Continuing Tales

The Lady and the Knight

A Labyrinth Story
by Jack Hawksmoor

Part 11 of 19

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The Lady and the Knight

"Jareth," Sarah said, surprised. Jareth moved swiftly and snatched the mirror out of her hand.

"Hey!" She scrambled to her feet.

"My Lady, are you all right?" Sir Didymus' voice was suddenly small and tinny in quality.

"You deliberately defied me," Jareth growled at her, and snapped the compact shut on Didymus' concerned face.

"Give that back to me." Sarah gave him a look that would have melted glass, her hand out, demanding. To her surprise, he moved forward, as if to give it to her. It was a trick, of course, and when she reached out for it, he snatched at her wrist and held her close.

"I believe I made my decision about the portal in the Labyrinth quite clear to you. I decided against surveillance, and yet you-"

"Well it was a stupid decision," Sarah said crisply, yanking at the arm he held. He stiffened, his hair streaking black in fury.

"I am the sovereign of this land," he snapped at her, "and I will be obeyed."

"You asked me to come here to help. You never said anything about abiding foolish decisions. Certainly not when the sovereign of this land is willing to put my friends safety at risk out of sheer stubbornness." She did not mention the fact that his stubbornness in this case seemed to be motivated entirely by jealousy. She was tempted to but it seemed...unnecessarily cruel.

"You will not defy me," he said, his eyes flashing. Sarah stepped back, letting her trapped arm stretch between them, shaking her head. If there was a label she could put to what she was feeling right then, Sarah would have called it disappointment.

You ruined it, she thought irrationally. You just had to ruin it...

"I'll defy you any time I have to," Sarah said quietly.

"Then you can take your help and go," Jareth snapped at her, his expression toxic. He pushed the compact into her hand and released her.

Sarah pressed her lips together, feeling a sudden sharp swell of pity for the man.

"Alright," She said with a shrug, and snatched up her pack. She moved with a casual ease that she couldn't quite force herself to feel. Sarah walked over to Windle, patting him gently and reaching out to untie him.

"That horse is mine," Jareth said sharply. Sarah looked back, and stared at him for a moment, stung. They were miles from anywhere.


She pulled the pendant off her neck and held it out.

"Fine then," she said, sounding disgusted to her own ears. "Keep what's yours." She dropped it on the ground as if it was just trash. Jareth stiffened. Then she turned on her heel and walked away from him. She strolled though the golden fields, free as a bird...She wondered if watching her walk away from him in his dreams made it any easier to do it in real life.

Sarah could feel it, the old magic, circling them, and it wasn't looking for her. He'd tried to break their bargain, and Sarah had more than one reason to want to get away from him. There were rules, and terrible consequences for breaking them. That poor fool...

She would still have to try to get to the beginning of the Black Road, though he would definitely reach the gate first if he had both the horses. Sarah thought rather mournfully about her jerky stick. At least she wouldn't starve. She probably walked for ten minutes, going through options in her head, riffling through them like a stack of playing cards. She was trying to keep her mind off how damned disappointed she was.

Sarah had a fair idea of where she stood in Jareth's heart, so she wasn't entirely surprised when she heard a whinny behind her. She looked back to see him riding toward her. He'd left Windle at the tree, and the horse in question didn't take kindly to being left behind alone. Sarah stopped walking and watched him approach with pale, sober eyes.

He halted in front of her, not so close as to be rude. He looked...very quiet.

"You would do it," he said softly, as though she'd surprised him. "You would leave, as though it meant nothing." He looked very sad all of a sudden. "You would leave, and feel nothing."

Sarah wondered what it would be like to have a conversation with Jareth that only meant one thing. No hidden meanings, just what was said.

"Yes, I would," she replied, looking up at him. She would leave him. No matter what was said here, eventually, when the work was done, she would have to leave him. "I mean no," she said then, with a sudden pang. "I mean..." she hesitated, glancing up at him under her eyelashes. "It wouldn't mean nothing. I wouldn't feel nothing."

There, she thought, that was the best she could do.

Jareth held his hand out to her. Her silver pendant winked at her in the sunlight, dangling from his fingers.

"Please," he said, offering it to her. Sarah glanced down at it, then back up at him, smiling slightly.

"If you wanted me to obey you, you should have made it part of our bargain," Sarah said conspiratorially. She took the pendant from his hand, pulled it over her head.

Jareth almost smiled at her. He looked very human all of a sudden. Sort of...fragile.

"If I had, you never would have agreed to come," he sighed, looking away.

"No, I wouldn't have," Sarah agreed. Jareth leaned over in the saddle, offering her an arm up. Sarah gave him a questioning look and he nodded, encouraging.

With a little crooked smile, Sarah let Jareth help her up onto Bim's back behind him. She slid her hands up around his waist and he sighed, relaxing a little. As if he hadn't believed she would return with him until she was actually holding on to him. They rode back to their little makeshift camp in silence. Windle looked enormously relieved.

She slid off Bim's back first, and looked up at Jareth with serious eyes that were a lot more remote than they had been fifteen minutes previously.

"You should let me talk to my friend Marcus," Sarah said simply. "He may be able to help us guard the portal."

Jareth saw the distance in her eyes, and winced a little. Sarah felt a little flicker of anger light her chest at the sight. You ruined it...He slid off the horse's back and tied Bim up again, almost as if he was stalling for time. Sarah waited.

"Let me see your mirror," he said finally, holding out his hand. The tone of his voice made it a request, and Sarah handed it over to him, surprised. Even after all that, she hadn't really expected him to change his mind about anything.

He turned from her and rustled around in his saddlebags for a moment. She heard a faint clinking sound as he did. He stepped back, bringing out a crystal. She opened her mouth to protest, but stilled herself. He knew he couldn't use magic openly. He'd made that crystal ahead of time, packed it like cargo. Jareth had to have something special in mind.

She was surprised when he pushed his hand inside it to the elbow. The crystal gave nothing away, no reflection inside it that would have seemed unusual, but Jareth used it like it was a hole into somewhere else. Sarah found herself drawing close in sheer fascination.

Jareth took a deep breath and lowered his head. He made no sound but Sarah got the distinct impression some great effort was being made.

When he pulled her compact out of the crystal, it seemed to glow for a moment, silvery-white. Jareth looked down at it in his hand as if it was something of serious consequence.

He looked tired, Sarah realized with a little jolt. Bone weary, and he had not been only a moment before.

"Here," Jareth said, his voice rough. "Speak to anyone you like."

Sarah lifted her eyebrow as she took it.

"Anyone?" She asked. Jareth looked at her flatly.

"Anyone. Anywhere." Anything, his eyes seemed to say, and Sarah's jaw dropped a little. She looked down at her little mirror with wide eyes. The glow had faded, and it looked the same as it always had. But if...if he'd done what she thought he'd done...

Anyone. Toby. Her father.

She was holding a thing of immense power in her hands.

"Jareth..." she said thickly, her eyes pricking with sudden unshed tears. Oh, Toby... Jareth stepped close to her, and touched a lock of her hair, letting it slide through his fingers.

"It's safe," he said faintly, "It's a magical object, like your bowl or your necklace." He smiled thinly. "Not flashy enough to be noticed."

He couldn't do magic where they were without drawing unwanted attention. So he'd made a crystal that was a hole into a place that was far enough away to not draw the attention they needed to avoid. It was more than clever, it was brilliant.

He shut his eyes then, and Sarah put a hand out on his arm, suddenly concerned he might topple over.

"I need to sleep," he told her. "Will you wake me in a few hours?"

"Yes," Sarah said. She hadn't thanked him yet. "Jareth, I-"

He touched her mouth with his fingers, lightly. Her eyes went wide. He smiled a tight little smile, and turned to pull his cloak out of Bim's saddlebag. She watched him settle himself down under the tree, watched him wrap himself up in it. He looked chilled and very weary.

Sarah chewed her lip for a moment, and then turned to Windle and pulled her thick fur cloak out. Silently, she draped it over him. His eyes flicked open at the sensation, and their eyes met for an instant.

Sarah had a sudden, startling urge to kiss him, and dropped her eyes. Jareth smiled faintly, and pulled the cloak up tighter around him.

She went around to the other side of the tree, her new treasure cupped in her slightly shaking hands. Anyone, anywhere.

Anything, Jareth's eyes had sworn. Anything, if only she would...Sarah wiped at her face and took a deep breath. She opened the compact.

"Marcus?" She asked hesitantly, not knowing what to expect. The mirror warmed in her hand, almost seeming to hum a little, just the slightest vibration.

Then Marcus was looking at her out of the compact, looking rather surprised and just slightly tipsy. There were twinkling lights and the fluttering fabric of a tent behind him, and Sarah realized with a little jolt that Marcus was still at the celebration she had left days ago. For him, almost no time at all had passed.

"Sarah?" he ventured. "How extraordinary, what new contraption is this?" He looked around vaguely, as if trying to see what she was using to contact him. "I haven't seen you all evening, where have you been hiding yourself?"

Sarah felt a smile flicker to her lips.

"In time and space, Marcus," she said lightly. It was a kind of shorthand way of telling him she'd traveled a long way to a place where time was moving much differently.

Marcus' eyes widened a little, and he leaned toward her in the frame.

"Ah, I see." He said, and winked. "Was it that tall fellow with the fire in his eyes? He was asking for you by name, did you know that?"

Sarah frowned, thinking.

"No," she said, honestly startled. "You mean Marib?"

Marcus snapped his fingers.

"That's the one. Did he take you off on his flying carpet?" Marcus looked vastly amused, but Sarah frankly didn't know what he was talking about. She was afraid he might be a little drunker than she'd originally thought.

"What? No." she shook her head. "I'm not with Marib. I met..." she glanced back at where Jareth was sleeping, " old friend. He's in trouble, and I promised to help him."

Marcus lifted his eyebrows.

"You promised?" he sounded surprised.

"Yes," Sarah said stoutly. "And it turned out to be...worse than I'd thought. So I hoped you might be able to help."

Marcus rubbed at the bottom half of his face, smoothing his white mustache over his lips. He knew as well as she did how powerful promises could be.

"Must be some friend," he said cautiously.

Sarah thought of Ludo, and Hoggle. Then she thought of the quiet, intense look of devotion Jareth got in his eye when he looked at her sometimes.

"Yes," Sarah, said softly, and perhaps more of her heart was in her words that she'd thought, because Marcus went very warm and paternal on her.

"There, now, don't fret. Tell me about it, and we'll find a way to put it right," he said gently.

So, more or less without interruption, Sarah did just that.

Marcus went pale when she mentioned the Black Road. By the time she'd brought him pretty much up to date he'd had to go and find a chair to sit down in. She waited for him, while he stroked his mustache, looking grave.

"Sarah, is this just a speaking device, or can you come through?" Marcus asked her. Sarah narrowed her eyes at him.

"Why?" she asked, suspiciously. Marcus slapped his hand flat on his knee.

"Because I want you to come back here at once," he said. "We'll go to Tahiti, you and I. There are beaches there, Sarah, that you wouldn't believe-"

"Absolutely not," Sarah said sharply, with a pang. "I made a bargain, Marcus, you know as well as I do-"

"If it was a bargain, it was dishonestly made." Marcus snapped at her. "It's a poor friend who leads his companions into certain death."

"Nothing's certain," Sarah said, weakly, and clenched her hands. "And it wasn't a dishonest bargain, he just didn't realize..." her voice failed her for a moment, and she shook her head. "He didn't realize what he'd asked."

Marcus looked at her face closely, then shook his head and sighed.

"Oh, Sarah," he said, and almost sounded sorry for her. "You've never mentioned this man before, and I've heard a lot of stories from your mouth, child."

Sarah looked away, and smiled slightly. She'd always been very careful around mirrors whenever Marcus had been around.

"It was the first story," she said absently, and then took a breath and looked at him. "It's my story. I've never told it to anyone, I just..." she tilted her head and shrugged, oddly shy in the face of Marcus' sharp eyes. "I wanted it for myself. One story, just for me." She flashed him a smile. "Silly."

Marcus looked at her impassively.

"Oh, yes," he said, something very old and knowing in his voice. "Very silly."

"Can you help?" Sarah asked, tentatively. Marcus gave her cold look that had every long year of his life behind it, and Sarah flinched.

"I'll not be tricked into sacrificing the last piece of my homeland to save a crooked little world somewhere far outside my concern." He frowned darkly. "Not even for you, Sarah."

Sarah stiffened. The last time they had done this, Sarah had managed to shut the gates between worlds, at the last second under dire circumstances, with a seed.

A seed beyond price. A seed she'd once kept in an engraved box that now lay empty in her pack. Now lost, on a far away world, given up to save a friend. To save Marcus.

He carried the only other seed of its kind left in creation. The last remnant of his home, long since lost. Even when facing death, he had not given it up. Sarah had given hers instead, and Marcus had never forgiven her for it.

"I'm not asking you for that," she said very carefully, very clearly. He nodded once, sharply.

"Good. Talk to me again when you've come to your senses," he said brusquely. Sarah stiffened.

"Marcus," she said, startled. Marcus shook his head, looking at her sadly.

"Sometimes folk need to make their own mistakes," he said with a sigh, and waved his hand in front of his face. The connection between them went dark with the abruptness of a hung-up phone line. Sarah stared at the mirror as if she'd just been slapped.

Damn it. Seemed to be her day for disappointments...

She put her hand to her mouth, and looked out at the swaying golden countryside for a long time. Maybe as much as an hour or more. Then she looked down at her mirror and stroked it, almost lovingly. She opened it again.

"Toby?" she said softly.

She made a soft noise in the back of her throat at the sight of him. It was dark where he was. He was asleep, his bedsheets tangled at his feet and his mouth open in a near silent snore. He'd grown so much since she'd seen him last...he was all limbs, now, coltish and gangly. She'd never seen anything more beautiful in her whole life.

Now she could see him when she liked, talk to him...Sarah shut the mirror and hugged it to her chest, grinning idiotically. She hadn't asked for this. All Sarah had asked for was safe passage, and she'd got it in the form of her silver pendant. She wouldn't have to worry any more about the worlds she visited changing her without her consent. About becoming less (or more) than human. She was safe. Jareth had given her that, for her help.

The mirror was something else entirely. It was amazingly extravagant, a pearl of great price, and all he asked of her...

He asked nothing of her. Just that silent look of devotion in his eyes.

Sarah stood up, and walked over to where he lay, sleeping. She watched him for a moment, feeling very strange and sad. It hurt to be disappointed by a friend, but when she took the day in hand and compared Marcus and Jareth, she had to admit that all things considered, Jareth came out looking much better in her eyes.

She sat down beside him, and pulled her furred cloak a bit so that it covered her as well. Jareth stirred and lifted his head to look up at her in surprise, his hair sticking up at improbable angles. She gave him a very bland look, tucking her leather jerkin up into a pillow for her head, and lying down beside him.

"Sarah?" he asked softly, turning to face her. He looked rather sleepy and bizarrely cute. Sarah tugged the fur cloak a little higher up underneath her neck, and curled up on her side, facing him.

"Thank you," she sighed. "Thank you so much."

Jareth hesitated, something huge and bright shining out from his face.

Please, his eyes seemed to say. Oh, please...

He reached for her, moving slowly enough for her to get out of the way if she objected. She did not, and so very shortly she found herself wrapped up in strong arms, her head tucked comfortably underneath his chin. Sarah slid her arm up around his shoulder, spreading her fingers against the softness of his shirt at his back. Jareth sagged a little against the ground at her response.

"Ahh..." he said, and it seemed rather like the sound had been squeezed out of his whole body. Wrung out like a dish towel. Feeling pleasantly safe, and warm for more than one reason, Sarah slept.

The Lady and the Knight

A Labyrinth Story
by Jack Hawksmoor

Part 11 of 19

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