

"Who does everyone think saved the Underground?" Sarah asked curiously.

"As I told you, I met with the dragons. Most assume that they were successful in stabilizing the magic," Jareth told her. "Few have ever actually approached a dragon in an attempt to hold a conversation and the secret is quite safe with them. Now I must know that it's safe with you."

"It's safe. I promise I won't say anything," Sarah said quietly.

He met her eyes and for a moment his gaze seem to warm. Then, with a blink of his eyes, the warmth was gone.

"Now," Ethain said with an encouraging smile, "we must talk about what will happen tonight."

Sarah bit her lip and nodded.

"You will be introduced to the men who are eligible to issue the challenge. They'll each be given an opportunity to hold a brief conversation with you. They may or may not wish to speak with you. If so, these conversations will take place in the presence of His Majesty." Ethain explained.

Sarah glanced at Jareth. He was watching her, expressionless.

"At that point, His Majesty and I shall meet with the potential challengers. You and the other ladies will remain in another room. Brennan will wait outside that room until His Majesty returns for you."

"And then?" she asked, looking at Jareth.

"Then it will be over," he said flatly. "And we shall go home."

Sarah said, "What will..." She intended to ask what would happen when Jareth met with the other men, but Ethain caught her eye and gave a barely perceptible shake of his head.

She closed her mouth and Jareth continued as if she hadn't spoken.

"I will require that you behave according to rules I've set and they are to be obeyed without exception." Jareth's voice still held a cool edge.

Her eyebrows rose at his phrasing. "What are they?" she asked.

"You're not to leave a room without being escorted by Ethain, Brennan or myself. Other than the time that I am disposing of this ludicrous business, you will remain within my sight at all times. I do not know what entertainment will be provided, but no one may ask you to dance until I have danced with you." Jareth said.

Sarah's face brightened. Maybe there would be one pleasant spot in the evening; she would enjoy dancing with Jareth.

Jareth saw her change of expression and shook his head. "I will not dance with you tonight. These fools will already be leering at you as if you're a pretty bauble in a market stall. I won't give them the added potential of pawing at you."

Sarah sighed and closed her eyes. The strain of all this was giving her a headache.

"This will not be a pleasant evening, Sarah. Not for any of us," Jareth said, his tone softening slightly. "Just remember to hold your temper, you mustn't react to anything you see or hear."

She opened her eyes and looked at him questioningly.

He turned to Ethain. "Excuse us for a moment."

Ethain nodded and left the room, closing the door quietly behind him.

Jareth gave Sarah a searching look. "At times during the evening, it may seem that I have no regard for you or your feelings. You must understand that this is not the case. You are not the only one who has certain standards of behavior to maintain."

"Okay," she said uncertainly.

He rose and came around the desk to stand in front of her. He hesitated and said, "There is one more thing I'd like to discuss while we are alone. The night we were intimate, you managed to distract me to the point that I failed to cast a spell to prevent conception. You do realize that the challenge would be a moot point if you were already carrying a child."

Sarah blushed slightly and shook her head. "I'm not pregnant."

"How can you be so certain?"

"I know my body. I'm still days away from being able to conceive."

Jareth gave her a puzzled look. "How do you know this?"

Sarah realized that he probably didn't know anything about the human female reproductive cycle and she knew even less about the Fae. Were they even similar? "It involves counting days and the fact that I'm only able to conceive three days out of twenty-eight."

"Counting days?" Jareth began, but stopped as Ethain knocked and opened the door.

She looked at Jareth and had to bite the inside of her mouth to keep from smiling. "Just trust me on this one," she whispered. "I don't think you really want all the details, anyway."


Sarah had gone back to the library and tried to read in an attempt to take her mind off things, but found herself rereading the same page over and over with no idea of what was written there. Finally, she'd given up and gone to the gardens.

It was so beautiful there and she spent the morning wandering through the neat rows of plants. She stopped at the spot where Jareth had given her the lily and she smiled as she remembered how they'd teased and laughed with each other.

She'd been surprised when Twylla had found her in the garden and brought her a sandwich at lunchtime.

"His Majesty said to be sure you had lunch," Twylla had told her. "He thought you might be too nervous to eat much tonight."

Sarah had been pleased by Jareth's thoughtfulness. Maybe that meant he had gotten over his hurt feelings from earlier.

She sat on a bench, nibbling at the sandwich when footsteps drew her attention. Sarah looked up to see Ethain round the corner.

"May I join you?" He asked.

Sarah nodded, "Sure."

"I thought you might be here and I wanted to take this opportunity to speak with you privately," Ethain said. "About our host for the evening."

"Lord Marcan? He's Jareth's cousin, right?" Sarah said.

"Yes." Ethain frowned. "I want you to be aware that there's been bad blood between Marcan and Jareth virtually since birth. I'll spare you the tedious details, but Marcan has always been envious of Jareth's position, his titles..." His voice trailed off and he gave Sarah a pointed look, "His possessions."

"Okay," she said slowly. "So, what does that mean? He's a jerk?"

Ethain laughed at her bluntness and gave a wry shake of his head. "I would agree, but the ladies seem to find him quite charming." Ethain sobered, "Just be wary of him, Sarah."

"What can he do in a roomful of people?" she asked. "It's not like I'm going to be alone with him."

"I'm probably simply being overly vigilant, but I believe that it's better to err on the side of caution tonight. Don't you agree?"

Sarah nodded. "Okay, I'll keep what you said in mind." She paused and then asked, "So, what about his sister? Lady Vivienne."

Ethain shot Sarah an amused look. "Are you fishing for information?"

"No, I'm asking for it flat out." Her expression was serious. "I know she was involved with Jareth, he told me that. What do you think of her?"

Ethain gave a slight smile. "This is an awkward situation for me, Sarah. You understand that my opinion isn't necessarily the same as that of His Majesty."

Sarah simply crossed her arms, raised her eyebrows and waited.

Ethain sighed. "I've never particularly cared for Lady Vivienne. She's beautiful, and like her brother, can be very charming. But she has the temperament of a spoiled child and, quite honestly, she tries my patience with her endless political maneuvering."

"She has to have some good qualities, otherwise why would Jareth get involved with her?" Sarah asked.

"Vivienne tends to be somewhat flamboyant and can be very entertaining company. I really shouldn't comment on this, but I don't believe that either party began their relationship intending it to be a serious one."

"That was very well said, Ethain, very diplomatic. If I hadn't been paying attention, I would have missed it. So which one eventually did intend it to be a serious relationship?"

"I can only speculate, but I believe Vivienne had every intention of becoming High Queen."

"Do you know why they..." Sarah began, but Ethain shook his head.

"I've already said far more than I should. Anything else you want to know about that relationship, you should ask His Majesty."

"Well," Sarah smiled and shrugged, "It was worth a try. You might have told me."

Ethain laughed. "Enjoy the rest of your lunch, Sarah. I'll have to return to my duties."

"Yeah," Sarah said softly as Ethain walked away. She folded a napkin around the rest of the sandwich and took it back to the kitchen to throw away.


While Sarah was quizzing Ethain about Vivienne, Jareth was forcing himself to concentrate on the day's paperwork. He often wondered if anyone had any idea just how much of his time was spent reviewing reports, or continually revising the budget in order to fund the many and varied needs of his kingdom.

His thoughts began to wander from the mundane matters of daily business, and he tossed the papers he had been reading aside.

He hoped that Sarah wouldn't react too badly to tonight's events. He didn't worry that there would be a challenge but even if there was, he was a skilled swordsman. He wasn't particularly concerned about losing a duel. It was the manner in which he would be required to treat Sarah tonight that concerned him most.

Ethain had been correct in telling Sarah that most Fae didn't feel love in the same manner as humans. He couldn't afford to reveal his feelings for Sarah to the gathering he would be facing tonight. It would be interpreted as a sign of weakness.

He could father Sarah's children, he could even marry her to legitimize his heirs, and these things would be understood and even expected by the other Fae. But for him to actually love her would be nearly incomprehensible to them.

He laughed humorlessly. It sometimes seemed incomprehensible to him, too. How could this woman have acquired such power over him so quickly? When she had first returned, he'd almost wished that he'd never seen her again. But that had been before she had smiled at him, before she'd sat holding his hand out of concern for him while he slept, and before he'd taken her to his bed.

Now, he had no qualms about killing anyone who tried to take her from him. Tonight he would stand in front of various noblemen and women and declare that Sarah belonged to him. And he would never speak truer words. At some point, without even realizing it, she had become a part of him.


All too soon it was time to prepare for the party. Mechanically, Sarah bathed and applied her makeup. Twylla pulled Sarah's hair up and with a few clever twists had pinned it into an elegant upswept style.

Twylla took the new dress from the armoire and brought it over to Sarah. It was a delicate ice blue with a beaded bodice and flowing skirt. Made differently than the other gowns Paslia had made, it had a softer, more modern style.

"Paslia wanted you to have something special. Something that would make you more comfortable," Twylla explained as she helped Sarah into it.

Sarah shuddered. "There's no dress in existence that would make me comfortable tonight."

Twylla stood on tiptoe and adjusted the fit of the dress where it clung to Sarah's shoulders. "You look very pretty. You'll make His Majesty proud of you."

Sarah looked into the mirror. She did look nice. Would that make Jareth proud? Would it matter how pretty she looked if someone killed him tonight because of her? Suddenly Sarah's heart was pounding and she was breathing much too fast. She clenched her teeth and fought to control herself before she hyperventilated.

"It's time for you to go. The King will be waiting in the throne room." Twylla said. When Sarah didn't reply, her maid walked around to face her and Twylla's expression softened, "His Majesty will protect you, don't you worry." Twylla patted Sarah on the hand with a surprising sympathy.

"It's not me that I'm worried about," Sarah said softly.


As she approached the throne room, she forced a smile to her lips and lifted her head high. This was like going into a fencing competition, she told herself. No matter how good you were, you couldn't win without self-control.

When she entered the room, Sarah was struck by how somberly each of the men was dressed. Each of them wore black. Ethain and Brennan wore no other color. Jareth, at least, was wearing a white shirt. And, as if they'd known of her fencing analogy, each man wore a sword at his side.

"Well, don't you look like a cheerful group," she teased. "You all look like you're going to a..." Sarah's voice faltered. She quickly regrouped, "I happen to know that each of you has much more colorful clothing."

Ethain was the first to speak, "You look lovely, Sarah."

Brennan bowed over her hand. "It's that we didn't know the color of your dress and we didn't want to clash," he said with a wink.

Sarah grinned at him and turned to Jareth. He smiled and said, "You are very beautiful." He looked at her for a long moment and then offered her his arm. "Shall we go?"

As she reached out to place her hand on his arm, she realized that her hands were shaking. She looked up at him and said, "Before we leave, may I speak to you in private?"

Jareth seemed surprised and then said, "Of course." He glanced over at Ethain and Brennan, but Sarah tugged him toward the door. He followed her out into the hallway.

"What is it?" he asked.

Sarah opened her mouth to speak, but then simply reached up and placed her hand on the back of his neck. She saw his pleased smile and he leaned down. When his lips touched hers, she wrapped her arms around his neck and pressed her body close to his. He deepened the kiss and then reluctantly broke it.

She saw the question in his eyes and she said, "I just wanted to tell you to be careful tonight."

"I will be careful. And you must remember that I do not regard you as a possession, no matter how it may seem," he said.

Sarah nodded and said, "Then let's get this show on the road."

He led her back into the throne room. She placed her hand on his arm and automatically closed her eyes.

When she opened them again, they were all standing in front of a set of oak doors adorned with a silver bell. She looked around, but it was too dark to see anything farther away than a few feet. They seemed to be standing in front of a large estate.

Ethain rang the bell and then stepped back. In a moment, the doors were opened by a servant who bowed to Jareth and murmured, "Your Majesty."

Jareth escorted Sarah into a large open foyer. Marble floors underfoot and a crystal chandelier overhead gave it an opulent appearance.

"Everyone has gathered in the ballroom, Your Majesty," the servant said.

With Ethain and Brennan following them silently, Jareth and Sarah walked forward into a lavishly decorated ballroom. Sarah saw people standing around in groups talking while music played softly in the background.

Another servant, standing just inside the ballroom doorway, bowed and began announcing Jareth's titles. Sarah's grasp on Jareth's arm tightened as every eye in the room turned toward them. She glanced nervously at Jareth and what she saw caused her to take a closer look.

Jareth's demeanor had changed. His eyes were cold and his bearing more regal. His head had tilted in a slightly challenging manner and a familiar smirk had formed on his lips.

With a jolt, Sarah realized that this was no longer the Jareth that she had teased and laughed with. She was now on the arm of the Goblin King.

Sarah was vaguely aware that her name had been called out by the servant, and that Ethain and Brennan's titles were also announced. As they went further into the room, each person they passed bowed or curtsied to Jareth.

Suddenly, Sarah's attention was drawn to a beautiful auburn haired woman who swept across the room to meet them and then dropped gracefully into a curtsy before Jareth.

When the woman rose, Sarah saw that she was nearly as tall as Jareth. Sarah's eyes narrowed as the woman leaned forward and casually brushed a kiss across Jareth's mouth.

"Your Majesty, how wonderful of you to join us this evening," the woman said.

Jareth smiled and purred, "Good evening, Vivienne."

A Necessary Deception

A Labyrinth Story
by Scattered Logic

Part 12 of 28

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