Continuing Tales

A Necessary Deception

A Labyrinth Story
by Scattered Logic

Part 13 of 28

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A Necessary Deception

Jareth gestured toward Sarah and said, "Lady Vivienne, may I present Sarah Williams. Sarah, this is Lady Vivienne."

Sarah curtsied as Ethain had previously instructed her to do and when she stood up again, the two women looked each other over for a brief moment. Vivienne was dressed in a gorgeous low cut gown in a deep red. Sarah wouldn't have thought that the auburn-haired woman could have pulled off the shade with her coloring, but it suited her remarkably well. Her green eyes, edged in long dark lashes, sparkled.

"It's nice to meet you." Vivienne flashed Sarah a brilliant smile, but immediately returned her gaze to Jareth. "I'm sure she's the sweetest little thing, and she has such an unusual gown." Vivienne's tone was saccharin.

Sarah's smile tightened. Okay, so that's the way it was going to be. In two sentences, Vivienne had dismissed Sarah and insulted her dress.

"Lady Vivienne," Sarah's tone matched Vivienne's. "I've heard so much about you." Sarah took a shot in the dark and gambled that Jareth hadn't told Vivienne much, if anything, about her. She was pleased to see Vivienne's eyes widen slightly and turn to Sarah speculatively. Ah, a direct hit! Now, Vivienne was wondering what Jareth had told Sarah about her.

Before Vivienne could speak, a tall dark-haired man walked to her side.

"Your Majesty," he said and bowed.

"Lord Marcan," Jareth said with a hint of disdain.

Sarah surreptitiously examined the man while introductions were made and she curtsied. So this was the man Ethain had warned her against. He was very attractive and his swarthy good looks were a direct contrast to Jareth's fair beauty. 'Leanan Sidhe,' Sarah thought. 'He's Jareth's cousin, so he must be at least half Leanan Sidhe.'

Marcan took Sarah's hand and bowed over it. "I must admit I've wondered about the mortal woman that Jareth deemed worthy of returning to the Underground. You're enchanting." Marcan smiled warmly at her.

When Marcan began speaking, she felt Jareth's hand come up to rest on her waist. Then with a deliberate motion he slid his hand higher until it was resting on her side just under her breast.

"Yes," Jareth drawled, "I consider Sarah to be quite a prize."

A wisp of anxiety curled through her and she tried to ignore it. Jareth had warned her that it might seem as if he didn't have any regard for her tonight.

Marcan's eyes flickered over Jareth's hand on Sarah and then down to the sword that Jareth was wearing. He smiled and said, "Obviously, she's a prize you intend to keep."

Jareth locked eyes with Marcan and Jareth's smile became dangerous. "When I have something I want, I don't give up control over it. And I've never liked anyone else touching my things."

Sarah stiffened at his words. She felt Jareth squeeze her side gently and she forced herself to relax.

"Shall we go into dinner?" Vivienne interrupted with a mischievous smile. "Jareth, I have a little surprise for you. I'm sure you'll find it very entertaining."


Jareth escorted Sarah into the dining room and reluctantly led her to her seat. As the female guest of honor, she would be seated to the right of Marcan. Jareth, as male guest of honor, would be seated to Vivienne's right. The number of guests and the length of the table insured that there was no possibility of Jareth overhearing Marcan's conversation with Sarah. Ethain and Brennan had been seated midway down the table and would also be unable to hear.

Jareth looked around the room, wondering what Vivienne thought he would find so entertaining. As the other guests took their places around the table, Vivienne's amusing little surprise became evident.

Gathered together in that single room was every woman that Jareth had ever slept with.

He arched an eyebrow and Vivienne gave a smug smile.

"This is your surprise?" he asked coolly.

"Don't you find it amusing? Well, I certainly do. You must allow me what little pleasure I can find in this situation, Jareth." She gave a little pout. "You could have simply told me that you'd obtained the mortal, you know."

"I'm expected to believe that you would have accepted her presence without complaint?" His tone was skeptical.

"Oh, Jareth, really. I'm not so selfish as you think. I can understand your desire for an heir. It wasn't necessary to end our relationship over it." Vivienne gave a sigh. "What is a human's life span, after all? A few decades? It isn't as if she's permanent. And you'll grow tired of her as soon as she's produced a few children and her beauty begins to fade."

What happens when he gets tired of me? What happens to me then?

'Ah, Sarah,' Jareth thought. 'Is that what you think? Don't you know that there are ways around everything?'


Marcan took a sip of wine and turned to Sarah. "I wanted to tell you that, while you are a very beautiful woman, I have no intention of challenging Jareth for you. Nor do I believe that any of the other men here tonight mean to do so."

Relief swept through Sarah. She closed her eyes briefly and gave a quick prayer of thanks.

"Why are they here then?" she asked.

"They are eligible to make the challenge, they must attend." Marcan smiled slightly. "And even if they had considered it, I'm certain they've changed their mind after seeing Jareth and his entourage."

Sarah began to ask what he meant when a servant arrived carrying a tray of vegetables.

Before she could speak again, Marcan asked, "Do you enjoy living in the Underground?"

"I haven't seen much except the castle and the grounds," she said, keeping her eyes on her plate as she pushed the food around in circles.

"Ah, yes. I expect Jareth's been keeping you close at hand. Do you mind if I ask how you came to be here?" Marcan asked.

Sarah glanced at him and recited the story given to her by Ethain.

"Jareth must have made quite an impression on you if you were able to remember the Underground. Most mortals don't, you know." Marcan gave a knowing smile.

Sarah looked down the long table to where Jareth sat and she recalled her trip through the Labyrinth. She smiled faintly. "He frightened me then, but he intrigued me as well. He's very...compelling."

Marcan laughed, "And attractive. Don't forget that. Women have always found my cousin to be very attractive."

To her consternation, Sarah felt herself blushing and Marcan grinned. He glanced around the table and then leaned conspiratorially toward Sarah. "In fact, several of the ladies here tonight are Jareth's past conquests. Vivienne invited them specifically to torment you."

Sarah's eyes widened. Before she could stop herself, she turned toward him and asked, "Several?"

"Hmmm," Marcan's eyes narrowed in thought. "Let's see... Lady Fiona, she's the blonde in the green dress seated next to Brennan. And Lady Treise, the brunette in white. Then there's Lady Isleen, the blonde in the rose gown with the gold accents. Lady Geileis, the blonde sitting to Jareth's left. And Lady Arlana, the brunette seated to Ethain's right." Marcan paused a moment and looked around the table.

Sarah's eyes followed his gaze as he named off each woman and now she looked back at Marcan and waited for him to continue.

"Oh, I almost forgot Vivienne. And now, of course, you." Marcan smirked.

Sarah's smile was labored and she glanced back toward Vivienne. With a little shock, she saw Jareth watching her with a slight frown and she wondered if he'd seen her looking at the other women.


Jareth had, indeed, seen Sarah looking around the table and was seething inwardly. This entire situation was becoming intolerable. Marcan had said something that caused Sarah to blush and was now leaning entirely too closely to her while he obviously pointed out Jareth's past lovers.

"Is there something wrong?" Vivienne asked, looking at Jareth curiously.

He realized instantly that he was allowing his thoughts to show, even if only faintly. He schooled his features into a bored mask and said, "Your brother seems to be quite taken with Sarah. It will be a pity if he decides to challenge me for her."

Vivienne laughed and rolled her eyes, "Marcan? He has no desire for children. I'm sure he's only flirting with your little pet to annoy you." She reached out and began tracing a finger over the back of his hand. "And it seems he's succeeding. Are you really so determined to keep her? If you want children, I would be willing to try. You could have a queen who would rule by your side rather than a mere human consort."

"A dynasty can be founded upon a woman like Sarah. She will bear enough sons and daughters to marry into every prominent family in the Underground." Jareth said casually. "Unfortunately, you and I would be fortunate to produce even one child."

"So that's it." Vivienne shook her head in amazed appreciation. "You are positioning yourself to control all the ruling families of the Underground."

"A man would be a fool to throw away such an opportunity." Jareth smiled.

Vivienne laughed. "You'll be able to rule completely unopposed by any faction. No High King as ever managed that feat."

"There is," Jareth smirked, "as the mortals say, a first time for everything."

Vivienne's eyes gleamed maliciously. She placed her hand over his and leaned close to say softly in his ear. "Well, keep the mortal if you like, but it's doubtful you'll find her as pleasing. If you were still with me, we could have..." Her voice lowered to a whisper.

Jareth's eyebrows shot up as he listened to her and then he gave a genuine laugh. With a shake of his head, he said, "My dear, no one can claim that you're not inventive."


Sarah watched Jareth with Vivienne and suddenly felt a sharp clutching at her heart. If that woman got any closer to him, she'd be sitting in his lap. And he wasn't faking that laugh; Sarah had heard it when he'd laughed with her.

She looked again at the women Marcan had pointed out to her and realized they all had one very obvious thing in common. They were all extremely beautiful. She wasn't blind. She knew that she was pretty enough, but they had an ethereal splendor that she simply didn't possess. If they hadn't held Jareth's interest, how was she supposed to do so?

She felt the sudden sting of tears and closed her eyes. What the hell was she doing here? How had she ended up in this situation? And how could he ever love her? She placed her hands in her lap and curled them tightly into fists. The detached pain as her fingernails dug into her palms helped her to regain control.

"Sarah?" Marcan's melodious voice interrupted her thoughts. "Are you all right?"

She quickly blinked away the tears and feigned a smile. "Yes, of course. I'm fine." She reached out and picked up her wineglass. As she raised it to her lips, she heard Marcan make a soft, dismayed sound.

She turned to him and saw that he was looking at her hand. She looked curiously and gave a silent curse. The tips of her fingernails were tinged red and blood-filled crescents were clearly visible in her palm.

She hastily put down her glass and moved to place her hand back in her lap but Marcan reached out and gently grasped her wrist, arresting her movements. Instinctively, she closed her fingers to hide the wounds. His fingers gently stroked against Sarah's, urging her to open her hand.

"My sister is foolish," Marcan said quietly. "She has yet to realize that my cousin is no longer interested in her. He's found a much more desirable woman."

Marcan gently drew a finger over the lacerations in Sarah's palm and, with a slight tingle, they were healed. She pulled her hand away and he smiled expectantly, his hand still held aloft. She hesitated a moment and then placed her other hand in his. Quickly he performed the same action, repairing the damage her fingernails had inflicted.

"Thank you," Sarah said softly.

She looked at the dark-haired man sitting beside her. Ethain had warned her that Marcan wasn't to be trusted, but he'd been nothing but kind to her. He was extremely handsome, his black hair flowing like fine silk. Green eyes the color of emeralds met hers and his full lips suddenly curved into a smirk. He'd noticed her looking him over.

'When Jareth smiles like that,' she thought, 'it's as if he knows a secret that you don't. When Marcan does it, it's as if he knows your secrets.'

Sarah glanced back toward Jareth and Vivienne and saw that Jareth's face had grown cold and his eyes were glittering dangerously. He was glaring at Marcan, but worse, he was glaring at her.


Jareth had looked over to check on Sarah and had been alarmed to see Marcan holding her hand. He watched intently as Marcan stroked her palm and Sarah pulled her hand away. She'd then given him her other hand and the process was repeated. What was Marcan doing? And why was Sarah allowing him to touch her? With a growing sense of unease, he watched as she examined Marcan closely and he saw Marcan give a knowing smile.

Possessiveness flared violently through Jareth, followed closely by intense jealousy. He was suddenly angry with Marcan, but more surprisingly, he was also angry with Sarah. He knew that wasn't particularly rational but jealousy wasn't a particularly rational emotion.

The meal was over, regardless of whether or not the guests were finished eating, Jareth decided. He swept a sharp glance from Ethain to Sarah, indicating that Ethain was to escort her and Jareth abruptly stood.

Protocol demands that when the King stands, all rise. The clatter of fallen cutlery and the noisy scraping of chairs filled the room as the surprised guests struggled quickly to their feet. Jareth watched as Sarah, too, stood with a confused look on her face.

Jareth turned to Vivienne. "Did you have some form of entertainment planned? Or shall we get straight to business?" he asked coolly.

"I'd hoped to have dancing," she said with raised eyebrows. "But if you don't want..."

"No," Jareth interrupted. "Dancing will be fine." Sarah would be chaperoned in the ballroom and Marcan would have no further opportunity to touch her. Offering his arm to Vivienne, he led her from the room.


Ethain escorted Sarah into the ballroom and Brennan came to stand beside them.

"What's going on?" Sarah said.

"I'm not certain," Ethain said. "Perhaps His Majesty simply wanted to move the evening along. He wants this over as badly as you do, Sarah."

Jareth walked onto the dance floor with Vivienne and they began waltzing to the soft music. Sarah noticed that he had never once looked in her direction since leaving the dining room.

Sarah watched them for a long moment and then glanced at Ethain. "Really? As badly as I do?" she said sarcastically.

"You knew that this would happen. He said that he wouldn't dance with you and he told you why." Ethain reminded her.

"Yeah," she said quietly. "But I didn't realize that he was going to dance with other people."

The three of them stood silently through the dance. When the next song began and Jareth selected a different partner, Sarah took a deep breath and said, "You know, there's no reason why you two can't go ask some of these ladies to dance. I'll be safe enough here."

Ethain shook his head. "One of us will stay with you."

Brennan cast a lingering glance in Lady Fiona's direction and said, "Well, Sarah has a bit of a point. As long as His Majesty is dancing, there's no reason for us both to stay here."

Ethain smiled. "Go ahead, I'll look after Sarah."

Brennan grinned his thanks. A moment later he was leading the blonde onto the dance floor.

Sarah struggled to keep from displaying any reaction as the dancing continued and Jareth moved steadily from partner to partner. For the first few dances she succeeded but as the partners became more numerous, self-doubt began to creep into her expression.

Ethain looked at her and said in a low voice, "He did warn you that this would be unpleasant. His Majesty has reasons for everything that he's doing here tonight, Sarah. Social obligations require that he dance with several of the ladies and if he favored one over the others, it would give rise to the type of speculation that he wishes to avoid."

Suddenly, Marcan was standing in front of Sarah, blocking her view of Jareth and his latest partner.

Marcan smiled at her, "You look as if you're bored. I would ask you to dance but I've noticed that Jareth has refused to give anyone the opportunity to do so." Marcan glanced at Ethain. "Let's take her to the gardens, shall we? A breath of fresh air would probably do her good."

"His Majesty has commanded that Sarah remain in the room with him so that he may see her whenever he wishes," Ethain said coldly.

"You may not dance and you may not leave," Marcan said regretfully to Sarah. "At least allow me to stand here and amuse you."

"And block the view?" Sarah asked dryly.

Marcan shrugged casually, "Why not accept both services?"


Jareth thought that surely the dancing would be called to an end soon. He was anxious to get the challenge over and take Sarah home. He had a few questions to ask her about what had happened in the dining room. At the thought of Marcan touching Sarah, his hand involuntarily tightened at his dance partner's waist and he saw the woman's puzzled expression. What was her name again? Brianna? Breena? It didn't matter.

He instantly relaxed his grasp and began slowing his steps as the song finally came to an end. Jareth glanced toward Sarah, but all he saw was Marcan's back as he stood in front of her.


As another song began playing, Jareth gave a slight bow to his partner and, with a casual wave of his hand, broke the spell that had been cast to provide the music. He caught Vivienne's surprised look as the music abruptly ceased and he stalked to the front of the room.

A brief moment of concentration and a chair appeared before him. Seating himself, he nodded at Ethain and watched as Sarah was led away from Marcan and to Jareth's side.

With Sarah standing to his right and Ethain to his left, he said in a strong voice, "Lords and Ladies. I, Jareth, King of the Goblins and High Prince of the Sidhe formally declare my claim to the mortal woman, Sarah Williams. She has wished herself over to me and I have accepted. By right of that mortal wish, she belongs to me. The eligible challengers to my claim may now approach."

The men in the room began to file by and Ethain introduced each to Sarah. Most merely gave a polite bow and moved on. A few, men who Jareth mentally marked as enemies or potential enemies, lingered to make innocuous conversation with her.

Marcan was the last to approach. He bowed and said with a smile, "You needn't worry, Sarah, you'll be quite safe and everything will be fine."

Jareth's eyes narrowed as he listened to Marcan reassure her. He wanted to see Sarah's reaction, but couldn't without turning to look at her.

"Lord Marcan," Jareth said, "I would suggest that the ladies retire to another location. We may conduct the rest of our business here."

Marcan looked surprised at this, the ballroom was hardly the normal setting for a challenge, but he nodded and said, "Of course, Your Majesty."


With Brennan escorting Sarah, the ladies left the ballroom to wait in Vivienne's sitting room. As the last woman left and the doors closed, the men turned to look at Jareth.

He stood silently for a moment and regarded them with a mocking smile.

"Gentlemen, I have declared my claim on the mortal woman. It is your right to issue a challenge to that claim." Jareth casually tugged a glove smooth over his fingers and then returned his attention to the waiting noblemen.

"Allow me to save us all a great deal of time. As I will be the challenged party, it is my right to select the weapon and the terms. My second will select the location and the time. So there will be no misunderstanding, I will announce my choices now." Jareth gave a derisive glance around the room before continuing.

"I choose sabres and to the death."

An astonished murmur ran through the room. A duel to the death was extremely rare. In most cases, one combatant achieving the advantage over the other was considered sufficient.

Ethain stepped forward and his voice was clear, "As His Majesty's second, I choose here and now."

A deafening silence fell over the room. While Jareth and Ethain were well within their rights to make these choices, the other men were stunned. The evening had suddenly taken on an unexpectedly menacing quality.

"Oh, gentlemen, why the surprise? Surely none of you thought I would ever willingly surrender what is mine?" Jareth's eyes had turned glacial.

A low laugh broke the stillness of the room. Jareth's eyes turned to Marcan who was chuckling quietly.

"It seems, Your Majesty, that your show of force has worked just as you planned it." Marcan smirked. "It was quite a brilliant strategy to arrive so obviously well armed. 'Intimidate your opponent early and often,' isn't that the saying? I don't believe that any of these gentlemen want the woman badly enough to risk death for her."

"And you, cousin?" Jareth said coldly. "What of you?"

"She is quite tempting." Marcan admitted and then spread his hands in a placating gesture. "But no woman is that appealing."

Jareth took one last long look at the men standing before him. When none of them spoke, he said calmly, "Then I shall collect my property and be on my way."


In the sitting room, Sarah was waiting; the next few minutes would determine her entire future. As worry and fear had seeped through her like ice, she'd gone past feeling sick to her stomach and had arrived at a sort of blessed numbness.

She sat staring at the floor, wishing desperately that she knew what was happening in the ballroom. Vivienne and three of the women Marcan had pointed out to her were sitting on the long sofa directly behind her. Suddenly, the sound of Jareth's name drew her attention.

Sarah had missed the comment, but the four women were now laughing gleefully. As they recovered from their merriment, they continued their conversation.

Her cheeks burned as realized that the topic of their discussion was Jareth's skill in bed. The four women began comparing notes, each one cataloging acts at which he was particularly adept while the rest joined in with the finer points of his past escapades.

She knew they were deliberately speaking loudly enough for her to overhear and she ground her teeth together in an effort not to react. She was both embarrassed and appalled by the casual way they were discussing such private matters.

The conversation continued to drone on and on, detailing Jareth's penchants and aversions until, just as she thought she couldn't take any more, a soft voice interrupted her thoughts. "Sarah? Your name is Sarah, isn't it?"

She looked up to see a petite brunette standing in front of her. She recognized her as the woman Jareth had been dancing with just before the ladies had been sent from the ballroom.

"Yes. Is there something I can do for you?" Sarah's voice was cool as she wondered what humiliation this woman intended to inflict.

"I'm Breena. I'm sorry to be so forward but you're from the Aboveworld and I'm so curious about it. Would you mind telling me what it's like?" Breena smiled slightly and then lowered her voice, "I also thought you might like a distraction from the more distasteful conversation going on behind you."

Sarah examined the woman closely. Her large blue eyes were gentle and she had a look of actual interest on her face. After a moment's hesitation, Sarah gestured to the chair beside her.

"Of course, what would you like to know?"

Breena sat beside Sarah and asked brightly, "Is it true that for entertainment you force pixies into little boxes and make them perform plays?"

Sarah was confused for a moment and then realized Breena must be referring to the television. The combination of the stress of the evening and the nature of the question caused Sarah to laugh loudly. Still laughing, she shook her head and began to explain when the door opened and Jareth strode into the room followed by Ethain and Brennan. A few moments later, Marcan came into the room.

At the sight of Jareth, relief flooded through Sarah so strongly that she had to take a deep breath to keep from bursting into tears. As he approached her, she rose shakily and hastily pleated her skirt in her hands. If she didn't, she was afraid she would fling her arms around him in front of everyone.

"Say goodnight to our host and hostess, Sarah. My business here is concluded and we are taking our leave," Jareth said.

Sarah instantly turned to Vivienne. Allowing the contempt she felt for the woman to color her voice, she said coldly, "Lady Vivienne, I had a most educational evening."

Vivienne smiled lazily. "Well, dear, I do hope you picked up a few tips. I'm sure Jareth would appreciate it."

Sarah stiffened at the insult.

Vivienne turned to Jareth and again brushed a kiss over his lips. She leaned back and smirked at him. "Keep those things I described to you in mind. I'm certain that later this evening you'll be regretting your decision." Vivienne's eyes deliberately drifted over Sarah.

Sarah wasn't certain exactly what Vivienne was talking about, but she clearly recognized it as another insult. The desire to slap Vivienne was so strong that her hands twitched. Sarah turned quickly to Marcan and her expression softened. "Lord Marcan, thank you."

He smiled warmly and said, "You see, I told you everything would be all right."

Ethain and Brennan said goodnight and Sarah placed her hand on Jareth's arm. A dizzying moment later they were back in Jareth's throne room.

Sarah gave a great sigh of relief and grinned. She looked up at Jareth and the icy expression on his face caused her to suddenly frown in confusion.

"What's wrong?" she asked.

Jareth didn't acknowledge her. He turned to Ethain and Brennan, "Gentlemen, thank you for your assistance. I'm certain you have other things you'd rather be doing and I won't take up any more of your time."

Ethain and Brennan exchanged a guarded look. They knew that Jareth was furious over something, but they also recognized the dismissal for what it was.

They both bowed to Jareth and bade Sarah goodnight. Jareth stood completely still and watched them leave. As soon as they were gone, he turned to Sarah.

"Perhaps you'd care to explain to me what you thought you were doing this evening?" His voice was deceptively silky.

"Excuse me?" She was bewildered. Was he angry with her? What was he talking about?

He clasped his hands behind his back and regarded her coldly through narrowed eyes. His head tilted and the Goblin King's sneer was back in place.

"Explain to me, Sarah, exactly why you allowed that man to touch you."

A Necessary Deception

A Labyrinth Story
by Scattered Logic

Part 13 of 28

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