Continuing Tales

The Enticement

A Labyrinth Story
by Scattered Logic

Part 8 of 16

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When Sarah answered, Jareth was momentarily infuriated. But he had to admit that his haste had caused him to word the question poorly. He felt a fleeting admiration; her answer was worthy of a fae. It was, in fact, the very type of answer that he would have given had the situation been reversed. He lifted an eyebrow as he looked her over. Perhaps there was more to her than he had first thought.

He applauded mockingly. "Very good, Sarah. I shall be more deliberate in my choice of words from this point forward."

He smiled slowly as she dropped her eyes.

The teakettle began a stuttering whistle and Sarah said warily, "I'll make the tea and then you can ask your next question."

Sarah procrastinated as long as she could, dragging out the process of steeping the tea and pouring it into mugs. She even rinsed the mugs in hot water before pouring the tea, just like she'd read in a magazine. But stalling wasn't doing any good. She glanced over her shoulder and saw Jareth waiting patiently on the sofa, watching her every movement with glittering eyes.

With a sigh, she carried the tea over and sat on the sofa next to him.

"Go ahead," she said evenly. "Ask."

He smirked at her and then asked, "Why would you repeatedly paint my portrait and then refuse to sell them?"

Sarah thought for a moment before answering. There wasn't going to be a slippery way out of this question. She bowed her head and stared at her fingers gripping the handle of the mug.

"I really don't know why I painted so many portraits of you," she said quietly. "Now I believe that it was because of the Labyrinth. At the time, though, all I knew was that it was like a compulsion. I had to paint them. It was almost as if I didn't have a choice. Jean kept trying to convince me to sell, but I..."

Sarah could feel her face growing hot and she took a deep breath. It was better to just get this over with.

"I'd had such a crush on you when I went through the Labyrinth that I didn't want to sell them." That sentence tumbled out in a rush of words and Sarah immediately tensed, waiting for the laughter that was certain to follow.


Jareth's smile widened as she spoke. He'd already suspected as much, but Sarah had given her word to answer completely and truthfully and he'd wanted to know if she would adhere to that promise even if it embarrassed her. It was very apparent that she now expected to be ridiculed.

He instinctively opened his mouth to oblige her with a scornful comment and then paused as her earlier words whispered through his mind.

I'd say that makes you a good king.

And Jareth wavered in his intent.

Well, it was such a small matter, after all, he decided. It would serve no real purpose to tease Sarah. In fact, it would only increase her embarrassment and hinder his plans. He could afford to be magnanimous.

"You were supposed to be infatuated with me," he admitted.

Her head whipped around toward him. "What did you say?"

He shrugged slightly. "It is a part of my duties to distract those who choose to go through the Labyrinth. While I use any number of methods, young girls seem to be most easily distracted by a bit of flirtation."

"So you flirt with them in order to keep the child," she said flatly.

He shook his head. "No, I attempt to distract them from retrieving the child."

"Same thing," she said.

"It is not the same at all. If they can be so easily tempted away from their goal, they do not deserve to have the child returned to them."

He watched as she absorbed that information.

"I'm going to ask my last question now," Sarah said.

He nodded. She had turned toward him, he noted with satisfaction. She'd relaxed her posture and had shifted on the sofa so that she was facing him.

"What really happens to the children who are wished away to you?"

"In all but your brother's case, the child remains in the Underground and is adopted into a family."

"But don't you... I mean, I thought you turned them into goblins," Sarah said, looking confused.

"Turn them into goblins?" His eyebrows shot up. "Why ever would I do such a thing? Goblins procreate in the usual fashion. Surely, you know how babies are made?" He watched with a faint smirk as she glanced away from him. He expected her to be blushing, but when she looked back at him, her brow was furrowed slightly.

"I know I've used up my questions, but you said "those who choose to go through the Labyrinth." Are there people who don't even try?" She sounded puzzled.

Jareth sighed. He would prefer not to pursue this subject. It was the most abhorrent part of his duties. But perhaps it was best that Sarah learn the truth now. He just hoped she had the stomach for it.

"More than you would probably imagine choose not to run the Labyrinth," he said. "The majority of the children I take are wished away either because the family can no longer provide for them or because the child was unwanted from the beginning." He frowned. "Many of the children I take are... injured."

For a moment, Sarah didn't understand what Jareth meant and then it dawned on her.

"Abused, you mean?" she asked.

Jareth nodded and contempt flashed across his face.

"I have been called to take children who were malnourished, children with broken bones or other wounds. Many must be healed immediately upon being taken. A few have been near death."

Sarah felt sick. "That never occurred to me," she said slowly. "I just thought that..."

Jareth lifted an eyebrow and gave a cold smile.

"Did you think that it was all spoiled little girls wishing away their healthy baby brothers in a fit of petulance?"

Sarah flinched, but she guessed she deserved that. She could only imagine the horrors that he had seen.

"I have answered your question, and more." He shook his head slightly. "While you have asked all of your questions, I have not."

"All right." Sarah nodded. "What do you want to know?"

Jareth thought for a moment. He wanted to lighten the mood a bit.

"You do not wish to return to the Underground. What is there about this world that you prefer?"

"There are a lot of things," Sarah said, making a vague hand gesture.

"List them," Jareth demanded as he leaned forward slightly.

Sarah laughed softly. "I can't tell you all of them, there are too many."

"Then tell me the most important ones," Jareth insisted.

Sarah narrowed her eyes in concentration. "We have electricity and technology."

"We have magic," Jareth countered.

She arched an eyebrow. "We have libraries."

He shrugged. "I have a library."

"I have a career," she said quickly.

"You could be a queen," he purred.

Sarah's eyes widened slightly at his tone and she faltered in her recitation for just a moment but then continued with a smug smile.

"We have indoor plumbing."

"We have unicorns and dragons." His eyes flashed with triumph.

For a second, Sarah was confused. "What do unicorns and dragons have to do with plumbing?"

"Nothing," he said with a grin, "but if you had your choice between seeing a toilet or a unicorn, which would you choose?"

"It depends on how badly I need to see the toilet," she said wryly.

Even Jareth laughed at that.

Sarah met his eyes. "It's not that I have anything against the Underground, it's actually an amazing place." She smiled fondly for a moment, then sobered. "It's just that this is my world."

"This world is familiar to you," Jareth said thoughtfully.

"Yes, it is," she said. "Just like the Underground is familiar to you."

"But the Underground is familiar to you, as well," he said.

"I was there less than 13 hours," she answered. "I wouldn't call that being familiar."

Jareth shook his head. "You already know many of its locations and inhabitants through your artwork."

"That's not the same thing."

He simply shrugged and casually stretched one arm along the back of the sofa.

Sarah shifted uneasily.

Jareth kept his arm in place and in a moment, when he made no further movements, he saw her relax. He smiled to himself. She didn't seem to realize that her complete awareness of him continually gave her away.

"Your current home is not the same as the one in which I encountered you last," he remarked mildly.

"No, I still lived in my dad's house then," she said. "In Connecticut."

She smiled at his blank look. "Connecticut is a state. We're in New York now." He gave a slight shake of his head and she continued. "Like a province," she explained.

He nodded. "So, you left your father's house and moved to a unfamiliar home in an unfamiliar province."

"It's not the same," she repeated, exasperation filtering into her tone. "You're talking about a different world."

Jareth wondered if the dreamer that she used to be was still there inside her. It was time to find out. He spoke softly and she unconsciously leaned closer.

"A different world, yes. A world in which magic exists, Sarah. A world in which unicorns and dragons are real and a young girl can grow up to become a queen as the result of simply making a wish."

Jareth searched her eyes and was pleased to see a wistful longing among the confused emotions there. So, the dreamer was still alive and well. It was time to gather more information, and to play the next card.

"I have one question left to ask," he began.

"Two," she interrupted.

"One question left to ask tonight," he continued with a smirk.

Sarah smiled and gave a shrug. "It was worth a try."

He grinned.

"If I were to grant any single wish that you made, what would you wish?" he asked.

Sarah's smile faded and she looked away from him. "You can't grant my wish." Her voice was suddenly strained.

Jareth was perplexed by her rapid change in demeanor.

"You do not know that for certain." He arched an eyebrow. "When my magic has returned, perhaps I can grant your wish."

She drew in a shuddering breath and then met his gaze.

"I wish that my family were still alive," she said softly.

His initial reaction was surprise at learning that her family was dead. But when he saw the hope that was suddenly shining in her eyes, surprise quickly gave way to an unexpectedly sharp stab of regret at his careless words.

"Forgive me," he said quietly. "You are correct. It is not within my power to grant such wishes."

He watched as the hope dwindled away and she nodded her understanding. She looked away from him, gazing into the fire. There was a long pause and then she began speaking in a wooden voice.

"It was an accident," she said. "The furnace didn't work properly and it caused a build up of a poisonous gas in the house. They were asleep and they just didn't..." She bit her lip and then continued. "Gary says that I should be grateful that they didn't suffer."

"All of them died?" Jareth asked quietly. "Even the boy?"

"Yes," she whispered. "Four years ago tomorrow." Tears flooded her eyes and she abruptly stood. "Excuse me, please."

Without waiting for his reply, she went into her bedroom and closed the door behind her.

Jareth cursed himself for a fool. He'd chosen to press his advantage and had only succeeded in upsetting her. He rubbed his eyes wearily. He couldn't imagine what it must be like to lose your entire family. Death was almost unimaginable to him. The fae were virtually immortal. Severe injury or iron could cause death but, outside of war, it was a rarity.

Jareth knew that he could grant her wish, in a manner of speaking. But Sarah had saved his life and she deserved better than to be insulted by the offer of an illusion. She would refuse it, in any case. Sarah had always preferred reality to her dreams, even when that reality was harsh.

He had just decided that he should knock on her bedroom door when it opened and Sarah came back into the living area. Her eyes were reddened and she seemed subdued, but gave no other outward sign that she was distressed.

Jareth rose as she entered the room. "I would like to express my condolences on the loss of your family. Your brother was a good-natured child and I remember him fondly."

"You remember Toby?" She seemed astonished.

"Of course." Jareth hesitated. "There are not so many wished away to me now. There are very few left in your world who believe in goblins, or their king."

Sarah looked at him silently for a long moment and he was puzzled when he saw her eyes fill with tears again. She blinked them back quickly.

"If you don't mind, I think I'll shower and go to bed," she said. "Feel free to listen to the stereo or read if you want." She gestured toward the books on the shelves by the stereo.

Jareth's eyes followed her movements. He needed to change the subject quickly. These conversations of death and loss were painful to her.

"Perhaps I shall read. Are there any of these books that you recommend?" he asked.

Sarah walked over and looked at the tiny collection of books. She tilted her head and then plucked one from the shelves and held it out to him.

"This is one of my favorites," she said. "It's about a mystery that's never been solved. The book is fiction, but the mystery is real and the king involved was real."

He arched an eyebrow and took the book from her, examining the cover. "The Daughter of Time," he read aloud.

"It's about a police inspector who's recuperating in the hospital. He's bored and to pass the time, he begins to research the mystery behind the Princes in the Tower and whether Richard III killed them or not." She paused and looked at Jareth thoughtfully. "You might have some insight into Richard since you're a king, too."

Jareth snorted. "There is no mystery, I have read Shakespeare's play." He turned the book over in his hands. "Other than the title of king, I doubt I have anything in common with Richard III."

"You've read Shakespeare?" Her eyebrows shot up.

"I am not completely illiterate," Jareth said with a faint smile. "Richard III was an evil tyrant who had his nephews murdered in order to usurp the throne."

Sarah smiled. "You seem terribly certain of yourself. Read the book and when you’re finished, we’ll talk about it again."

Jareth opened the book and glanced inside at the proverb there. 'Truth is the daughter of time.' He shrugged. "I have already told you that I know the facts of the story, but if you recommend the book, I shall read a few pages."


Sarah sighed as she leaned back and allowed the hot water to rinse the last of the shampoo from her hair, and she finally let her thoughts wander.

If she'd thought it was difficult to figure Jareth out before, she certainly didn't know what to think after his behavior tonight. She'd been braced for scornful comments after revealing that she'd had a crush on him and yet he hadn't teased her at all. Was this the same man who had been so hostile when he'd first arrived?

'Well, how would you have acted toward him if you'd awakened to find yourself in the Underground?' she thought. She shrugged slightly. She hadn't been kidding when she said she probably would have thrown a screaming fit. All in all, she guessed that Jareth had behaved better than she would have done in his position.

He'd surprised her again with his question about her wish. On some level, she had known that he couldn't grant it, but there had been a moment when she'd looked over at him and he had seemed so confident, and she had begun to hope... Her eyes filled with tears and she stopped that thought. There was no point in dwelling on it.

She gave herself a hard mental shake. She had to stop being so emotional. She knew that the past couple of days had been stressful, but they had worn on her more than she'd realized. She had even gotten tears in her eyes when Jareth had talked about there being so few believers in this world. Why did the thought of Jareth being forgotten cause her to feel such sadness?


After Sarah had retired for the evening, Jareth had intended to only skim through the book she'd selected for him. But as he read, he had been drawn into the mystery surrounding Richard III and ended up reading late into the night. The story itself was written well enough, Jareth supposed, but he quickly began skipping past the pages involving the fictitious detective's arduous hospital stay and eccentric friends. Jareth preferred to concentrate solely on the sections regarding the English king.

When Jareth finished the book, he was incensed. With no qualms over the late hour, he knocked firmly on Sarah's door. After a few minutes, the door opened and Sarah stood blinking sleepily at him. Her hair was mussed and she was fumbling with the belt on her robe.

"What's wrong?" she asked with a worried tone. "Are you sick?"

"Are these allegations true?" Jareth asked abruptly, holding the book up.

"Haven't you been to bed yet?" Sarah asked, surprised. "It's after 3:00 a.m."

"Are the allegations presented by this author true?" Jareth repeated.

Sarah looked from the book to Jareth.

"You want to talk about this now?" she asked incredulously. "Can't this wait until the morning?"

"You said that we would discuss the book when I had finished reading," Jareth said firmly. "I am finished reading."

"I meant tomorrow or the next day. Not in the middle of the night," Sarah said.

Jareth's eyes narrowed and Sarah threw up her hands. "Okay, okay, you're right, I said it. I just didn't realize that you were a speed reader," she grumbled. "If we're going to have this discussion, I need caffeine."

Sarah went into the kitchen and Jareth followed her.

"You still haven't told me if..." Jareth began.

Sarah turned to face him with a scowl. "Not until I have caffeine," she interrupted. "If you're going to wake me up in the middle of the night to talk about a man who's been dead for over 500 years, you can at least wait until I've made a cup of tea."

"Put the water into that box," Jareth said, pointing to the microwave. "It heats it much faster."

Sarah huffed out a surprised laugh. "You've been paying attention." She shrugged and filled two mugs with water and pressed the start button on the microwave.

She yawned and then shook her head as she watched Jareth pacing impatiently in front of the sofa.

"You don't like to wait, do you?" she asked.

"I am a king. I am unaccustomed to being made to wait by anyone." Jareth placed his hands on his hips.

Sarah frowned as she realized that his imperious tone was back. What was going on?

The microwave shut off and Sarah quickly made tea. She placed Jareth's mug on the coffee table. As she sat on the sofa, she said, "It sounds like the book caused you to question whether or not you really knew the facts of the story."

"This is a work of fiction," Jareth said. "But are the facts presented within this book regarding King Richard true?"

Sarah sighed. "The biggest problem with anything to do with Richard III is that there are so few surviving contemporary records. The reason I first became interested in the whole thing was because I did a paper on the Princes in the Tower for a college history class. The more research I did, the more I realized that history had condemned Richard without any proof at all.

"All the records that have been used to "prove" that he killed the princes were written long after Richard's death and, in most cases, were written by people who were loyal to Henry Tudor, the man who took the throne after killing Richard in battle. But you know that now. You read the book."

"The book claims that King Richard passed laws that were helpful to his people," Jareth said. "Is that true?"

Sarah nodded. "Among other things, he was the first king to allow commoners to post bail when they were arrested. He was the first king who commanded that the laws be written in English rather than Latin so that all of his subjects could read them."

Jareth sat on the sofa next to her. "And no one has learned who actually murdered his nephews?"

Sarah shook her head. "No one even knows for certain that they were murdered. They just vanished and were never seen again. Various sets of bones have been found over the years, but none of them have been proven to be the princes."

Jareth rested his elbow on his knee and tapped a finger to his lips. "What do you think? Do you believe King Richard was guilty or innocent?"

Sarah hesitated. "History has lost too many records and rewritten the rest. A case can be made for either his guilt or his innocence. But I don't think he killed the princes. He had no reason. Parliament had already pronounced the boys illegitimate. They were no longer in line for the throne; they were no threat to him, so why kill them? But we'll never know the truth."

"The truth? The truth seems to be unimportant in this world," Jareth spat out and jumped up from the sofa. He began pacing again, clearly agitated. "The man was a good king who died bravely in battle while defending his crown and yet your history perpetuates slanderous lies against him."

"Why are you so mad?" Sarah asked, confused.

Jareth stopped abruptly and faced her. "Why did you believe that I transform children into goblins?" he demanded.

"Well, it's... It's in the story," Sarah stammered. "It says that the Goblin King takes the children to his castle and turns them into goblins."

"Just as history claims that King Richard was physically deformed? And yet he was not." Jareth's voice had turned dangerously silky. "Just as the play claims he died calling for a horse when in truth he refused the offer of a horse because his men wanted him to use it to escape the battle?"

"History is written by the victors," Sarah said quietly. "It's not right, but it's the way of things."

"I have encountered no victor." He paused and his eyes flashed cold fire. "At least, not until you," he spat out, "and I had already been relegated to the role of evil villain."

Sarah's temper began to stir. She could see that he was upset, but she was really getting tired of him taking it out on her.

"What about the people who run the Labyrinth and fail?" Sarah asked sharply. "They would be the most likely source of the story."

"I have never once stated that I would change any child into a goblin." Jareth threw up a hand dismissively.

"Maybe not, but it's a logical assumption." Sarah crossed her arms over her chest. "How are we supposed to know differently?"

"I do not know, Sarah," Jareth's voice dripped sarcasm. "Perhaps you could have asked."

Sarah's eye narrowed and she quickly stood to face him. "And you would have answered? I don't think so. You were having too much fun being condescending and intimidating. It's no wonder we think you're a villain. You've set yourself up for it."

"And you would have preferred... what? A helpful Goblin King? No, you got exactly what you expected. Exactly what you wanted." Jareth's voice was clipped. "I merely live up to your expectations."

"It goes way past that. You enjoy it. You enjoy playing games with people's lives." At that Sarah frowned suddenly and her voice softened. "You do enjoy it, don't you? And you can't help it."

Jareth looked at her, obviously suspicious of her change in tone. "What are you talking about?"

"I keep trying to judge you by the wrong standards. Human standards. But you're not human..." her voice trailed off thoughtfully. "And those standards just don't apply to you."

"We were discussing King Richard, not me," Jareth snapped.

"Were we?" she asked. "I think we've been talking about you all along."

"That is untrue. What have I to do with a mortal king?" he asked contemptuously.

"You mean besides being labeled a monster when you don't deserve it? That's what's really made you so angry. It wasn't that Richard was misjudged, it's because you've been misjudged." She blinked in sudden understanding. "You got your feelings hurt."

"I merely dislike being accused of something that I have not done." His voice turned cool.

She shook her head. "No, you said it yourself earlier tonight. You try to be a good king. But no matter how hard you try, this world only sees a man who changes children into goblins, someone used to scare little kids into behaving. No matter how well you treat your subjects, no matter how hard you try to take care of them, there's no way for you to escape the role we've placed you in." She gave a heavy sigh. "And I bought into it. I'm sorry, Jareth."

He froze.

"I neither need nor want your pity," he snarled. "And your attempt at analyzing my personality and motives has failed miserably. You were quite correct--you cannot judge me by human standards. The fae have no need of this world. No need of you."

He could protest all he wanted, Sarah thought. It didn't matter. She knew that she'd finally gotten a glimpse of the real Jareth. And while he was fae and therefore completely alien to her in some ways, in others he seemed very, very human.

She reached out and placed her hand on his arm lightly. He lifted an eyebrow and looked down on it, his face set in a mask of anger.

"I'm sorry," she persisted softly. "Will you forgive me?"

The Enticement

A Labyrinth Story
by Scattered Logic

Part 8 of 16

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