Continuing Tales

The Enticement

A Labyrinth Story
by Scattered Logic

Part 7 of 16

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They set up the game on the coffee table with Jareth sitting on the sofa and Sarah cross-legged on the floor, facing him.

Jareth examined the doubling cube. "What are the stakes?" he asked casually.

Sarah shook her head. "Nothing. We just play."

"But having something at stake always makes the game more interesting," he commented.

"I don't mean to be rude, but you don't have anything to bet. You don't have any money here," she pointed out.

He smiled faintly. He wasn't interested in money. As soon as she had asked if he wanted to play, he'd known exactly what he wanted.

"Why don't we play for answers?" he suggested.

"Answers to what?" Sarah asked.

"For every game that I win, you will completely answer--with total honesty--one question of my choosing, and that includes expanding on a yes or no answer. For every game that you win, I will do the same," he said mildly.

He saw the sudden interest in her eyes.

"I could ask anything I wanted and you would be totally honest?" she asked slowly.

Jareth nodded. "As long as you are willing to adhere to the same conditions."

She nibbled on her bottom lip and looked at the board. Finally, she looked back at him.

"All right," she agreed.

Jareth smiled. While he had no doubt that he could word the answer to any question she asked in such a way that it adhered to the rules without giving away more than he wanted, Sarah must be very certain of her abilities to agree to his terms so easily.

This promised to be most amusing.

"How many games shall we play?" he asked.

"As many as we want, I guess," Sarah shrugged and then grinned. "Or until I feel guilty over playing games instead of putting up the supplies."

Jareth picked up one of the dice and held the other out to Sarah.

"Shall we begin?" he asked.

Sarah won the initial roll and chose to play black, leaving Jareth to play white. The role reversal was a refreshing change. He had predicted being relegated to black.

To his surprise, Sarah was a better player than he had anticipated and he found himself enjoying the game immensely. It was with a great deal of regret that he deliberately made the subtle mistake that allowed her to win. But he wanted at least one advantage and this was his only opportunity to gain the particular benefit he wanted.

As Sarah moved her last piece from the board, she looked up at him in triumph and then leaned back, resting her hands on the floor and narrowing her eyes in contemplation.

Finally, she tilted her head, looked at him and asked, "When I was in the Labyrinth and you sent the Cleaners and your army after me, did you mean to kill me?"

He laughed. "If I had meant to kill you, Sarah, you would be dead. The Cleaners were only a test of your resourcefulness. If you had not pressed against the wall, the Cleaners would have simply stopped and blocked your way. My army was only supposed to capture you." He sighed. "They are overly enthusiastic at times, however, and can become caught up in the heat of the moment. You were in more danger from their incompetence than their skill."

Jareth smiled and arched an eyebrow. "Shall we play again?" he asked.

"Okay," she nodded.

This time Jareth was determined to win. While Sarah put up a valiant struggle, a fortuitous roll of double six allowed him to take the game.

He grinned but said nothing and began setting the board up again.

"Are you going to forfeit your question?" Sarah asked, puzzled.

"Of course not," he said, still moving the pieces back into opening position.

"But you haven't asked me anything." She frowned slightly.

"I believe I shall defer my question until I know better what I wish to ask," he said softly.

He saw comprehension flare in her eyes a split second before they narrowed in exasperation. He had set no time limit and she had agreed.

Sarah shook her head and pointed to the board. "If you're going to store up questions, then no more games. I don't want to be ambushed later."

Jareth had anticipated her response and made an effort to appear disappointed. He pretended to contemplate the situation for a moment and then offered his compromise.

"Any additional questions must be asked before the end of the day in which the game has been played. That should prevent an "ambush," as you call it," he said.

"Including the question you've already won," she said quickly.

"No," he shook his head. "I won that question with no time restrictions. That does not change."

She was silent for a long moment and then finally nodded. "All right. You can keep that one. But from now on, every question has to be asked the same day that the game is played."

"Agreed," he said with a smile.


They played backgammon all afternoon, each game getting progressively longer as they learned the other's strengths and weaknesses. Jareth had the distinct advantage of more experience and was the superior strategist, but the sheer luck involved in each roll of the dice and Sarah's unpredictability kept them well matched.

As Jareth moved the last of his pieces from the board, winning another game, Sarah's stomach growled loudly. She looked embarrassed and Jareth chuckled.

"I am a bit hungry, also," he admitted.

Sarah glanced at her watch. "It's no wonder. We played through lunch and it's time for dinner."

Jareth smiled as he began placing the pieces back into the case. All in all, it had been quite an enjoyable afternoon and he had won three additional questions to Sarah's two.

"Perhaps we should dine and then ask our questions," he suggested.

Sarah agreed and while she prepared dinner, Jareth added wood to the fire and lifted the curtain away from one of the windows. All he could see in the darkness was the swirl of blowing snow against the glass.

"It continues to snow," he told her.

"We'll have to bring in more wood tomorrow," she said, craning her neck to look at the wood box. "I think we've got enough for tonight. I just hope we don't lose the electricity. There's a generator, but we'd have to use the furnace sparingly and rely mainly on the fireplace for heat."

At his blank look, she shook her head and laughed softly. "It's not important," she said. "But I should have had a telephone installed up here. My grandfather never wanted one and I just never bothered. I didn't want the extra expense. I told Gary I'd call him, but I thought I'd be able to drive into Hague and use a pay phone. I didn't expect this storm."

In a few minutes, a delicious smell began filling the room and Jareth walked over to see what Sarah was cooking. She was sautéing onions and slices of meat. A pot of water was heating on another part of the stove.

"I hope you like beef stroganoff," she said.

"I do not know," he said. "I have never had it before, but it smells very good."

He casually leaned close to her and looked into the skillet. He noticed her stiffen and move away from him slightly. That was the second time his presence had made her uneasy. The first was in the storage room when he had deliberately brushed against her. He glanced at her and saw that she had her eyes firmly fixed on the food that she was cooking. A faint blush tinged her cheeks.

He smirked to himself. Her attraction to him was painfully transparent but, once again, he pretended that he had noticed nothing and moved away from her.

"May I help you in some way?" he asked politely.

"You could turn on the radio, I'd like to hear a news or weather report. I doubt that you'll get anything, though. The clouds are so low here that it may block reception, but it's worth a try," she said.

Jareth went to the radio and looked at it. After careful examination, he found a small button labeled 'power' and pressed it. He was rewarded with the sight of lights on the front of the radio. However, no sound came from the black boxes sitting on either side.

"I believe it is defective," he called to her.

"There's a button that slides from side to side. See if it's set on radio. If it's on CD or tape, then move it."

He found the button and slid it to the radio position. In a moment, the sound of static filled the air. Sarah heard the sound and gave him instructions on finding a radio station. He turned the knob labeled 'tuner,' but found only more static.

In a moment, she was at his side.

"Well, we're obviously not going to listen to the radio." She moved the button back to CD. "Let me show you how to work the CD player."

After a quick lesson, she pointed to several small plastic boxes lying on the shelves.

"Play whatever you like," she said over her shoulder as she returned to the kitchen area.

"These contain music?" he murmured as he examined his reflection in the shiny surface of a compact disc. "How astonishing."

For the next half-hour, Jareth entertained himself by playing snippets of each song on each CD that she had at the cabin. Most were classical, but there was some Celtic and New Age music interspersed with the Beethoven, Rachmaninoff and Mahler. He had just settled on a disc that held a variety of composers when he glanced in Sarah's direction. She was setting the table and had stopped to watch him. Her expression seemed almost melancholy.

"Is something wrong?" he asked.

She shook her head slightly and then smiled brightly. "No, nothing's wrong. Dinner's ready."


While Sarah set the table, she laughed to herself over the sight of Jareth absorbed in switching the compact discs and playing bits of songs. She thought back over his total focus on the games they had played that afternoon and how he'd smiled gleefully at each win and pouted slightly at each loss. There was a distinctly childish side to his nature, she mused. She corrected herself almost immediately. It wasn't so much childish as childlike. But then, he was fae and wasn't that how they were supposed to act? With a little shock, the logical conclusion of that bit of knowledge finally sank in.

Jareth wasn't human and it wasn't fair to judge him by human standards. Tricks and games and riddles were as much a part of him as his blond hair and intriguing eyes.

How boring she must seem in comparison, she thought plaintively.

"Is something wrong?" Jareth asked.

She blinked and shook her head. "No, nothing's wrong." She forced herself to smile brightly. "Dinner's ready."

She prepared their plates and as she moved to sit down, Jareth held her chair for her.

"Thank you," she said, surprised.

While they ate, she puzzled over the change in Jareth. Just yesterday, he had been rude and arrogant, and yet today he was charming and pleasant.

'He was sick,' her mind pointed out. 'He was dying. How charming would you have been in his condition?'

Maybe that's all it was, she thought. Or maybe that's what she wanted to believe. Illusion was part of his nature. So, which was the illusion? It was so difficult to figure him out.

Jareth spoke, interrupting her thoughts. "This dish is excellent," he said as he took a bite of stroganoff.

"Thank you. Um, have you thought any more about why you don't have any magic?" she asked. "Have you figured out what the Labyrinth wants you to do?" She looked down at her plate and held her breath.

Jareth took a sip of water. "I have thought about it, yes. But I'm not certain why the Labyrinth has left me here with no way to take you back to the Underground. I have apparently been set a task and yet I still do not know what it is."

She gave a silent sigh of relief. She was safe so far, she thought.

"You're taking everything so calmly," she said. "It was obvious that you weren't--aren't--happy about the situation, but I guess I... I expected you to throw a screaming fit." She smiled slightly. "I think I would have."

He looked surprised. "How would that have helped?"

"It wouldn't," she shook her head. "It was the reaction I expected, that's all."

"I will rant and rave if you would prefer," Jareth said with a faint smile.

"No, thanks, " she said dryly, "but I appreciate the offer."

"Well, I certainly wouldn't want you to be disappointed," he said softly.

Sarah looked at him quickly. His voice had almost seemed... suggestive. But surely she was wrong, he wasn't even looking at her, he had turned his attention back to his meal.


After dinner, Sarah was pleased when Jareth helped her carry the dishes to the kitchen counter.

As she began to fill the sink up with soapy water, she was even more surprised when he offered to help her clean up.

"I am unfamiliar with scullery duties," Jareth said, looking doubtfully at the bubbles frothing in the sink, "but I am willing to assist you."

"You've never washed a dish in your life, have you?" Sarah said, looking at him thoughtfully.

"There are servants who attend to those matters," he said, a slight haughtiness coloring his voice.

Sarah grinned to herself. 'You can take the royalty out of the castle,' she thought. She began washing the dishes and gave him a sidelong look. "And what do the servants get in exchange?"

"They are given a wage and I provide them with a safe kingdom in which to live," he said.

"You do?" she asked a bit skeptically.

He arched an eyebrow. "Who do you suppose attends political gatherings? Prevents the other kingdoms from usurping Goblin territory? Settles the disputes between the minor nobles? Hears grievances from his subjects?"

"You do that?" Sarah was surprised.

"That and much more," he said, placing his hands on his hips. "Being a king isn't quite what the tales of your world depict. Who do you think makes certain that the roads are built and the bridges are kept in good repair?" Jareth paused and shot her a pointed look. "I should send you a bill for that, by the way."

Sarah gave a snort of laughter and he smiled.

She looked over at him and sobered. "Are you a good king?" she asked seriously.

He tilted his head and his tone matched hers, "Ask any man if he is good and he will answer yes, regardless of whether it is the truth because he wants to you to believe that he is good. Ask a king if he is a good king and he will answer yes because he cannot afford to state otherwise."

Sarah rinsed off the last dish and placed it in the drain rack. She dried her hands and turned to face him. "Then I'm using one of my questions. Complete and total honesty. Are you a good king?"

His smile faded and for a long moment she thought he wasn't going to answer.

"I endeavor to be a good king," he said finally, "but I cannot answer that question with any certainty. Goblins are virtually indestructible creatures with limited intelligence and they require a very firm hand. They are difficult to rule and knowing what is most beneficial to them is sometimes unclear." Jareth hesitated. "I do my best."

Sarah nodded. It was an honest answer.

"You try to take care of your subjects. I'd say that makes you a good king." Sarah smiled and then suddenly remembered dessert. "Damn," she exclaimed.

"Does that disappoint you?" Jareth looked confused.

"No," Sarah said. "I forgot dessert. I bought cookies but we haven't unpacked them yet. I'll go dig through the bags and see if I can find them. Then I'll make tea and we can finish asking the questions."

Jareth shook his head. "I will look for them while you make tea. It will save time. I wish to ask my questions next."

"All right. They're butter cookies. They're in a round tin with a picture of a snowman on the lid."

"A snowman?" He surely hadn't heard her correctly.

Sarah laughed. "If it ever stops snowing, I'll show you what a real one looks like. Imagine a very crude figure kind of sculpted out of snow and that's what a snowman looks like."

He gave a bemused shake of his head, but went into the storage room to look for the cookies.

Sarah had surprised him. He had expected all her questions to deal directly with herself or with his intentions toward her. He had not considered that she would want to know about his duties or if he thought himself a good king. He'd never encountered a woman who had cared to ask. They were only ever interested in what he could do for them. Or to them...

Jareth blinked as it occurred to him that Sarah was the first woman to say that she believed him to be a good king.

He quickly dismissed those thoughts. It wouldn't do to become sidetracked. He would use his questions to determine exactly how best to proceed with his seduction. Then, once he had granted Sarah's dreams, he would be free to return to the Underground and to take her back with him.

He began looking through the bags when a flash of gold caught his attention. He reached into the bag and lifted out a bottle of champagne affixed with a red bow. He looked into the bag again and found a bottle of Chardonnay and bottle of Pinot Noir, both had similar red bows attached as if they were to be a gift.

He hadn't realized that Sarah had purchased wine. The Pinot Noir would have gone nicely with dinner. Suddenly, he recalled answering the door at Sarah's apartment. There had been a visit from a woman, he vaguely remembered. Hadn't she given him a bag for Sarah? He had been in such pain that it had been all he could do to keep to his feet, much less remember what the woman had said. Something about a present and portraits, wasn't it? And flesh and blood being warmer than paint and canvas.

A beige folder remained inside the bag and, curious, Jareth pulled it out. A note was attached to the front of the folder.

Sarah, don't get mad, but I had a little quickie brochure made up. I still don't understand why you won't you sell these. I thought if I got you drunk, you'd consider it. Give it some thought, sweetie. It's a lot of money and the buyer is a well-known collector. This could really help your career. Merry Christmas, Jean.

Jareth opened the folder and his mouth dropped open in surprise. A slick piece of paper proclaimed "Jareth, the Goblin King" across the top in swirling script. Below his name and title, in slightly smaller lettering, were the words, "An oil on canvas series by Sarah Williams."

Across the page were color pictures of four paintings. He was the subject of each.

Each portrayed him from Sarah's perspective as she had encountered him eight years ago. The first was entitled 'Temptation' and depicted him holding a crystal out toward the viewer. He was dressed formally and his expression was one of self-assured arrogance.

In the second portrait, 'Dangers Untold,' he stood in the tunnels under the Labyrinth, head tilted to one side, casually adjusting a glove. Jareth nodded to himself as he remembered that encounter. It had been just before he'd set the Cleaners on Sarah and the dwarf.

The background of the third painting, 'Cruelty,' was the room he had created after seeing a poster in her bedroom. Again, he held a crystal but this time it wasn't being used to entice, it was clearly a threat.

The last portrait, entitled 'Temptation Revisited,' was the sight of him once again holding out a crystal. He recognized his clothing and briefly shuddered. He'd been so close to reverting to owl form during that exchange that even his clothing had reflected it. He had been furious that someone had at last solved the Labyrinth, and humiliated that he was being compelled to offer himself to her. His every instinct had screamed at him to simply fly away from the horrible situation but he had forced himself to stay.

When Sarah had refused him, he'd known that she was too young. His only option had been to allow her to go and try to make the Labyrinth understand his actions.

He examined the pictures again. He was amazed at how well Sarah had captured his likeness. While he had told her that her drawings were simply adequate, she was actually a skilled artist. The Labyrinth had truly given her a wonderful gift.

As he looked at the paintings, the potential of the paper he held in his hand became crystal clear.

He grinned to himself in delight.

Sarah should find his first question most interesting.


"I would like to ask my first question now," Jareth said as he came out of the storage room.

Sarah noticed that he hadn't found the cookies. Damn, those were her favorites, too. She hoped they hadn't fallen out in the trunk of the car. Maybe Jareth had just overlooked them in the storage room. She'd check in a minute.

"Okay," she said, "Go ahead."

"Would you care to explain this?" Jareth drawled. He held a folder of some kind out to her.

Puzzled, Sarah took the folder from his hand and felt the blood drain from her face as she read the note attached to the front. She quickly opened the folder and looked at the brochure inside. She knew her mouth was opening and closing like some demented goldfish but she couldn't seem to force out any sound.

'Oh, Jean,' Sarah thought. 'If I ever see you again, you're a dead woman.'

Sarah crumpled the brochure in her fist and then tossed the folder onto the kitchen counter. She didn't know how Jareth got it, but it really didn't matter now.

Just what the hell was she supposed to say? 'Well, Jareth, you see, I had a terrible crush on you for years and felt compelled to paint your portrait over and over again. Oh, and while we're at it, let me tell you about the recurring dream I had about you, me and a jar of caramel sauce.'

She couldn't look at him. She wouldn't look at him.

But she did.

Jareth wore a faint smile and the look of self-satisfied insolence on his face was enough to make her want to slap him. And she would, too. Just as soon as she crawled out of the hole she was hoping would swallow her up any second now.

She closed her eyes briefly. She had to answer. She had promised to answer those questions completely and with total honesty. At that thought, something occurred to her. She turned it over in her mind until she was satisfied, took a deep breath, and then looked directly into Jareth's eyes.

"No," Sarah said firmly. "I wouldn't care to explain this. I wouldn't care to explain this at all. Explaining this would be unpleasant. And that is a complete and honest answer."

The Enticement

A Labyrinth Story
by Scattered Logic

Part 7 of 16

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