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About Deviant cosmicwindFemale/Sweden Recent Activity
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The sun descended lazily behind the black sawteeth of the mountaintops, glowing like the last crimson ember of a dying fire. Rose and lavender tinted the sky and beneath in the caldera, the city of Elefteria was lighting up like shattered diamonds on a velvet blanket. As a celestial counterpoint more and more of the stars were coming out, valiantly drawing up the constellations across the darkening empyrean. The balmy wind blew in from the west, carrying the faint scent of roses and myrtle, curling lazily around the expanse of the terrace to tantalize the nostrils of the man who stood leant by the bannister, looking into the orange brightness of the setting orb.

The sunset's beauty was familiar to him, soon he turned his head away, focusing upon the woman next to him, taking in the conversant perfection of her profile. They often came here to speak, where no listening ears were around, where no bugs hid in the crevices to rob them of their secrets.
"Sacrifice?" General Tirkar Baitur sounded consternated when echoing Atrey's narrating words. She had just wrapped up her recollection of the excursion to the prison of Undermoor to visit Reikan, father of Lady Saphira. "So the old revolutionary said his daughter will have to sacrifice herself? To hamper this baleful Alien?" He tapped his fingers against the cold marble of the balustrade, something he usually did, relatively insentiently, while thinking. "Sounds very much like bringing a knife to a gunfight," he finally concluded.

"That's what he believes will happen," the Cyborg replied, facing up to the dark prying eyes of her colleague. "I did a thorough analysis of the man and his beliefs and assumptions during our visit, based upon his behavior, body language, serenade of smells and any other significant I could measure while the Ebraan Tilathian was reading his mind. The old revolutionary is fully convinced that if his daughter faces the beast she will die. Neither I nor Tilathian were able to find out if this was due to prophetic reasons or if Reikan was just delusional."

"I know what you mean, Atrey. I know what a prison can do to a man. It twists the mind, rescinds sanity."
"Yes you know on an academic basis, boss. But Tilathian has been in one. Behind the bars."
"The same Tilathian who works for queen Sarentona now?"
"Yes, he used to be a Terandabarite spy before the Queen daubed him her knight. He was caught by the Merzarikanians, the old arch enemies of the Terandabarites, served 12 years in one of their prisons. Out there among the snow and the bitter, inexorable cold in the barren depths of that large land. Tilathian promised me some terrible stories when there's time for a beer."

"I've heard about those prisons," Tirkar remarked. "But I wouldn't judge them against Undermoor. I know too little. Atrey, you're one of the few who have seen an actual trace of this Alien. Chervin of Taronda is another. I take it you've compared stories."
"Yes, on the way to Undermoor. Chervin told me about a Regular who actually beheld the thing. He went stark mad. Then he died from radiation, so nobody was able to learn what he really saw."
"Radiation? In Taronda?"
"Yes, the Alien brought with it a piece of Mitarium. Radioactive enough to kill a Regular. Even in Taronda."

Tirkar made a face while contemplating a statement that seemed to encompass a lot more as he began to tap his fingers again, against his thigh this time.
"What prognosis would you give one of your kind who encountered this organism?"
"I wouldn't burn my wires if that's what you mean. Or any other 'borg. Old mages like Chervin and annealed people like Tilathian might stand a chance of keeping their sanity too, I imagine. When it comes to others, I don't know. Cerebral health is a quagmire, whether found in squishy organic tissue or an interminable string of squirming electrons as with me – and you need to be mentally and spiritually stable to have your universal perceptions cast astray like that. It's like sea-sicknesses in a way."

"I've never been sea-sick." Tirkar scratched his neck.
"It's the best comparison I can make," the Cyborg admitted, yet somewhere in that ricocheting string of ones and zeroes, there must have been a digit missing, she deduced. With cold precision she compartmentalized the speculation. "Now, what will be my subsequent step?"
"I knew I could trust your judgement, Atrey. You will continue cooperating with Chervin and Tilathian. The king has ordered the three of you to Infraheim."
"Yes, deceptively he's been listening to King Jareth again, the blond scoundrel is proposing some of his best people to engage in the hunt for the Alien. Simultaneously Aryesyle, the Arch Wizardess of Avalon, is doing the same together with the Voidwalkers."

"A two-front quest," Atrey shook her head in dismay. "Those never end fortunately."
"I tried to tell him that, but you know how he can be a stubborn old bastard from time to time."
"Then I better go packing immediately," Atrey stood back from the bannister. "Infraheim requires special preparations, especially for someone like me. The electricity there is – different, to say the least."  
"I'm aware of that," Tirkar caught her eyes to halt her a fleeting moment. "I've already taken the liberty of speaking to Alessios. The quartermaster will see you within an hour. I suggest you'd bring your magical friends too."


The lauded splendour of the Eon Tower was poles apart from Whitehall, Sarah figured while regarding Jareth's imposing castle from the grounds. The edifice sat in steadfast stillness beneath an overcast sky, in the middle of a vast parkland composed of foliage of the kinds Sarah had never seen before. The largest plants looked more like ferns than trees. Between them were grayish moss-covered rolling lawns, intercepted with patches of pale ice-blue shrubberies reminiscing of slim alien fingers reaching out of the ground, waving slowly in the barely notable wind, almost as if they were communicating in a secret sign language. She'd never have guessed that a landscape would vary the way it did in this place. Hillocks and trim hedges dotted the grounds closest to the castle, burgeoning into larger forms further away. White sand shone in the pale daylight from the banks of the wending moth; the drive before the compound's main entry was paved with black gravel. The contrasting effect was pleasant.

There were no birds in the air, but small lizards coloured in reds and in yellows were scurrying up and down the trunks of the huge ferns, sometimes stopping dead still as if listening for something before hasting away at an incredible speed again. The pallor of the atmosphere couldn't hide hints of color in the ground; suggestions of pink and pale blue, mint green and fawn. A trickle of water couldn't drown the clamor coming from afar. The sounds of the City. Labyrinth. It enthused her curiosity. Would it be like London? Or like the New York or Paris or Tokyo she had seen in movies and on TV? Or something entirely different?

Tilting her head to amplify her hearing, she breathed in, filling her nostrils with a foreign treacly sweetness interspersing with sharp salty tangs reminding of ocean-side areas and a challenging undercurrent of something singed. Would that be traces of the fuel they used here?

It took Sarah some twenty minutes to circumnavigate the two-story outer structure surrounding the castle, a circular configuration with large windows facing the outside, giving the appearance of a modern, urban office rather than an old-school castle. The majesty and stark, futuristic practicality seemed to dignify one another. Stopping in front of a large board she struggled through the written words, black and red uppercases upon matte silver, reaching the conclusion that the outer structure held office establishments and dwellings for military personnel. In front of her a large, vaulted sotoportego directed the visitor across a neat and primed inner courtyard towards the main entrance of the high rise.

Upon entering the castle she was awestruck by the barren magnificence of the entrance lobby, the slick gray flagstoned floor, the chrome pillars carrying curving catwalks with glass railings, a manned lobby, panoramic elevators. By counting the balconies she saw that the ceiling rose to six floors. She wove between potted plants, passed by objects d'art displayed on pedestals and only paused every so often to take account of the overall effect of taut splendor. In front of her a double set of silver gray stairs curved upwards towards the first landing, its graceful art noveau style reminding her of noble hotels from a time gone by – or perhaps never really having existed.

Sarah chose a staircase at random, opting to skip the parlours of the ground floor. The first floor opened up in a hall in the same monochrome noveau style which large floor was empty of any furnishing save for a handful of high-backed chairs against the right wall. Opposite of the staircase was a set of half-open double doors. Peeking inside she found a ball room similar to the one in Whitehall save for the large glass wall overlooking the lush gardens outside. The pink marble floor gleamed and from the ceiling hung large chandeliers adorned with hundreds and hundreds of bulbs, several of them coloured. She craned her neck further, looking up in the ceiling, where murals of clouds, fantasy-birds, butterflies and angels were painted. All of a sudden she was assaulted by a surprising pang of nausea and had to steady herself against the door jamb. In a vision she saw the room filled with people, all in the most amazing outfits and in the centre of the floor she and Jareth were waltzing to a romantic tune.

The vision only lasted for the briefest of moments, still it shocked Sarah so much with its vibrancy that she had to pinch herself to make sure she wasn't beginning to imagine things. She had almost smelt the after-shave Jareth wore mingling with the perfume of the other guests and faint traces of wine and barbequed food. The vivid vision reiterated the dreams from the night before, like a TV picture coming in focus – the hypnotic light, the churning dances, the enticingly tinkling and bubbling mid-tempo music and the muted murmur of the guests.

Quickly turning around she rushed up another flight of stairs, not stopping before she was well across the upper landing, feeling her heart thrum in the chest, beating cymbals in her ears. The apparition had been so petrifyingly real she almost began to doubt her sanity.

The second floor consisted of spacious sitting rooms fashioned in a manner similar to the first floor lounge. One of them was larger than the rest, appearing more like an auditorium. It was composed by smaller reclines surrounding a large empty dais, raising up about five inch off the floor. Upon it stood a single black grand piano and drawn to the instrument, Sarah walked over to have a closer look. It was covered in dust and the keyboard lid closed. On the canterbury rested a yellowing page of sheet music, apparently the piano hadn't been played in a long time.

Hesitating just a second, Sarah lifted the lid and admired the ebony and ivory keys. Then she hit the central C key, listening to the single tune ringing out in the large room, amplified by the high, vaulted ceiling and the stone walls. Diffidently she raised her right hand and played a simple harmony, more a scale than any real melody. The acoustics in the room were amazing. She could imagine concerts arranged in here, perhaps this had been the room's original purpose, however it seemed to have been forgotten for years and years. There was no feeling of music and song at all in those walls, no applauses echoing in the stillness, no da-capos called out by a captivated audience. No, she could tell by the staleness of the energies it was a very seldom used place – forgotten and forlorn. Closing the lid again, Sarah stepped back from the instrument and resumed her inspection.

By now she decided to use the elevators rather than the stairs, to not wear herself out. She passed office spaces and behind closed glass doors she saw assiduous people engaged in various things, no one in there seemingly taking a single notice of her. One floor held a vast library, which Sarah promised herself to explore a bit better some other time and at another she found an eatery and a movie theatre, the latter closed and the former filled with people indifferent to her presence. While the fragrances reaching her awoke a rumbling hunger she had no idea how to act to acquire something to eat. Was she supposed to pay and with what money?

She passed a floor with a gym and a pool and another which seemed to serve as some kind of museum, with lines and lines of glass boxes yielding odd artefacts. Here she was walking down long hallways where the light which permeated the structure from outside was complemented by bioluminescent strips inlaid in a grid across the ceiling and down the curving walls. Glass panels inset in the walls gave glimpses of sealed terrariums and aquariums in which all sorts of curious creatures walked, swam, hopped, slithered, flew or just sat motionless. Sarah didn't recognize half of them, regardless of being an A-student in biology.

Floor 29 was partially sealed off and she guessed it was a hospital of some kind in there, based upon the sharp tang of sterilizers assaulting her nose. The rest of the floors seemed to be private dwellings, most of them occupied and locked but she seized the chance to sneak inside of one of them and marvel at the opulent parlor, dining-room and the two bedrooms, each with a lavish lavatory adjacent to it.

After a handful more floors the elevator surceased. It was apparent that this 40th was the last floor, a place of both grandeur and necessity. A partially closed door to her right gave a peek of a large, sumptuous sitting room. While glancing around she took a step toward the doorway, nudging the door open. It swung ajar without so much as a sound, the shiny white-painted surface bouncing off a fleeting reflection against the opposite off-white wall and she stepped inside. The far wall held a few book shelves but it was clearly not a library.

Everything in here was muddled together – stacks of books and magazines next to extraordinarily-looking electronic devices. Old furniture were covered by bundles of new supplies; elegant mirrors reflecting clutter and ephemera and by one wall an electric guitar was leant against an amplifier between two large speakers. The instrument was so black that it appeared to be more of a hole, sucking all the light from the atmosphere and in an odd way it scared her, although it was just a guitar.

With a shake of her head Sarah backtracked and continued down the hall, following the shadows until the walls opened up into a bright longue. Large picture windows facing the river let in a pale afternoon sun, a ruby glow across cream-colored walls. Behind the next large set of double doors was a spacious gym with floor to ceiling windows running across one of the walls while the opposite was mirrored. It was filled with all kinds of exercise machines Sarah had ever seen – and then some. She also saw a manhandled orange punching bag hanging in a thick chain from the ceiling, a lifting bench and free weights and dumbbells. Running on a treadmill, she found Jareth, naked save for a black loincloth.

"Yes?" he snapped without looking up and Sarah felt her heart jolt all the way down to her stomach. Stammering an apology she began to leave. "Sarah!" Another jolt. She faced him, seeing that he also appeared surprised. With a quick slap of his hand he hit a red button that stopped the machine. "I didn't realize you were here. I was expecting someone else," he panted as he brushed sweaty hair out of his face, the blond tresses waving back into place as he straightened his posture. "Is everything alright?" he resumed.

With embarrassment scorching her cheeks and neck rubicund, she managed a flustered smile and nod while she drank in the poetry of muscle and might before her - a male body solidified and worked by a sculptor's hand, impeccably smooth and sterling. The rock-hard chest which heaved after the exercise, the sinews in thigh and back that tensed and rippled like taut bands of steel, the bronzed flesh glittering with crystal beads of sweat - moist, pliant and smooth. It did something to her and it wasn't just because he was almost naked and that she'd surprised him in that almost susceptible condition.

"I was exploring the castle," she finally managed to blurt out.
"Oh good," he said dismissingly. Sarah felt a twinge of disappointment. She had wanted to talk, ask questions, but it was obvious that Jareth was not in the mood for entertaining her. She tried a different tactic.
"May I look around here?"
"Not now." His succinct, immediate comeback made her feel childish and stupid for asking.
"Alright. I'll see you later then," a muted affirmation, barely a fluttering whisper.
"Yes. Later," he echoed, quickly raising his peculiar brows to acknowledge her before she left.

Crestfallen, Sarah scurried out of the gym, leaped down the stairs, her feet flying over the tiles as if she bore wings when she returned to her rooms to bury her face in a pillow. To hide the tears of despondent shame burning under her lids and seeping out to moist the silky textile beneath her. She knew, of course, that this would've been a trivial occurrence which Jareth would forget in a matter of moments but she already felt overlooked and lonesome.
"Jareth?" Julianne frowned dubiously while searching along the sinister rift in the time-space fragment which travelled roughly along the rupture in the street, tracing the newly created fault and tried to find a nidus. "No, not Jareth." The feeling of this gash was of pure malice, an evil she couldn't even begin to comprehend and put relevant words or a meaning to. This had nothing to do with the lord of Infraheim. Jareth might be a scoundrel and a trouble-maker but he was not the one to kidnap an underage child on a pure caprice.

"No, this must be a coincidence, my overheated brain seeing a connection where there are no such," she thought out loud as she stared over the seemingly calm street intersection, where only the crack in the street and two boarded windows in the building across the street spoke of the earlier incident, since most of the mess had been efficaciously cleared away. "Of course there are spiky-haired men in funny clothes in London too. It might just be one of the refractory rascals in the neighborhood, those punks who do harmless chit-chat with kids and scare them. None of them could do any actual harm to my daughter. But what then has happened to her? Where is she?"


"Your suite, milady," the impish butler said and bowed as he opened up the ornate and polished, dark-brown wooden door in front of Sarah. "One of the best in the Eon Tower, take my humble words for it, I've seen them all," he beamed.
"Why, thank you!" Taking her eyes off the funny little man in green satin livery she took two or three steps inside of the compartment and there she ceased. Staring in awe at the lavish room, lit in low-dimmed headlight, she realized that one might well fit her and Julianne's Chelsea flat within it and still get plenty of rooms over. Three of the walls were lined with dark oak panels, and the ceiling was held up by massive wooden beams as black as if they had been charred in a fire. The floorboards were polished shiny and mostly covered in elegant rugs with swirling abstract patterns. As she walked across, the floor creaked.

The dark-woodened furnishing consisted of two sofa sets, a work-desk with a chair, two extra chairs, half a dozen floor-lamps made out of ornate brass and a huge cupboard. That one yielded a large plasma TV set and a stereo, which the butler displayed by opening the two large doors up front after having placed her borrowed books on the work desk. He proceeded with turning on some soft muzak of the kind Sarah connected to hotel lobbies and shopping malls. Finally he walked over to the window and with a press on the same remote which operated the stereo, he withdrew the curtains, showing a night time vista of the moderately lit park outside with the resplendent city of Labyrinth as a beckoning backdrop.

"It's amazing," was all Sarah could come up with as she continued inside, her feet sinking down in the soft, warm red carpet. "I've never seen anything this opulent, let along stayed in it. When Jareth returns I must remember to give him proper thanks."
"O, don't you worry about it," the butler grinned and stroke his white-streaked, auburn goatee. "Our lord will guess as much, he's a very empathic man. So you might as well skip that part, and go on talking about the important stuff."

"But politeness demands...."
"Bah, politeness," the butler laughed – a gentle sound, almost like a tiny Santa Claus. "That's one of those extraneous things the people of Elsewhere always engross in. Intricate steps alike a dance. Snobbish and time-consuming. Here in the Labyrinth, we are much more direct. Tea?"

"Um, yes please," Sarah staggered, taken aback by his rapid change of subject.
"Black, red, green, yellow or blue?" he counted upon blunt fingers.
"Um, black..." she'd never heard of anything like blue tea and she wasn't sure if she dared to try such a novelty. Not the first night here at least.
"Honeyed, sugared, minty, syrupy or nothing in?"
"Nothing in."
"And with scones, cakes, cupcakes, sandwiches, orange cake, chocolate cake, apple pie...."
"Just make it a regular tea, please." She felt almost overwhelmed by all those choices presented to her.

"But I assure you, milady Sarah, that the apple pie is quite delectable. And it comes with vanilla cream which is of the most superb kind."
"I'm fine with just tea thanks," she tried to finish the conversation, she wasn't sure she could eat anything anyhow, she was still in a kind of chock after what had happened earlier in the day. Then becoming whiskered away to this place didn't exactly lessen her confusion.

Finally the butler imp bowed, turned around and went back out of the suite again, leaving her alone with her muddled contemplations. Sarah slumped down on a sofa made out of a soft and warming textile dyed in the same royal red as the rug and embroidered with golden and purple swirls forming elegant flower patterns. The furniture was soft and inviting and Sarah kicked off her shoes and pulled up the legs in front of her, leaning back against the armrest and would've fallen asleep if not so many thoughts and emotions had been competing for her attention.

Once again, Sarah went over her earlier conversation with Chancellor Nurah. After a sudden outburst of anger she had asked for apology but in response Nurah merely smiled.
"It's understandable that you become upset, dear child," she remarked as she plopped down next to Sarah on the settee. "You're still scatterbrained by your sudden trip here and the questions dancing in your mind threaten to overwhelm you."
"How can you know all this? Do you read minds?"
"No, I'm merely observant of people's countenances and yours telling me all I need to know."

"That's more than I know at the moment," Sarah admitted as she put down her read. "As a matter of fact, I'm all confused, I have no idea what is happening. Jareth, uhm King Jareth visited me in England and..."
"Skip the King part, Jareth is fine," Nurah assured.
"Well, Jareth and I had just exchanged a few words when there was an earthquake. Only that it wasn't a quake – as far as I can tell there was something attacking us. That something is perhaps identical to what people around has been referring to as 'the Alien'. A kind of creepy creature everyone seemed worried about when I visited Whitehall for the Hallow Ewe Fiesta the day before yesterday. Or is it still Monday here?"

"The day of the week," Sarah clarified.
"Oh, we don't do these things here," Nurah explained. "Here we just number the days in a season from one to 100. And we have four seasons. Autumn, Spring, Summer and Dry."
"No winter."
"No such thing – not if you mean with snow and frost and chill. No sledges and jingle bells. No snowmen or ice-skating. And yes," Nura returned to the subject, "Jareth believes it's the Alien that attacked the two of you. What for we cannot tell at the moment, that's one of the things he's trying to find out."    

"Is there anything I can do to help?"
"Not at the moment dear, but I would be lying if I didn't admit that there seems to be those out there relying on you."
"Because of my father's prophesy?"
"Yes," the Chancellor nodded her head solemnly. "But if you – or anyone else for that matter – should stand a chance to defeat this creature, we must first understand it quite a bit better."

"Seriously, what do they think someone like I can do?"
"We don't know that yet. Perhaps that is our fortuity."
"Meaning what?" Sarah swallowed in confusion.
"That it might be just the springing element of surprise we need to triumph. A secret weapon. So secret that we don't even know it yet."
"I still don't understand."

"Trust me, Sarah, you're not alone. I can say we are all more or less in the dark when it comes to this threat. But we need to do the best out of the situation - to liaise. That's where I choose to become engaged. I just learned from Jareth that High King Angarian of Whitehall is putting together a team which is to seek out the Alien and analyze it. To understand it better. Without primarily engaging - that is to be the next step. I'm going to ask the King that this team should be put in contact with me. You see, I'm a bit more optimistic than the rest. Since we know very little of this Alien it gives that it doesn't know that much about us in return. On top of that, we're on our home turf. So I think we might well come out victorious from this venture. You see, dear Sarah, I have a few ace cards in my deck ready to play with."

"Sounds great," Sarah gave an audible sigh of relief, this was the first time she had heard anything remotely positive. "Anything that can help us defeat this Alien is a good thing."
"Anything?" The Chancellor echoed. As she continued to study Sarah she added, "think well on choices you may be forced to make."
"What do you mean?" Sarah swallowed against a sudden confusion which tumbled through her like a landslide.
"You will know what you must do in the far reaches of the ground, my dear girl."

"Nura," Sarah decided to ask something which might be as hard for the Labyrinthine woman to answer as these resent topics, but which felt just as urgent. "Do you know how long I might need to stay here?"
"Too early to say," the Chancellor shook her head. "Now, let me ensure that you receive a guest room, a place for you to rest and to sleep. Jareth might be long, both because of the urgency of the situation and because time doesn't always run in concord between the universes."

"Time doesn't always run in concord between the universes," Sarah murmured to herself where she sat in the sofa, staring out through the dark window. She wondered what her mother was doing at the moment.


Julianne wasn't sure who might be disposed to help with finding her daughter - and if they would put personal interests aside? She didn't want to risk endangering let along losing her Sarah, not her on top of everything already taken from her! Her beloved, her father, her choice of career, her very home – all because of some wile play for power which she had desperately tried to avoid – only to find herself lugged in without clemency – just because she had been her father's daughter.

Utrorion had gambled with high stakes and he had involved his son in law, Julianne's husband Reikan in it too. Their aim had been to rescind the current governance of the Seven Realms and replace the Order of the Intercosmic Council with themselves as rulers. But they failed and King Angarian of Whitehall made sure they would not get a second chance by killing Utrorion and ostracizing Reikan. Both men's properties had been confiscated along with those of their more ardent followers. Hence Julianne found herself homeless and despised, looked down upon and with a one year old child on her arm. Devastated had she fled the Celestian Realm and taken refuge on Earth to shake her pursuers. She settled in England and there she raised her daughter, pretending to be just another human single mother. Pretending it so well she had finally almost taken to believe it herself.

Eventually King Whitehall had absolved her and told she was welcome to return to Eralda but then Julianne was the one to decline. She was not ready to face those who had been supercilious and dishonored her earlier. Besides she had a child to care for, a child she had no intention of subjecting to the scorn of her own bad name. The reason for her to remain in England had been to ensure that her daughter remained safe and sound. Yet even that had failed – and Julianne doubted very much it was a coincidence that this occurred just three days after her daughter's first visit ever to Eralda.

Fleetingly she figured that the lesser Celestians may be more tractable – especially those who had previously expressed desires to win Julianne over for their case. The ensuing credence was that most Celestians had poor secret-keeping knacks. Those who would tell Julianne what they knew would have no qualms in spreading word to others that Sarah had gone missing.

After failing to establish the exact cause of the marred earth, Julianne determined it best to choose one, or a few allies – whom she could trust to at least keep a lookout. Only three came to her mind, and two were rather dubious gambles: Cordelia, Tormenius and Valendian. As far as the gentle Valendian was concerned, the Royal Herald could be helpful, since he was more or less constantly in transit between the Cosmoses and due to his profession he would probably apprehend Julianne's need for discretion. However the tree-eyed man was very close to King Angarian. The Royal Sommelier Tormenius may be a safer bet. Of course he also had a good relationship to King Angarian, but that night at Whitehall he had let Julianne know that he'd never condemned her for the deeds of her husband and father. On the contrary he had been one to put in a good word for her. How shame had burned on her cheeks at that moment, just minutes after she had told her daughter to not associate with Tormenius' employees.

Finally Lady Cordelia. Even if she wasn't conveniently located closer to the locus of the truth, Cordelia could offer valuable counsel. She was probably Julianne's best choice in terms of allies, the cousin of Lady Colombina tended to avoid constant contact with most Celestians and just as Julianne had she settled to live among the humans on Earth. Therefore, Cordelia may not be the most strategically-placed friend Julianne had, even if she was the closest - no, make that about the only friend she had left among the Celestians. Cordelia had loyally stayed by Julianne's side when all else came tumbling down around her.

Cordelia believed her when Julianne claimed to have nothing to do with her father's and her husband's tries at revolution and she defended her friend, voted against the banishment, and ultimately made King Angarian and his Council change their mind about Julianne's role in the disastrous endeavors. For that support Julianne was eternally grateful, even if she hadn't really forgiven the members of the Council and hardly sat foot in the Celestian Realm after that. Upon further reflection, Julianne felt a little trepidation that she was evaluating her friends according to their usefulness. It made her feel bad but she justified it as something absolutely necessary in this case. She was a mother and she'd do anything for her daughter. Also a mother, Cordelia would surely understand.

Not hesitating any longer, Julianne made sure no regular humans were seeing her before she transformed into supernatural mode. The intersecting streets were more or less empty in the late mid-afternoon sun, the only signs of life were a garbage truck with men emptying trash cans a bit away and a drunk on a bench in the sun. Who would believe a drunk, she thought, before she left the sleepy London suburb and set off to visit Cordelia.

Traveling across water and land she made it rapidly towards Austria where her friend lived these days. Since she traversed not just the three spatial dimensions but also vertically against the time, the trip took her little less than five minutes in real time, which lessened her worry about what might happen back home in England during her absence. She threw off the pretense once she arrived at the foot of Cordelia's mountain chatel without incident and hastened to climb the broad stone stairs towards the tall and imposing century-old red-brick building which was brooding in the shadow of a steep mountain wall, slate-gray windows scrutinizing her cogitatively.

Here in the Alpine mountains it was already winter, with glistening snow on the hillsides and in the shadows beneath the tall pines and the air was refreshingly chilly and filled with the tang of resin, molding leaves and earth, the sky unpolluted and starkly blue. Because of the altitude there was a rarified thinness to the air which made Julianne's head spin as soon as she had cast off supernatural mode and returned to the guise of a mere human. Compensating she took a deep oxygen-immersing breath, before she pressed the ornate brass door bell, listening to the deep ding-dong signal inside the black-painted wooden door.

Cordelia received Julianne with soft cordiality. Offered a cup of Ceylon tea and biscuits, Julianne took her place next to her friend in a plush lion-yellow coach in front of the living room hearth where a merry fire was crackling, the dancing flames lending the room a heartfelt orange hue.

"You appear outright fraught," Cordelia pointed out without any preamble. "Ease your heart, my dear!" The name of her daughter was all that broke over the lips of Julianne. When Cordelia made no additional comment, Julianne sipped the tea and continued.
"She is missing."
"Missing? Since when?"
"Since this morning. She hasn't been in school. I just learned from two of her friends." Julianne could hardly recognize the strangled tone in her own voice.

"And you don't think she's just – well, skipping school? For one reason or the other? Kids tend to do that now and then."
"No," shaking her head, Julianne put her tea cup down, since she doubted her ability to hold it without spilling the beverage all over while being so upset. Instead she accepted the offered the paper napkin and dabbed her eyes, cursing sotto voce as she saw the black marks of smeared make-up at the pink tissue. "She's not," she went on. "I sensed for her all over, even on the trains towards London. She's not – she's not in our universe anymore, or I'd found her within the limits she could have travelled."

Cordelia had the good grace to look surprised – though in truth she wasn't – and she waited for her friend to calm down.
"Does anyone else know?" she asked.
"Only her friends, the neighbor daughters. I hope..." Cordelia drank from her tea, forestalling the rest of what she knew Julianne was going to say. "Of course this would happen after she became known to all Whitehall! This is all King Angarian's fault! Sarah didn't know any better so naturally she would talk to anyone and everyone. Such as Chervin and Jareth," Julianne snorted loudly. "I'd ask them, but I wouldn't want to give them the satisfaction of believing I can't control my own daughter."

"But you can't," was the sage reply, "and it's not your fault."
"What exactly are you implying?" Julianne now looked aghast and her belly clenched. More words bubbled up inside her, angry words, but Cordelia went on unobstructed.
"It's not unusual that kids run away at certain ages," Cordelia's voice held a bite that she hadn't intended, but she went on. "I think you may need to estimate how well you know your daughter. Everyone came away from the Hallow Ewe Fiesta at Whitehall with the impression of Sarah as intelligent in many ways and charming to a fault. Even my sister Rayda was impressed and you know how persnickety she is. She sat opposite of Sarah by the Hallow Ewe dinner and told me the young woman was even capable to handle the concept of Voidwalkers. Rayda believed she would live up to her true name. Perhaps she has gone off to do just that!"

"How dare you!" all but whispered Julianne, shooting rays of ice from her eyes. Standing up she felt her hands ball and her jaw strain. Cordelia though seemed unperturbed, further rankling Julianne. "You sit here, safe in your pretentious castle, and presume to tell me how to raise my child! You, who're not on speaking terms with your own children! You, incapable of being a mother!" Knowing the last was a particularly cruel thing to say, she turned to leave.

"And yet you came to me," retorted Cordelia. There was no anger or spite in her voice, just composed statements of facts. "I can only marvel at your desperation, dear Julianne. Is there no one you trust?" she finished, seeing the distressed look upon her friend's face. "It must be difficult to choose between those who would both help you and hurt you and those who would never truly harm you but never really help you." Cordelia paused, knowing she had hit the reason for Julianne's visit. "I will do what I can, dearest, but I suggest widening your gaze. Have you considered Lady Aitoola?"

"I haven't," conceded Julianne. Thinking about it, the Human Illuminate was probably her second best ally. Wouldn't the Indian understand Julianne's reluctance to trust other Celestians?
"You should confer with her. She might be both able to and interested in helping you."
"You think so?" As the adrenaline influx died down, Julianne suddenly felt so tired and she slumped down in the coach again, taking a sip of her cooling tea. In that instance she felt overridden by guilt. She knew why Cordelia was not on speaking terms with her children, and that reason was the very same which had exiled Julianne to Earth – Utrorion and Rican's sad excuse for revolution.

"I do," Cordelia said in a frank voice. "Now, do also take inventory of your acquaintances in the earthbound supernatural society, see if there are some debts to collect. There's always people who owe our kind for help we have given in the past simply because it was in our power to do so."  
"Thanks for the advice, I'm sure there are a few," Julianne replied. "I'm deeply repentant for what I said about your children. I really didn't mean it. It just – came out."
"It's all right, I know what you're going through, Julianne. Just try to best your temper, will you. Or those who still look down upon you might use it against you."

"I'll remember that," Julianne nodded her head before she stood again, biding her fare well. "I'll have to return to England, just in case that my worries should be nothing but false alarm from a concerned mother and Sarah should decide to come back."
"Yes, perhaps she just went to London to shop. She is her mother's daughter after all," Cordelia said and finally she made Julianne crack a smile, a little sunshine after rain.

Moments later Julianne left Cordelia's abode with a conviction.
With her mind doing its best to catch up with the last hour's fast paced course of crazy events, Sarah surveyed the elegant sitting room, remarking a certain continental hotel room feel to it, a sumptuous coziness making her feel like she was in an old French movie. Finally her eyes fastened on the books Jareth had left her, diffident as if one of them would jump out and bite her if she made any sudden movement. Tentatively she picked one up and opened it to a random page. Then she wrinkled her brows. It was written in a foreign language. Or no – perhaps that was old English. The language of Shakespeare. Or at least something similar to it - the wordings reminded her of last semester when they had spent literature classes with struggling through the original words of the old playmaker. She felt embarrassed and even a little ashamed of her inability.

While time passed and sunlight moved away from the windows, she laboured on deciphering a language she hardly knew. The words she sounded out began to form phrases and the phrases a story, this writing seemed to describe a large lizard that subsisted on smaller creatures. While reading a few lines of text out loud to herself, she noted something moving in the corner of her eye, a flickering shadow of something blue. Snapping the book shut she looked up in alarm, spotting a voluptuous lady standing in a doorway, leant against the jamb, the shadows falling over her facial features making them almost impossible to make out. Still Sarah would swear this woman had been at the party of Whitehall.

"Hello?" Sarah said tentatively.
"Oh hello, young lady. Are you enjoying the book?" The voice was like a song to Sarah's ears, a deep soprano laden with hidden power. "But my, you're smart! It's quite a read, as I recall. I wouldn't have guessed that Julianne taught you to read the Old Language."
"I was taught in school," Sarah replied while biting back the palpable question.
"The Old Language?" The woman let hear her surprise as she took one step forward and her heart shaped face of indeterminable age came in view, framed by a flamboyant waterfall of poppy red hair. As she closed in, an indefinable warmth flowed through Sarah, who became aware of a faint smidgeon of musk. Musk and... vanilla?
"Not really," Sarah replied, feeling immediate reliance – even a kind of affection for the spirited stranger. "But it reminds me a lot of Old English. The English spoken five hundred years ago or so."

"Milady, let me introduce myself. I am Nurah, Chancellor of the Labyrinth City and the right hand of Lord Jareth." She advanced further into the room, her deeply signal blue dress billowing around her curvaceous form and Sarah was surprised how elegantly she carried herself. Back where Sarah came from women like Nurah were – if not referred to as fat, so at least over-weight, and they usually dressed themselves in large mu-mus in vain attempts to conceal their shapes. However this woman did not even try to hide her outline. Sarah wondered how old Nurah really was, in this world where nothing was the way it first seemed.  

Standing up at once she respectfully accepted the Chancellor's outstretched hand.
"I'm Sarah Williams," she introduced herself.
"I know," Nurah smiled as she guided Sarah back to sitting on the divan. "Now dear girl, I can deduce that considerable enquiries troubles your young soul. Tell me what burdens you!"
"What burdens me? Let's see - my top ten? Or the whole freaking list?"
"Speak freely!" The Chancellor's blue-green gaze firmly held Sarah's and a pulling sensation tugged against her mind. There was simply no choice but to comply. Words spilled out so fast that Sarah almost couldn't believe her lips were forming them.

"To start with, who wouldn't be upset by learning that their world was falling apart, overrun by a kind of Alien, who seems to be scaring even King Whitehall himself? Then 'rescued' from your home, the only home you've ever known and brought here. By a man you hardly know. Not that this seems like such a bad place or that Jareth would intimidate me mind you, but my mother is still back in England. What when she begins to worry about me? What if she ends up in danger too? What if the Alien is still around in the London area? Threatening other people I hold dear, like my best friend Doris and her little sister Mary?"

Nurah's expression remained serene, her blue-green eyes like calm tarns. Despite her respect for the Labyrinthine woman, Sarah fought to not ball her fists at her sides from the sudden frustration, anger and fear boiling up inside of her. It was all she could do to keep her own expression as collected and controlled as possible.

"Your mother will be cognizant as soon as Jareth has spoken with the Intercosmic Council."
"What Council?"
"The sovereigns of the Seven Cosmoses. It might sound strange to you, who's from such a fragmented world of humans only, but there are supreme beings living in the other six universes, including this one. They established a council formed not only to rule but also navigate through situations of this extraordinary kind. Taken in mind the Alien's sudden appearance, disconcerting pattern of behaviour and distinguishable power, it was natural for Jareth to prioritize the Council before informing your mother."
"Can't anyone else go then, while Jareth travels to the Council?"
"I'm sorry but no. Not many of us out of Infraheim would know how to carry themselves on Earth, not to mention that quite a few looks quite fearsome and they don't know how to conceal it – they're hardly even aware of it. They might scare the inhibitors and end up in trouble. I might accomplish such a trip, but with Jareth absent, I am the one in charge here."


After having completed his recapitulation of the misadventure on Earth and his findings afterwards, Jareth leaned back in the chair and studied the countenance of each member of the Council thoroughly. The ladies and gentlemen around the large table might all be keeping a stoic facade, but the tension was almost tangible in the air around them. For a while the only thing heard was the crackling of the fire in the large nook. Then Queen Sarentona became the first to speak, her deep contralto rasp with strained tautness.

"Do you suggest a course of action, Lord Jareth?"
"Someone needs to go after this thing," came Jareth's immediate answer. "To follow it through the torn structure and discover where it really went." More silence. He knew this meant no one knew who to send. The Council members faced each other, no one willing to make a suggestion and Jareth was partly relieved that his earlier words exempted him, and partly guilty for feeling that he would be responsible for putting someone in harm's way. After moments of silence Arch Wizardress Aryesyle spoke up and he knew her meaning.

"I've always been interested in the atoms of the matter, the quantum physics. I will work on this right away."
"You should not go alone," High King Angarian said stiffly as he looked across the table at the blonde woman, his golden headband gleaning in the ambient light when he turned his head. "I'll send the two Voidwalkers with you. Antolas and his daughter Cleanthia." A momentary relief crossed his handsome face before it closed upon itself again and he assumed his ordinary indifferent expression. Probably the High King was thankful for remembering their names, Jareth thought.
"Milord," Aryesyle protested. "These people are too – well I'm not used to work with that ilk. This is not a picnic in the park and anyone who goes out there need to be reassured the people with them are to be trusted.

"Antolas and Cleanthia are exceedingly trustable people," Angarian tried to sound reassuring, without really making it. "I've been – interviewing them about their experiences."
"It's not about experience," the Avalonite Arch Wizardess emphasized firmly as she stapled her arthritic fingers in front of her and faced the others with a stern face. "I cannot rely on – Voidwalkers. They spook me. Now you see them now you don't – how can you be sure they're still there, that they don't dessert you when the going gets tough? As a matter of fact, I won't go with them."

"Lady Aryesyle," the King was staring back at the Avalonite with blue eyes just as stern, as if the two of them had entered some kind of rubbernecking competition. "What if I send with you an object which will help you see these Voidwalkers? I'm not sure you've heard of a Radphaser."
"Can't say I have," Aryesyle's voice was cold and biding.
"The instrument called Radphaser is a new invention that shows us the Voidwalkers. It has been devised by a man at my court named Garvil of Orsiria. It works like a regular kind of glasses, you wear them and you can see the Voidwalkers all the time, as if they were regular people. Don't ask me how it works, it involves meta-waves and subatomic magic, which I know next to nothing about. But I'll ask Garvil to hand you a pair and teach you how to use them."

"They will help me to actually see those beings?"
"Those people," the King insisted. "Yes, you will not only see them but reminiscence their looks and names too with this ingenious apparatus." Aryesyle bowed her head slightly at the firm words from the man at the head of the table. There was no use speaking against Angarian when he had made up his mind about something like this. Still she feared that the stake were too high. A rupture in the spatial texture. On a sub-atomic level. That did not sound right and all the science and magic she knew and all the gut feelings she nurtured told her that this was anything but good.


That afternoon Julianne excused herself at work, blaming a growing headache. But that wasn't her real reason for fleeing her duties. It was a call she had received from Sarah's school teacher, her daughter hadn't been in her classes that day. Julianne's first assumption was that Sarah hadn't felt well and gone home. But then why hadn't she called - or at least texted, the way they had agreed she should? Cradling her phone she felt the urge to give Sarah a call, asking why on earth she wasn't in school. Then Julianne let it go, not wanting to upset the tentative peace she had just found with her beloved child. Instead she contented herself with making a fast exit, getting her colleague Charles to cover for her during the rest of the afternoon. After all he owed her one. The least.

However, when she returned home and there were no signs of Sarah, she began to worry in earnest. She also noted that the school bag and her daughter's phone were absent. Sarah had left for school then but never gotten there. Something had happened to her on the way and it was not regular human hazards that worried Julianne. The feeling that something was wrong could no longer be ignored. Julianne stepped inside the small kitchen, poured herself a glass of orange juice and tried a few bites of honeyed bread before she threw it back on the plate, grabbed her jacket and left the house again, now with hurried steps.

Julianne didn't have to go far to find the neighbor girls Doris and Mary, who were merrily playing in the tree swing in the garden while colourful autumn leaves where whirling around them in the unseasonally mild wind. As Julianne closed in their chatter became absent and left a cold void in the air, as two pair of dark eyes turned to her, the swing coming to a halt like a pendulum when a clock ceases working. A twirling call of a bird cut through the air and the wind seemed to still, the leaves dwindling to the grassy ground.
"Where's Sarah?" Julianne asked, worry overtaking all normal politeness of saying hello. Silence resumed while the two brunette girls regarded her with worry in their deer-eyes. Finally Doris, Sarah's classmate spoke up.

"There was this guy," she said with the candid brevity of a teenager.
"What guy?" Julianne felt discomfort travel like a sliding ice cube down the back of her spine.
"He looked funny," Mary spoke up, her voice a more pitched version of Doris'. "Like something out of a cartoon. Funny hair, funny clothes. All that."
"He said he knew you," Doris added. "And Sarah stayed behind to talk with him."
"Did he say what his name was?" Julianne was beginning to feel an uncomfortable suspicion taking shape in her mind.

"Jack something... I think..." Doris seemed to ransack her brain.
"Jareth?" Julianne's control was nearly dissipated, which shocked her like a jolt to her chest and caused her to step back.
"I'm not sure," the older girl admitted. "Sarah stayed to chat with him when the bus came."
"And you didn't wait along?" Julianne tried to keep the austere temper and the worry out of her voice.
"No, we had to make class," The eleven year old gave her a look such as Julianne had never seen on her before. So desolate.

"We assumed she went back home," Doris added, chewing her lower lip. "I waited for her to drop in late. But she never did."
"Where did this Jareth show up and where was the last place you saw her?"
"Um, by the end of the Corner Park, across the street from the bus stop," Doris answered with reluctance in her voice. "Is this guy.. dangerous?" she added a bit hesitantly, her voice turning small and eyes large.
"I... No, he isn't," Julianne couldn't help hearing how false that sounded, but she must at least try to reassure the two neighboring sisters. For the time being at least. Another worry now was that the girls would be talking to their parents and that someone would call the police. An investigation was the last thing Julianne needed now. She couldn't have her life and Sarah's scrutinized by the British authorities. Thinking about the implications made her nauseous.

Moments later Julianne was on the move again, following the way to her daughter's school. At said park, which was really nothing more than a triangular patch of greenery where two diagonally running streets intersected, she noted that two trees had recently been removed and a bit away she spotted an elongated, jagged crevice marring the street blacktop. There was also some damage done to the a few of the neighboring houses, seeing windows bordered up and debris littering the ground, she wondered what might have happened. She paused by one of the uprooted trees, its demise had formed a small glen in which a shallow pool of water gleaned in the afternoon sun. In the water sailed a sole empty soda bottle and next to it...

Julianne bent down and plucked up the red cap lying on the ground. She recognized that all too well. It belonged to her daughter. The agony tore at her with wolf's teeth. Clamping her jaws shut, she willed herself not to cry out. What made it even worse was the gash in the ground nearby that smelled of evil.

*** ***

"And just why should I Cooperate?" Reikan, once known as count Ursain, narrowed his eyes at the three visitors who were crowding inside of his tiny cell.
"For the benefit of your daughter," the synthetically beautiful, chocolate-skinned woman said as she faced him. There was something familiar with her, yet he couldn't place her - he had forgotten most faces now, save for those few which still haunted him in his dreams and even beyond the boundaries of sleep.
"I have no daughter," Reikan said, the sentence oddly cut off at the end.
"Yes you have," one of the men gainsaid, an extraterrestrial with curly dark hair and an air of potent magic surrounding him. "Saphira, I think you remember her."
"Then you think wrong," Reikan snarled without taking his eyes from the woman.

Atrey in turn was regarding the haggard and gaunt man who was sitting upon his bed in his ill-fitting washed-out prison uniform, pulling at the thready arms to cover his hands, marred by scars, which her trained eyes could tell were acquired by banging his hands repetitively into the harsh concrete wall. Pent up frustration no doubt. Atrey noted the tick around his right eye and the red discolouring of the left sclera. Yet most of all she felt the aggressive thoughts his mind was broadcasting. He wanted to jump up and kill them all, start with her, laying his hands around her neck and snap it. Still she wasn't scared. Which wasn't so much about knowing that she was approximately twenty times as fast as him and fifty times as resilient – even if he had been on a good day. No, because she pitied him. Revolutionary or not, most probably a tyrant and a dictator had he won, she still pitied him for sitting here. That didn't mean she wasn't convinced he deserved every day spent in Undermoor, far from it. But there was still something uncomfortable with knowing that this man would spend the rest of his life within those confining walls fermented with despair. That he would never feel the warmth of the sun upon his face again. Ever.

"Then allow me to invigorate your mind," Chervin smiled. "The daughter you have with Lady Julianne."
"What's it to yah?" Reikan spat.
"She's in trouble."
"And you can help her," Atrey tried when Reikan didn't seem interested in replying to Chervin.
"Fuck you!" came the response as the convict's eyes darted over to Tilathian, who stood leaned against the door frame of the cell, arms crossed over his broad chest. In that instance Atrey felt a small jerk of exacerbation in the back of her mind, she knew that the Terandabarite had sent the prisoner a spike of agony through his seventh sense. Desist from that! she mindspoke him.

But you need a bad cop, came the swift response. Not now, she sent back. Chervin, who noted the brief exchange even if he hadn't caught what had been communicated, sighed and glanced over at Tilathian before focusing on the convict again.
"Reikan, before you were locked in here, you had a vision where you saw your daughter fighting an alien beast. That time has come now. The Alien is here and your daughter might face him unprepared if you do not help us."
"And of what help could I be?" Reikan scorned. But while his tone was still dripping with aversion, there was something there – a miniscule change in his stance, a recollection of parenthood and an emotion he hadn't felt in years and years. Care. Followed by a faint vestige of a memory of a sweet smelling baby body. Then the little window in his brain slammed shut again, as Reikan brutally forced those memories away.

"Tell us what you saw of this alien! However slight it was," Chervin implored.
"Why should I?"
"For Saphira's sake." The Alozzian mage held back the sudden diatribe that rose up in his throat.

Now Reikan looked down at his marred hands and his shoulders began to shake. Something was breaking down within him.
"I don't fucking remember," he said, through tears. "I don't remember a thing of that sight. It was the night Utrorion was killed. When I realized everything was lost, I tried to run away. Then I saw something I didn't understand, but it scared the shit out of me. I saw it again, when you guys hypnotized me. I saw it and I knew that it would kill us all. If not Saphira...  If not Saphira...."
"What?" Atrey asked.
"If not Saphira sacrificed herself."
Sarah was trailing a bit behind Doris and Mary on the way to the school bus that sunny and serene Monday morning. The weather was lovely and she took time to enjoy it in partial solitude. It wasn't warm enough to still call it summer, however it was a certain tang of soft mellowness to the air and the yellow leaves on the ground looked brighter than usual, the birdsong sounding merrier. There were no traces of that discrete crispiness that signified the autumn season. Something was different, but she wasn't really sure yet what – but the air felt effervescent, brimming with the potential for mystery, adventure and terror. Perhaps it was due to the fragments of unusual dreams which lingered like sticky cob webs in the bends of her brain. Whiteout and indistinct phantasmagorias of the Whitehall Palace, of Jareth and of music. A faint recollection of having danced with the blonde man.

Just as she thought she had got a hold on one of those remaining little slices of another existence to sculpture recollections and imagination around, a cry rose up from ahead and shattered her fragile memory into a thousand of spent pieces – and her dream was lost again. Pushing disappointment to the side, Sarah rushed forward to see what was going on. Her friends were standing by the edge of the little triangular park, chattering excitedly and they hushed as she drew near.

"What happened?" Sarah asked as she closed in on the junction where two roads intersected, just across from where the school-bus used to stop. Doris and Mary moved aside and revealed the object of fascination - a throng of electric pink flowers were growing just at the edge of the diminutive park. This afforded the group much entertainment, though Sarah reached ennui much faster than the two sisters.

In any case was she enthralled by this new specimen. She squatted and plucked one to inspect closer. It looked like a face. A face of petals, perhaps framed by hair swept about in the wind, formed by the meandering curves of the petals. She stared at it for a long time, seeing a face of both dejection and beauty, selfishness and reflection. A face turned inward; a face turned outward.

The reverie sundered when she discerned the movements of a shadow falling over her body and the new flowers on the ground.
"You!" Realizing she sounded daft she almost clasped her hand across her mouth while regarding him warily as he emerged, holding up a flower similar to the others. "Did you have something to do with this?"
"Sarah, dear!" Jareth bowed his head. "I instantly regretted not having something to give to a like-minded individual." Sarah couldn't have named it, but she did enjoy the wry humor. Standing up she gave him an honest smile.

"Who's that?" Doris' girlie voice cut through the surreal situation.
"That's a, uh, an acquaintance of my mother," Sarah stuttered and Jareth smirked.
"Oh, come one – since when did I become a mere acquaintance? Let along to your MOTHER."

Sarah almost groined while Doris and Mary were making eyes big as ferris wheels. She tried to say something to patch the situation up without either embarrassing Jareth or make her friends even more confused. But she got saved by the bell – or at least by the obtuse purring sound of the school bus's engine as the yellow vehicle came rolling down the intersecting road and pulling to a wheezing halt across the street.
"C'mon we gotta go!" Doris urged, pulling at the red jacket sleeve of her sister.
"You go ahead, I'll catch up," Sarah said and stared down her best friend, trying with telepathy to convince her that she'd explain later what this all was about. That she needed to talk with this man now.

"Sarah!" Doris exclaimed, consternated.
"I'll catch up," Sarah repeated, what else was there to say? Her friend made a worried face as the bus driver honked at them to hurry up. "I've gotta talk to him."
"Him!" Jareth mused.
"You're not helping," Sarah groined between her teeth as Doris cast her one last worried glance with her big, dark, squirrel's eyes before she pulled her sister along and they dashed across the street, identical Nike backpacks bouncing against their backs and dark ponytails swaying. With somewhat mixed feelings did Sarah watch the sisters climb on board the bus. She so wanted to do the sensible thing and go with them, on the other hand she knew that here was her one and only chance to have the time of her life. Jareth was opening a door for her, offering her everything she could ever desire, and if she was dumb enough to not apprehend it, she might as well spend the rest of her life in this boring corner of the world called Chelsea. Perhaps marrying some of the dorks in school and having kids and a dog and repeating her mother's life. Or rather Doris' mother's life.

Tongue tied and muddled did she watch the buss purr off and disappear down the lane. Then she turned to Jareth, for the first time really laying her eyes upon him. Yes, he sure was a sight to behold! While he might have looked like being in his natural element at Whitehall, here in the so very English London suburb he appeared more like some kind of eccentric with his spiky manga mane of white-blond hair, angular, thin brows over miss-matched eyes. Not to mention that he was wearing a purple, sequined vinyl frock to scarlet leather pants and a black lace shirt adorned with a huge red stone where other men might wear a bow-tie.  

"So?" she tapped her foot against the sidewalk platters.
"You're not overly delighted to see me?" came the smug return. "Why am I not hearing you pleading with me to save you from this miserable existence?"
"Because I'm not doing it," Sarah shot back quickly. "Why should I?" she added after a brief hesitation.
"Why?" Jareth jerked his head, taking in the intersection and the lines of more or less identical houses, the parked cars, the poles with telephone lines prickled with birds, the corner pub with one window bordered up after having it smashed by some disappointed customer during the weekend. "Why indeed? This seems like such a joyous and exciting place. An endless adventure of – well, school and bus rides and homework. Weekends in front of the TV. Take-away dinners. Call me envious!"

"Jareth," Sarah snarled. "What do you really want? Besides dissing my life?"
"Sorry about that," the King of Labyrinth suddenly looked apologetic. Now this was new, Sarah decided and lowered her wards a bit in return.
"It's OK," she affirmed. "Chelsea ain't really the funniest place on Earth."
"I actually came here to apologize," Jareth went on, meeting her gaze, he seemed somewhat softened up, less arrogant. As if his mood had fluctuated in just a few heartbeats. "To say I regret being a prick over at Whitehall."

"You weren't a prick," Sarah replied, her voice a bit unperturbed.
"Yes, I was, because I alienated your mother, when that was the most pointless thing to do. Neither did I explain all those things you needed to hear."
"Like what?"
"How to carry yourself, how this place called Whitehall works, and what it might do to you if you're not..."

Jareth was cut off tersely when the ground started to tremble, first hesitant then quickly more violent. Almost as if... Well, it wasn't supposed to be earthquakes in the London area, was it? Yet the very foundation was rocking and swaying like the sea and the asphalt of the streets cracked up in several places. In the corner of her eyes, Sarah saw how a fire hydrant broke and started to spew water in a frothy geyser way up in the air and in a cacophony of warning-calls, the scared birds took into the air, their grainy plentitude blackening the sky, the flutter of their wings filling every corner of her inner ear. Blending with that was a pot-puree of worried calls, car alarms and barking dogs as the ground beneath them fractured.

A branch snapped off from the elm above and flung itself in front of them, quashing the flowers. The moment of stunned silence was transient before the rest of the tree came free of the ground. The roots showered dirt like the sky did the rain. When Sarah skipped to the side to shelter herself, she thought she caught a glimpse of a huge, dreadful beast. She turned back to look but saw nothing but trees becoming torn apart; she didn't hear Jareth calling her.

The next moment he swept her up into his arms, embracing her firmly as he leaped with her out of danger. Just as he stepped to the side, the ground underneath splintered - opening up into a chasm and swallowing them, Sarah yelping out in terror. The world went hazy then black. Sarah couldn't hear, couldn't see and her skin numbed.
For a flash she couldn't feel Jareth's firm hand and a burst of quavering fear clawed at her chest, seizing her breath. What if she became lost in this frightening vortex Jareth was taking them through?

Up above, the ground began to close and trees were shredded to pieces. Once escape was ensured, Jareth looked back over his shoulder and noted that the thing weren't following them anymore. The air was filled with debris and Jareth kept still in the roaring darkness.

"What's happening?" Sarah felt as though she was suffocating; her throat closing on her own panic.
"Shh..." Jareth hushed soothingly. He was trembling too, but he wouldn't let that get in the way of dealing promptly and effectively with the situation. She started to sob and he hugged her close, gently stroking her chestnut brown hair. It calmed him down too. The rumbling faded slowly and after the last rubble had fallen they were descending in silence.

"We're fine, dear," Jareth tried to assure her. "Don't worry. Once I am absolutely certain it is safe, I will escort you back to Chelsea and your mother. For now, though, please let me bring you to my place. You are sure to be safe there."
"Safe?" she staggered. "Safe from what?"
"I will tell you soon, but it's quite a demanding explanation. Including tying together parts of what you already have heard. But there are a few urgent matters I have to attend to first. If they remain unsettled, if certain persons are not warned – let's just say that a few people might not be as lucky as you just were." He waited for her to answer. She nodded with some hesitation, still lost for words.

Moments later she squeezed her eyes shut, blinded by a brilliant light shining right into her eyes. It was a clear and bright, somehow reddish sheen, like a setting twilight sun – yet more crimson than any sunset she had ever seen and the light came from quite a different angle, warming her cheeks and prickling her eye-lids. Surprised she opened her eyes – and gasped as she beheld what was lying in front of her, hiccupping and cradling Jareth harder around his neck as vertigo threatened to overtake her.

They were way up in the air and below and in front of them sprawled a vast and powerful metropolis of increasingly tall skyscrapers of glistening chrome and glass, most of them seemingly as high as Burj Kalifa or even higher and shaped in many ways. Spears, pylons and candles, slim needles or multitudes of spheres stacked upon each other. There were ziggurats and cones, cupolas and spiraling spires – this city seemed to move on forever, only intercepted by a broad, glittering river filled with boats and crossed by several suspension bridges. Over the city spanned the empyrean, green as jade and streaked with a few clouds which looked fluffier and more stylized than any clouds in the skies she was used to. From this altitude the edge of the world could only be imagined, indefinite and distant, as if envisioned through a screen of mist rising up.

Sarah knew it without asking, this was Labyrinth. The city of Infraheim, the small universe which was Jareth's home. Even though the concept scared her, she felt excitement bubbling under, tickling her mind.

"Told you so," she heard Jareth in her ear, his voice soft and almost sensual.
"What?" she clasped his neck harder.
"I knew you'd like it." He paused. "Now turn your head a bit to the right, so you may see the large park with the silvery structure in the middle!"
"Uh-hm." A nonsense-word as she complied, allowing herself to be mesmerized. As Jareth banked in the sky, she spied a park larger than the Hyde Park and surrounded by a moth. In the middle of it stood a structure consisting of a large torus-shaped bartizan circumjacent a smaller park with a mighty high-rise in the middle of it, a scintillating tower which by far dwarfed every single skyscraper on Earth.

"That's..." she became lost for words.
"That's where we're going. The Eon Tower. My castle."
"Impressive," she murmured while Jareth began to descend, slowly to not pop her ears.

They landed on top of the tower, at an area which might've been a helipad if this had been Earth. Here it seemed to be a place where people like Jareth hit the ground. People who could – fly. Like Superman. Would that make her – Louis Lane?

No, she must not get carried away, Sarah thought as Jareth sat her down. He had merely salvaged her from whatever occurred in the street corner just opposite the bus stop. He would soon bring her home, hadn't he assured her of that? She glanced at him and he smiled gently. As her feet met concrete, she was certain she'd tip over if Jareth hadn't gained a hold on her. Then he supported her as she walked weak-kneed, letting him escort her over to a pair of brushed steel doors, each with an etched crown in gold upon. The doors slid to the sides with a hissing sound of decompression and admitted them inside of a large two-story room, where they entered upon a narrow catwalk with orange floor and a matte black iron railing. She followed him to a spiraling staircase which took them down to the main floor, all the time she kept glancing around, admiring the view from the large panoramic windows and the original interior decoration which looked like something from The Jetsons.  

Jareth led Sarah down another flight of stairs and to a smaller, comfortable sitting room in which she could rest and gain her bearings. It wasn't a large chamber, more like a comfy den to be true. The wall directly across from the door was dominated by a fireplace, leaving the center of the room for a smattering of chairs and tables. When she settled onto a lavishly-cushioned divan and leant back with closed eyes, he could feel that her hands were cold as ice cubes, apparently she was still in a state of shock. Setting a hand on her shoulder, he did his best with trying to radiate confidence and safety.
"I will be back in a little while," he assured her. "Make yourself at home in this room, but I don't recommend wandering around just yet. I'll assign someone to find you a guest room while I'm gone. If you should need the bathroom though, it's that second door to the left," he concluded, nodding his head in said direction.

"But Jareth? Why can't you simply bring me home?"
"I'm uncertain if your home is safe right now. I must find that out first, to assure I don't expose you to the danger we just left behind us." With these words he stood and walked over to a bookshelf and pulled out a few books, which he stacked next to her on a table and next to it he laid a remote, indicating a TV-set in the corner, a large plasma screen. Finally he assuring her that if he should be gone for long, his order had gone out among his servants that any of his guests would be fed according to their tastes. Sarah wanted to reply that he couldn't possibly know what she fancied, however the next moment she realized the imprudence of such words and kept quiet.

After making sure Sarah was safe for the while, Jareth left the castle and Infraheim, hasting back to Earth and the site where the attack had occurred. The place was still a mess and filled with emergency vehicles, police cars, TV-crews and the mandatory bunch of curious people. Doing his best to blend in, he was glad that people seemed too preoccupied to notice his unprecedented guise.

Using senses both physical and supernatural, he felt along the border between the Earthly realm and the other six universes. Where three of the realms intersected, a rift was poking through. Atoms had been separated on a very elementary level, the texture of the universe torn apart and he was not sure how such a deed could have been performed and what implications it might have, other than being dire. The King of Infraheim was startled when he discovered the anomaly. The humans though with their dull senses hadn't detected a thing, they were more worried with their asphalt and broken glass and a few parked cars smashed to pieces by falling debris.

Hesitantly he closed in upon the sore rupture in the spatial fabric, trying to understand what he was really seeing. The sheer command of reality would need to be staggering to tear into the realm of the Multiverse the way this entity had. The perpetrator could be no other but the Alien which Orinian and his people had come upon and Jareth was glad he had discovered the threat in time and been able to whisk away Sarah before anything befell upon her. Still he wondered if Sarah had been the target. Or was it him? And why? Or was it just coincidences, had they simply became singled out and beleaguered as preys to a hungry carnivore? No, some importuned eight sense of his insisted that there was more to this attack than what met the eye. Safe to say, High King Angarian and the other members of the Intercosmic Council would have to learn as soon as Jareth could get words to them.

Something shifted and Jareth felt pain course through his body. He let a disgraceful shriek out - it had been eons since the last time he underwent a distress like this. Yet almost as soon as it started, it was over. The lord of Labyrinth comprehended that it was not yet safe to leave. Earth needed to be protected. While the more powerful races held very little affection for the fragile and very often ugly humans, they were dependent on them for the balance of their worlds. It was the plentitude and diversity of the human race - the sheer multitude of them - that kept the balance of energies up. Otherwise the soul power of the other cosmoses would have been disintegrated and intelligent life as it was known would have collapsed upon itself. Therefore the human Earth had to be safeguarded at every cost.
The riddle of the Labyrinth 20 - Attack
The riddle of the Labyrinth 20 - Attack

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