Continuing Tales

The Lady and the Knight

A Labyrinth Story
by Jack Hawksmoor

Part 12 of 19

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The Lady and the Knight

Sarah dreamed of green fields. Sarah had been dreaming of green fields a lot lately. She didn't mind, it was absurdly peaceful. She always awoke with the feeling that she'd been on a vacation, but she did wonder how long the affect would last. It seemed as though the intensity of the dream was waning a little, as if bit by bit she was fading from that place.

She enjoyed it while she could. Sarah sat on a hillside and leaned back on her hands, tilting her neck back so the kinder, gentler Jareth that lived in that dream could apply his mouth to her throat. It was harmless, she told herself. It was harmless, just like an idle fantasy. She sighed softly at the brush of his lips. He was human here, and so he did not smell quite right.

He was not so mercurial, not as sharp, not as prickly. Not as attractive, Sarah admitted to herself. He was not quite Jareth here, so to her growing dismay, she was realizing he was not quite right. Tonight, however, there seemed to be a little more...Jareth about him. A sharp intelligence in his eye that pleased her. She didn't normally let him get so close.

There was a thickening in the air, a dimming of the light. Sarah realized she was waking with an almost guilty relief.

"Wait," said the Jareth in her dreams.

She came awake all at once, under a warm fur cloak, the small fire Jareth had built still cracking faintly, casting an orange glow on the grasses around them. She turned her head to look at him, curled up against her. He was restless in his sleep, frowning, and reaching for something.

"Wait," sighed the real Jareth, and Sarah jerked in surprise.

No. No, that was...not possible.

"Damn..." sighed Jareth, in his sleep, and curled in on himself unhappily. He'd lost his Sarah.

Sarah sat up carefully and resisted the impulse to pound at her own head. Stupid, oh, she was a prime idiot. She pressed her hand to her forehead and scowled when she saw the golden glitter of her hand in the firelight. She hadn't done anything much more than a bit of kissing with the Jareth she'd seen in her dreams. Something about him had disturbed her, besides the horrible manacles he had on his wrists. He was human, and

She had, however, gone a good bit further with the imaginary Jareth than she ever had with the real one. The imaginary Jareth had little doubt that she was tempted by him. The question was, how much of it had the real Jareth been present for? She looked down at him laying beside her. Had it just been the last two times they'd stopped to sleep, given the proximity between them? She thought on what had happened when she'd touched him over his heart. Proximity seemed to be a factor.

Just then, she caught a flash of something, of movement in the dark and sat up very straight, her eyes raking over what she could see of the landscape. It might have been a trick of the light...for an instant she could have sworn she'd seen pale eyes reflected in the flickering light from the fire. She looked over at the horses, who did not seem to be overly concerned. Surely they would react if there was something out there.

Sarah looked back at Jareth, deceptively peaceful-looking in sleep. He did not, however, look innocent in the slightest. Even in sleep he had a bit of the scoundrel about him. A smile flickered briefly to her lips, but faded quickly. Sarah sighed, somehow intimidated by what she was considering doing. If she was right...well, if she was right, any small reason she'd had for keeping herself back from him was gone. She hadn't wanted to get too close to him, and then leave him brokenhearted. If he had been present for her dreams...she'd pretty much already gone way beyond teasing into downright torture.

"Jareth," she said finally, taking her decision in both hands. She touched his arm, shaking him a little.

Jareth made a petulant sound that was dangerously endearing. Sarah smiled faintly, and lay down underneath the warm cover of her cloak. She squirmed up against him, pressing close, enjoying the warmth. It had gotten colder over the last day. Even though they'd moved a good distance away from the Road, it seemed like it was having a greater affect on the land around it the closer they got to the source.

Jareth opened his eyes wide and looked down at her. Jareth had been a near gentleman the last day and a half, not pushing her, not touching her more than she touched him, even when she curled up and slept beside him. She would almost think she had cowed him a bit with her willingness to leave him after their argument. The real Jareth was no longer so certain of his irresistibility to her.

"Sarah?" he questioned cautiously. She held up her hand, glittering in the faint orange light. Jareth lifted an eyebrow, looking disheveled. He made a show of examining her hand.

"It appears to still be attached, so I'm not sure what you're on about," Jareth said mildly, then tilted his head as if admiring it. "Though, I grant you, it's quite beautiful in this light."

Sarah grinned at him, relaxing a little. She took a deep breath, pleased that he smelled like himself.

"You've been hitchhiking in my dreams," she said easily.

Jareth tilted his head, puzzled. Sarah angled her head back, stretching the long pale length of her neck in front of him. His eyes followed the line of it hungrily, widening slightly as she reached up and tapped the hollow of her throat with her index finger.

"You kissed me here," she said, faint accusation in her voice. Jareth blinked.

"That was you," he said, as if he couldn't quite believe it. Sarah nodded slightly, tilting her head to look up at him. He smiled at her, a cold, hungry little smile and she shivered a bit, unprepared for how glad she was to see it. He moved closer to her, touched her throat lightly.

"That was you," he said softly, pleased. She'd kissed him in the dream they'd shared, and made it very clear that she'd enjoyed it.

"Yes," she said with a half smile.

Jareth dipped his head down and tasted her. That was the only way Sarah could think to describe it. A swift, hard press of his lips to hers that shot sparks right through her. Then he pulled back and looked at her, almost hesitantly.

To see if I like it, she thought dazedly. To see if I like him.

Sarah slid her hand up his chest, feeling the sharp tingle that were his dreams reacting where they had lodged themselves in her fingers. She slipped her hand up underneath the lip of his shirt, hungry for the feel of warm skin. Jareth made a faint, disbelieving sound as Sarah lifted her eyes to look at him.

Sarah wanted this. She did not make an effort to hide it from him. Her body was presenting her with some rather strident demands, rapidly moving to throttle her brain into submission.

Jareth saw that, and his eyes darkened with a sudden fierce joy. She darted in and kissed him gently, an electric brush of skin on skin.

Jareth's reaction was violent and immediate. Sarah was startled by the swiftness of his movements as he enveloped her in his arms, his body moving to cover hers. His mouth pressed against hers with a hungry excitement that left her lightheaded.

Strong hands were caressing her, grasping gently, sliding across her thighs as his body eased between them. She breathed in sharply through her nose as the solid weight of him settled against her. Above her, Jareth growled softly in pleasure. His mouth eased off a little and he began to kiss her more gently, his motions achingly soft. Sarah felt the contact between them arc like raw voltage and she grabbed onto his shoulders, her heart reacting with a pang.

He clutched at her tightly, making soft, urgent sounds against her lips. Sarah drew her hands down his back, her fingers digging into the soft fabric of his shirt. Jareth gasped at the bite of her nails on his skin and pressed her against the ground. She could feel his excitement quite clearly against her inner thigh. Sarah hissed in a breath through her teeth at the sudden, devastating flood of hormones the sensation evoked.

Jareth was shaking. She could feel him, he was shaking all over, and it was obvious to Sarah that he'd wanted this for a very long time. He pushed his face back into the fall of her hair and breathed in deeply, tightening his arms around her. She could feel his heart thudding against her skin. She almost felt pinned down by the strength of the sensation.

He started to kiss her face, trailing his mouth up along the curve of her jaw line. He caught her earlobe in his mouth, nipping her sightly. Brushed his lips over that shivery place just above her temple. As if he was trying to memorize her face with his mouth, trying to press into his mind how every inch of her felt and tasted.

"Sarah," he sighed into her ear, a sweet benediction. Then he bowed his head and bit her throat. Sarah stiffened, the shock of it making the hair on the back of her arms stand at attention. He applied his sharp teeth delicately, and then slowly increased the pressure as Sarah's delight became obvious. She arched up against him, amazed at the vicious ache the bite of his teeth had brought to life inside her. He moaned softly as her response brought her up against the length of him, and he pressed her back against the ground with a sharp movement of his hips. They came together, they came together just right and Sarah gasped at the sudden flush of raw joy that spread out through her body, crackling from her fingertips. Jareth caught his breath at the contact and tilted his head back, his face going slack in relief.

They stared at each other, raw and open in the firelight. They were pressed together so tightly Sarah could feel the blood pulsing in his groin, even through two sets of clothing. Jareth was breathing hard, and Sarah's heart was fluttering in her chest like it was trying to escape. He was beautiful, he was beautiful, a wild, fantastic, untamed creature right out of myth. A creature who was, at that moment, seeing nothing in the whole world but her.

He looked triumphant, his mismatched eyes flashing at her. Sarah recognized it, recognized the look, and felt a delicious little shiver of delight.

He kissed her as if he was trying to crawl inside her. Sarah made a faint sound, swallowed by his mouth. She started clawing at his shirt, trying to tear it off him without sacrificing the closeness of their embrace. Jareth pushed against her again with a soft, ecstatic sound and Sarah wrapped herself around him, her legs twining around his waist.

She felt the exact instant he went ice cold against her skin.

Jareth stiffened, choking. The sound was awful, and even if he hadn't abruptly gone so cold against her skin it felt like he was burning her, she would have jerked back from him in alarm.

"Jareth?" She said tentatively, scooting away from him, shivering. He leaned over on his arms heavily. He was freezing, the cold actually radiating off him. Sarah could feel it even without touching him, as if someone had left the freezer door open.

Every ounce of color had fled his face, leaving him white and ill looking in the firelight. He gasped, and Sarah winced at the sound.

"Something's wrong," Jareth managed. Sarah reached up and touched his face, concern clenching at her heart unbearably. He sagged away from her, rolling onto his back, collapsing onto her fur cloak. Sarah glanced over at the fire and crawled over, laid more wood on top. She approached him with her heart in her throat, touched him lightly on his chest.

Sarah felt the dreamstuff in her hands react, and Jareth took a long, deep breath, seeming to warm a little under her fingers. He looked up at her with grim eyes.

"It's the Labyrinth," he said, and Sarah felt her heart drop.

"The portal," Sarah said with a thrill of alarm. She placed her other hand beside the first, stroking his bare chest because it seemed to help. He shut his eyes and sighed, shivering. "Can you tell what's happening?" she asked softly, tense.

He shook his head silently. Sarah glanced over at where she'd left her bag, and caught another glimpse of movement beyond the edge of the light cast from their fire. It was quick, and she might have just been imagining it, but combined with everything else Sarah was suddenly on high alert, her eyes darting about, looking for trouble. She drew her hand over Jareth in a reassuring way.

"I'll be right back," she said with sharp, suspicious eyes. He shuddered a little as she removed her hand, making her feel wretched. Sarah glanced over at the horses as she fetched her bag, and realized they looked nervous.

They were both looking out at the darkness surrounding them, ears pricked up, necks held high. As she watched, Bim snorted and stamped his foot. Sarah looked back at Jareth, sprawled and helpless-looking in the soft orange glow from the fire.

Now would be a perfect time for Something Terrible to try and attack them.

Something Terrible declined, at least for the moment, and Sarah moved back to Jareth's side unmolested. She rested one hand on his chest, accepting the tingling and marking with watchful eyes how he seemed to take comfort in her touch, warming slightly and breathing easier. With her other hand Sarah brought out her mirror and called for Sir Didymus. If something had happened he would know about it.

She got a surprise, though, when she called for him. There was a strange, blurred image, a sensation of motion. Two creatures fighting fiercely in the darkness, and then nothing. Sarah looked down at the blank mirror with panic riding high in her chest. That had never happened before, never.

Jareth covered her hand with his. His eyes were grim, glittering in the warm light. His fingers were unnaturally cold, but Sarah recognized his concern and smiled down at him slightly, appreciative. She scooted closer to him, holding the mirror so he could see.

She tried again, with Hoggle this time.

"Sarah!" His face came into view immediately, blackened with soot. He was out of breath and shook his head, leaning on his knees a little. She could see that he was outside. "Sarah, I'm sorry, it's ruined, it's all burned."

"What?" Sarah demanded, "Hoggle, what's going on?"

Hoggle slumped and shook his head.

"I'll show you," he sighed, and made a gruff 'follow me' gesture that under the circumstances was fairly ridiculous. Jareth let out a puff of breath, shaking his head slightly. Sarah shot him a glance as the view in the mirror followed Hoggle as he walked, an amused curl of her lip breaking through the seriousness of the situation.

Her smile fled when she saw what Hoggle wanted her to look at. Beside her, Jareth cursed expressively, causing Hoggle to flinch slightly in terror. The Bemony covering the black portal had been set alight and burnt to ashes.

There was a body lying in front of it, and Sir Didymus was standing beside it, sword out, looking terribly excited. As Hoggle edged closer they got a better look at the body, and Sarah twitched, agitated. It was the goblin, Blotch. He was lying face up, eyes staring blankly. His face looked rather drawn and grayish, strange for something newly dead, but what upset Sarah the most was his eyes. White eyes. He looked blind.

Blotch had been taken, taken over by the dark things that lived on the black road, and no one had noticed. If he'd been weak willed it would have happened almost instantly, and in that case he could probably pass for several hours, until his eyes started to change. Blotch must have hidden in the city after the goblins left...It was a much more violent process when the person fought. Sarah knew that very well.

She'd nearly been killed by a friend they hadn't realized had been taken, the last time she'd dealt with a situation like this. Sarah, her mind abruptly a million miles away, started to shake a little bit.

Jareth noticed this, weighing it with calculating eyes, and leaned forward toward the mirror.

"Higgle," he said with uncharacteristic sweetness.

"Hoggle," Hoggle corrected, nervously.

"Yes," Jareth replied dismissively, "I believe Sarah charged you, the Knight and the Yak to guard the portal while we were off, didn't she?"

"Er, yeah," Hoggle replied, glancing over at Didymus. Didymus swept his sword in an elaborate pattern in the air, obviously in high spirits after dispatching the goblin.

"So, do you have an explanation for why you failed her?" His tone was very sharp, and the words hit home, causing Hoggle to flinch and Didymus to droop a bit. Hoggle shuffled his foot, nervously.

"I ah, might have fallen asleep, Your Majesty," Hoggle said with a nervous laugh.

"Ah, Hoggle," Jareth said, smiling coldly, and Hoggle perked up at the correct use of his name. "Be sure to bring replacement Bemony back from the Bog of Stench."

Hoggle had time to stiffen in terror before the floor went out from under him. The mirror went blank. It was enough to snap Sarah out of the dark and frightened little place she'd gone to, and she whirled on him furiously.

"Jareth, you didn't!" She snapped. Jareth looked up at her, just seeming tired.

"I certainly did," he said bluntly. Sarah's mouth dropped a little, her features darkening like an oncoming storm. Jareth registered this, and snapped at her wearily. "There are plenty of handholds on the way down, as you very well know, and we need replacement plants for the ones that were destroyed. The walk back will give him time to think about his failure." Jareth passed a hand over his face and sighed. "It would be too much to hope for him to hit his head on the way down, as it could not help but improve his personality."

Sarah shut her mouth unhappily, somewhat mollified. Jareth's attention was suddenly diverted by something the horses were doing, and he pushed himself to a sitting position.

"Sir Didymus," she called, taking advantage of Jareth's distraction. The excitable little Knight responded immediately.

"My Lady, the King is right, we have failed you," he said sorrowfully, removing his hat and bowing his head. Sarah sighed fondly.

"Oh, Didymus, you did your best. You stopped Blotch before he could do any more damage," she reassured him. Didymus straightened up a bit.

"'Tis true, sweet Lady, I have slain him myself," he said stoutly, without remorse.

"As you should have," Jareth said casually, surprising her. "Carry on, Knight," he added with a nod.

"Sire," Didymus said, replacing his hat, and fading from view.

"Well, it could be worse," Sarah sighed, shutting the mirror, and Jareth gave her a baleful look.

"Never say that," he said, nodding his head toward the horses. Sarah looked, and stiffened in alarm.

The horses were unhappy, dancing in place, tugging on their lines. A flicker of firelight brought an image of moving things out in the darkness, dark things with pale eyes. Bim reared a bit, kicking at something that got too close.

Sarah jumped to her feet.

"Are you okay to fight?" she asked him, tense. Jareth took a deep breath, looking resigned.

"It was a shock. I'll be alright," he said, then dug around in their packs and brought out his weapon. Sarah had been surprised the first time she'd seen it. She would have expected him to have a sword. Something with a jeweled hilt and perhaps some glitter.

Jareth fought with a spear, when he did not fight with magic. He kept it strapped neatly to Bim's side when they rode. It was metal-tipped, made of dark wood. The wood was inlaid with strange silver symbols, whirling and skittering down the length of it. It looked wickedly dangerous, and intimidatingly occult. Jareth handled it like it was a part of his soul. He looked fierce and wild and powerful just holding it. When he fought with it he looked like a demi-god on a mission. Hercules slaying the Hydra.

Sarah nodded in satisfaction as he lifted the beautiful weapon, reassured by how dangerous he looked. She stepped away, keeping close to the fire. Jareth had given her a long handled knife with a viciously curved blade, but she had found that her bare hands were still her best weapons against the dark things, despite the fact that the dreamstuff seemed to be fading a bit. Behind her, she heard Jareth building up the fire further, and the light level slowly increased, letting her see what they were facing.

Sarah's heart quailed in her chest. They were surrounded.

The Lady and the Knight

A Labyrinth Story
by Jack Hawksmoor

Part 12 of 19

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